Most American children learn a very basic time-line of events that lead up to the American Revolution. This often only includes knowing that Parliament imposed taxes on the colonist, sent troops to enforce taxes, and Patriots fought the Red Coats.
This is perhaps mostly accurate, but very simplistic and cleansed of the moral and philosophic arguments the Patriots had. It is also devoid of important dates for the crucial events of this decades long struggle.
Today is the 244th anniversary of an important date that is lost from this simple history. 14 August 1765 is the date of the Boston Stamp Act Protest.
George F. Smith has a good write up on the events and causes of the protest. Murray N. Rothbard also has an excellent history of the event from his larger work, Conceived in Liberty, that can be heard here. Below I have a brief explanation of the importance of the date.
While the colonies were not the libertarian ideal of the free society, the colonists were free to govern themselves under the crown in England. The king was sovereign and as such could rule over them while expected to protect them from foreign powers. However the British Parliament was understood to have no authority of regulation and taxation over the colonies.
This was tested in 1765 when Parliament passed the Stamp Act in order to raise funds for an American army against the French and Indians. Generally Americans wanted to trade, not fight, with the French and Indians. They also did not want a standing army in there country. The especially did not want a direct tax imposed on them by a parliament they did not elect. To them this was amoral and a violation of common law to be protected by the king.
Sam Adams reacted by forming the Sons of Liberty to protest. They would meet under the Liberty Tree in Boston and burn royal figures in effigy. There methods also turned violent against the properties of the royal appointees who were to issue the stamps and enforce the new law. These actions and similar throughout America where enough to prevent the implementation of the act.
While this violence can strike us today as wrong, I think this is because we are oddly taught a view of history that is apologetic to the British. We see America as something the came out of Britain in 1776. However the American Patriots saw their nation as separate from and, under the crown, a peer to England. Perhaps a better way of thinking about the reaction from the Patriots would be to imagine if Britain, today, imposed a tax on another Commonwealth nation. How might Canadians react to bureaucrats sent from London to collect taxes?
Justified or not, this is the date when Americans began to react in a large way to the transgressions from abroad and think about their liberties. Rothbard wrote, “For many years August 14 was celebrated throughout America as ‘the happy day, on which Liberty arose from a long slumber.’” Let us celebrate it again and remember the struggles of our intellectual forefathers as we work to protect and promote liberty today.