Boston Tea Party

The colonist in 1773 had endured several attempts to tax them by their mother country, but the tax on tea was the breaking point. Britain had been defending the colonist with their Navy, and incurring a lot of debt in the process. The mother country decided to try recouping some of the debt by devising ways of taxing the colonist.

After the end of the French and Indian War, Britain emerged with a large empire, but they also had a very large debt to go along with the empire. About half of the debt was incurred defending the colonist in America, so Britain decided that the colonist should have to help pay for their protection. British Prime Minister George Grenville secured from parliament a law to raise tax revenues from the colonists; the first in a series of laws passed was the Sugar Act of 1764. This act increased the duty on foreign sugar imported from the West Indies. After some protest by the colonist the duties were lowered, and the problems died down. Resentment arose again with the implementation of another act called the Quartering Act of 1765, this required the colonist to provide food and lodging for British troops.

In the same year another act was implemented it was called the Stamp Act; the revenue from this act was to be used to support the military. The Stamp Act called for the stamps to be affixed to all legal documents to certify that the tax had been paid. Stamps were required on trade items, legal documents, playing cards, newspapers, diplomas, marriage licenses, and several other documents. Grenville thought this to be fair he was only asking the colonist to help pay for their protection. The colonist took this as a strike at their liberty. Both the Sugar and Stamp acts provided trials for offenders in courts without juries. This went against the belief of the colonist they thought this was a conspiracy to strip them of their liberties. The loud voice heard from the colonist was summed up with a slogan “No taxation with out representation.” The colonist agreed that Parliament had the right to pass legislation on matters that affected the empire, but denied the Parliament with no Americans seated to impose any taxes on Americans. The colonist assembled in 1765 in what was called the Stamp Act Congress the congress drafted a statement of rights, and beseeched the King to repeal the legislation.

The colonist devised a plan to strike back at Britain by introducing what was called the no importation agreement. This called for the colonist to boycott British imports, from this groups were formed to enforce the boycotts, one was called the Sons of Liberty, and the other was the Daughters of Liberty. Anyone violating the agreement were tarred and feathered. This really hurt Britain because America imported about one forth of all British exports. In 1766 Parliament repealed the Stamp Act. The colonist victory was short lived, soon after a man named Charlie Townshend took control of the British ministry, he promised to pluck the feathers from the colonial goose. He persuaded Parliament in 1767 to pass another act called the Townshend Act this included a import duty on glass, white lead, paper, paint, and tea. Townshend made the distinction between internal and external taxes by calling for a customs duty payable at American ports. But the colonist took this as just another way of enchaining them. After enacting the Townshend tax the London government suspended the legislature of New York in 1767 for not complying with the Quartering Act.

Britain unhappy with the lack of law and order, landed two regiments of troops in Boston in 1768 most of the troops were drunk, and some of the colonist was taunting the soldiers unmercifully. On March 5,1770 a crowd of about sixty townspeople confronted a squad of ten redcoats, one of the townspeople hit one of the soldiers with a club, and another was knocked down. The soldiers opened fire killing or wounding eleven “innocent” citizens. Only two of the soldiers were convicted of murder. Soon after the Parliament repealed the Townshend Act. One thing that was left intact was the tax on tea, this was one of the taxes the colonist resented the most.

Then in 1773, the powerful British East India Company had about 17 million pounds of unsold, tea and was on the verge of bankruptcy. If the company went bankrupt the London government would lose tax revenue, so the ministry decided to award the company a monopoly on tea sales. The Americans saw this as just another way to force them into accepting the tax.

The British parliament tried to enforce the law, but the colonist rose up in defiance once again; none of the tea ever reached the consignees. Ships were burned with their cargo, local merchants were threatened, and they refused to accept any tea. In Boston there was a British official that refused to be threatened, and he ordered the ships not to clear the harbors without unloading their cargo. This causes the colonist to call a meeting at the Old South Meeting House on December 16,1773 to decide how they could prevent the tea from being unloaded. They decided to wait for a decision from Governor Hutchinson about the enforcement of the laws. They waited until about five o’clock in the afternoon, and they went back to the Governor’s house, and found that the Governor had gone to Milton the county seat about six miles away.

The committee returned to the Old South Meeting House, and the meeting was immediately dissolved. There were many that said, “Let every man do his duty” sometime before dark a group of about 200 men disguised as Indians, having painted their faces with coal dust from the blacksmith shop. They armed themselves with clubs and hatchets, and then they headed for Griffin’s wharf where the ships were docked. When the men reached the wharf they were divided into three groups, so that they could board all three ships at the same time. The commanders of each division ordered the boatswains to go to each captain, and demand the keys to the hatches and some candles. The captains promptly replied, but requested that we do no harm to the ship or rigging. The men were ordered by there commanders to open the hatches, and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard. The men proceed to split the chests with their tomahawks, so the tea would be exposed to the water. It took about three hours to empty all of the chests, as they were throwing the tea overboard several attempts were made by some of the colonist tried to hide tea in their coats and smuggle it off the ship. Each time someone was caught they were thrown off the ship, and had to run a gauntlet of people on the Wharf each one giving a kick or a stroke. In the three-hour period 342 chests of tea were emptied and thrown overboard. After the men were thru they retired to their homes, the town of Boston had never been so quiet.

The men took great care with the private property not to destroy anything but the tea, during the raid a small padlock belonging to one of the captains was destroyed, and a padlock was procured and sent to him. The next morning it was discovered that not all the tea had been destroyed and that it was floating on the surface of the water. The citizens and sailors manned small boats, and rowed them through out the harbor where the tea was floating; using oars and paddles to beat the tea down, so that none of the tea could be saved.

The radicals were exulted while the conservatives complained that the destruction of private property violated fundamentals of civil society. The Parliament responded quickly to the Boston Tea Party with some measures that helped start the revolution. The most significant act was the Boston Port Act it closed the harbor until damages were paid. Many of the colonists chartered rights of colonial Massachusetts were removed. Restrictions were placed on town meetings, in contrast to previous law now the officials who killed colonists in the line of duty would be sent to Britain for trial. The colonist believed this was to protect them so they could be set free. The Boston Tea Party was the breaking point between the British Parliament and the colonist, this and the ‘Intolerable Acts”, as they were called, were what lead to the Revolutionary War.

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Boston Tea Party. (2019, Feb 06). Retrieved July 21, 2019, from