Traveling in the time of Covid (4)

In September 1774, the First Continental Congress was convened to form a united resistance to Great Britain’s rule over America. The die was cast for the American Revolution for Independence

My next destination in my travels in New England in the time of Covid is Boston, said to be the birthplace of the American Revolution. Like most other armed conflicts in history, its origin was economic in nature.

It was on 5 March 1770 that the fuse to the American Revolution was lit when British soldiers opened fire on an angry mob protesting tax laws imposed by Great Britain, killing five colonists and wounding several others, an incident that came to be known as the Boston Massacre.

Although the tax measures were meant to cover the upkeep of the colony, particularly the salaries of administrative officials such as the governor and judges, the people deeply resented what they believed were unjust intrusions by the British Parliament, a body in which the colonists had no representation, sitting thousands of miles away from America.

The stage, however, was actually set several years back in 1765 when Great Britain, heavily indebted due to its military campaign in the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), sought to generate revenues from its colony by imposing various taxes on its subjects.

To provide a perspective to the Boston scenario then, and comparing it to our own Covid-induced, revenue starved, amid potentially a budding hyper-inflationary setting today, visualize the new administration imposing a plethora of new taxes on consumption transactions that affect all regardless of income status. This means increases in value added tax, fuel excise tax, sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco, the minimum corporate income tax and, woe to all seniors, removal of senior citizen’s tax exemptions. Can you possibly imagine how the populace will react to such a scenario? Think Sri Lanka, Laos or Kenya. We would probably have daily massive demonstrations.

My first stop in downtown Boston was at the Old State House, site of the Boston Massacre, where a circular marker is permanently engraved on the street pavement. The original building built in 1713 still stands. It was the center of the royal government in the Massachusetts Bay colony, such as the Governor’s Council Chamber, Supreme Judicial Court, and Assembly Hall of the elected representatives. More significantly, years later, the new country’s Declaration of Independence was first read from its balcony.

Notwithstanding a withering heatwave, I decided to brave a few minutes’ walk to another historic landmark of the American Revolution, the Old South Meeting House, the largest gathering place in Boston where thousands met to vent their ire against the British, particularly after King George III sent soldiers to help quell the continuing unrest.

The volatile mix of disgruntled citizenry, disenchanted merchants and occupying soldiers finally exploded when on 16 December 1773, an orchestrated band of colonists disguised as Indians boarded three vessels of the East India Company and dumped the fleet’s cargo of tea overboard in Boston Harbor as a sign of protest against the Tea Act, causing considerable property damage.

The British Parliament angrily reacted and added fuel to the fire by enacting a slew of oppressive legislation, aptly called The Coercive Acts, on March 1774, which imposed the closure of Boston Harbor until the attendant financial costs were reimbursed; suspended the democratic privileges of the colonists to vote for their officials; immunity from criminal prosecution of all British officials; freedom of worship of Catholics in bordering Canada, which aggravated the religious sensitivities of the heavily Protestant Massachusetts populace, and, worst of all, forced housing and quartering of British soldiers in any private residence of their choosing. I leave it to your imagination how Filipinos will react if similar tyrannical action was to be taken by China with regard to our ongoing dispute in the South China Sea.

Understandably, as a consequence of the new legislation, in September 1774, the First Continental Congress was convened to form a united resistance to Great Britain’s rule over America. The die was cast for the American Revolution for Independence.

Until next week… OBF!

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