Boston Tea Party: Definition, Dates & Facts
On the night of December 16, 1773, about 60 Boston colonists disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians and boarded three East India Company ships. They were on a mission to dump the 342 crates of tea onboard into the Boston Harbor as retaliation for taxation without representation. Roughly 92,000 pounds (46 tons) of tea was now floating along the harbor.
The next morning, a handful of small boats paddled out to smash any of the remaining cargo to expose the bricks of tea to the water, ruining them. (“”The Boston Tea Party, 1773″”) This day came to be widely known as the Boston Tea Party, the day when Boston told told Britain to take their tea and shove it.
Prior to this incident, Britain was desperate in finding a way to somehow keep ahold of the new American colonies, as the colonies had been gaining more and more independence by the day. Pressure was also added due to the amount of debt Britain had accumulated. Parlament managed to pass a long list of acts, most of which heavily taxed the colonists as punishment for trying to leave and as a solution for the money they owed. The Stamp Act of 1765 was a tax placed on paper goods like newspapers, letters, and parchment. Luckily, the opposition from from the colonies’ patriots caused the act to be repealed a year later. Then came the Townshend Acts, which added a duty to any imported goods; glass, paint, tea, and more. But, intense rebellion from the colonists caused Great Britain to repeal all tariffs, all but the tax on tea. The final straw was the Tea Act, letting the East India Company sell their inexpensive tea straight to the colonies, impairing merchants and shopkeepers who were trying to make their living selling tea. (“”Taxes In The Colonies ***””)
Samuel Adams, one of many Founding Fathers of the United States, had by this time created a secret band of rebels tasked with protesting and fighting the british advances of control over the thirteen colonies. This group of men was named The Sons of Liberty.’ The band of renegades was responsible for the nullification of many of the tariffs put on new America; they protested, antagonized British soldiers, and even threatened British ship captains who tried to dock at American ports. (“”Sons Of Liberty Dump British Tea””) In the instance of the Tea Party, the Sons of Liberty had been chasing off East India Company ships off with promises of tarring and feathering the captain and crew if they didn’t return the tea to England. But the last three ships to dock, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, were not so easily deterred.
Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchinson was a supporter of the parliamentary actions and began thwarting the efforts of the Sons of Liberty. The captains of the three ships at the Boston harbor asked Hutchinson for permission to leave port and return to Britain, but he refused, instead instructing them that the levy needed to be paid and the tea-laden ships unloaded. (“”Thomas Hutchinson””) The colonists didn’t take too kindly to his orders and refused to pay or off-load the tea. Hutchinson held firm to his previous command, though, and never came up with any accommodations for the citizens of Boston. So that night, drastic measures had to be taken into the hands of the colonists.
George Hewes was one of the men that boarded the ships to dump the bricks of tea into the Harbor. He wrote the recollection of the events that took place that night in a journal which was later published. In his account, Hewes explains the process of disguising himself as a Mohawk Indian using soot from a blacksmith’s shop, and arming himself with a small hatchet and club. He states that the group of men that he fell into line with was split into three groups, one per ship they planned to sabotage. Once onboard the ship he was assigned to, Hewes was chosen to be boatswain and was commanded to demand the captain to hand over his keys and a dozen candles. The ship’s captain made no attempt to resist the man’s orders, instead complying and asking only that no harm came to the ship. While the deed was being done and the tea being thrown overboard, Hewes recounts that the harbor was surrounded with armed British ships, but not one of them made a move to stop the band of indians terrorizing the ships’ cargo. (“”The Boston Tea Party, 1773″”)
Most Bostonians and colonists commended the Sons of Liberty for their political protest against Parliament, but Britain had the opposite reaction to their behavior. In March of 1774, the Intolerable Acts were passed to punish the colonists for the Tea Party. Under the Boston Port Act, Boston ports were closed to all but food and firewood until the owners of the tea were reimbursed. Bostonians found a way around this law, however, receiving help from the other twelve colonies instead. The Massachusetts Government Act let Parliament choose a royally-appointed governor and gave him ubiquitous power within his own right. British officials were almost always let off easy for their crimes in Boston after the Administration of Justice Act was passed, giving officials the right to a fair trial, making them practically immune to the law. The last of the Coercive Acts forced Bostonians to quarter British troops in their own homes. (“”The Intolerable Acts [Ushistory.Org]””) These laws made it clear throughout the thirteen colonies: the unspeakable injustices happening in Massachusetts could happen anywhere. So in 1774, the colonies decided to have the first Continental Congress to respectfully petition King George III for America’s independence.
The Boston Tea Party comes down to be one of the most important events in U.S. history for its examples of courage and patriotism. It was the metaphorical spark that lit the flare for the American Revolution, and without it, America would not be the country it is today. Thanks to the actions of a valiant few, America became its own free and independent country.
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