Tax time reminds us of Ben Franklin’s most famous quote: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” If we could add a third certainty, it would be tax protests. Americans have always grumbled and chafed under the necessity of taxes. This year, Americans in several cities protested our tax policy, citing our most famous tax protest: the Boston Tea Party.
In 1773, colonists destroyed 9,000 pounds of tea rather than allow the British government to obtain tax revenues on its sale. The immediate issue was taxes, but the underlying concern was the right for self-government. Parliament was taxing the colonies without any representatives from the colonies speaking on their behalf.
While historical accounts focus on the actions of the protesters—dressing as Mohawk Indians or simply blacking their faces with coal dust to avoid identification—the significance of the Tea Party arises from the events that followed. The royalist governor closed the port of Boston until the city paid the anticipated tax revenues. The colonies responded by uniting behind Boston. Colonists throughout America began a widespread boycott of British imports. More important, New England towns sent food and supplies to Boston. Citizens stood behind the city and its opposition to the royal governor.
The revolution that followed was partly due to British obstinacy, but more directly to the unity of the colonies. While the Sons of Liberty dumped tea into Boston Harbor out of the fears of Boston’s taxpayers and merchants, the revolution arose from the unity and hope of the young nation.