It was 250 years ago today that the British government dropped a sizable straw on the oppressed back of the American colonies.
On March 22, 1765, Parliament enacted the Stamp Act on the American colonies. Their stated intention was to raise funds to pay for British soldiers quartered on these shores. In short, it was for our own good.
Times may change, but the tired rhetoric of nanny-state politicians never does…
For most of us, the chief effect of the Stamp Act was the popularization of the phrase “No taxation without representation.” That was a long-standing concept, under the Rights of Englishmen, forbidding the levying of a tax on a subject of the crown unless represented in Parliament.
(How taxation with representation has worked out here is a topic for a different day.)
The Stamp Act, and it’s condescending “for your own good” implementation, added fuel to the already smoldering fires for self-governance.
A decade and a day later, on March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry addressed his colleagues of the Second Virginia Convention. Specifically, he was addressing those in the ruling establishment of the day who claimed to be also aggrieved at the treatment by Crown, but made excuses for their self-imposed impotence. They feared losing their elite station. A popular claim was that the liberty movement was just too weak for action. (Sound familiar?)
From his historic speech:
“They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? … Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.”
Strong words as inspirational today as then. Thanks to Patrick Henry and so many others, we are a self-governing nation. That is not enough; we must be more than that. We must be a people that, like Patrick Henry, consider liberty to be worth any price.
Patrick Henry concluded:
“Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! … What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”