The Boston Tea Party: An Analysis

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Freedom. The principle that individuals have a right to make their own choices, so long as they do not interfere with the equal rights of others (Dorn, The Scope of Government in a Free Society). It is this ideal that forms the foundation of free societies around the world.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution sought to create their own free society by stating that it was “self-evident that all men are created equal” possessing “unalienable rights.” The existence of freedom however, is not inextricably linked to the existence of government. Since maintaining liberty is more important than preserving an unjust governmental structure, civil disobedience can become an invaluable tool. Peaceful resistance to laws positively impacts
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the Sons of Liberty threw 342 chests of British tea into Boston harbor. This act of resistance to the British Tea Tax, imposed on colonists without their consent or representation, is one integral to American history. The Boston Tea Party helped spark the American revolution, putting the 13 colonies on their path to independence.

Detractors of civil disobedience painted the Boston Tea party as beneath civility, even if they did agree with its innate principles. In his book, Defiance of the Patriots, historian Benjamin Carp writes that there “was a sense of shame, a belief that the Boston Tea Party was an act of hooliganism.” Ostensibly, the Boston Tea Party may appear to be a senseless act of destruction. In actuality, this act of civil disobedience became a preserver of
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Still, in 1991 apartheid was abolished – in large part due to this resistance, which helped transform South Africa’s moral conscience. When a government systematically discriminates against its citizens, civil disobedience is required to force a reassessment of society’s moral parameters.

Henry Thoreau supports this sentiment in his essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” He wrote, “I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.” When law and justice do not coincide, obeying the law can be an abdication of ethical responsibility. A government or a national law cannot always define principles of right and wrong. It is up to each and every individual to recognize his own morality and live accordingly.

Peaceful resistance is often one of the most effective means of protecting the freedom which seems implicit in a free society, either by justifying the righteousness of a new government, or transforming the moral standards of a present regime. In modern times, society lacks the 20/20 vision of hindsight; thus, is difficult to perceive whether civil disobedience, from violating an immigration ban to Keystone XL pipeline protests are truly in defense of a revolutionary moral good. More importantly however, the right to such civil disobedience changes society