The author of this broadside, Poplicola, finds little of concern in the tax on tea. What arguments does the writer use concerning the tax on tea and Parliament's right to tax the colonies in general?
I mean not to censure the Persons in Opposition. Many of them are undoubtedly Lovers of their Country, and many, with honest Purposes, have been deluded by passionate Exclamations for Liberty. To such as these I address myself; and while I speak the Language of Candour and Simplicity, I flatter myself I shall be heard, and heard not in vain.
"Shall we surrender our Liberties if we purchase the English Teas, tho' the Duties are paid in London, by the India Company?" If this Question can be fairly answered in the Negative, there appears no Ground for Opposition.
That, if we purchase the Tea, our Money will be taken from us without our Consent, is, I believe, a Position too ridiculous to be any longer imposed on the most Credulous. Common Sense will inform every Man, that when he can buy an Article, or reject it at his Pleasure, his Money, if he chuses to purchase, cannot be said, without he grossest Absurdity, to be forced from him. If my Opponents mean no more, when they say that "the Money is forced out of our Pockets," than that the People will consent to buy the Tea, I will no more dispute with them, than I would, if they contended, that smuggling is for the good of the Community, and a Weasel as large as a Capon, and afterwards informed me that they meant by "the Good of the Community," the Gain of the Traders to Holland; and by a Weasel, nothing else but a Grey Goose.
"But if we take the Tea, say they, we pay the Duty." In no other Sense, say I, than as you may be said to pay the Charges of manufacturing, storing, and shipping, any Commodity which you buy, whether it has been exported from Holland, or Great Britain. These Expences are blended in the Value of the Commodity; and you may, with as much Justice, be said to pay Duties to the States of Holland, when you purchase any Articles of the Dutch, the price of which has been augmented by Customs, or Fees exacted by that Government, as when you buy the Teas of the East India Company. The only Difference in the latter Case is a favourable One, that the price will not on Account of the Duty, be raised, but the Teas disposed of at Auction to the highest Bidder.
"But our Acceptance of the Tea," it is urged, will be construed into a "Consent that the Parliament may tax us as they please."
As this Objection seems to have Weight with many honest Men, and as it is the only One that bears the least Plausibility, we will carefully consider it in all its Parts, and enquire,--
1st. Whether the Tea exported by the India Company cannot be admitted without establishing a Precedent against us.
2d. Whether a Toleration of the Parliament's Exercise of a Power to impose Duties on their own Exports, can give them a Claim to impose Duties on the Exports of the Americans, and to lay Taxes on our Goods, Houses, Lands, &c. &c.
1st. There is no necessary Connection between our receiving the Tea, and an Admission of their Claim to impose Duties. For such an Acceptance will give them a Claim, neither by our IMMEDIATE Consent, nor by Prescription. By spirited Resolves and Declarations of our Rights, we can hold up our Denial of their Claim, at the same Time that we receive the Teas merely on the Footing of their being of Convenience and Advantage to us. On the same Ground we admit the Imposts on Letters, and import Molasses tho' subject to a Duty. Publick Protestations of our Denial of their Claim will bar them from founding their Right on IMMEDIATE Consent; and, for the same Reason also, from pleading Prescription. For Prescriptive Right, arising only from Presumption of tacit Consent, can never be urged where there has been a publick and constant Denial of the Claim.
But assuming (what has now been disproved) that their Claim could originate from this Root; I urge--
2dly. A Toleration of the Parliament's Exercise of a Power of imposing Duties on Articles which Great Britain exports, or we import from her, by no Means infers a Concession of Right in them impose Duties on our Exports, or to levy Taxes on our products, Houses, Lands, &c. The Former is justly deemed an Exertion of that Power of regulating Trade, which must in every Nation, reside supreme in some Part or other of the State, in Order to direct and moderate the Movements of every Spring in the Machine for the Common Good. Impositions of such a Sort can, if at all, be called Taxes only in a very lax Sense of the Word. If they are Taxes, they are such as the Consumer consents to pay; and every Man is left in the full Property of his Money, to give or refuse it as he pleases. Impositions on our Exports, Products, Manufactures, Lands, &c. would be of a far different Nature. In such a Case, our Money would (if the Imposts and Taxes were not the Gifts of our own Commons) be extorted without our Consent. Their Nature and Operations being therefore different, a Toleration of the One could not be urged as implying a Consent to Tolerate the other.
To dispute about Names, is a Business unworthy of Men. We tolerate the Parliament's Exercise of a Power for the Regulation of Trade; we receive Articles subject to a Duty imposed by the same Legislature, because (we say) the Power, in these Instances, is not oppressively exercised. And will there be a Price exacted for the Tea, beyond its real Value; or if it is demanded, need we purchase it? No. Why then an Opposition? "Because Duties for the "Purpose of raising a Revenue may be exorbitantly imposed upon every Article "we import from Great Britain." And may not the Parliament impose Duties equally severe on the Articles you import from thence, tho' the Terms "for the Purpose of raising a Revenue" are not expressed? Why then is not an Opposition made to every Species of Duty imposed by the Parliament? We tolerate them, because they are not at present exorbitant. Why then not tolerate the Duty on Tea, when it is in the same Predicament, and liable to fewer Objections? When the Duties are imposed in an excessive and exorbitant Manner, you will have as much Security from Opposition in the one Case as in the other.