Prior to the American Revolution, the British government passed a series of acts which were one of the prime motivators for the Revolution. We can take a lesson from these acts today. They were called by many “The Intolerable Acts.”
There were five acts in total, and they were ostensibly passed as retribution for the Boston Tea Party. I’ll summarize these acts and add parallels describing what is happening today. Read the comparisons below and decide for yourself what they mean, if anything.
The first was called the Boston Port Act. This act closed the entire Port of Boston, effectively shutting down the bulk of the economy there, until such a time as restitution was made to the East India Company for their lost tea. Even though only a handful of people were responsible for the actual loss, everyone connected to the City of Boston was punished financially.
Today, we have something similar which happens frequently. Small businesses being seized for back taxes. However you feel personally about this, rather than collecting taxes a little at a time through collection of a portion of proceeds, the tax collection agencies, and even many local governments, have come to prefer a confiscation of the business itself in lieu of payment. This not only causes the employees to lose their jobs, but it hurts the customers of the business and the vendors who sold material and supplies to that business. This effectively punishes all who were connected to the business because one or a few people were behind on their assigned tax payments.
The second was the Massachusetts Government Act. This ended democratic elections in the colony, replacing elected officials with officials appointed by the Crown.
In today’s world, we have something different yet similar. This is less a local problem and more a national and state problem. Rather than only those approved by the King being allowed to represent us, now only the wealthy and those approved of by the party establishments have a real chance of gaining higher office. Instead of an aristocracy, we have a pseudo-plutocracy.
The third act was called the Administration of Justice Act. This act allowed officials of the Crown to select their own venue if accused of a crime, meaning that they could choose to be tried in England, making it as difficult as possible for the accuser and the witnesses to appear in court, rendering the balance of justice to be weighed heavily in favor of the British officials.
Today’s situation for us may be even worse. Many of our government officials are mostly immune from prosecution and litigation. To make things even more difficult are the stories we are all familiar with of officials claiming executive privilege, officials and agencies refusing to turn over documents, and many of the documents which are finally turned over being redacted to the point on indecipherability. How can we expect justice over these obstacles?
Fourth was the Quartering Act. This, simply put, gave automatic first priority of lodging etc. to the British troops, to the point of closing buildings and businesses to the general public whenever the redcoats demanded these facilities.
At first glance the parallels of today are not obvious, but how many times are airports and highways closed to the public for the exclusive use of government officials? These same officials can even trump the public by reserving an entire hotel for their exclusive use, regardless of public desire.
The last one was the Quebec Act. Here the intention was to reward the province of Quebec for their loyalty to the Crown, while punishing the New England colonies for their resistance. It took land away from the New England colonies and awarded this land to Quebec.
Not quite as blatant, but today we have the abuse of eminent domain. Eminent domain was intended to be used only to acquire land which was necessary for the benefit of the community, and requires fair payment to be made to the land owner for their loss. This is frequently abused in many areas now to seize property which is desired by those friendly to government officials, often against the public wish and with less than adequate compensation for the original land holder. This is also done in a roundabout way using tax forfeit lands, which should be considered the property of the public rather than the government, as was tried in our own county recently.
Make up your own mind. Are these lessons we would be wise to heed today? Or are they just a coincidence?