• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Nonviolent History of American Independence

Independence Day is commemorated with fireworks and flag-waving, gun salutes and military parades . . . however, one of our nation’s founding fathers, John Adams, wrote, “A history of military operations . . . is not a history of the American Revolution.”

Often minimized in our history books, the tactics of nonviolent action played a powerful role in achieving American Independence from British rule. Benjamin Naimark-Rowse wrote, “the lesson we learn of a democracy forged in the crucible of revolutionary war tends to ignore how a decade of nonviolent resistance before the shot-heard-round-the-world shaped the founding of the United States, strengthened our sense of political identity, and laid the foundation of our democracy.”

One hundred-fifty years before Gandhi, the American colonists employed many of the same nonviolent actions the Indian Self-Rule Movement would later use to free themselves from the same empire – Great Britain. The boycotting of British goods (tea, cloth, and other imported items) significantly undermined British profits from the colonies. Noncooperation with unjust laws eroded British authority as the colonists refused to comply with laws that restricted assembly and speech, allowed the quartering of soldiers in colonists’ homes, and imposed curfews. Non-payment of taxes would prove to be a landmark issue for the independence movement. The development of parallel governments and legal structures strengthened the self-rule and self-reliance of the colonists and grew local political control that would ultimately prove strong enough to replace British governance of the colonies. Acts of protest and persuasion, petitions, pamphlets, rallies, marches, denouncements, legal and illegal publications of articles, and disruption of British meetings and legal proceedings were also employed.

Some of the most powerful boycotts in nonviolent history occurred in the New England colonies against the British Crown. Though the term boycott would not emerge for another hundred years until the Irish coined it during tenant and land struggles, what the colonists called “nonimportation programs” dropped British revenue in New England by 88 percent between 1774 and 1775. In the Carolinas, colonists deprived the Crown of 98.7 percent of import revenue. Moreover, in Virginia and Maryland, the rate reached an impressive 99.6 percent participation.

Resistance to the Stamp Act of 1764 thru 1775 dropped revenues 95 percent below what was expected. The British could not even pay for the cost of enforcing the Stamp Act throughout the colonies, and it was repealed in 1766. Newspapers published without paying the Stamp Tax used noms de plume to avoid reprisal. Courts closed because lawyers and judges refused to pay the Stamp Act for the printing of court documents. Shipping permits were supposed to be stamped, and, since merchants and shippers refused to pay the tax, ports closed, and even official documents were not delivered! Merchants of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia pledged a nonimportation pact until the Stamp Act was repealed. Six months later (at a time when crossing the Atlantic by sail took at least six weeks, and sometimes as long as three months), the Crown repealed the Stamp Act under pressure from its own panicked merchants.

In a campaign that is strikingly familiar to Gandhi’s spinning campaign, the American boycott of imported British cloth held spin-ins, whereby young women gathered in large groups to spin homespun yarn for weaving cloth. Colonists even stopped wearing the traditional funeral black (which mirrored English style) in protest of Great Britain. Women played significant roles in all the nonimportation programs, especially the resistance to the notorious Tea Act. While everyone remembers the Boston Tea Party’s dumping of tea into the Boston Harbor, few Americans have heard about how Susan Boudinot. She was the nine-year-old daughter of a New Jersey patriot, who, when handed a cup of tea while visiting the governor, curtsied, raised the cup to her lips, and then tossed the tea out the window.

These are just some of the many nonviolent actions engaged in by Americans in their struggle for independence. Some scholars even go so far as to call the Revolutionary War, the “War of Reclamation,” for the revolution had already been won in the hearts, minds, homes, and practices of the people by the time the British Crown sought to reclaim the independent and self-governing colonies. This Independence Day, tell the stories of the role nonviolent action played in establishing the United States. Perhaps by next year, we will be participating in re-enactments of spin-ins, holding mock funerals for Lady Liberty, and engaging in boycotts of imported goods to commemorate how American Independence was actually won.

More articles by:

Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 21, 2019
Rev. William Alberts
Myopic Morality: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Sheldon Richman
Let’s Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain
Horace G. Campbell
Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?
Jim Kavanagh
The Empire Steps Back
Ralph Nader
Where are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?
Thomas Knapp
Excuses, Excuses: Now Hillary Clinton’s Attacking Her Own Party’s Candidates
stclair
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Brian Terrell
The United States Air Force at Incirlik, Our National “Black Eye”
Paul Bentley
A Plea for More Cynicism, Not Less: Election Day in Canada
Walter Clemens
No Limits to Evil?
Robert Koehler
The Collusion of Church and State
Kathy Kelly
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Charlie Simmons
How the Tax System Rewards Polluters
Chuck Collins
Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Rare Wildflower vs. Mining Company
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail