Today is the time many of us Americans indulge in nationalistic fervor and patriotism to salute the founding of the United States of America. It’s a time of parades, speechifying, displaying the red, white, and blue flag. We often attend picnics and look for bargains at retail “sales events”. For many, the holiday is all about legally igniting explosive devices or watching public fireworks displays.
Aside from the popular stories that we’ve been told or taught about Independence Day, what really motivated the 13 colonies to break away from English dominion? With the present paradigm of shirking tax responsibilities, the popular opinion of today is that steep tax rates were the prime motivator of the revolution by the “Founding Fathers”.
Actually, taxation was not very far out of line. The British had to defend their colonies from the French to the North. There were costs regarding raids from native American tribes. These were expensive undertakings. The story behind the Fourth of July actually begins far earlier than July 4, 1776.
The Puritans voyaged to North America on ships owned by the East India Company. The corporation, like other English ventures had to be certified by the Crown. In this case, the East India Company had already established their first colony at Jamestown in the Company-owned Commonwealth of Virginia. It was named in honor of the historical “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth.
The Honourable East India Company was wholly owned and operated by very wealthy aristocrats and merchants. The British government did not own any shares and only exercised very little indirect control. Several other British Crown Corporations expanded their operations in North America, as well.
Fast-forward to the 1760s… The very large, powerful transnational corporation dominated most commercial trade from India to China to the Caribbean and was in charge of most commerce in and out of North America. The company leveraged its power with subsidies and special privilages they had received by lobbying the British Monarchy.
Looking to increase their profits and to monopolize their tea trading empire, the East India Company obtained permission to transport tea from Britain to America without duty taxes. In effect, the specially privilaged corporation was able to cripple the smaller, family owned, New England located tea wholesale companies and private small retailers. The East India Company was able to take over all American tea business.
The loyal colonists hands were being forced by corporate power. The well-being of a major New England economic asset was severely threatened. The colonial citizens had had enough. They began readying themselves to throw off the yoke of the corporations that had run roughshod over almost every part of their lives for 200 years. The time had come to confront the world’s largest multinational corporation.
The New Englanders decided to finally intimidate the corporation’s employees, destroy its merchandise, and, if need be, face the military might of the government that certified it. The American colonists were sick and tired of the colonies being milked as a profit farm for the big corporations.
There was much to fear about the corporations. They were given permission to levy taxes, power to imprison people, wage wars, and enjoy trade monopolies in their territorial regions. Worse yet, the companies’ privilages were enforced by the might of the Royal Military forces.
The Americans were hurt badly by the corporate goals. Unemployment was endemic, and an economic crisis was ballooning. An ethos of corporate greed and crime ruled the day. The excess of corporate cash encouraged more greed and corrupted the officials in government. The colonists reasoned that the time had arrived for direct action and occupied the streets. Does this sound familiar?
Do you remember the story about the Boston Tea Party? Good, but we only got a thumbnail sketch in school. The original Tea Partiers saw themselves as protesters against the might of the East India Company. Their small businesses’ and towns’ survival was at stake because of the economic domination by the large corporations. Protesters participating in the act of civil disobedience that became known as the Boston Tea Party ruined the equivalent of $1,000,000 of East India Company merchandise. The “Occupy Movement” of the 1770s had taken root.
The rest of the story is history. The various combination of complaints about the overarching corporations and the accompanying quarrels with the English homeland escalated and ultimately led to the independence movement and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.
Today, we celebrate the intention to declare independence from Great Britain and her corporate powers. How many of us understand and celebrate that intention today?
The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes you use fireworks sensibly and carefully today if you shoot them off.