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Were Taxes on the Colonists Justified?

Quarter 1Taxes Shmaxes

            When British immigrants came to America they thought that they were going to live a life of freedom and independence. For a long time they were correct. The English, feeling that America was filled with people who believed in Britain’s ideals and ways of life, began a period of salutary neglect. This lasted for about 250 years and was only stopped when the British began to tax the colonists in America directly. The Sugar Act of 1764 taxed sugar and other British goods that the Americans needed in their everyday lives. The Stamp Act of 1765 ordered that every official document be stamped. These taxes disturbed the American way of life and seemed unnecessary to the colonists but, Great Britain needed this money to make up for the excessive cost of the Seven Years’ War. This leads to the question; were taxes on the American colonists justified?

            The Sugar Act of 1764 was a controversial act that ended the period of seeming indifference. The neglect of American colonists by the British government lasted for many years and the colonists enjoyed this period of freedom. When word of the Sugar Act reached American shores, riots ensued. The act actually lowered tax on sugar and molasses but, cracked down on colonial smuggling. Smuggling was a way of life for the colonists; it was a quick way to make good money. It was also the first time since colonists came over to America that the British imposed their will upon the immigrants from England. “The Sugar Act…indicated that the British government was taking a heightened interest in colonial affairs after decades of seeming indifference (ABC Clio, Sugar Act).” The colonists did not appreciate the “heightened interest” that the British government was taking in them.

On the other hand, the British felt that the only way to crack down on colonial smuggling was to implement a law against it. Slapping the wrists of American colonists was no longer an effective way to stop the illegal transportation of British goods. The more goods that were smuggled, the more money the British lost and eventually it came to be too much for King George the second and the rest of the British government, “…the master or other person taking the charge of the ship or vessel shall, at the time he makes his report of his cargo, deliver the said certificate to the collector or other principal officer of the customs, and make oath before him, that the goods so reported are the same that are mentioned in the said certificate, on forfeiture of one hundred pounds (The Sugar Act)…” The British government felt the Sugar Act would successfully clean up the smuggling in the colonies that had become so rampant.

The Stamp Act of 1765 was yet another controversial edict that was passed by parliament. The Stamp Act ordered that pieces of paper be embossed with a stamp that has been approved and bought from the British. Some stamps had a cost of six pence while others were worth two schillings. “For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be ingrossed, written or printed, any special bail and appearance upon such bail in any such court, a stamp duty of two shillings (The Stamp Act).” The American colonists were in complete disagreement with the British over this notorious law. Many colonists joined protests against the Stamp Act while others chose to close their businesses before complying with the Stamp Act.

On the other hand, the British needed the money that was supposed to be gathered from the Stamp Act. They had just gotten out of the Seven Years’ War and were heavily in debt. The money garnered by the Stamp Act was supposed to make up for the reparations they owed. British citizens also had to pay this tax and complied with it willingly but, American colonists may have left Britain to get away from taxes like these and did not feel as if they owed the British anything. After all, they were not British citizens and did not start the war that the tax was meant to cover. Even though the act was repealed in 1765, parliament passed the Declaratory Acts as if to say that they could do almost whatever they wanted with the colonists. Sir Edmund Morgan stated that, “The more the Americans insisted on the distinction, the more determined the members of Parliament became to teach them that they could not set limits on Parliament’s authority (Morgan 43).” Parliament and the rest of the British government were not intimidated by the Americans and thought they had the right to do whatever they wanted with the colonists.

The Boston Tea Party is one of the most momentous events in American history. It took place in 1773 and was, arguably, the point of no return in the American Revolution. The Boston Tea Party was a reaction to the Tea Act. The Tea Act stated that all tea be bought from the British East India Company. Along with this being a monopoly on the tea industry, this was yet another act in which the British were trying to horde money from the Americans. On December 16th, 1773, many patriots disguised themselves as Native Americans and jumped aboard a British embargo ship. Once aboard the ship, the motley crew threw three hundred and forty two boxes of tea owned by the East India Company into Boston Harbor. American reaction to this event is summed up well by John Adams, "There is a dignity, a majesty, a sublimity, in this last effort of the patriots that I greatly admire. The people should never rise without doing something to be remembered—something notable and striking." In America the morale after the Boston Tea Party was higher than normal. People really felt as if they could do something to help themselves become a free people.

Meanwhile, in Great Britain, parliament, and King George the second were pulling out their hair over this event. The tea that was thrown overboard was worth 10,000 euros. The money was not the only issue that the British had with the Boston Tea Party. The principles seemed completely wrong to them. People should not destroy the property of a country as powerful and majestic as England. The British held, and to this day continue to hold, a high opinion of themselves. At this point in time they felt that they were much better than the American colonists. The people of Boston truly disturbed the British because they were so rebellious. They were not proper and did not take time to resolve their issues. When Bostonians wanted something they went after it with force. This event only further proved that Boston was the most resistant city in America and needed special attention, to say the least.

Although John Adams, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would be severely disappointed in me, I believe that taxing the colonists was the correct thing for the British to do. America was the property of the British and they should be able to do as they please with it. Although it was clear that the Stamp Act was going to provoke civil unrest in the colonies, it was justifiable. They needed the money to cover the expenses of the Seven Years’ War. Britain was not in a good position economically and felt that the American colonists could help them make their wallets a little heavier. The British needed the money and, the Americans had the wealth that was needed by England.