A Tale of Two Tea Parties

The Boston Tea Party of 1773:

On the cold evening of December 16, 1773, a large band of patriots, disguised as Mohawk Indians, burst from the South Meeting House with the spirit of freedom burning in their eyes. The patriots headed towards Griffin’s Wharf and the three ships. Quickly, quietly, and in an orderly manner, the Sons of Liberty boarded each of the tea ships. Once on board, the patriots went to work striking the chests with axes and hatchets. Thousands of spectators watched in silence. Only the sounds of ax blades splitting wood rang out from Boston Harbor. Once the crates were open, the patriots dumped the tea into the sea.

The Washington Tea Party of 2009:

It was a great idea, really. Take a million tea bags and dump them in Lafayette Park to protest government spending. Hip, hip, hoo-ray!

But a funny thing happened en route to a visually pleasing Tax Day protest. The National Park Service said the tea party protesters didn’t have the proper permit to dump their bags. So instead of a raucous visual demonstration, all that was left were images of the tea party packing up their boxes of tea on a cold, soggy day in D.C.

Doh! “We have a million tea bags here, and we don’t have a place to put them because it’s not on our permit,” said Rebecca Wales, lead organizer of D.C. Tea Party.

Now, as I understand it, the Sons of Liberty were doing something slightly more illegal than dumping tea bags in a park without a permit.   Is the National Park Service that much more threatening than the Redcoats?  Or have our liberty fighters lost a bit of their moxy over the years?

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Given that they were destroying another person’s private property, it’s hard for me to keep a straight face during the ‘eyes full of freedom’ bit. The Sons of Liberty had more in common with modern day anti-capitalism protestors than tax protestors, in that both groups felt their political disagreements with the government gave them license to destroy other people’s livelihoods.

  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    SD, that is some real twisted thinking. Liberty and capitalism go hand in hand. The Anti-Capitalism mob are fighting to take from those that produce and give it to those who do not. What part of dictatorship of the proletariat do you like?

  3. G.A.Phillips says:

    Given that they were destroying another person’s private property, it’s hard for me to keep a straight face during the ‘eyes full of freedom’ bit. The Sons of Liberty had more in common with modern day anti-capitalism protesters than tax protesters, in that both groups felt their political disagreements with the government gave them license to destroy other people’s livelihoods.

    Wow, Have you ever read the Declaration? I think not.

    We protest peacefully because we still have the ability, we protest peacefully because of the God given respect of authority we have honed in this great land of a Christian/American upbringing.

    no black masks, no flaming cocktails, no rocks, no overturned cars, no attacking police, no cyber attacks, no burning housing developments, no spikes in trees, no fake blood on your fur.

    And I can not wait till the next round of tea parties.

  4. Rick DeMent says:

    Liberty and capitalism go hand in hand.

    Except for the fact that what we now think of as capitalism had not even been invented until the middle of the 19th century and even then it was not what we now recognize until the early 20th century. So unless you are saying there was no “freedom” until sometime in the lath 19th century this statement doesn’t pass the laugh test.

  5. JKB says:

    Yes, what kind of protests were these with their respect for the rule of law, environment appropriate for kids and lack of wanton destruction of personal property? It’s almost like the protestors believed in the right to peaceably assemble and free speech.

    Protests were held all over the country, yet I’ve seen not one photo of a phalanx of police in riot gear or read one report of a tazering or pepper spray deployment. Probably a media cover-up.

    It’s like a bunch of law abiding citizens took time off from work to let their feelings be known in a mature manner befitting adults.

  6. Joey Buzz says:

    Had George Bush or any republican still been in office these protests would have been front page news and all over the major networks. Compare and contrast to how much coverage Cindy S’ little camp out in Crawford received.

  7. Tlaloc says:

    Yes, what kind of protests were these with their respect for the rule of law, environment appropriate for kids and lack of wanton destruction of personal property? It’s almost like the protestors believed in the right to peaceably assemble and free speech.

    It’s almost like a skit in which people with no real grievance attempt to portray themselves as victims.

    See the lack of passion is a give away that the underlying cause is contrived. Say what you want about the left’s protests (and I have many unkind words for them as protesting is generally an idiotic way to attempt change) but they tend to have passion in spades.

    I do sort of feel bad for the libertarians. It’s like the GOP swooped in and stole their toy.

  8. Tlaloc says:

    The most ironic thing, I think, is that the original tea parties were not protesting a raise in taxes. Quite the opposite. The Tea Act resulted in cheaper tea for the colonies.

    Even with the Townshend duty in effect, the Tea Act would allow the East India Company to sell tea more cheaply than before, undercutting the prices offered by smugglers. In 1772, legally imported Bohea, the most common variety of tea, sold for about 3s per pound.[32] After the Tea Act, colonial consignees would be able to sell it for 2s per pound, just under the smugglers’ price of 2s 1d.[33] Realizing that the payment of the Townshend duty was politically sensitive, the company hoped to conceal the tax by making arrangements to have it paid either in London once the tea was landed in the colonies, or have the consignees quietly pay the duties after the tea was sold. This effort to hide the tax from the colonists was unsuccessful.[34]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Tea_Party#Tea_Act_1773

    The Townshend duty mentioned above is the supposed tax at issue except it had been in place all along (i.e. there was no increase to protest) and with the tea act the colonists were getting the tea cheaper legally than from smugglers who avoided the tax.

    So, actually, I guess yesterday’s tea parties do have a lot in common with the Boston Tea Party; both were based on nonsensical grievances.

  9. sam says:

    This just might be the silliest thing GA ever posted here:

    we protest peacefully because of the God given respect of authority we have honed in this great land of a Christian/American upbringing.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    Had George Bush or any republican still been in office these protests would have been front page news and all over the major networks.

    When Bush was in the White House, we had huge deficits and exploding budgets and yet, these same people weren’t in the streets…how curious…

  11. What part of dictatorship of the proletariat do you like?

    None… I wasn’t comparing The Sons of Liberty to modern day anti-capitalist protestors because I approve of anti-capitalists but because I disapprove of the Sons of Liberty.

  12. anjin-san says:

    no black masks, no flaming cocktails, no rocks, no overturned cars, no attacking police, no cyber attacks, no burning housing developments, no spikes in trees, no fake blood on your fur.

    I suppose you find the the gov. of a major state talking about secession to be a positive.

    Guess Perry’s motto is “career before country”.

  13. Tlaloc says:

    I suppose you find the the gov. of a major state talking about secession to be a positive.

    Are you kidding? I find damn well ANYBODY talking about Texas leaving the US to be a good thing. The more buzz we can get for that idea the better.

    When the party idiot “threatens” to leave you walk him to the door to make sure he doesn’t get lost along the way.