Chapter 12: The Overt Challenge and the Coming of the Revolution

This chapter was largely dealing with the very well known acts of taxation that led up to the American Revolution. Weir spends a lot of time covering the reactions to the various methods of taxation and how the colony refuted each one. Since those were all covered in Jasmin’s post very well I won’t waste time regurgitating the same information we all know from middle school yet again. Instead I will focus on the other major cause of strife in the colonial community that Weir brings up, a large controversy over something called the Wilkes Fund.

Weir describes a man named John Wilkes as a “demagogic Englishman” (305). This was a man who was elected to parliament in 1768 and immediately imprisoned. This imprisonment became a martyrdom as Wilkes “symbolically represent everyone throughout the empire who felt oppressed by the ministry” (305). This would lead to an organization, known as The Society of Gentlemen Supporters of the Bill of Rights, to start collecting donations on behalf of Wilkes, which of course the South Carolina treasury quickly donated to. Weir’s suspected reason for the speed with which they made this decision is kind of sad. Basically he suggests that South Carolina was trying to acquire its reputable act to show how against the crown they were. All the other big colonies like Boston and Virginia had done something impressive, like leading the charge against the taxation acts. South Carolina wanted its big show off act of both generosity and defiance. So with this donation we got to show off both our immense wealth and our courage in the face of the crown. Almost as soon as they passed the donation through the assembly, they realized it was a mistake.

The first thing this rash decision did was spark an outrage in London. This act highlighted the Common’s ability to spend public funds without permission of either parliament or the local government. This forced many tax bills which attempted to gain back the money spent on the Wilkes Fund, each of which were shot down by the governor and the council. This snowballed into a rapid decent into madness for Lieutenant Governor William Bull. Unable to pass the necessary bills to keep his job Bull tried several tactics to slip the system. His first idea was to move the meeting place for the legislature to Beaufort. If members of the legislature were late or didn’t show, maybe Bull could quickly pass a bill through to satisfy his needs. Unfortunately for him, everyone showed up; this caused him to delay for three days, and eventually send everyone back to Charleston. ¬†Every time Bull hit a roadblock he tried the same tactic again and again, dissolving the house. Completely firing everyone from the house of Commons and starting new elections (where several members won back their seats). This happened four times in less than fifteen months! Needless to say, Bull never got his way. It wasn’t until one of the biggest events of pre-revolution America occurred, the Boston Tea Party, that people were ready to move past this issue of the Wilkes Fund, and on to more important preparation for the inevitable revolution.

South Carolina went on to deal with things like the many Continental Congresses that took place over the next few months. Up until the reports from the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Then the revolution began in earnest.

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