Friday, April 6, 2012

Man of War Romney

I’m struck by the kind of small coincidences (and by “small” I mean trivial) that you run across every once and a while. This past week, while two US states and the District of Columbia were holding Republican primaries on Tuesday, I was making slow progress reading Chapter Eight of “The Glorious Cause”, a classic tome on the American Revolution by Robert Middlekauff. (“Tome” is exactly the right word – you could stop a freight train with this massive book.) 

As voters in Wisconsin, Maryland and DC were giving Mitt Romney a clean sweep in the polls, essentially guaranteeing him the Republican nomination and proving that in the end the GOP would not be jumping down the rabbit hole dug for them by the Tea Party, I was reading about the events in Boston in May 1768.

At that time, almost 250 springs ago, the British subjects in North America were in an uproar over taxation (sound familiar?), in particular the recent attempts by Parliament to make them pay duties on some items they had to import from Britain, such as paper, paint, glass and, not least of all, tea. To help enforce these extremely unpopular measures, the Royal Navy sent to Massachusetts a 50-gun man-of-war, HMS Romney. Her presence in Boston Harbor was not appreciated, and soon after arriving, the Romney sparked further outrage by commandeering a ship belonging to the richest man in America.

John Hancock, best known to modern Americans because his name is synonymous with a person's signature, was an extremely wealthy businessman, not unlike future Bostonian Mitt Romney (the man, not the man-of-war). Hancock also may, or may not, have engaged in a practice used by many of his fellow merchants to avoid paying duties, namely smuggling. 

A month before the Romney (the ship) dropped anchor in Boston Harbor, one of John Hancock’s sloops arrived from across the Atlantic with a cargo of Madeira wine. Royal customs officials suspected that Hancock had slipped most of the cargo off the boat without declaring it and paying the required duty. With the arrival of the Romney, they now had the muscle to act on their suspicions. The officials ordered the man-of-war to seize Hancock’s sloop – which was fittingly named Liberty. A riot, as they say, ensued, with the tax officials beaten bloody, but escaping with their lives. One more step on the path to revolution. 

If you are a Tea Party supporter (circa 2012) who, after this week’s primaries, is feeling some resentment over your movement being hijacked by an establish Republican like Mitt Romney, you might see a cruel metaphor in the fact that, back in the original Tea Party era, a ship called Liberty was confiscated by one named Romney. Me, I just find it all an ironic coincidence.  

"The Lost of the Romney", depicting the ship's demise after running aground in 1804. 

1 comment:

  1. The GOP is still down the neo-Fascist rabbit hole. Romney co-opted their stands and their propaganda and will continue to bring it to reality.