Colonial Pennsylvania: A History

By Joseph E. Illick | Go to book overview

10
BLOSSOMING:THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT

The revolutionary storm blew up from a tempest in a tea port. The early 1770s were years of comparative calm, with dedicated partisans like Charles Thomson in Philadelphia and Sam Adams in Boston fighting singular and not notably successful battles to keep the spirit of the turbulent 1760s alive. Occasional incidents between customs agents and merchants did remind colonists of the recent past, while Adams' revival of committees of correspondence had its effect beyond the towns of Massachusetts. But as London was still the heart of empire, Parliament remained the center of controversy, at this point creating a situation whose ramifications led to war and American independence.

The British East India Company, once a private venture, had been transformed into a semipublic investment through large government loans. In an attempt to rescue the company from bankruptcy, Parliament passed a Regulating Act, giving itself greater control over the company, and a Tea Act, which allowed the company to sell its product directly to colonial buyers, thereby eliminating the payment of an English tax and the commission of the English middleman. The act also passed over the colonial importer and, in dropping the cost of East India tea, gave the company a monopoly of the market; the price would be competitive even with smuggled Dutch tea. This was not only bad practice but dangerous principle. Once the precedent was established, monopolies could be granted to other companies. "Beware of the East India Company," wrote John Dickinson,

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