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Rum and the Right to Tax the Colonies

A revolution begins with small things. A British tax on French rum, sugar and molasses is not intended as a big money-maker for the government. The point is that French rum is 60% cheaper than British rum and the British plantations of the West Indies are screaming for help. Thus, a 9-pence tax (almost $8) per gallon is imposed on French rum and a smaller tax is imposed on French molasses and sugar. This makes everything made with sugar more expensive, and encourages a strange philanthropy amongst the American colonists. They send empty ships to the French West Indies flying the white flag to beg the French to release British prisoners from the terrible dungeons rumored to be located there. Oddly enough, the ships return loaded with cheap French rum, sugar and molasses but very few redeemed prisoners. The Molasses Act will fail in its goal to save the British plantations of the West Indies, but the British Parliament will have taxed the American colonists without representation and the American colonists will have circumvented British authority. It is a small thing, but from molasses the American Revolution will take root. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
There was no protest of "Taxation without representation" and it was the Golden Age of Piracy. The colonists participated in so many illegal deals that it all seemed normal. Also, the American colonies were a dumping ground for British criminals and ne'er-do-wells. While there were many honest people living in the American colonies, a strong underground economy existed. Governments forget that when a tax is raised too high, it becomes profitable for citizens to take the risk of circumventing the tax. Then the government spends more money enforcing the tax. The tax must be raised again to cover the additional expense. This makes it even more profitable for a certain level of criminal. While the activity is ILLEGAL, many people may not see it as immoral. For example: buying cigarettes in a low-tax state and selling them in a high-tax state for a profit is illegal, but for the smoker, a cigarette is a cigarette. The unintended consequence of the higher tax is that normal, law-abiding citizens will become accustomed to breaking the law, or supporting those who do. That makes it easier to break further laws and to defy authority.

The Saint John Insurrection

In the modern day, St. John is part of the United States Virgin Islands, but in 1733, it is Danish territory. The Danes are absentee owners living in St. Thomas while letting overseers run their plantations. Many slaves are escaping into the woods, so additional laws are passed to allow cruel discipline in order to prevent runaways. This includes whippings and dismemberment. The slaves were once part of the ruling class in Africa. When they fell out of power, their neighbors sold them into slavery in the Danish West Indies. This produced a large class of slaves with a sense of privilege. As the cruelty mounted, the slaves made a plan for rebellion. They regularly delivered wood to the local fort, so they hid knives in the bundles. They attacked and took the fort. The Danes don't have much of a military force in place so the rebellion goes on until the next year when a larger and better armed force will arrive to put down the rebellion. The Saint John Insurrection will be one of the earliest and longest slave rebellions on record. [7] [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
FYI, the slaves who rebelled were largely from the ruling class in Africa. They had conquered their neighbors, took their women, and sold the men into slavery. That was why, when they fell out of power, their neighbors felt perfectly justified in selling the previous rulers into slavery. If these former rulers deserved death then they would have been tried and their lives taken. Selling them into slavery was exile. Their neighbors were making sure that the previous rulers didn't return to cause trouble. This was a normal process for the world at the time. However, when slavery and exile turned into death and dismemberment, they may have felt that the punishment exceeded the crime and they rebelled.

Important Events

  • The Flying Shuttle Loom is patented by John Kay. It makes weaving faster, and eliminates one laborer. [1] [10]
  • The First Mesmerizing Hypnotist is Born: Franz Anton Mesmer's theory of "animal magnetism" will later be called hypnotism. [1] [11]
  • The Largest Bell in the World weighing over 222 tons will be cast in Russia. The Tsar Bell will never be rung. [1] [12]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1733, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 336-337. 
  2. Miller, John Chester. Origins of the American Revolution. Little, Brown and company. “Great Britain adopted the practice of enumerating whatever commodities strengthened her trading position in world markets, benefited British manufacturers and merchants, or added revenue to the customs. This policy led to the enumeration of rice, molasses, naval stores, and furs prior to 1764.” 
  3. Southwick, Albert B. (July 1951). "Molasses Act -- Source of Precedents, The". The William and Mary Quarterly (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture) 8 (3): 389-405. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1917421. Retrieved 16 February 2016. "As a source of precedents, however, it was amazingly fertile-and ambiguous. Whatever its expressed or implied purpose, Parliament, by refusing Partridge's petition, had branded it a revenue bill, thus giving Grenville three decades later the chance to renew it as a real revenue bill.". 
  4. Sheridan, Richard B. (March 1957). "Molasses Act and the Market Strategy of the British Sugar Planters, The". Journal of Economic History, The (on behalf of the Cambridge University Press Economic History Association) 17 (1): 62-83. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2114707. Retrieved 16 February 2016. 
  5. Trethewey, Richard J. (Spring 1969). "Economic Burden of the Sugar Act, The". American Economist, The (Sage Publications, Inc.) 13 (1): 63-71. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25602737. Retrieved 16 February 2016. 
  6. Molasses Act - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 February 2016. “The Act was not passed for the purpose of raising revenue, but rather to regulate trade by making British products cheaper than those from the French West Indies.”
  7. St. John Slave Rebellion of 1733. (2016). Retrieved on 17 February 2016. “Many of St. John's plantations were owned by men and women from St. Thomas who also had estates on that island. The St. Thomians usually hired overseers called Mesterknegte to manage their holdings on St. John. These overseers were not always honest and often failed to act in the best interests of the planters. (Out of sight, out of mind.) The overseers certainly did not give the interests of the slaves much attention.”
  8. 1733 slave insurrection on St. John - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 28 December 2014.
  9. Saint John, U.S. Virgin Islands - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 17 February 2016. “The smallest of the main US islands besides Water Island, Saint John is located about four miles east of Saint Thomas, the location of the territory's capital, Charlotte Amalie. It is four miles southwest of Tortola, part of the British Virgin Islands.”
  10. John Kay (flying shuttle) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 17 February 2016. “In 1733, he received a patent for his most revolutionary device: a 'wheeled shuttle' for the hand loom.[21][22] It greatly accelerated weaving, by allowing the shuttle carrying the weft to be passed through the warp threads faster and over a greater width of cloth. It was designed for the broad loom, for which it saved labour over the traditional process, needing only one operator per loom (before Kay's improvements a second worker was needed to catch the shuttle).”
  11. Franz Mesmer - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 17 February 2016. “In 1774, Mesmer produced an 'artificial tide' in a patient, Francisca Ósterlin, who suffered from hysteria, by having her swallow a preparation containing iron and then attaching magnets to various parts of her body. She reported feeling streams of a mysterious fluid running through her body and was relieved of her symptoms for several hours. Mesmer did not believe that the magnets had achieved the cure on their own. He felt that he had contributed animal magnetism, which had accumulated in his work, to her. He soon stopped using magnets as a part of his treatment.”
  12. Tsar Bell - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 17 February 2016. “After becoming Empress, Anna ordered that the pieces be cast into a new bell with its weight increased by another hundred tons, and dispatched the son of Field Marshal Münnich to Paris to solicit technical help from the master craftsmen there. However, a bell of such size was unprecedented, and Münnich was not taken seriously. In 1733, the job was assigned to local foundry masters, Ivan Motorin and his son Mikhail, based on their experience in casting a bronze cannon.”

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