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The 4 Acts That Led To The American Revolution

american revolution

There can be no doubt that taxation without proper representation set the stage for the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolutionary War. Britain’s debt skyrocketed in the decade before the war and King George III made matters worse by wrongly thinking a heavier tax burden was the solution.

By 1763, taxes were intolerable in Britain and still rising. Previous advisors to the king avoided the issue of taxing the colonies because it was unpopular on both sides of the Atlantic. But during the next four years, the British Parliament began passing laws to raise money through taxing the American colonists. These laws caused severe financial hardships in the colonies and began to engender anger toward the British government. Four acts instituted during this period can be seen as the prelude to the inevitable revolt that would follow.

The Sugar Act (1764)

The Sugar Act placed a tax on molasses, sugar, and other products imported into the American colonies from places outside the British Empire. A similar law, called the Molasses Act, had been passed in 1733, but the people had not obeyed for two reasons:

  • The taxes were too high.
  • The British government did not try very hard to enforce it.

Any time a government does not enforce a law, people start ignoring it. In this case, the colonists openly turned to smuggling—bringing in sugar and molasses secretly to avoid paying the tax. By not enforcing its laws, Britain allowed the colonists to get used to running their own affairs.

The British Parliament became determined to enforce the new sugar act of 1764. When the British suddenly stiffened enforcement of the law, the colonists resented it. The British used naval patrols and royal inspectors to search colonial warehouses and even private residences, thus angering the colonists further.

The British even offered to share the taxes with any citizen who reported friends or neighbors who were smuggling. If the person was found guilty, the police who arrested the smuggler and the judge who found him guilty could also receive a large reward. The result of this was difficulty for someone accused of smuggling to get a fair trial. Many colonists became deeply angered by this unfair system.

The Currency Act (1764)

Not long after passage of the Sugar Act, Parliament enacted another new law—a law which would plunge the colonies into financial depression. Businesses had been expanding quickly in the colonies. Small fortunes were already being made as the colonists begin to develop the bountiful eastern half of North America. Shipbuilding was already a big industry. Colonial shipyards were building one-third of all the merchant vessels sailing under the British flag.

To make business easier to pursue, the colonies created their own paper money. It was called colonial scrip. It was money issued by colonial governments for the benefit of the people in general. British bankers didn’t like this. With the colonies printing their own money, America’s economy appeared to be getting out of the control of Britain.

To prevent this, the British Parliament passed the Currency Act of 1764. This made colonial scrip illegal and forced the colonists to exchange it for British money, issued by the Bank of England. To make matters worse, the British only gave the colonists one Bank of England note for every two notes of colonial scrip. As Benjamin Franklin put it, “the circulating medium of exchange was thus reduced by half.”

Suddenly, all-American products for half price! The Americans had to pay twice the price for all the British products they bought. Cutting the money supply to the colonies in half caused tremendous financial problems. Concerning the Act, Franklin wrote:

“In one year the conditions were so reversed that the era of prosperity ended, and a depression set in, to such an extent on the streets of the Colonies were filled with the unemployed.”

In fact, Franklin believed that the anger caused by this depression was one of the major factors for the Revolutionary War.

The True Christian Heritage and Christian Ideals That Are Woven Into The Very Fabric Of The Constitution…

The Quartering Act (1765)

The following year the British Parliament passed even more inflammatory laws. The first of these, the Quartering Act, made the colonies provide barracks and supplies to house or quarter British troops stationed in America. Most Americans believed that the British Army was present just to keep the Americans in line, so the Quartering Act was deeply resented by many.

The Stamp Act (1765)

For years, the British government had taxed her citizens for all kinds of official paperwork. In 1765, Parliament passed similar laws in America which taxed licenses, college diplomas, playing cards, advertisements, newspapers, and legal documents such as deeds to lands or mortgages on property. The Act derived its name from the stamp which was put on the documents or materials to show the tax had been paid.

Americans erupted in anger. Before the law could even take effect, resolutions condemning the Stamp Act poured into Great Britain. Americans had no say in the fairness of this new form of taxation. They had no votes in the British Parliament. All across the American colonies, the new cry “taxation without representation” was heard.

In the Virginia House of Burgesses, 29-year-old Patrick Henry denounced the Stamp Act in fiery terms. Suggesting that the act would eventually force the colonies into revolt and be the downfall of King George III, Henry urged fellow legislators not to turn back: “If this be treason, make the most of it.”

When viewed in light of British history, Patrick Henry’s outrage doesn’t seem unreasonable. He was merely trying to do what his forefathers had been doing for hundreds of years – give the power to tax to an elected assembly of the people to create a more democratic form of government.

As a result of Henry’s famous speech, the Virginia House of Burgesses declared the Stamp Act to be unjust and even illegal. They also passed resolutions that Parliament had no authority to tax Virginians. Throughout the colonies the rallying cry became, “no taxation without representation.”

Parallels to Today

Thank goodness that we fought our revolutionary war and rid ourselves of the “tax and spend” Parliament and king, right? Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The following taxes weren’t even around 100 years ago, but like a crack addict, once the power to tax is indulged, the government’s appetite is insatiable.

  • Accounts Receivable Tax
  • Building Permit Tax
  • Capital Gains Tax
  • CDL license Tax
  • Cigarette Tax
  • Corporate Income Tax
  • Court Fines (indirect taxes)
  • Dog License Tax
  • Federal Income Tax
  • Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
  • Fishing License Tax
  • Food License Tax
  • Fuel permit tax
  • Gasoline Tax
  • Hunting License Tax
  • Inheritance Tax Interest expense (tax on the money)
  • Inventory tax IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
  • IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
  • Liquor Tax
  • Local Income Tax
  • Luxury Taxes
  • Marriage License Tax
  • Medicare Tax
  • Property Tax
  • Real Estate Tax
  • Septic Permit Tax
  • Service Charge Taxes
  • Social Security Tax
  • Road Usage Taxes (Truckers)
  • Sales Taxes
  • Recreational Vehicle Tax
  • Road Toll Booth Taxes
  • School Tax
  • State Income Tax
  • State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
  • Telephone federal excise tax
  • Telephone federal universal service fee tax
  • Telephone federal, state, and local surcharge taxes
  • Telephone minimum usage surcharge tax
  • Telephone recurring and non-recurring charges tax
  • Telephone state and local tax
  • Telephone usage charge tax
  • Toll Bridge Taxes
  • Toll Tunnel Taxes
  • Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)
  • Trailer registration tax
  • Utility Taxes
  • Vehicle License Registration Tax
  • Vehicle Sales Tax
  • Watercraft registration Tax
  • Well Permit Tax
  • Workers Compensation Tax

I don’t know about you, but I feel taxed enough already.

Tea, anyone?

Hide Your Gold

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  1. I enjoyed the history refresher, but your modern-day examples are not fully accurate and don’t even consider how much more we get from the government today in comparison to colonial America.

    Liquor Tax? Ever hear of the whiskey rebellion? (1791)

    Unemployment tax? We get BENEFITS from that.

    Gasoline Tax? Roads? Back then, roads were generally poor, or they were (often private) toll roads. Road Toll Booth Taxes WERE around back then, but often went to private individuals. Even today, if you don’t use it, you don’t pay it. Back then, they had very few bridges; they had ferries which you had to pay for. I prefer bridges. Tunnels? If they had ANY, I’d be surprised, but people would have GLADLY paid for the convenience.

    Telephone and utility taxes? They didn’t have them, but I would bet they would have paid quite a bit for electricity, heat and phones had they been available.

    Medicare ans Social Security “Taxes”. At least until congress combined their assets into the general budget under Reagan, 100% of what went into it went back out to the people. Even Ann Rand collected Social Security.

    BTW – back then, we didn’t even have a standing army. That’s why the second amendment speaks of the need for “a well-organized militia”.

    Workers’ Comp Tax? Again, people in need get BENEFITS from this.

    Look, I work for a living and I don’t make 6 figures, but this list of yours is trying to put MAJOR spin on things and manipulate people. People that do that – in my opinion – are liars and I don’t appreciate being lied to.

    So . . . how about showing ALL the pertinent data and stopping the spin BS?

    • Your response is null and void considering it is not government’s job to do any of those things for us (social security, unemployment benefits, etc). They are just meant to slowly transform us into a communist country, like slowly boiling a frog in water (and apparently it’s working well on you!). Government’s ONLY job is to secure our rights, as the Declaration of Independence states. Such a sad state our country is in when people call plain truth “major spin”. You want government to do everything for you at taxpayer expense? That’s called socialism. Please move to Europe.

      • A government “of the people, by the people and for the people” is whatever THE PEOPLE decide it is within the law.

        If YOU would prefer an anarchistic country, you could move to Somalia.

        BTW – Declaration of Independence 1) Is NOT a legally binding document; it is ONLY a declaration of independence. 2) Wasn’t really written by an American. The vast majority of it was taken (often verbatim) from John Locke’s “Second Treaty on Government”, which was written 100 years earlier.

        And, no, I don’t want the government to do everything, but I DO want them to do things to stabilize the country FOR THE PEOPLE – NOT for the special interests (Read “rich and powerful”).

        • You really shouldn’t post unless you know what you’re talking about. “Whatever the people decide” is not what is happening today, otherwise Obamacare would never have passed. But regardless, the USA is not a democracy, as you are implying. It is a REPUBLIC, with elements of democracy in it. Meaning we have a standard that our government is to abide by, namely the constitution. This trumps any other decision, and must be amended by a proper vote, lest they pass unconstitutional laws (which is what they have been doing).

          And, you’re wrong again. The supreme court has stated that the Declaration of Independence IS a legally binding document.

          John Locke did not write the declaration, but Thomas Jefferson and others were greatly influenced by a man who understood liberty and the true role of government.

          People like you really bewilder me. You compare the standard of liberty that our founders fought and died for to anarchy in Somalia. That’s really twisted.

    • The stated duties of the Federal Government are few, primarily National Defense (not World Police) and Protection of our Constitutional Rights. Pretty obvious that they cannot meet the most basic duties. Reliance on government programs eliminates Responsibility for self, family and neighbors and leads to the Socialistic theft from those who work to accomplish something! And so many ignore the incompetence of Big Government and hold out their hands.

      • The constitution gives the federal government MUCH leeway in what it can do. Have you read it lately?

        The preamble:
        We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

        “…promote the general welfare”. Hmmm. Sounds like they should do SOMETHING to help the average person . . .

        From Artical 1 Section 10.

        No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
        No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.
        No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
        By stating what states CANNOT do, this section infers that the federal government MAY do them.

        Are there problems with current programs to help people? OF COURSE! I still prefer it to the “good old days” when people starved to death, were thrown into debtors’ prison, sent to a “poor house”, etc. Do you want to have a battered wife have no choice for herself and her kids? If you are THAT selfish, I hope you never get stuck in a bad situation because you will deserve ZERO.

        A BALANCE where the government helps those that need it and ALL the people do what they can to help. That includes those who are receiving help.

        • Your rebuttal of JJM seems weak in that it ignores HIS claims of bureaucratic incompetence, and an entitlement attitude which pervades our system. Your summary point about BALANCE is, IMHO, the crux of the entire issue. The division stems from perception of participation, and of “need”. There are several points in your comments which reflect just such a discrepancy in perception.

          The first difference between our perceptions, in this post, would be the personalization of ‘…PROMOTE the general welfare’. I do not see it as a mandate for the government to be involved in helping any individual or entity, as you seem to imply. Rather, it is a statement to promote societal improvements such as roads, sanitation and free commerce. These are the activities which “promote the general welfare”, and thus constitute “SOMETHING to help the average person . . .” as you put it. As inflammatory as the suggestion may be, Tax Deductions/Incentives are one of government’s tools for promoting, thus we have deductions for charitable contributions, etc…

          Additionally, in this post, you refer to the absence of “debtor’s prison” in our society, which is only mostly correct. Historically, such an institution included governmental involvement in the repayment of PRIVATE debt. There are still jail sentences for “Tax Evasion” and other “PUBLIC” debt. One example of converting debts from Private to Public is when DSHS (the Welfare Office) pays for “Child Support” and then goes after the non-custodial parent. While I do not condone “deadbeat dads”, the moneys are now “owed” to an agency & failure to pay can result in criminal charges which can result in imprisonment. Other examples exist in housing and commerce bureaucracy and, I’m relatively sure, in every area where there is governmental involvement (read as Every aspect of life… refer back to the recent court cases on front yard veggie gardens and families drinking “raw” milk). Let’s not ignore the GMO issues and governmental cow-towing to corporate designs, but this isn’t the place for extended debate on that.

          These differences of opinion may have developed from the focus by some on the “general welfare”, instead of “promoting”; while also diminishing the significance of “…secure the Blessings of Liberty…” which immediately follows. Taking the preamble as a whole, your call for BALANCE is quite apropos and actually affirms JMM’s statements.

        • “…promote the general welfare”. Hmmm. Sounds like they should do SOMETHING to help the average person . . .”

          Nope, it says to promote the GENERAL welfare. That means not passing laws that would harm our country, and passing laws that will help. Under the current socialist system, that is not what is happening. Our economy is sunk. The people are stupid and morally gone (thanks to the state-run school systems). And that welfare that you statists love so much is directly responsible for the demise of the black family. Before Lyndon Johnson’s great society, black families were stronger than white families. Now, since government has targeted blacks for socialist government welfare programs, there is no need for a father or a family. Government will provide.

          In every case, socialism (what you call welfare) destroys a country and does not promote the general welfare. It is exactly the opposite of the intention of the constitution.

          This quote should end this conversation right here and now:

          “If we can but prevent the government from wasting the labours of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.” -Thomas Jefferson

          • 100% concur on the corruption of the word welfare and the use of it to undermine traditional family values. This altered use of the word, for socialist programs, is indeed destructive to the nation and General welfare of it’s citizenry. This is the opposite of Promoting, as your excellent Jefferson quote points out.

  2. Having roots in our fine country that go back to the late 1700s, this ‘ol farts take is that we have been truly led astray. Our forefathers were, I think, interested mostly interested in survival against some tall odds, but needed freedom in order to pull it off. They pushed hard and in many cases died for that freedom. Taxation was and is viewed as a tool for improvement, there really is no free lunch, but it has been taken to stupid levels. Nowadays I suspect most of the collected taxes go to pay idiotic public employees and side agendas that have no bearing on the American theory of life and liberty. Just might be time for some tea and a general house-cleaning…..

  3. How could the British have raised the needed money without taxing the colonists

  4. How do I cite this page MLA format

  5. this site is very useful it helped me write my declaration of independence.

  6. I think that it should be 5 actions of 4 because that is what people are looking for

  7. TAX…………………………………..
    aka act 10

    Because no one should be forced to have what their parents created destroyed by a politician whether government likes what your parents made or not.
    Where was I Scott? A: I voted to end the death tax, not speed up my own. How about it?

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