Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Rest of the Story

Many of us fondly remember Paul Harvey. He would take a story that was familiar to all and fill in the background that was unknown by most. He called it “The Rest of the Story”.

I’ve been reading history, as I frequently do, and I came across something that was reminiscent of Mr. Harvey. I could almost hear him in my head.

In December of 1773, a group of men who called themselves Patriots disguised themselves as American Indians and dumped three cargoes of tea into Boston Harbor. We’ve all heard that story a hundred times, and we all know the reason they did that was to protest an unfair tax on tea (taxation without representation), right?

Well, that’s true, but it’s only part of the story. It turns out - and this is from a British source (the great Prime Minister, Winston Churchill) - the more important reason this was done was because, in addition to a hated tax, the tea in question had been shipped from the far east (the East India Company) directly to the American colonies without paying the import duties. This, of course, bypassed the middleman merchants who HAD paid the requisite duties and undercut their prices, as the company was selling the tea through its own agents in America.

This, in essence, created an instant monopoly for the East India Company.

But even that is not the whole story. The reason the company was allowed to do this was because it was nearly bankrupt and the government was forced to come to its rescue. In an 18th century version of a government bailout for a company that was “too big to fail”, Parliament passed an Act authorizing the company to do this and thereby sidestep bankruptcy.

So, the government bailing out a company to save it from bankruptcy is not new. But when it happened back then, it started a revolution against the government, created a new nation, and changed the course of history forever.

And that’s ... the rest of the story.

Good day! (with respectful apologies to Mr. Paul Harvey)

1 comment:

  1. Good read! I wrote my senior paper in college on the revolution (graduated in its bicentennial year). My thesis was that the popular conception of the revolutionaries as quick to the trigger, aching for freedom from Britain is a myth. Truth is (there were exceptions) these people wanted to be loyal subjects of Britain and it was only reluctantly that they moved, slowly, toward revolution. The historical contrast is the French Revolution which was blind passion. Thanks for this, Walt.