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The General stands like a statue among his soldiers.  Even the freezing December wind seems unable to penetrate his stoic countenance. Washington has refused to meet with the mortally wounded Hessian Colonel Rall, saying that Rall is a mercenary who fights for profit. Then General Green approaches Washington and says, with deep wisdom, “Our own cause is at its heart a fight against British taxation, is it not? In the end, Sir, we all kill for profit.”

  WHAT? I was enjoying the A&E movie The Crossing until that moment. Sure, they had taken liberties with the historic record in some areas. Yes, the film had failed to portray just how hard the weather was (No snow in Trenton?). But the film was well acted, with Jeff Daniels playing the difficult role of Washington and surrounded by some other wonderful actors. Then this line came up right near the end of the movie, as if it were the message of the whole film. “Our own cause is at its heart a fight against British Taxation…we all kill for profit.”  How could they have gotten it so wrong?

   None of our famous agitator founders opposed taxes in principal. The famous excise on tea was not terribly burdensome and the taxes in Boston where the Tea Party occurred were pretty light. It wasn’t about the money; it was the principle. By 1776 America had been running itself for over 100 years, separate from England. Americans had always assumed they had all the rights of any British Citizen; now they found that England was making laws that encroached on those rights and they had no say in the matter. Taxes were not the first abuse of power, but they were an abuse that applied to everyone in the colonies.  As such they became a common cause to rally around.

   Again, this was not the first abuse.  Before this, England had claimed the right to search and seize without warrant and to quarter soldiers in people’s homes against their will and without compensation. The early patriot James Otis is attributed as the first to say “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” He went on to say “For what civil right is worth a rush (stem of a plant considered of little value), after a man’s property is subject to be taken from him at pleasure without his consent?” By the time of the Battle of Trenton many more abuses of power had occurred, including the seizing of gun powder stores that a town had collected for its own defense. Today it would be like a foreign army marching into town and ripping the locks off your front door.  If you want to see a complete list of reasons the colonies were in revolt, look in The Declaration of Independence.  It lists 27, of which “For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent” only ranks at #17.




“For what civil right is worth a rush, after a man’s property is subject to be taken from him at pleasure without his consent?”

                           -James Otis 

So the Revolution was not a fight against British taxation but British abuse of power. But what about that “we all kill for profit” line? Were the Founders motivated by profit? Let’s take the route of the Age of Reason and think this through. Many of the founders, though certainly not all, were wealthy by the standards of the day. They either had successful businesses or inherited money and property. How do you profit from starting a war in your own backyard with the most powerful military nation in the world? They had everything to lose and many did. Washington lost money throughout the war his Presidential years by constantly pouring his own money into the cause of Liberty. War engulfed the land for eight years. Homes and farms were destroyed, businesses were ruined, disease raged, and 25,000 lives were lost. Today that percentage of our population would add up to 3 million people. Exactly what profit was there? It certainly wasn’t financial.

    So why did this movie that started so well take a turn towards what can at best be called revisionist history, and is probably more rightfully called slanderous deceit? The answer came when I researched the author, an intelligent and extremely talented man by the name of Howard Fast. Howard seems to have a bit of a political agenda. In 1952 he ran for Congress on the American Labor Party Ticket and worked for the communist party newspaper The Daily Worker. In 1953 he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize. It seems he views his history through some skewed glasses. Don’t string up Howard too fast, though; he also wrote the classic film Spartacus. Because those Patriots of ‘76 fought for his rights (and not for profit), Howard Fast is able to enjoy the same freedom of thought and speech we all do.

   The Crossing is a pretty good film. Hollywood does not seem to give us many good movies set in the Founding era, despite the fact that it is full of great dramatic stories. You should rent it as we approach the holiday season and the anniversary of the Crossing. Just keep in mind the true reasons why these people fought, and keep hoping that the next film will finally get it right.




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