While speaking to the second Virginia Convention on this day, in 1775, Patrick Henry voiced his opposition to the increasingly violent British rule over the colonies. The issue at hand was not insufficient healthcare or an unlivable minimum wage… America was growingly increasingly weary of Brits telling us how to live. (It turns out, the sentiment stuck with us – as is evidenced by Piers Morgan getting kicked off of CNN.) Speaking to the delegates of the Convention, Henry cried the now famous ultimatum: “Give me liberty, or give me death!” And when spoken in opposition to the world’s most powerful empire, Henry probably had a sense of which option the British would pick for him.
Of course, Henry wasn’t alone. For over a decade the embers of rebellion had been growing in the colonies. On March 22nd, 1765, the British crown imposed the Stamp Act in an effort to raise revenues for a standing British Army in America. Far from being a tax on individuals for not obtaining healthcare (imagine the job King George could have done with a few progressive advisors), the tax was imposed on all materials printed for commercial or legal use within the New World. Suddenly, newspapers, pamphlets, broadsides, insurance policies, and even playing cards had to bear a tax collector’s stamp to indicate that they had complied with the new requirements. (It’s unclear if the tax collectors were unfairly targeting would-be “tea party” groups at this stage.)
Being far more perturbed by taxes than we are today, Colonial Americans took immediate action. Customhouses were attacked, tax collectors were intimidated, and boycotts were placed on certain British goods. (Ostensibly, this is around the same time that Americans realized the British didn’t offer many goods to begin with.) The British Parliament, not wanting to look impolite or the least bit improper, quickly put an end to the Stamp Act and issued a nicely worded apology… But a growing anti-British sentiment had already taken hold in the colonies.
For nearly the next decade, most colonists tolerated a British government that routinely stepped on the sovereign rights of Americans, with little widespread push-back. The clear message sent to Parliament appeared to be that Americans would suffer minor taxes, embargos, and even various levels of gun registration without considerable trouble making… But, the British took things a step too far when, in 1773, they decided to tinker with the colonists’ breakfast beverage.