Back To CourseUS History 1 Study Guide
9 chapters | 80 lessons
David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.
Few events resonate in American history like the Boston Tea Party of 1773, the great demonstration against King George III's taxes imposed on the colonies without their consent. Taxation fell everywhere in the British Empire at the time but the American colonies had been forced to pay the price of the debts amassed in the earlier French and Indian War of 1754-1763 (itself part of a far larger Seven Years' War between France and England) despite the fact that they had no representation in Parliament, who levied these taxes. No issue galvanized the American colonies towards independence quite like the issue of taxation without representation.
Tea (as well as cotton, sugar, and other trade goods) represented a profitable exchange for the British Empire: their East India Company operated across every ocean. On May 10th, 1773, King George III subjected the colonies to the Tea Act, which led to a commercial monopoly for the East India on tea throughout North America, and a subsequent rise in taxation. Some colonial leaders called for boycotts, or for home-grown substitutes, but the city of Boston undertook the most drastic demonstration on December 16th of 1773.
Disguised as Native American, to hide their true identities, Bostonians boarded three East India ships and threw the barrels overboard in a symbolic rebellion against King George and Parliament. The widely-publicized act infuriated both George and Parliament, who levied further taxes and punished the city of Boston, ordering them to repay the full costs of the tea. The Tea Party also galvanized anti-British settlement amongst the American colonists, helping to form the Continental Congress, in no small part due to Bostonian intellectuals, lawyers, and leaders like John Adams. One year later, the colony of Massachusetts would be declared 'in open rebellion.'
The Boston Gazette, the largest newspaper in Boston at the time, reported on the event and its aftermath. Let's look over it now.
Boston, December 20
On Tuesday last the body of the people of this and all the adjacent towns, and others from the distance of twenty miles, assembled at the old south meeting-house, to inquire the reason of the delay in sending the ship Dartmouth, with the East-India Tea back to London; and having found that the owner had not taken the necessary steps for that purpose, they enjoin'd him at his peril to demand of the collector of the customs a clearance for the ship, and appointed a committee of ten to see it perform'd; after which they adjourn'd to the Thursday following ten o'clock. They then met and being inform'd by Mr. Rotch, that a clearance was refus'd him, they enjoye'd him immediately to enter a protest and apply to the governor for a pass port by the castle, and adjourn'd again till three o'clock for the same day. At which time they again met and after waiting till near sunset Mr. Rotch came in and inform'd them that he had accordingly enter'd his protest and waited on the governor for a pass, but his excellency told him he could not consistent with his duty grant it until his vessel was qualified. The people finding all their efforts to preserve the property of the East India company and return it safely to London, frustrated by the sea consignees, the collector of the customs and the governor of the province, DISSOLVED their meeting.--But, BEHOLD what followed! A number of brave & resolute men, determined to do all in their power to save their country from the ruin which their enemies had plotted, in less than four hours, emptied every chest of tea on board the three ships commanded by the captains Hall, Bruce, and Coffin, amounting to 342 chests, into the sea!! without the least damage done to the ships or any other property. The matters and owners are well pleas'd that their ships are thus clear'd; and the people are almost universally congratulating each other on this happy event.
Capt. Loring in a Brig from London for his Place, having 58 Chests of the detested Tea on board, was cast ashore on the Back of Cape-Cod last Friday se'nnight: 'Tis expected the Cape Indians will give us a good Account of the Tea against our next.
Extract of a Letter from Philadelphia, dated December 11, 1773.
--'Your Resolutions of 29th ult. were publickly read at our Coffee-House last Thursday, to a large Company of our first Merchants, who gave three Cheers by Way of Approbation.'
We hear from Philadelphia, that Capt. Ayres, in a Ship chartered by the East India Company, to bring their Teas to that Place, had arrived at the Cape of Deleware (Mr. Gilbert Barclay, one of the Consignees, being Passenger on board) but that the Pilots had refused to bring her up the River; and Letters being sent to the Captain & Consignee, inclosing their Resolves respecting each of them, that if they presumed to come thither, it would be at their Peril, and the inevitable Destruction of both Vessel and Cargo; in Consequence of which intelligence, it was said they had gone off, but whether to the Place from whence they cause, or same other Port, was uncertain; though this might be depended on, that they would not be permitted to land the Tea in any Part of that Province.
We are positively informed that the patriotic inhabitants of Lexington, at a late meeting, unanimously resolved against the use of Bohea Tea of all sorts, Dutch or English importation; and to manifest the sincerity of their resolution, they bro't together every ounce contained in the town, and committed it to one common bonfire.
We are also informed, Charlestown is in motion to follow their illustrious example.
Quere. Would it not materially affect the bringing this detestable herb into disuse, if every town would enjoin their Selectmen to deny licences to all houses of entertainment who were known to afford tea to their guests?
Our reason for suggesting this, is the difficulty these people are under to avoid dishing out this poison, without such a provision in their favour.
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Back To CourseUS History 1 Study Guide
9 chapters | 80 lessons
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