This little historical note only touches on the edge of Baptist history, but it is still pertinent.
During the 18th century the British were ruling the American colonies with an iron hand. They passed and enforced laws upon the colonies which adversely affected them. They sometimes laid taxes on the colonies which were not applied at home. And the Americans had little or no input when it came to the Parliament rule over them. More and more rebellious colonials protested “taxation without representation” in the home government. Quarrels between the non-resident British and the colonists increased. Then on March 5, 1770, British troops fired on a mob in Boston, arousing patriotic ire up and down the coast.
In time much of the taxation was relaxed, but just to prove its authority, Britain retained a tax over imported tea. In response there arose calls for a boycott of tea. At Charleston incoming tea was stored in warehouses unsold where it rotted. Tea ships at New York and Philadelphia were not permitted to unload their cargo and were rerouted to England. But the authorities in Boston refused to permit two ships to leave the harbor and yet the tea was not unloaded. Then on this day in 1773 a group of men, disguised as Indians, boarded the vessels and dumped 342 chests of tea into the bay – the Boston Tea Party.
Meanwhile, as the Protestant protestors fought against the British over taxation without representation, they were imposing even worse taxation on a minority of their neighbors. A man might simply refuse to drink tea, thus not pay the tax. But there was no way for the Baptists and other dissenters, to legally avoid a special religious tax which was laid upon them. Local governments maintained that all residents, whether Quaker, Catholic, Baptist or whatever, had to pay support the local Congregational Protestant minister. For years our Baptist forefather had no “representation” in those churches, no recourse, and no legal means of refusal. They were sometimes beaten, jailed, and had their property confiscated, leaving some people to nearly starve or freeze in the cold winters.
Comparing the Boston Tea Party – a protest against “taxation without representation” – to the ministerial support tax clearly demonstrated the hypocritical position of the Protestants and their puppet colonial governments.