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tv   Lectures in History Colonial America Before the Revolution  CSPAN  September 3, 2019 10:06am-11:15am EDT

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>> campaign 2020. watch our live coverage of the presidential candidates on the campaign trail and make up your own mind. c-span's campaign 2020. your unfiltered view of politics. >> in 1979, a small network with an unusual name rolled o ultimate a big idea. let viewers make up their own minds. c-span opened the doors to washington policy making for all to see. bringing you unfiltered content from congress and beyond. a lot has changed in four years but today that big idea is more prevalent than ever. on television and online, c-span is your unfiltered view of government. so you can make up your own mind. brought to you as a public service by your cable or satellite provider. >> we continue our lectures in history series now with a discussion on the lead-up to the american revolution. we hear about actions taken by the british government including the stamp act and quartering
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british troops in boston. this is just over an hour. >> all right, so today, we're going to be talking about the imperial problem that faces britain after the end of the war in 1763 and, of course, the coming of the revolution. so if you have any questions, pipe up, if not, i'll be asking you a few. now, you remember last time or last week, anyway, we put a graph up here showing the result you probably get if you went around and asked everybody in the colonies in 25 year intervals, do you want to be independent of britain? and if you remember, the graph shot up kind of like. like this. ov over the words.
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in other words, as colonies move along from jamestown in 1776, more people as time passes, decide that they are able to handle this on their own. they don't need to be ruled from westminster and of course, enough of them decide that to produce a declaration of independence. so that graph would make the revolution pretty easy to understand, right? it's just like you growing up. when you're 2, the last thing you want is your parents to dump you out the door and say, now you've got to run your own life. by the time you're 12, you can see it might look pretty good. by the time you're 18, here you are. so if this graph is right, then the colonies are just going through the normal process of maturing. and a smart parent, of course, keeps an eye on things and as the child gets more confident, ease up on the strengths. in that case, separation can
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come about reasonably nicely. if the parent doesn't see what's happening and doesn't accommodate, the changing competence of the child, there's likely to be argument and maybe some kind of explosion. this graph would make the revolution pretty easy to explain. it's just one case of what normally happens with people and with societies. unfortunately, that's not the way the graph looks at all. the graph looks more like this. nobody wants to be independent until almost the very winter of 1775 and '75. aft -- '76. after the firing of lexington and concord, after tom payne's common sense comes out and spreads around the colonies. this makes the revolution much harder to figure out because the
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colo colonyis coloel colonists are probably never happier to be british than at any time before or after 1776. they just won this great war. the french are gone. the indians temporarily are quelled. these people are celebrating. they are glad to be part of the most powerful and freest country in the western world. so what we have to explain then is not how a society gradually gets more and more interested in breaking away from the apron strings and getting independent but we have to figure out, how did the englishmen in 1763, how did so many of them turn out to be traitors and rebels 10 or 12 years later against a government they would have said a few years before was the best and freest in the world?
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there are long-term trends in colonial history that, if you think about it, make colonial more possible as the years go by. it doesn't mean people want to be independent. but population, for instance, you start out with a couple hundred people on the coast and by the 1790s, you're looking at 250,000 people maybe. double the population of lebanon county stretched out over 1500 mim miles of coast. by 1776, a couple of million people. a fourth of the population of england herself. more people than you have in some european countries. now, if you had to do it, you can certainly imagine, you could make a go of it as your own nation. along with growing population comes a growing sense of what would we call it? political competence. the local elite people like ben
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franklin and william bird. we talked about a couple of weeks ago. these are the folks who dominate the local elected assemblies and if you remember, the assemblies are getting more and more powerful and the governors who are appointed from overseas are having less and less authority as the years go by. by the time you get to the middle of the 1700s, you've got pretty much local self-government in almost every colony. not only is population reaching the level where you can imagine an independent country would work, you've got a governing class that thinks, by george, if they've been running their colony for the last few decades, they ought to be able to run a country. the economy has also, of course, been growing. as population increases, as people push the indians out and occupy more land, as they exploit the labor of more slaves. the prosperity of the colonies
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grows. by the time of the revolution, a third of all the ships built right here on these shores. a fifth or a sixth of all the iron in the world produced in the american colonies. so while you might have a city like london or a really fancy dukes mansion or estate in england, if you average people out, the white population of the colony is probably the most prosperous part of the whole empire. so growing population, growing political competence, improving economy, all of these things if you had for unforeseen reason to go off on your own, you might be able to do it. it doesn't mean you want to be independent. these people are intensely proud of being british.
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they're even trying to imitate how the british population of their class lives. so, again, it becomes tough to figure, why do so many of these people, a dozen years later, take up arms against their own government? now, there are probably three fairly new developments in the colonies, again, don't make independence likely or even desirable, but at least lay the groundwork for something. great awakening, remember, for a hundred years, people in the colonies from the very beginning had been thinking of themselves as provincials. looking back across the ocean with admiration and with envy at this glittering metropolis over there. here they are on the edge of civilization, staring out at an
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endless forest and back home, there's london, by itself, has more people than all the colonies for many decades. there are great universities, other than harvard, where are the great universities in the colonies? where are the shakespeare plays? where's the philosophers? even he knows perfectly well the really nastassnazzy people in b has hundreds and more houses. it's a sense of you're country pu bu bumpkins. always triiying to be like them and matching but not quite coming close. you're definitely no second class citizens no your mind in the own empire.
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and then there's a huge wave of evangelical religion sweeping through the colonies. pretty much faded out by the 1750s but it's left behind it a whole lot of evangelical christians who have been told by their faith that britain is not necessarily the best model for them. what matters in this world is not how educated you are, how cultured you are, how good your family is, how much wine you have in your basement, how well you can read philosophy. what matters in this world is how well are you getting ready for the next world. not how do you live this life, but how are you going to live the next one? and so the example these people are told to follow, the people they're told to admire aren't so much the local elite or the entire country of england back home. what they're supposed to model
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themselves on is who is the most godly person. it isn't necessarily going to be the merchant with the fancy house. it isn't necessarily going to be the guy like william bird with his plantations and slaves and his wine and his fancy clothes. it could be your husband or your wife. it could be the schllave in wilm bird's tobacco field. the carpenter in town. not likely the person you used to empire and your place in the empire. you could look across the coast to britain and see, at least in your mind, here is a group of people who aren't as godly as we are. here are people who do put the focus on the good things of this life on the luxuries, the corruptions that either way, are immortality. and maybe, we're not so bad then compared to them. in fact, what the great awakening is telling you is that
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you people on this side of the atlantic should stop being embarrassed and ashamed of who you are and stop being envious of those people over in britain because you are better than they are in the one thing that matters. and that is the question every christian has to ask, of course, what must i do to be saved? so imagine how you'd feel, if you'd grown up your whole life, and always felt inferior to your older sister. and someone comes along and gets you to realize, wait a minute, in the ways that really matter, you're actually better than your sister. it's going to change the way you think about your relationship. so there's one thing. second thing that's going on, remember, is is a lot of elite in the colonies are reading
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these writers that history is a constant struggle between liberty and power and liberty, regrettab regrettably, always loses and in danger in britain itself, the freest country in the western world because corruption is eating away at the vitals of the country. offices are sold, votes are bought, government operates not according to policy but according to what office can i get? what salary can i make? how can i get goodies for my relatives, that sort of thing. and that allows the ambitious would-be caesars in any government to use that sort of attitude, what's in it for me, to corrupt the house of commons by saying, hey, you support me, get you a good office. you support me, your agent aunt can have a government pension,
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your son can get into college. we've got a little clergyman post here for your nephew. and the more and more people who are bought off by the government, the less and less likely the house of commons is to be against liberty. in the country with the big broad holding middle class, they don't need anything from government. they don't have to get a bribe because what good would it do them? and of course, where do you find the society with the big broad hand holding middle class, not in england. which can never have that kind of society because it's not big enough for every family to have a decent chunk of land. and so, if the core of being english is to be free, and if liberty is safest in a society
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with this big land holding middle class, then the colonies are the best part of the empire, the most english part of the empire and the freest part of the empire. so stop thinking of yourselves as a bunch of backward bumpkins. think of yourself as more english than people in england. you're the ones leading the way for the whole empire and all of europe and perhaps all the world. where freedom is more and more secure and the would-be caesars have less and less chance to destroy it and exalt themselves. so here are two ways in which the colonies are learning to think not of themselves as ende inferiors or even equals but the best part of the empire. that's going to change how they look at things. and then there's a growing sense
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of american identity. the whole idea of what community you think of yourself as belonging to is kind of iffy for people to try to figure out. but one enterprising historian decided 50 years ago or so, let's look at newspapers. and let's ask ourselves, what do people mean when they use words like we and us and our? the words of inclusion. what do they mean when they use words like they, them, those. words for the other. well, up through, oh, about 1730s or '40s, most people talking about "we" meaning we pennsylvanians or we britains in the empire. your colonial identity, your british identity. when you talk about they and them, you mean, those foreigners over in france and spain. or sometimes, those people in
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the next colony down the road who we don't know about and don't really much care about. but increasingly, as you get into the '50s and the '60s, when you look at newspapers and see how people use those pronouns, a lot of times, now, when they say "we," they mean we americans. more than just we in our colony, less inclusive than we in the whole empire. now you've got this intermediate identity. the sense that you have some things in common with people in other colonies on this side of the atlantic that you don't share with people in england or jamaica or other parts of the empire and now when you talk about the outsiders, they and them, a lot of times now, it's not just those foreigners. it's also those people over in england. now, this doesn't mean, of course, if you think of yourself as americans, you think of
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yourselves as less british any more than someone who says i'm a new englander is any less american by thinking that, but it does mean for the first time, you can imagine that something binds you to the people in the other colonies, that, again, it's different from what binds you to people in the rest of the empire. and you can see a greater sense, not just of american identity, but a greater sense of american unity. you know, the first three wars against the french and the indians, the government in britain is just banging its heads against the wall to get the colonies to see you face a common threat. you should all be pulling together. indians are attacking massachusetts, people in south carolina say, what's it to me? indians bothering people in virginia. people in rhode island, it's none of their business. finally, in this last war, the
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french and indian war, finally, the colonies began to see, yes, maybe we're all in this together. maybe we share something in common and that is a common enemy and a common threat. ben franklin, remember, tries to get the colonial leadership together in albany in 1754 to work out not just a common approach to the indian problem, but even a colonial government with one governor for the whole of the colonies, one assembly for the whole of the colonies. nothing comes of it but the fact it could be thought of and some of the colonial leaders would come and talk about it and thicthink it's a good idea is something brand-new. so you've got these long-term developments, growing population, growing political competence, a growing economy. they don't make people want to
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be independent, it does mean if independent should fortunately come, we probably can handle it. and then you've got this sense that, hey, wait a minute, we are no longer the backward provincials in this empire looking with envy at the great metropolis across the seas. we are not even just the equal but perhaps superior in some ways, to those poor folks because here, we are more religious, more devout, here, freedom is safer because we have a huge group of middle class farmers who need nothing from anyone. now, with that as background, let's look at 1763. here you are in america. you just won this big war against the french and the indians. and you think that you won it. it kind of slips your mind that the british government sent 25
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regular troops across the atlantic to capture montreal and quebec and drive the french out of canada. of course, the british navy commanded the seas. but you remember is marching his army through the forest of pennsylvania, ambushed and practically destroyed by the indians and the french, saved only by the courage of the colonial troops led by george washington. so you don't have a terribly good impression of the part that the british military played in winning this war. you think more of it being a colonial victory. and since the victory has been won, the future looks great. that dark brooding presence out there in the forest that is like a shadow over your future is gone now, the french are out of america, they're not coming back as far as you're concerned.
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the french, the indians without french help are less able to oppose colonial expansion. the future looks great, all the way to the mississippi. this is your world now. well, across the atlantic in westminster, things don't look quite that good. i mean, they're glad to have won the war, of course. who wouldn't be glad to beat the french? your traditional enemy but the very completeness of the victory means the french are going to be all that more anxious for revenge. so you can't just say, hot dog, we won the war. peace is here. let's go home. everybody in britain who knows about the state of the world knows there's going to be another war every generation or so. and you have to be ready to defend what you won. so victory is great, but victory brings its own problems. for one thing, a bigger empire to defend. you've got more land in america to defend.
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you've got more land in india to defend. and you've got a couple of islands here and there, extra to worry about. so you need to keep the navy and you need to keep the army at higher than the levels than you had before the war. that costs money. so the three big problems facing america that worried british policy makers, after they finished drinking the toasts to victory. one, what in the world do we do about these indians? the native population has been the enemy for 75 years and they've looked on you as the enemy. now, these people have to learn how to live as good loyal british subjects. that's not going to be very easy considering that there's a lot of white loyal british subjects who want nothing more than to get more indian land. so let's think about this.
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if you were a native american leader in 1763 and your great fear is that the english colonies get more of your land, what are you going to do about it? when we say, we'd like to carve out a nice big chunk of your territory? yeah? >> not going to be happy with it. >> if they persist? >> probably going to fight back, retaliate. >> well, and this is exactly, of course, what happens in pontiac's rebellion. leads the northwest indians, even before the war with france is over to besiege almost every single british outpost between detroit and pittsburgh because they're worried without french help, they face a pretty dismal future. the government doesn't want to have to fight indian war after indian war in the interior of north america. they've got to figure out a way to deal with that. the second problem they're looking at is law enforcement.
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like almost all the colonial empires, the british try to follow economic policy of mercantilism, which means, basically, you need to accumulate wealth in your country because there's going to be another war coming along soon and you need money to fight wars. and the idea of the mercantilists, wealth is basically gold and silver. there's only a limited fixed amount, more or less, in the world. if your country has more, some other country has less. countries, nations acquire wealth the same way families do. you bring in more money than you spend. or in trade terms, you sell more to other countries than your people buy from other countries. so you have to manage your trade policy in a way that helps prepare the country for the next war, reduces the amount of
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foreign goods your people buy and helps spur exports. well, there's a lot of smuggling going on in the colonies because it's a whole lot better from the merchant's point of view if you can sneak your products in, don't have to pay the import duty on them, sell them at a lower cost to your customer. the government hasn't been able to do much about this because of other things like wars, that push themselves to the forefront of policy. but now that the war is over, now's the chance, maybe, to crack down on smuggling, and get the trade of the colonies moving more in tune with the good of the country. it got so bad that during the last war with france, colonial mer channchants are selling to french while they're out shooting their country men. you've got to put a stop to that. no government can allow that to
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happen. that's problem two. problem three, it costs money to defend north america. where's it going to come from? the american colonies are the most prosperous part of the empire and pay the least taxes. the average tax per person in the british isles about 25 times as much as the average in the colonies. so if you're going to raise more money to help defend the colonies, it seems logical to try to ask the undertaxed people in the colonies to help chip in than to lay more burdens on the overtaxed people at home. those are three problems the governments got to wrestle with in order to be able to take advantage of the fruits of victory. so indian problem pops up first because of pontiac's rebellion. how you going to deal with that? if your problem is that the
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indians don't like having their land run over by a bunch of white colonists, the only way to calm the indians down is protect them against that danger. so the proclamation of 1763 says what? come on, you people know this. >> can't settle into indian territo territory. >> right. and we hope that will prevent conflict. surprisingly, there's not a lot of grumbling and griping about the proclamation of 1763 in the beginning. nope, people in the colonies don't want to have indian wars
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either if they can help it. especially the people on the coast where most of the ruling elite live. they don't want to have to be paying taxes to go fight indians only fighting because those greedy folks on the frontier want to take away their land. and it's not supposed to be a permanent barrier. the idea the government has is that as population builds up in some spot on the frontier, you'll go out and negotiate with the indians, carve out another chunk of land. pay him for it and open it up. settlement will continue. expansion will go on, it will be slower, more orderly and more peaceful. later on, however, as people start developing these paranoid fears that there's some conspiracy against government in britain, then people start looking back at the proclamation
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and saying, hey, maybe this indian enforcing the law. the problem existed because there's not enough revenue cutters. there's not enough collectors to catch every end of it along the coast where people might smuggle stuff in and when you do catch them, what happens? they get tried by a jury of their friends, relatives and customers. and the local jury, often as not, laughs at the law, acquits the criminal or finds them some measly little amount that makes a joke of law enforcement. governments can't let that happen. no, if you have an unpopular law, you've either got to repeal it or you've got to enforce it. you can't let a whole generation of people grow up scoffing at the law.
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what's the government do? they basically put more police on the streets. more customs officials, more revenue cutters, making it easier to catch the smugglers when they try to bring stuff in. and when you do get them, instead of having them sit down in front of a jury of their buddies, we'll ship them off to nova scotia to be tried by a judge who isn't going to be swayed by any local friendships and justice can finally be done. now, you'd expect, right, that a good citizen who looks around and says, boy, crime is getting out of hand would be overjoyed when the government decides to crack down on the criminals. and it comes as rather a shock when that's not the attitude at all that comes out of the colonies. remember the whigs had been telling these people that the way you lose your freedom in
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today's world is not by julius caesar marching an army down and capturing london and installing himself as a dictator, but by the new caesar, just hiding in some little room somewhere in westminster and hauling the members of parliament in one at a time and basically saying, what will it take to get you to go from a watch guard of public liberty into somebody who will let me do what i want? here's your payoff. well, the more government offices there is, the more patronage the government has. every now official in the customs surface is another salary for somebody. you want your abouncle, brother son, yourself to have that nice salary? well then, if you're a member of parliament, you better do what the government wants. instead of people saying, hey, thank gosh, we're finally getting more officials to get the crime down, they say, look
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at this. they're creating more patronage jobs to use as bribes to get the house of commons to look the other way while whatever conspiracy there is against our liberties proceeds step by step. and then you got guys like john hancock, one of the biggest smugglers in the colonies, people who get caught and are hauled up not before a jury, but before a judge. they're not going to get much sympathy if they go around whining that the government is not letting me break the law and stuffing my pockets full of money anymore but if they go around saying, hey, the government is taking my right of a jury trial, one of the most fundamental liberties of the free englishmen and if they can do it to me, they can do it to you, then people are going to pay a lot of attention. and so you've turned yourself from a criminal into a victim. a victim of the evil government that is little by little trying
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to turn everybody from free born english subjects into slaves. so just trying to enforce the law and keep colonial trade going in ways that help the country instead of hurt it creates a lot of outrage. but the worst of it all, of course, is trying to deal with the revenue problem. if you're going to get money and you have part of your population paying practically nothing, the we wealthiest part and the other part paying enjgigantically mor. jodi, who would you go after? may the people overtaxed pay more or the people who pay nothing pay a little? >> the people who don't pay much. >> even if you don't think that was the morally right thing to do, can you imagine how the british government telling the
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british people, hey, we decided to let the colonists be free loaders. that's not going to go over well with the constituents and while the government is obviously to some considerable degree insulated from public opinion, if you're raising the land tax on the land holders in britain and they're the people who vote for the house of commons, you could be in some danger. especially since there are, of course, opponents to the government. always looking for ways just as political opponents always are of making the current government look evil and bad and corrupt and getting voters to turn away from them. so if you have to raise more money to defend the colonies in the new world, it only makes sense to have the people in those colonies at least pay a part of the cost of their own defense. so how you going to do it?
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well, the stamp tax is the answer. this looks like a pretty good deal to the government because what it is is basically, a tax on most forms of legal activity. you've got to put a tax stamp on wills, for instance, if you file with the court. plead with the court. put a tax stamp on there. the cargo, put a tax stamp on the papers and things like pamphlets. publish a pamphlet on how to catch fish, newspapers, same thing. so it only affects a very small number of the couple of million people in the colonies. it only affects basically lawyers and merchants and publishers and a couple of other groups of people. secondly, it's a really puny tax. one shilling a person per year. hardly anything compared to what
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people pay in england. and third, and maybe best of all, it's hard to evade and easy to detect evasion. you don't have to send tax collectors swarming out over the landscape the way you would if you had a land tax. all you need to do is say, does this pamphlet have the tax stamp or not? look at the will they try to file in court. the stamp on it or not? easy to figure out if people are paying or not paying. every way you look at it, it seems to be about the simplest easiest way you could tax the colonies and the 95% of the people who are sitting out on their farms growing food for their families would never see a tax stamp in their lives. oh, well, maybe if they're wealthy enough to have a will, they could stick one on there. people in england are astounded and surprised and totally frustrated when the stamp tax
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produces not gratitude for, hey, thanks for not taxing us so much and for paying most of the cost for defending us and not even indifference. we don't like taxes but it's just the little one who cares. instead, it produces outrage, anger and fear. because, again, one of the fundamental undoubted rights of englishmen is not to be taxed, but by your own representatives. the king can't take your money unless your representatives say so. so who represents the tcolonist in america? the house of commons, just like everyone in the empire. the house of commons makes, really, no sense as a representative body. if you think of it as full of a bunch of politicians who are going up there to look out for the interests of their little slice of the country.
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because franchises for electing members of the commons who are passed out back in the late middle ages. and there are big cities like birmingham and manchester who have no people elected to house of commons because they were just villages hundreds of years ago and a few other places that used to be towns of people with them, that had nobody living there anymore. william pit, the great defender of america in the house of commons is elected from his no living people. so it makes, really, no sense at all, right? to say, here are towns with no one representing them and here are cemeteries that have a couple of people, two people every year or so to represent dead bodies. the house of commons makes sense only if you think that it's not a collection of politicians who are looking out for local interests. it's a collection of statesmen.
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everybody there, wherever they're elected from, is supposed to be taking the big broad outlook and thinking of what's good for the whole empire. so if the house of commons is supposed to represent the interests of people in birmingham, people of birmingham can't complain when they have to pay a tax, even though they don't elect everybody because everybody in the house of commons is watching out for them. and everybody in the house of commons is watching that for pennsylvania. now, the british call this virtual representation. you may not elect anybody directly, but you're virtually represented by everybody. now, we know today, the difference between virtual reality and real reality, and it gets pretty close sometimes, but you can't buy a cheeseburger in virtual reality. and so the colonies have a very different way of looking at
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representation. from the very beginning of the virginia house in 1619, the colonial idea has been, you can only be represented by someone you elect from among you in your geographic area. i mean, why should somebody elected from somewhere else represent you? it makes no sense. now, if you live in lebanon county, you can't depend on the guy from lancaster county representing your interests. you can't punish him if he does wrong. you can't reward him with reelection if he does right. he'd be a fool to represent your interests. the only thing that matters to him, what do the people in lancaster county want? you can't be represented by someone in the next county, you sure as heck don't think you're represented by someone 3,000 miles away who has never seen you. so everybody agrees that the englishman is entitled to be
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taxed only by his own representatives. but they don't seem to agree on, who are his representatives? if you think the house of commons represents the whole empire, including pennsylvania, they can certainly tax pennsylvania. that's the view of people back home. if you think the pennsylvania assembly is the only represe representative body for pennsylvania. the house of commons cannot possibly institutional possibly constitutionally tax people in pennsylvania. everybody in england should be able to see that. there's the big problem, right? let me ask you this. let's suppose you're a member of the pennsylvania assembly. and let's suppose the government agrees. hey, look, if the king wants your money, he's got to come ask the pennsylvania assembly for it. so the government says to you,
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mr. pennsylvania assemblyman, let's say you're that assemblyman. government says to you, hey, we need some money. will you please tax your constituents and send us some money? what's your attitude likely to be? so you'd be willing to go back and tell your constituents next election, hey, the reason you're paying this extra tax is i had to send your money overseas? do you think your voters would like that and reward you or kick you out? >> probably wouldn't like that. >> they wouldn't. if you have to ask the local assemblies and colonies, please send us money, and the assemblyman said, if i do that, i'll get defeated at the next election, you're never going to get any.
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so if you look at the fundamental vital interests of the people in the colonies, it is in their view that we should enjoy all the rights of should enjoy all the rights of englishmen. we're no less english for being over here and one of those rights is nobody can take our money, but our elected representatives. and they're right here in philadelphia or charleston or wherever your colonial capital might be. we can't concede that point because if once we let the government overstep the bounds of the constitution, where does it stop? it stops in another caesar. loss of liberty. we can't take that first step. people in england, of course, look at it very differently. if we can't have the government raise money from the most prosperous part of the country and the rest of us have to pay extra because of it, we're not going to put up with that.
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how can the government let this happen? and so if you are in the british government, you know whatever fast footwork and compromises you might conduct in the meantime, in the long run, one way or another, you're probably going to have to be able to get the people in america to pay some at least of the cost of running their country since they get all the benefits of being in it. well, that's tough because compromise can sometimes work but for compromise to work, you can't have one side or the other give up its vital interest. so here's a case where -- how do you compromise this? there are some proposals or let's let them elect members to the house of commons. then they'd be in it and we can tax them. the response is, forget that. that would never work.
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england is 3,000 miles away. that's 5 to 8 weeks. we don't know what's going on over there. we can't construct our representatives about what to do, et cetera, et cetera. but it looks to a lot of people in england like the colonists are saying we don't care what excuse we come up with. you guys pay more. that doesn't go over too well. how do you fight the stamp act if you're a colonist. for one thing, you get a mob up and go to the people who are appointed to distribute the tax stamps and say, hey, would you rather resign your office or get beaten up? and most of them would rather resign their offices. so pretty soon there isn't anybody in any colony who is willing to risk his life actually selling the tax stamps. and just so the government doesn't misunderstand what the colonists are trying to say, and kind of as a way to regain leadership from the mobs that are hanging around in all these
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coastal cities, the colonial elites decide to meet together in new york at the stamp act congress and tell the british government exactly what the story is. number one, we are english, just as much as you. number two, that means we have all the rights people in england do. number three, one of those is you can't tax us except through your representatives. number four is you're trying to do it anyway, and number five is we're not going to let you. and just to drive the point home, we'll have a boycott of british goods. the american colonies are among the biggest, most profitable markets for british merchants and manufacturers. not, of course, if nobody buys their stuff. so after awhile, the merchants and manufacturers of britain go swarming down to westminster telling the government, hey, get ri rid of this stupid tax. you're costing us money.
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and besides since nobody is stupid or brave enough to actually distribute that tax stamps, you're not raising any money from it anyway. and so parliament does repeal the stamp act. great celebration, of course, in the colonies. hey, these guys finally understand our constitutional rights. toasts are drunk to william pitt and the other defenders of american rights of parliament and to george iii, the patriot king who stands above party and above politics and looks out for the good of his people. and they're so busy celebrating, the colonists don't sufficiently realize, some of them, that at the very same time that congress appealed the -- that parliament repealed the stamp act, they passed the declaratory act that said parliament has a right to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever, including, of course, taxation. so the government didn't really accept the argument made in
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america. all they said was, look, we could tax you any time we want. we just don't happen to feel like it right now. that's not much of a victory. but it calms things down but you still have the problem of money. can you ask the people in britain to pay extra to defend america when americans aren't willing to defend america? so a new prime minister comes in. charles townsend comes up with a new idea. the townsend act. the government gets the mistaken impression that the objection to the stamp act really was that it was an internal tax as opposed to a duty on imports where people have never really objected to parliament's right to regulate trade. so let's forget the stamp stuff. we'll have a tax on things the colonists import. paper, lead, glass, tea and we'll collect it at the ports. nobody has to be bothered.
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that's that. big surprise. more outrage. more anger and more fear. more mobs. another boycott of british goods. more angry protests going back across the ocean. look, don't you guys get it? any money you extract from us is a tax. you can't do it, whatever you call it, however you try to hide it, you can't do it. it's unconstitutional. and just to remind you of that, we're not buying your goods again, by the way. more boycotts, more lost money. the merchants and manufacturers go down to parliament again and say, stop this nonsense. and once more, the government backs off and repeals all the townsend taxes except the one on tea. more big celebrations in the colonies. people breathe a big sigh of relief. finally made our point that we aren't paying taxes.
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now the next few years, a number of things happen to re-awaken these fears of conspiracy against liberty. if it's not the tax issue, it's something else. for example, the government sends troops over to boston in 1768. one of the great fears englishmen have is fear of a standing army. when there's war going on, you need an army to fight the enemy. when there's no war you don't need an army. now no continental country can say that, of course. you have potential enemies on every border. the government would be complete idiots if they didn't keep an army up in peace time to prevent somebody invading them. but britain, of course, is a bunch of ivans. as long as the british navy is there, you'll have plenty of notice before you have to get ready to fight. you don't need an army. so if you see your government beginning to build up an army
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when there's no enemy around, you have to start asking yourself, who are they planning to use it against if it's not the enemy, is it us? why would the government need an army unless it's planning to do something really horrible to its own people, and it wants to put down the inevitable protests. an englishman had seen armies in peacetime be used for precisely that purpose under the stewart kings and even cromwell, the great defender of parliamentary rights who knocked the king's head off and made himself dictator and ran a tighter ship than the stewards did. here are troops in boston. huh. why? did they defend us from the indians? the indians are out in the frontier? defend us from the french? the french are gone. why are there government troops sitting in boston? you really have to start asking that question. so, again, remember the whigs.
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the whig writers have been telling people over and over again how do you lose your liberty? you lose it to your own government. you lose it to some ambitious politician or group of politicians who decide to gradually start snipping away at it. you are far more likely to fall prey to your own government than to a foreign enemy. and so if you have this sort of generalized suspicion of government and you see things happen like, hey, they're trying to tax us without our consent, hey, they're trying to take away our right of a jury trial. hey, they've got troops here and there's no war going on, does make some people start to wonder. and then, the boston massacre, of course only brings the fear of a standing army to an even greater peak. here they are shooting down our own people.
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but there's more even going on than that. the church of england is the established church back home. it is the state church in most of the southern colonies and parts of new york. and the anglicans in america have a problem. to be a clergyman, you have to be anointed, consecrated by at least one bishop. all the buishops are back in britain. if you're pennsylvanian and you want to be a minister in the church of england, you have to go all the way back across the ocean, an expensive and dangerous trip for the laying on of hands. or your clergymen have to be englishmen and scotsmen sent over here. be a lot easier to have an anglican bishop right here in the colonies. and so a lot of the anglicans in america start asking for one. you think, who cares, right? if you are a presbyterian or
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congregationalist or anything, why do you care how easy it is for the anglicans to get clergymen? but, remember, the church of england is part of the government. the bishops sit in the house of lords. they're basically politicians, not religious people in your mind. every new anglican minister is another piece of patronage to be used to corrupt the people who should be defending public liberty but instead are at westminster looking out for what they can get for themselves. you want to expand the power of the church of england in america. this looks suspicious. why would you want to do this now? so even things like that can be turned into fearsome things. and then you've got the question of judicial independence. in england, judges are in there for life. the whole point is to make them independent of government.
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they don't have to look over their shoulder all the time and ask, how is my decision going to look to the guys in authority? the problem you have in the colonies is there are not very many educated, competent lawyers. so the government isn't willing to put some half-ass lawyer in a judge's office for life. you might have to have him be a judge now because you have no choice but in another 10 or 20 years when you have more educated lawyers, you want to be able to get rid of this person and put a decent judge in. so let's don't have lifetime tenure for judges in the colonies. well, if you look at it from the standpoint of, we want the best qualified judges, that makes some sense. but if you look at it the way a paranoid conspiracy minded person would, you'd ask yourself, why is it that they don't want the judges to be independent? why do they want the judges to be subject to removal by
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government at any time? obviously, because they are planning to do bad things and don't want the judges to stand in their way. so here's another part of the conspiracy. so if you have already been taught by these whig writers to suspect your government anyway and then you see your government doing things that as far as you're concerned, any sensible person would see was either unconstitution or dangerous, taxing you when they don't represent you, not letting you have a trial by jury, keeping you from expanding westward to get further away from their control. making the judges subject to removal any time they want to get rid of a judge, putting troops in the colonies when there's nobody to fight but you, helping the church of england get bigger and more powerful here when everybody knows it's just another quasi governmental body.
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you're going to start worrying. and although all of this stuff looks really stupid from the view in england, it doesn't look stupid to you. and so you get more and more suspicious people. and the more they express their suspicion and people learn about it in england, the more people in england have to scratch their heads. what the heck are these people talking about? the conspiracy? there's no conspiracy against liberty in westminster. no taxes? why shouldn't they have to pay taxes? everybody else does. no bishop in america? who would care about that? et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. so, if you're an englishman, and you're heading all this stuff, this total phony baloney these people are coming up as excuses not to obey the law or have to pay their taxes, maybe you wonder there is a conspiracy all
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right but it's not here in london. it's over in america. there are these malcontents like sam adams and people like that who are doing their best to stir up these totally phony fears to turn people against the government so that they can perhaps wind up as bosses of an independent america. we can't let this happen without trying to do something about it. so every time they are protesting the colonies, the government slaps them back. the people in england get madder, and that just makes some of these people in the colonies madder, and it goes from one step to another. and then, of course, the boston tea party. here are a bunch of people swarming on to the docks destroying thousands of pounds worth of tea owned by the east india company. clearly an illegal act. lots of people in the colonies who believe in the law are
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offended by this. now usually, of course, if you go destroy somebody's property, one of two things is going to happen. the person whose property you destroy is going to sue you in court and make you pay for it or the government is going to grab you and put you in jail for the crime. but the government doesn't do that in the case of the tea party. for one thing it would be hard to figure out who these people were who did this. but what the government does instead is say we're going to punish the whole city of boston until the bostonians agree to reimburse the east india company for all that tea. so they shut the port of boston down. no ships can come in. no ships can go out. you're going to starve the city out. you're going to cost the merchants and dock workers and sailors money. and eventually the economic pain is going to be sufficient that they will have to back down and pay for the tea. and you're going to punish the
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colony of massachusetts because they need to be taught a lesson, too. well, this creates, again, outrage and fear. this is not the way you deal with a criminal act. you don't go punish a whole population because somebody robbed a bank. why is the government doing this? it must be that they are just trying tong think of another w to put the screws on the colonies and make us cave into their demands. if we do that, we don't deserve the name of englishman. maybe even worse, totally unconnected with the boston tea party, but at the same time as passing the acts against boston and massachusetts, parliament passes the quebec act, an effort to try to get the french catholics in canada or resigned to being run by england.
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we're going to let the canadians have the same kind of government they had before. an appointed governor and judges. no elected assembly. they've never had one. they're not used to it. and to make the catholics feel comfortable, we're going to have the catholic church still be the official church of canada. we won't try to force protestantism down their throat. so they'll be a little more content. well, the outrage in the lower colonies is tremendous. everybody understands if you don't have an elected representative body as part of your government, you had no protection against arbitrary government. why are they not giving the canadians an elected assembly? is it because they intend to take away ours sooner or later? maybe. and considering the protestants see the catholic church as the one great enemy of human freedom in the modern world, the fact that you're a protestant government is saying, hey, the
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catholic church can dominate the life of canada. this is a little suspicious, too. why would they be doing that? and perhaps worst of all, they have extended the borders of canada down to the ohio river. so it includes most of the modern midwest. a good chunk of what the colonists had been assuming was their future expansion is now going to be dominated by a catholic-controlled colony with no elected representative. pretty suspicious. so all of this stuff comes together to produce the growing sense of outrage that leads to things like the first continental congress and leads the british government to respond with even sterner measures. so this is how you go in 10 or 12 years from a country full of happy, proud englishmen to a whole bunch of traders and rebels. not that, of course, everybody buys into these conspiracies.
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but enough do to produce the end result. now if you look back on it, you know a lot of this could be compromised, right? you could maybe have made the proclamation of 1763 quite not so severe. you could have said, look, relax about jury trials. everybody gets and accepts these smugglers who keep getting led off by juries. we're not after you. you could have maybe not put the troops in boston. you could have said to the anglican church, hey, you guys, it's too much trouble to have a bishop over there. we'll keep doing what we have been doing. you could compromise away almost all these disputes, except one. how do you get around the fact that the colonists are insisting we won't pay any taxes unless our local assemblies approve them? because otherwise that's unconstitutional and the people in england saying we're not
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going to let you get away with paying no taxes so we have to pay more because every good citizen has to be willing to take on the responsibilities of citizenship as well as enjoy the advantages. we can't let you guys get away with escaping your responsibilities. neither side can afford to back down because the colonists think their vital interest is wrapped up in defending their constitutional rights. and this is perhaps one of the biggest that the government can't take your money unless your representatives say it's okay. to give in on that opens you up to more and more unconstitutional actions and you're heading down a slippery slope toward dictatorship. but the government can't give up either saying we're going to let the wealthiest part of the empire pay nothing and everybody else has to pay more. no government could do that. so once the argument about
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taxation and representation gets set in stone so that neither side can back down without giving up their vital interest, that's where it seems really difficult to figure out how a compromise could ever be possible. either the colonists have to submit to unconstitutional actions by their government, throwing their liberties into danger as they see it, or the government have to submit to letting a big chunk of their country get away without living up to the responsibilities of the good citizen. and neither is possible. so once the issue gets set that way, it's really hard to see how it ends in any other place except the spot in concord that emerson wrote about by the rude bridge that arched the flood. their flag to the april's breeze unfurled, here once the
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embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard round the world. so that's all for today. next time we'll get into the actual revolution itself. well, not next time because you have an exam next time. weeknights this week we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight we examine the cold war beginning with historians discussing the concept of the deep state in american history. and then francis gary powers jr., whose father's u2 spy plane was shot down by the soviet union takesous a tour of the cold war museum. edward r. murrow narrates a film. john kerley discusses the influence of photographs during the cold war, and jim razenberger presented a history of the bay of pigs. watch it tonight at 8:00 eastern
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on c-span3 and enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3. american history tv products are now available at the new c-span online store. go to to see what's new for american history tv and check out all of the c-span products. watch c-span's campaign 2020 coverage of the democratic presidential candidates at the new hampshire democratic party convention. our live coverage is saturday at 9:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. online at or listen with the free c-span radio app. up next on american history tv, a discussion on the american military during the revolutionary war. a look at the equipment and capabilities of both the continental army and militia troops and the advantages and


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