The Founding of America - 1773-1777 - from the William Reese Company

- by Michael Stillman

The Founding of America - 1773-1777 - from the William Reese Company

A recent unusual, and inaccurate, description of the ride of Paul Revere by a possible presidential candidate is a reminder of how much we as Americans have collectively forgotten about our heritage. The William Reese Company has provided something of an antidote for our ignorance of this critical period in our nation's history with their Bulletin 20:  The Crisis:  From the Boston Tea Party to the Articles of Confederation 1773-1777. This is not a substitute for a good history book, but Reese has weaved a running commentary about the times through the 34 items offered pertaining to the period of the founding of this nation. The reality is that those most likely to collect these wonderful pieces of history probably know the story already, but an occasional reminder may help us to better appreciate the greatness of our founders, and maybe, just maybe, try a bit harder to emulate them.


Many people are not aware that the American Revolution did not start with the Declaration of Independence. It would be hard to pick a starting date. It just built up, as aggrieved colonists, particularly in Massachusetts, reacted to growing pressure and demands from Britain with resistance, increasingly armed resistance as pressure mounted. There had already been several military confrontations long before the Continental Congress made its demands known once and for all in the Declaration of Independence.


The bulletin begins with a broadside headed BOSTON, December 1, 1773, which reports on a meeting of people in the area to determine "…the most proper and effectual method to prevent the unloading, receiving or vending of detestable tea sent out by the East-India Company…" The problem here wasn't that the tea tasted bad. The British love their tea, and we were all Brits then. The issue was that Britain had given the East India Co. a monopoly on the tea trade, and slapped import duties on the product. Of course we all now know how the citizens of Massachusetts decided to prevent the unloading of the "detestable" tea. They dumped it in Boston Harbor, an event recalled as the "Boston Tea Party." Item 1. Priced at $48,000.


King George could have reacted to the Tea Party in two ways. He could have tried to understand the colonists' anger and find ways to assuage it, or he could clamp down on them even harder. He chose the latter. Item 2 is a set of the five acts of the British Parliament collectively known as the Intolerable Acts. Passed in response to the Tea Party, they closed the port of Boston until the colonists paid the East India Company for the dumped tea, revoked Massachusetts' charter, effectively imposing martial law, allowed Americans to be taken to England for trial, forced residents to quarter British soldiers, and provided certain advantages to Quebec colonists saw as a slap in the face. Once again, George III misread the colonists, who became even more rebellious rather than submissive. $35,000.