Slavery, Tea Parties, and Health Care

When we read accounts of the Boston Tea Party, what are we really reading about? Is it a tax on tea? Did our ancestors go to war with England over the price of tea? Would we still be a British colony if the King had acquiesced and lowered the tax on tea? No, of course not. The tax on tea was a tangible focal point that the people could relate to that represented the oppression of the British Crown. What about the current anger over Obama’s Health Control (presented as Health Care)? Why is there such popular anger over how medical treatment will be paid for? Is that what people are really angry over? Would Obama’s approval ratings suddenly improve if he repealed this piece of socialist legislation? No. Just like the tax on tea over 200 years ago, it is something that directly affects the lives of the people, and it became the symbol of something much larger – an out of control government that exists to benefit the powerful at the expense of the people.

From the perspective of Southerners defending slavery, what does the issue of slavery in the antebellum years have to do with the Boston Tea Party and “Health Care”? It was the symbol of Northern domination of the country. It was an example of those in the North trying to dictate how Southerners must live. It was the perfect illustration of Northerners who profited from the importation of slaves, who profited from the ready supply of cotton for their textile mills, and who profited when they shipped their slaves south when it proved cheaper and more efficient to import poor Whites to work in their factories for starvation wages once they arrived in America. Having already made their profits from slavery, it became politically expedient to ride the wave of popular outrage against what those people in The South were doing.

Slavery most likely was not all that popular in The South, in that people understood that there was something fundamentally wrong with it. It was a problem, but it was The South’s problem to solve – not to be dictated to by The North. It was the right of the states to make decisions and to solve problems; it was not the proper role of the federal government to tell the states what to do.

Slavery was emblematic of the great divide between North and South. It was NOT the cause for the War for Southern Independence any more than the price of tea was the cause for the first War for Independence. If the issue of slavery suddenly disappeared overnight in late 1860, that would have done nothing to prevent the secession of the Southern states. The only difference would be that the North would no longer have the issue of slavery to piously claim the moral high ground. When we read the accounts of Southern leaders defending slavery, they are using it as a rhetorical device to illustrate the great divide that had split the North and South long before the first shots were ever fired in the war. Was slavery a factor? Yes, of course it was – but not in the way that revisionist history presents it. Slavery was being used as a symbol – just as their grandfathers had used a tax on tea as a symbol of another oppressive government.

About Stephen Clay McGehee

Born-Again Christian, Grandfather, husband, business owner, Southerner, aspiring Southern Gentleman. Publisher of The Confederate Colonel and The Southern Agrarian blogs. President/Owner of Adjutant Workshop, Inc., Vice President - Gather The Fragments Bible Mission, Inc. (Sierra Leone, West Africa), Webmaster - Military Order of The Stars and Bars, Kentucky Colonel.
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4 Responses to Slavery, Tea Parties, and Health Care

  1. Walter C Gusler says:

    Great article and insight sir, its just too bad that people are too unwilling to use common sense and look a bit deeper at the issues.

  2. ConfederateSoul says:

    Intriguing to say the least. I really appreciate your insights. Seems people always need something tangible to hold onto when we consider large issues.

  3. Austin says:

    Your intentions are on target even if your history’s a little off or incomplete. Parliament was in the process of reversing its decision on granting the East India Company a monopoly on the North American tea trade [the root of the tea tax issue] when radicals in Massachusetts, notably Sam Adams, decided to revive their revolutionary goals by taking a provocative and brazen act sure to illicit a strong response from London which it did.

    There was little appetite for armed conflict and secession from Britain anywhere else in the colonies save the radicals in Massachusetts and New England, whose descendants were to plunge the nation into truly bloody strife 90 years later. It was the British government’s [led by the inept Lord North] heavy handed attempts at coercion following the Tea Party that rallied the other colonies, in particular Virginia, to Massachusetts’ defense that brought the Revolution to fruition.

    It is important to note that the Puritan colonists of Greater New England fled England because they opposed the English Monarchy and the Church of England. The Anglican-Cavalier colonists of Virginia and the South fled England because they lost the English Civil War to the Puritans.

    This profound cultural and religious divide carried to North America from England laid the foundation for the War Between The States. Another interesting fact is that the Southern colonists were loyal to the House of Stuart line of English/British monarchs who were permanently deposed from the throne in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The future and foreign [German] House of Hanover which produced King George III was foreign and alien to the Southern colonists not to mention the Congregationalist New Englanders. The British Government, created by the Act of Union between England and Scotland was also a concept and entity foreign to the English colonists although it did provide for the immediate migration of hundreds of thousands of disaffected immigrants primarily to the South whom we now refer to as the Scots-Irish and whose numbers in Washington’s army made American victory in the Revolutionary War possible—-along with French help.

  4. Austin – thank you so much for the information. You’re right – the point I was making was just a glancing blow of history to serve as an illustration. I will have to plead ignorance to anywhere near the level of detail that you have provided here. You have added much to the topic, sir.

    I truly hope that you will continue to add to the discussions – especially when I get something wrong or miss important points.

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