All Commentary
Thursday, November 1, 1962

A Modern Tea Party


Mr. Conklin is Editor of the American Agri­culturist. This article is reprinted by permis­sion from their September 1962 issue.

The night was bitterly cold out­side Faneuil Hall, but the angry voices inside its walls were turn­ing the air a heated blue. Only the day before, a group of men dressed as Indians had thrown three shiploads of tea into the Boston Harbor, an act now dis­cussed at this meeting of busi­nessmen. The Hall stilled as an authoritative figure mounted a chair and began speaking.

“Those sophomoric nuts have ruined our colonial image,” he said. “Didn’t they know that the tax to be raised on that tea was to be used to pay subsidies to businesses that were overproduc­ing? Only a week ago I talked with the Lord High Commissioner and he assured me that I would receive, from tea tax funds, 500 pounds sterling for every ship I did not build in my shipyard.

“So now these damned hot­heads piously talk ‘principles,’ saying that taxation without rep­resentation is wrong. If they don’t like the setup, why don’t they just stay out of the program instead of acting like a bunch of schoolboys and ruining the deal for the rest of us? Besides, every­one else is being subsidized by funds drawn from the Stamp Act, the Sugar Act, and the Town­shend Act—why shouldn’t we have our share?”

A tall man sitting quietly amidst the hubbub addressed the speaker:

“Mr. Winthrop, you have four sons, do you not?”

“Why, yes. But what’s that got to do with this?”

“I assume,” the questioner went on, “that you have always advised them to leave the painted ladies at Ye Olde Ramshead’s Inn alone.”

“Get to the point, man!” Win­throp roared. “Of course, I’ve always told them that!”

“But, Mr. Winthrop, you and I don’t need the research of Pro­fessor Kantsay at Harvard to know that adultery is quite com­mon. Are you, then, ready to abandon a principle and recom­mend to your sons that ‘since everyone else is doing it’ they’d better get their share before it’s too late?”

Livid with rage, Winthrop al­most choked as he grated out a reply: “The next thing we know,

Smythe, you’ll be bringing reli­gion into this thing. I suppose you’ll be comparing these irres­ponsible show-offs to Martin Luther when he drove nails into a cathedral door.”

“No,” Smythe replied. “I’m no theologian—and I don’t think the comparison is very apt anyway. But I’ll back the men that jumped those tea ships and did something dramatic to call attention to the violation of a basic principle.

“I’d like to debate this some more,” he continued, “but I’ve got to go. A friend of mine asked me to be sure and bring him the best horse I own. Maybe you know him—name’s Revere.”