My, how far we’ve come in 250 years. In precisely the wrong direction, alas.
They came like torches in the night, swarming over the sides of the three ships anchored in Griffin Harbor: the Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver. Their faces were painted black, red, and copper from lamp soot and paint, bodies wrapped in blankets or wearing “old frocks, red woollen caps, gowns, and all manner of like devices.”
Axes pecked away at locks. Three hundred and forty wooden crates were cracked, scalped, and gutted, their 92,000 pounds of black powdered innards thrown into the water, turning it dark. After three hours, it was over. The only piece of personal property destroyed during the exercise was a padlock belonging to one of the captains, and this was replaced the next day.
The Boston Tea Party — which occurred 250 years ago this Dec. 16 — may not have been the spark that ignited the American Revolution, but it set the pieces up for the great conflict. Because of the tea’s destruction, Parliament retaliated throughout 1774 with the Coercive Acts.
Ironically, the British forged the very spirit that would ultimately defeat them in 1781.
Although only a prelude to the Revolution, the Boston Tea Party still has pertinent lessons for us today, especially in our specific moment. Like today, Americans 250 years ago faced an openly hostile government, much stronger than they were, and it was determined to prove its dominion over the colonies regardless of cost. The specifics have changed, but the familiar beats can be distinctly heard.
Follows, four lessons from the past that contemporary Americans must heed, of which I consider Numero Uno to be the most apposite.
The first lesson is to fight intelligently. When we think of the revolution, we think of the Spirit of ’76, the Minutemen at Lexington, Washington crossing the Delaware. We think of marches and speeches and flags defiantly waving. But 12 whole years of organization, planning, and activities came before the first actual line of resistance formed on Lexington Green.
Viewed in the rearview with the usual 20/20 hindsight, history has a way of compressing itself so that years of effort, dedication, and sacrifice look to contemporary eyes as if they occurred one after another, over mere days or, at most, weeks. But y’all know what I always say: a process, not an event. Civil War v1.0 didn’t just suddenly explode into being in 1860; the sparks which lit off that deadly conflagration go back to 1852, at the very least.
T’was ever thus, with every shooting war you care to cite: the origins of WW2 go back to the early 1930s—most modern historians argue its roots can be traced all the way back to 1918’s Treaty of Versailles, actually. Likewise, the Vietnam War did NOT kick off in Pleiku Province in 1965; its bitter seed was planted one heck of a lot further back as well. The 9/11/01 attacks? The crowning achievement of a conflict whose first shot was fired in 1993, themselves just two latter-day atrocities in a 1500-year-old struggle.
A process. NOT an event. It can be frustrating to look around at the massive buckets of shite being dumped over Real American heads by a rogue, clearly Constitutionally-illegitimate government and perceive little to no action being undertaken by true patriots in resistance. When viewed through the long, long lens of history, though, a decent argument can be made that the time is not yet ripe.