Case Study - Boston Tea Party
The case study was originally published by Tadahisa (Tad) Kuroda, Professor of History at Skidmore College. This and other texts were prepared as part of the curriculum for the Government History 322 course, The History and Political Thought of the American Revolution.
England in the 18th century had emerged as a military power that learned how to fight on credit, use mercenaries, and rely on bureaucratic support.
Simultaneously, England had become a consumer society in which small English manufacturers, encouraged by canal and turnpike construction and the availability of credit, made material possessions, previously thought to be exclusively for the rich, available to a growing number of the middle class.
Prosperity increased the ranks of the educated, professional, and commercial classes. Consequently, the hierarchical society began to show signs of fluidity in both urban and rural communities, as newcomers rose up the economic ladder. Since 1740 many citizens accepted a British national identity marked by aggressive patriotism that was militantly Protestant, anti-Catholic, and anti-French. Supported by the growth of towns, more newspapers, and economic development, this patriotic movement tended on one hand to unify and on the other to exclude those who were not truly British.
Accordingly, the British had aggressively penetrated the colonies with officials, goods, and visitors. They set styles and trends for the colonists to emulate. Population flows and religious development promoted an Atlantic culture that in some ways united the colonists with the mother country.
The British treated Americans better than they treated the Irish. Indeed, the British-American colonists often expressed great pride in being British. But in the process, the British thought of themselves more self consciously as superior to the colonists; the colonies were more like Ireland or Scotland than England. In short, the British saw the Americans as less than 100% British. Over this dynamic kingdom and empire, George III ruled. This young man had grown up in a family that suffered sharp antagonisms between his father and grandfather (George II). George II and his wife, Queen Caroline, lived in outright infidelity, a not uncommon feature among royal families of the time. Both treated their son, Frederick, the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, harshly. In due course, Frederick married Augusta, a German Princess, the mother of future George III. When Frederick died in 1751, it became apparent that the throne would pass to his son. From that point, parliamentary politics complicated the life of the young George. Dissatisfied MPs sought to secure the favor of the future king as a way of gaining power for themselves. For this kind of political intrigue, George, though amiable, graceful, and obliging, showed little natural talent.
Raised in a family that had numerous cases of children who were either stupid, insane, or mentally unbalanced, George found security and encouragement from John Stuart, Lord Bute, a kind and supportive figure. Bute had been a friend and perhaps lover of Augusta, and devoted much time to George to prepare him for his future duties as monarch of the British empire. He instructed him from a text by Viscount Bolingbroke, The Patriot King, that urged monarchs to think of the public good and to rise above, narrow interests. Gradually George gained some competence. He married a German princess. His reliance on Bute, however, approached dependency. When in 1760 at the age of 22, George suddenly became King of England during the Seven Years' War, he felt he needed people around him upon whom he could rely. He thus dismissed William Pitt, whom his grandfather, George II, had appointed chief minister to lead Britain to victory in the war, and selected Lord Bute to replace him. He did not consult Parliament on his choice.
You can find the full text of this Case Study on the Government History 322 course site.