So I saw this gem circulating on Facebook today and although most of it delves into a review of the current state of the United States, the initial comment is about the so-called “three percent tax on tea leading to the American Revolution.” This is, to put it mildly, a gross over-simplification of the many different events and threads that lead to the American Revolution that began in 1775. However the cornerstone point I’d like to express is that the American Revolution owes its roots, broadly, to three core concepts of which the tax on tea was merely a representative example of the broader problems.
The first was the lack of representation for the American colonies within the British Parliament, the British Parliament was controlled solely by representatives elected by the British population located in Great Britain, leaving the American colonies with the power to petition the British Parliament through their colonial governments. Although actual power was semi-shared in a more complex arrangement between the colonial government and the British government, after the French and Indian War the British Parliament enacted taxes upon the colonies and stood firmly on the fundamental principle that it had the sole and exclusive right to tax the American colonies, directly, and could do so without the consent of the colonial governments. Furthermore, although elements with the British government were open to discussion on taxes on the colonies, and many of the taxes were rescinded due to popular actions like boycotts, the British Parliament remained firm on its core principle that they could tax the American colonies directly and that the colonies had no direct say on the issue.
Second was restrictions on trade, the American colonies for many decades were technically prohibited from trading with nations other than Great Britain but effectively such regulations were loosely enforced at best. This allowed American merchants to participate in a more connected system of global trade and pursue the greatest value possible for their goods between several competing European markets, in particular French and Spanish traders were a ready source of competing bids to the prices offered by British buyers. After the French and Indian War though you saw a vastly increased level of enforcement of these regulations by collections officers – officers paid directly by the British government (technically the British Crown) – who were disconnected from any pressures by the Colonial governments. This caused vast anger among the rising American merchant class and American producers of goods and raw materials for export, as with a forced monopoly of trade with only British merchants under-valued prices were the only option for American goods. These undervalued prices were only offset by more covert smuggling, which continued, but the volume of trade with non-British buyers declined and the risk of such trade increased.
Finally, third, the period from 1774 to 1776 was a period of increased British crackdowns on the American colonies, mainly in response to popular uprisings, of which the tea dumping incident was but one example. The British Parliament passed four Intolerable Acts:
The Massachusetts Government Act which changed the government of the colony, making all judicial and executive office appointments solely the purview of the royally appointed Governor of the colony and making it so that any town meetings could only occur with the Governors permission.
The Administration of Justice Act which restricted the trial of British soldiers to only occur in British courts in Great Britain
The Boston Port Act which closed Boston harbor till the full value of the tea was repaid – an act which destroyed Boston’s local economy and further messed with American trade as Boston harbor was one of the key harbors for shipping from the American colonies. (Boston was also at this time a hub for cultural development and education in the colonies.)
The Quartering Act which required American colonial families to provide food and shelter for British soldiers – an act that also shoved British troops throughout the colonies as a dispersed force to maintain law and order.
I leave it to the readers to consider if the above actions are on par with what is being described in the image quote at the top of this post, however I do feel safe in asserting that it was more than just a tax on tea that helped spark the American Revolution.
Reference Source: Wikipedia on the American Revolution