Considered by many to be the first global war, the Seven Years War, called the French and Indian War in America, lasted from 1756 to 1763. Britain, Prussia, Hanover, Hesse, Brunswick, Schaumberg, Portugal, and Iroquois fought against France, Austria, Russia, Sweden, Saxony, Spain and India’s Mughal Empire. Land and sea battles stretched from Europe, North America, and the Caribbean, all the way to India and the Philippines.
The French and Indian War ended in 1763, resulting in France losing territories around the world, including Canada and all their land in America east of the Mississippi River.
A year after the war, King George III began to tax the colonies to raise money for their defense in case of future French incursions or native uprisings. These taxes stifled the American economy:
- Sugar Act of 1764 – taxing sugar, coffee, wine
- Stamp Act of 1765 – taxing newspapers, contracts, letters, playing cards and all printed materials
- Townshend Acts of 1767, taxing glass, paint and paper
The British Government imposed Bills of Attainder, which were like IRS audits, with the force of executive order and martial law. Instances escalated of citizens’ civil rights being nullified, their property confiscated and punishments imposed without the benefit of a trial.
James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 44: “Bills of Attainder … are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation. … The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy. … They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become … snares.”
The king also imposed Writs of Assistance, beginning in 1761, to stop smuggling, but these gave government agents unlimited power to enter any colonist’s home without warning, with no warrant or probable cause, and arrest them. Writs of Assistance empowered government officials to detain anyone indefinitely, evict them from their home, seize their farm, and confiscate their property – all of this without due process.
In the Massachusetts Superior Court, in Feb. 24, 1761, James Otis, Jr., spoke against the Writs of Assistance for nearly five hours. James Otis argued: “I will to my dying day oppose with all the powers and faculties God has given me all such instruments of slavery on the one hand, and villainy on the other, as this Writ of Assistance is. It appears to me the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law.”
A young attorney in attendance in the courtroom was John Adams, who described James Otis’ speech “… as the spark in which originated the American Revolution.”
Thirty years later, John Adams wrote of witnessing James Otis’ speech: “The child independence was then and there born, (for) every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away as I did, ready to take arms against Writs of Assistance.”
James Otis favored extending basic natural law and freedoms of life, liberty and property to African-Americans. He is noted for stating:
- “Those who every day barter away other men’s liberty will soon care little for their own.”
- “If we are not represented, we are slaves.”
- “A man’s house is his castle.”
- “Taxation without representation is tyranny.”
His sister was Mercy Otis Warren, who wrote in 1788: “The origin of all power is in the people, and they have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation.”
As the Colonies had no representative in Parliament, the cry arose, “No taxation without representation.”
In 1768, the British began forcibly “quartering” their troops in American homes, as there were no barracks, leaving families to fend for themselves in their barns, basements or attics.
When citizens gathered in protest, March 5, 1770, British troops fired into crowd, killing five, one of which was the African-American patriot Crispus Attucks. This became known as the Boston Massacre.
Just three years later, in 1773, the British imposed yet another tax with the “Tea Act.” Like modern-day secret trade deals rushed through Congress without public debate, giving multi-national corporations monopolies on trade, the King of England had his own version of “crony-capitalism.”
The king allowed the East India Tea Company to sell a half-million pounds of tea in the Colonies with no taxes, giving them a monopoly as they could undersell American merchants, many of whom sold tea smuggled in by the Dutch.
The citizens of Boston had enough. On Dec. 16, 1773, Samuel Adams led a band of patriots disguised as Mohawk Indians, called Sons of Liberty, from the South Meeting House toward Griffin’s Wharf. They boarded the ships Dartmouth, Eleanor and Beaver, and threw 342 chests of British East India Company tea into Boston’s harbor. This became known as the Boston Tea Party.
This infuriated the King, who responded by punishing the colonies with the Coercive Acts:
- Boston Port Act (June 1, 1774)
- Quartering Act (June 2, 1774)
- Administration of Justice Act (May 20, 1774)
- Massachusetts Government Act (May 20, 1774)
- The Quebec Act (June 22, 1774)
The men of Marlborough, Massachusetts, declared: “Death is more eligible than slavery. A free-born people are not required by the religion of Jesus Christ to submit to tyranny, but may make use of such power as God has given them to recover and support their liberties. … We implore the Ruler above the skies that He would bare His arm … and let Israel go.”
Almost 200 years later, in Boston, July 25, 1951, General Douglas MacArthur addressed Massachusetts State Legislature: “It was the adventurous spirit of Americans which despite risks and hazards carved a great nation from an almost impenetrable wilderness. … This adventurous spirit is now threatened as it was in the days of the Boston Tea Party by an unconscionable burden of taxation. … No nation may survive in freedom once its people become servants of the State …”
MacArthur concluded his Boston address: “It is not of any external threat that I concern myself but rather of insidious forces working from within which have already so drastically altered the character of our free institutions. … We must unite in the high purpose that the liberties etched upon the design of our life by our forefathers be unimpaired and that we maintain the moral courage and spiritual leadership to preserve inviolate that mighty bulwark of all freedom, our Christian faith.”
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