ElectionsVote

Before the current tea party, there was the first one, in Boston.  At that time, a distant and arrogant government had tried to remake Americans in its own image, sending them lots of tea to drink and even for those Americans who didn’t like tea, forcing them to pay for it anyway under the force of criminal fines.  However, a lot of Americans didn’t like to be forced to do things against their will, in those days, and especially on tax days…

We were all young men then, and over the summer we had played so many Rounders games that our legs were groomed for flowing for hours at a time.  All of Boston’s strong young men were there.  Even the pugilists whop took each other out in the pubs were running side by side with each other toward the Boston Harbor.  Three British merchant ships owned by the East India Trade Company loomed ahead of us, their gloomy wrapped masts tipping the twilit cloudless sky.  These were among a fleet of merchant marine ships to bring us tea from all over the world.  It was indeed 600,000 pounds of tea that we were all supposed to drink down like genteel English gentlemen and then pay majestic taxes on them.

As we all ran I felt a horse crashing in on me from behind so that I almost fell as I turned around.  Instead of falling I went into a staggering sort of dance, recovering soon enough to straighten up before young Ebenezer Stevens.  He was only a 22-year-old lad then, four years younger than I, and an original member of the Sons of Liberty.  At the time I’d never guess that young Stevens in only half dozen years would be my commanding general in our triumphant role at the Battle of Saratoga.

“Hurray!” said young Ebbie, between taking in breaths.  “Hurray!   Hurray!  Hurray!”

This cry kept our line of over 100 men crawling like an enormous snake toward the sea port.  In the back it was “”Hurray” and even in the distant front of our formation it was “Hurray” again, passing back down to us in the force of a sea wind.

“Hurray!”

No one in the huge South Hall Meeting House thought just an hour ago that our passions would now be reaching that point.  There were so many of us in the hall that we kept falling when people stepped on our toes.  “Ow!”  I finally started saying when someone barged past me to take a seat.  “Would ye use your normal mule eyes to notice a man ahead of ye, eh?”  Then I saw who it was that I was yelling at.  It was a fierce-looking Paul Revere with that face that looked like it was rained on every day.

Samuel Adams was moving out to the center stage in the cavernous meeting hall, dressed typically like the most simple puritan.  In his black and white suit, Adams resembled an old patched wise cat as he railed against King George and our hated Governor Hutchenson.

“Goodly governor,” Adams shouted.  “How long has it been now that we ended fighting the French in this country, that we are now supposed to pay for war debts with these duties on the tea in the harbor?”  Adams brought out a dish-sized watch from under his old coat, which lifted a roar of laughter for seven thousand voices.  “Can it be that we haven’t fought the French for ten years now?”  Adams shouted amid the crescendo of harsh laughter.

The richest man in Boston was climbing onto the stage in this midst of this excitement, the little cavalier John Hancock himself.  Oddly this scarlet peacock and the colorless Samuel Adams were close friends, as if they were a picture of the cavalier and the puritan of the English Civil War completing themselves in each other.

It was very difficult for John Hancock to play a secondary role in Boston now.  If a petition has to be signed, Hancock has to render the largest, most artful signature on the petition.  He used the same attention-grabbing gesture striding to the center of the stage with his gold brocades shaking.  Surely you would think that in any revolution this man John Hancock would be on the side of keeping wealth stationary.  But fortunately for us, Hancock hates the English for their constant bringing up his international smuggling.  So he and his immense wealth which he has been using as bribes to keep himself out of prison are now on our side.

Our scarlet John Hancock is so whipped up indeed with the energy of seven thousand men cheering against the English that his face is stuck in an Anti-King George diatribe that he wants to read to the crowd.  We saw it coming – Hancock collided right into Hancock collided into Samuel Adams, who wasn’t looking either.

“My dear Mr. Hancock, are ye hurt?” said the older Samuel Adams, who was sturdy enough to stay on his feet while his younger political protégé had spilled himself into a heap of red silk on the floor.

“My good Samuel, I am not injured.  But I am ready to turn King George into powder with what I have to read today.  Hancock did manage to pick himself up without tearing his silk.

“Before ye begin, Mr. Hancock, let me just say to the people,” said Samuel Adams turning again to the largest group in the audience.  “That Governor Hutchinson has now refused to take any tea back to England and he is demanding our duties on the tea.  This meeting can do nothing further to save the country.”

Then the Sons of Liberty were suddenly out on the English sloops, furiously breaking with axes the canvas that covered the bags of tea.  It was no easy work to axe through that heavy canvas.  I only saw one young man succeed actually taking cracking into a canvas bag on his very first swing.  It was young Schuyler Johnson, whose face was covered in the paint we collected on the way from one of our brother’s paint shop, which we daubed on our faces.  It was sweaty work, and with our shirts taken off to work and all the blue and red paint on our faces to disguise ourselves we looked like Indians wearing their war paint.

“Ye must be having a jolly time, Mr. Johnson,” I said, in tribute to his breaking open the first massive tea bag.

“I say, Governor Johnson has seized all of my father’s money to pay for this ancient French and Indian war the king made us fight, and now my father has to hire himself out as an indentured servant.”

There was so much anger in Schuyler Johnson’s lifting of his battered tea bag over the sloop’s edge that it was like spirits were helping him.

When the tea hit the water, it blackened the swells like it was taking the sea with it.

Ebenezer Stevens had rejoined us.  He had been using his early militia training to supervise guarding the wharf so that we might keep our tea party private. But now with our overwhelming thrust in place he couldn’t help buy work side by side with us, axing massive tea bags open and dumping the black tea into the water.  We had actually created a sea of icy tea in only a few hours.

“Sir,” I said, a little boyishly, because we were then too young to be speaking so formally to each other.  “Obviously we are no longer Englishmen.  But what have we become today?”

“Sir!” said Ebbie Stevens, just as boyishly, this future Major General Stevens of the Battle of Saratoga and the War of 1812.  “Today we have become Americans!”

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon