As I’ve mentioned before, I’m teaching an elective course on the American Revolution for non-history majors this semester.
Last night we discussed the taxation controversies of the 1760’s. We spent a lot of time on eighteenth-century notions of power and liberty, the fact that the colonists were predisposed them to see conspiracies and tyrannical plots with every exertion of government authority, and the violent response to the Stamp Act. I wrapped things up by explaining that although Parliament repealed the act in 1766, they also explicitly asserted their sovereignty over America, and mentioned that at our next meeting we’d explore the controversial measures Parliament employed after the repeal.
I noticed that one girl in the class was shaking her head, a puzzled expression on her face. When I asked her if she was confused about something, she said, “That’s just stupid.”
“What is?” I asked.
“That they just kept doing the same thing when everybody got so mad about it the first time.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just about the best and most concise summary of British imperial policy in the 1760’s that I’ve ever heard.