The title of today’s column is only tangentially linked to its subject. It’s the title of a song I love from Irish punk band Dropkick Murphys. When I had my own radio show on KLPI FM at Louisiana Tech, it was a song I played sometimes.
The subject of today’s column is about as punk rock as it gets. How’s that for a streak?
Since we just celebrated our nation’s 245th birthday, I’m going to share with you something that I usually think of whenever July 4th arrives. There is a part of me that is sure, faithful reader, that you never thought of the founding of our country from that angle.
I could be wrong, of course. And if I am, you can definitely email me and tell me.
Whenever Independence Day approaches, I often think of the Boston Tea Party. I also think about it the rest of the year. It’s one of my favorite things about founding this United States. And like I said, it’s definitely punk rock. Here’s something I bet you didn’t know about it:
The tea thrown in Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party was not the property of the British Crown. It was owned by the East India Company, a private company that operated throughout the British Empire. Although the East India Company operated more directly in empire possessions halfway around the world, its goods ended up in all 13 colonies.
The tea that was thrown overboard during the most famous tea party in history belonged to him, not King George.
At the height of its power, the East India Company maintained its own private mercenary force of 250,000 troops, twice the size of the regular British army. It was a force to be reckoned with.
Anyway, back to tea in Boston Harbor. The East India Company paid no tax on tea.
Rather, these taxes were paid by ordinary people in accordance with Townshend Laws passed by the British Parliament in 1767. The tax was imposed to pay off the British Empire’s war debt from the French and Indian War, a war waged between the empires of Great Britain and France for control of resources on the North American continent. These resources were taken, used and sold by the East India Company for profit. He was by far the biggest beneficiary of the war but did not pay for it. Ordinary people have done it.
These ordinary people, the Boston Tea Party attendees, did not appreciate being taxed to subsidize a private company that was already generating profits from its global businesses, and more particularly to be forced to do so by a legislative body in which they had no representation.
The American Revolution takes on a slightly different character once you realize that it was a war waged against a private global corporation that was powerful enough to use the British Crown as an executor.
And we won, didn’t we?
I think about it almost every July 4th.
By the way, under this column you will find a photo of the flag of the East India Company. You will, I’m sure, find its design surprisingly familiar. The founding fathers were not lacking in humor.
Caleb Baumgardner is a local lawyer. He can be contacted at [email protected]