After a period of relative calm, Parliament enacted the Tea Act in 1773. The Tea Act was designed to help the struggling East India Company by giving it a virtual monopoly on selling tea in the colonies. Parliament claimed that the tax on tea, left over from the Townshend Duties, would be paid in England, not in the colonies. In the following broadside by Mucius, what argument does the writer make concerning the East India Company and the tax on tea? What measure does Mucius urge colonists to take in response to the Tea Act?
My dear Countrymen,
THE art used by the Ministerial advocates to persuade you, that the duty imposed by Act of Parliament, on tea imported here, will be paid in London, contrary to the express design and meaning of that act; and that the duty thus paid, can prove in no shape detrimental to your rights, is the occasion of this address to you.
Every American believes, that Parliament have no right to tax America; and of course, that they cannot, of right, impose any duty on any article of her trade, to be paid on its arrival here: But some have doubted, whether the payment of the American duty in London, before the tea is shipped, although the same duty must be charged on the tea, and be afterwards collected from the Americans, can be considered as a Parliamentary tax on America.
It cannot be denied, that G. B. has a right to tax at any rates she thinks proper, her exports to every clime which is blessed with a free trade, and which is not forced to obey her naval mandates; such taxes would notwithstanding be impolitic and useless. But to admit that she can of right oblige the Americans, whose importation of many articles of life is confined to her alone, to pay any duties she may impose on such necessaries, is to give her a right to strip you of every thing you possess.
At this rate, Great-Britain need be at no loss to raise on you, all that her luxury and corruption can dictate--she may lay a tax on such articles as your climate and infant situation have made necessary to you, and which she can prevent your purchasing at a foreign market; and her American revenue scheme will be compleated. For the sale in America being secured, the tax is also secured: And unless you have resolution to disdain the purchase of whatever may be thus burthened, let its importance to you be what it may, you will soon be reduced to a situation more miserable than that of the Athenians under their thirty tyrants.
To this it may be said, "that G. B. has for many years, exercised this claim by the duties she has imposed on cambricks, lawns, lead, woolcards, &c. &c. and that it is now too late to object to the payment of such duties, the precedent being already established."
When many of those duties were laid, America considered them as regulations of trade, some how or other beneficial to the parent state, and in no high degree injurious to herself.--As such she submitted to them, without considering the dangerous precedent they were designed to establish. In the same light she considered the act of 4 Geo. 3 [the fourth year of George III's reign], imposing duties on wine, &c. and might have admitted this act as constitutional and necessary, had not the memorable Stamp Act, of 1765, brought on the day of political knowledge in America.
Whatever taxes may have been imposed on America, while she lay dozing in the lap of maternal security, they cannot now be brought in proof of Parliament's right to tax you. If they were unconstitutional in the beginning, which they undoubtedly were, they are unconstitutional at this day, and as such ought to be strenuously opposed--and, if through ignorance or inattention, you have paid such unjust impositions, it cannot, from thence be inferred, that you ought to pay them forever; and patiently submit to every burthen which Parliament in future may think proper to lay upon you. . . .
The Ministerial manoeuvre of sending tea to America, you are told, was designed to assist the India Company in the sale of their tea, an immense quantity of which they have on hand; and to enable them to pay their debts.
If this was the case, and fair play was meant to America, why was not the act of Parliament imposing the duty of 3d. sterling on tea, imported into America, repealed? an act which was the principal cause of the India Company's distress; and which will prevent an effectual remedy, so long as it continues in force--For if the duty is continued, and America is not forced to pay it, it is evident that the India Company, whom the Ministry are so desirous to oblige, are made dupes to a pretended favour.
The truth is, that Company were to be gratified at the expence of America, who from the first dawning of this manoeuvre, has been marked as the beast of burthen. But I trust, that the same public spirit, and virtuous self denial, which influenced your conduct under former impositions, will manifest itself on the present occasion--That you will not suffer the glorious title of American to be sullied, by a servile obedience to an act of parliament, which, executed as it may be, by the payment of a duty here or in Britain, will, in either case, establish, irrevocably establish, the dangerous claim of parliament to tax you without mercy.
All Europe, nay the whole world, are now attentive to your cause, and have, with wonder, seen and heard of the decent, manly and determined conduct of the Freemen of America, in a situation the most delicate and interesting; and they still expect at your hands a manifestation of the like glorious behaviour on the present alarming occasion. The payment of the duty in London, will not make it less a tax on you, than if it were paid here; and of course, not less an object of your detestation and opposition. Americans must refuse to purchase the noxious weed; and such refusal will make it infamous and dangerous for any man, or any set of men, to aid or abet its introduction and sale. This is the measure Americans ought to pursue--this the only means to save your country from destruction.