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Bostonians Paying the Excise-Man, or Tarring and Feathering, 1774

Cartoon - The Bostonians Paying the Excise Man
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_631
 
Document Description
The "Bostonians Paying the Excise Man, or Tarring and Feathering," cartoon about the Tea Tax, published in London, 1774. Bostonian Society, Old State House, Boston.
 
Questions
Do you think that these people should be treating this man so badly?
What historical event is happening in the background of this picture?
How can you tell that this picture was published in London?
How does this picture depict the American Patriots?
If this picture had been published in American, how may it have been different?
 
Historical Challenges
Create a map of the English colonies around the world and draw the trade routes that connected them. Create a key and label the natural resources and materials produced in their proper locations. Discuss why colonial economics worked and didn’t work. Are colonial economic systems still in effect today?
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Research the local tax rate in your area? By how much does it increase the cost of a candy bar? A bike? A car?
Science: Research early printing practices and discover the types of tools and equipment early printers worked with.
English Language Arts: Create a new title for this document based on the American point of view. Write an editorial to the paper that published this supporting either the British or American cause.
 
Resources
Harness, Cheryl. Revolutionary John Adams. National Geographic Society, January 2003. ISBN:0792269705.
Harness, Cheryl. Thomas Jefferson. National Geographic Society, January 2004. ISBN:0792264967.
Fritz, Jean. What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin. Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, April 1996. ISBN:0698113721.
Fritz, Jean. Can't You Make Them Behave, King George? Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, August 1996. ISBN:0698114027.
 

Historical Context
During the 1760s, a series of aggressive economic policies passed by England's Parliament spurred widespread retaliation in certain American colonies. These policies prompted the Patriotic Movement and fueled convictions for American independence.
    
Colonial economics exploited the natural resources of a politically less-powerful land. In the colonial economic system, the mother country, England in this case, used the American colonies as exclusive producers of raw materials. England would receive raw materials that were not available for widespread distribution or exploitation in England (such as furs, wood, and cash crops like tobacco and cotton) at an incredibly discounted price.

America would, theoretically, prosper as well from this business arrangement in that it had a reliable and steady market for the raw materials. In this case, England took additional steps to ensure substantial profits by passing laws early in the colonial period restricting manufacturing operations in the colonies. Therefore, leaving the colonies absolutely dependent on England for processed materials such as tools, building materials, or clothes.
    
These economic restrictions were hard to enforce from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and the colonies adapted the rules a bit while England was preoccupied battling France for control of American and Canadian lands during the Seven Years War, also known as the French and Indian War (1756-1763).  The Seven Years War made an impact on colonial life in an unpredicted way. First and foremost, the British victory over the French made British protection of the colonies unnecessary.  Secondly, the taxes imposed on the American colonies to pay off British debt accrued during the war sparked discontent, organized boycotts, and inevitably the American Revolution. Thus, the phrase “taxation without representation” was born.
    
In 1764, Parliament passed the Sugar Act, which was significantly lowered after two years of protest. In 1765, Parliament tried to initiate the Stamp Act, which ironically antagonized and financially attacked the types of commerce that England could hardly afford to provoke- newspaper and pamphlet printers. At this point, violence was already occurring, as Bostonians hung a stamp officer and vandalized the British governor’s house. In 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, but then created the Townshed Duties in 1767. After the creation of the Townshed Duties, Americans began organizing groups of resistance, like the famous, and quite malicious, Sons of Liberty. The American colonies boycotted all goods taxed by the Townshed Duties. After the Boston Massacre on March 8, 1770, England repealed all the Townshed Duties, except the one on tea.
    
The colonists continued to boycott tea. England’s tea, from colonies in India, was rotting on ships in the American harbors and storehouses. The English decided to bribe the colonists to buy the tea by repealing the tax on tea in order to unload their expensive inventory and monetarily salvage what was possible. However, on December 16, 1773 the Sons of Liberty retaliated by dumping the tea into the Boston harbor.
    
After England responded with the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts in America, violence against English tax collectors was increasing. The more England clamped down, the more America resisted. Often towns had a Liberty Tree, a tall sturdy tree where they would hang tax collectors or other English agents. Another common violent act against English tax collectors was tarring and feathering them.  Document 59 shows American patriots tarring and feathering a tax collector. This was published in London in 1774, and offers a unique perspective on the colonist’s behaviors.

 

 
Essential Question
How do economic factors influence political events?
 
Check for Understanding
Summarize the main idea of the cartoon and explain the reasons for this act.