On America’s Experience With Empires

February 16, 2021 Updated: February 18, 2021


Twice over the course of their history, Americans have faced the tribulations of life under imperial management.

In the first case, it was the mercantilist empire of Great Britain. In the 1760s, to recoup the costs of several decades of imperial wars, Britain began taking extraordinary measures to consolidate control over its subjects in the 13 North American colonies.

Inheriting the Crown in 1760, a mentally derelict King George III represented an increasingly despotic vision of empire, in which colonial legislatures and individual colonists became entirely subordinate to the dictates of an arbitrary central authority.

The Perils of Imperial Rule

Prior to 1764, Britain had largely left Americans alone to govern themselves. But soon after that year, imperial authorities began imposing new laws, regulations, and taxes.

Colonists objected to imperial measures such as the Sugar Act, Currency Act, Quartering Act, and Stamp Act because they were passed by a distant parliament in which they weren’t represented.

In 1773, after several years of dissatisfaction and confrontations, the British imposed a tax on tea. A group of colonists who called themselves “Sons of Liberty” protested by boarding merchant ships and dumping a cargo of tea into the harbor, in an event that became known as the “Boston Tea Party.”

The ‘Intolerable Acts’

Imperial authorities sought to punish American patriots for the Tea Party. They issued coercive new laws that colonists called the “Intolerable Acts.”

First, the British government closed the port of Boston and brought in the Royal Navy to blockade the harbor. The Massachusetts Government Act put the colonial government entirely under British control, dissolving the assembly and restricting town meetings. The Administration of Justice Act allowed any royal official accused of a crime to be tried in Britain rather than face justice before colonial courts and juries.

Finally, the Quartering Act allowed the British army to quarter imperial troops in colonists’ homes. The colonies were regarded to be in a state of “insurrection” and the king, his ministers, and parliament were prepared to use any means necessary to put down resistance among their own subjects.

Rebellion and Liberty

Although students aren’t taught much history these days, most Epoch Times readers know what happened next.

The punishing imperial edicts did little to control the colonists and actually had the opposite effect. American commoners became more outraged than ever, and with no way to lawfully influence the British Empire, colonists took to organizing their own means of opposition.

In 1774, responding to the arrogance of imperial authorities, 12 colonies sent representatives to a First Continental Congress. They sent a petition to George III to repeal the Intolerable Acts. They never got a response, and in the end, the king’s refusal to pacify resistance through any means other than raw power led to rebellion, war, and the creation of a free American Republic.

Over two centuries, America expanded from sea to sea to include 50 states from the Rio Grande to the 49th parallel and the northern region of Alaska. By the mid-1960s, lingering territorial and racial divisions had been largely overcome and the United States emerged as the freest, best-ordered, most-tolerant and prosperous democratic republic in the history of mankind.

The New Imperial Challenge

Presently, the American people are in the grip of a new empire. This time, they face a global cabal with hegemonic ambitions that go far beyond those of 18th-century mercantilists.

The new empire was born in 1848, when German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published a blueprint for humanity known as “The Communist Manifesto.”

In pursuit of Marx’s vision, Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Party took over Russia in 1917. Inspired by the Russian example, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded in 1921 and seized control of the entire country in 1949.

A full account of the communist empire’s growth is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say, through a series of advances, setbacks, and a late 20th-century power shift to Beijing from Moscow, it has become the most pernicious threat to human liberty in modern history.

During much of the last century, the fiercest military resistance to the new imperialism came from the United States. But, while U.S. troops fought and died to contain communism in places such as Korea and Vietnam, scores of privileged intellectuals worked at home to imbed the ideological principles of Marxism throughout America and the West.

By the early years of the 21st century, the new empire’s long march through schools, universities, courts, media, the entertainment industry, civil service, intelligence agencies, and global corporations left progressive ideologues in almost complete control of our cultural institutions.

Whether or not the founding principles of the United States will endure has now become an open question.

Points of Resistance

So far, only two significance points of resistance to the new empire have stood out in modern U.S. history.

In the 1980s, U.S. President Ronald Reagan outwitted the Soviet Union and brought it to its knees. But the leadership of what Reagan called the “Evil Empire” passed to the Chinese Communist Party, and a dominant Marxist cultural influence continued apace in America and the West.

In the early years of the uber-progressive Obama–Biden administration, a populist American resistance movement emerged among the under-employed and over-taxed members of the U.S. middle class.

In the 2016 presidential election, a surprise victory by a political outsider threw the progressive global order into a frenzy. As the Trump presidency unfolded, the actions of his administration began to look like a slow-rolling Boston Tea Party from the 18th century.

Trump threw piles of unwanted “progressive cargo” overboard, including high taxes, stifling regulations, open borders, one-sided trade deals, job-killing green energy policies, endless commitments to foreign wars, and corrupt ties with the totalitarian regime in Beijing. Ordinary Americans began to rediscover the promise of liberty and prosperity in their nation’s founding principles.

The Empire Strikes Back

In a counterattack of unprecedented proportion, the forces of empire launched a ruthless retaliation against the Republican president and his supporters.

Trump was subjected to constant harassment by the media, unlawful investigations by federal police and intelligence agencies, and meritless impeachment charges from Congress. With the encouragement of Democratic Party politicians and their media partners, armies of violent anti-Trump rioters were unleashed on U.S. cities.

Early in the 2020 election campaign, the imperial regime in Beijing untethered a deadly viral pandemic that devastated America’s robust economy. Voting laws were sufficiently altered or ignored to give the Democratic Party’s ballot-harvesting tactics a distinct advantage. As the left-leaning Time magazine boasted, the electoral system was “fortified” in favor of the only legitimate outcome the empire would recognize: a Joe Biden presidency and a renewal of the Obama-era globalist agenda.

Biden’s ‘Intolerable Orders’

The Democratic president’s first orders were as vindictive and treacherous as the 18th-century “Intolerable Acts” of George III.

Biden signed a flurry of executive edicts aimed at dismantling almost all of the former president’s policies. He reopened the southern border to illegal immigrants and halted construction on the wall. He ended the travel ban from countries harboring terrorists and began talking about a policy of “strategic patience” toward his administration’s imperial partners in Beijing.

Rejecting Trump’s efforts to make America energy independent, Biden recommitted to the costly Paris climate accords and killed the Keystone XL pipeline project, which experts say will cost thousands of jobs and lead to higher fuel prices for Americans.

Among several other measures taken to reverse Trump-era “America First” policies, Biden rejoined the World Health Organization, which had collaborated with Xi Jinping to cover up the early spread of the CCP virus.

In short, the empire struck back. According to New York Post columnist Miranda Devine, the Biden orders were a “spit in the eye” to ordinary Americans.

Wither The America We Knew?

The actions of political leaders are the locomotives of history, and sometimes, there’s little that can be done to prevent them from becoming a train wreck.

In the United States, life is returning to a daily stand-off between cosmopolitan elites and the common people. With the Democratic Party in charge of just about everything, an entitled, overpaid ruling class will go back to dominating the lives of underpaid and underemployed American workers and private entrepreneurs.

Following U.S. events over the coming years may be like watching two scorpions fighting in a bottle: globalist blue versus nationalist red; the United Cities of America versus the United Counties of America.

Perhaps freedom-loving Americans can still take some solace in what Martin Luther King Jr. was fond of saying: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But justice is sometimes slow in coming. Eighteenth-century American colonists struggled against the tyranny of an empire from the Boston Tea Party to the Battle of Yorktown. The present generation will require enormous hope and courage to follow their example.

In words attributed to the venerable St. Augustine of Hippo, “The virtue of hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage: anger with the way things are, and courage to change them for the better.”

William Brooks is a Montreal writer and educator. He currently serves as editor of The Civil Conversation” for Canadas Civitas Society and is an Epoch Times contributor.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.