Last week was a rough one for Boston. A terrorist attack at its famous marathon, followed by a terrifying manhunt. In the end, Boston prevailed. One suspect is now deceased, and the other arrested. More importantly, this week Boston showed its true colours. It showed strength, love, hope and humanity in the worst of times. In Boston’s honour, we here at TheHistoryHub have decided to bring attention to another of Boston’s most infamous moments: The Boston Tea Party.
In the 1770s, the American colonies remained under the jurisdiction of Britain. Britain was currently reeling in the aftermath of various continental wars, causing Britain to have a massive deficit. The British government needed to raise money.
As part of Britain’s empire, Britain was responsible for the colonies’ defense and protection. Britain decided that the colonies should contribute to the cost of their protection. For the first time, Parliament decided to directly tax the colonies for the purpose of raising revenue. the intrusion was deeply resented. Some believed it to be against the British constitution, whereby taxes could only be charged with the consent of the people, through representation in Parliament. Those opposed to the new taxes created the slogan, “No Taxation without representation.” This was misunderstood by the British government. In their minds, Americans were Englishmen, and thus had representation. But the colonists were used to a far more direct version of representation in their local governments.
The new taxes were met with anger, violence, and increased smuggling. Parliament finally responded to the protests by repealing the Townshend taxes in 1770, except for a symbolic duty on tea, which Prime Minister Lord North kept to assert “the right of taxing the Americans”.
The Tea Act of 1773, in its essence, meant that the East India Trading company could directly export tea to the colonies of its own account. By cutting out the middle man, the company would save costs and the tea would be cheaper. As the tea would be cheaper, the British government hoped the difference would alleviate the pain of the tax on the tea. However the tax did not go unnoticed by the colonists.
The struggle of the Boston Tea Party was not about taxes, but about the perceived infringements of the colonists’ rights.
Throughout November and December of 1773, groups met to discuss the tea crisis, and what to do about it. From December 14-16, tensions reached an all-time high. Three boats carrying the tea, The Dartmouth, The Eleanor and The Beaver, had arrived in port. The colonists had to decide if they would pay the taxes for the tea by the deadline, midnight of December 16th. A meeting decided to request a pass for The Dartmouth to leave the harbor, thus eliminating the conflict. The pass was refused, and all the legal means to keep the boat from unloading had been exhausted.
With this, the “Sons of Liberty” decided to act. Wearing their interpretations of Indian dress and yelling war whoops, the men marched to the wharf. Some historians believe that the Indian dress was a way of representing that the colonists no longer saw themselves as British citizens.
340 chests of East India Trading Company tea, from all three ships, were smashed upon, and the contents dumped into the harbor. The British East India Company reported £9,659 worth of damage. Other than the tea, there was no damage done to the ships themselves, except for one padlock, which was promptly replaced. Nothing other than tea was stolen from the ships. No one died in the conflict.
It is believed that Boston Tea Party was participated in by hundreds, and witnessed by thousands. However, out of fear of punishments, many remained anonymous. To date, only 116 participants have been identified.
Many fled Boston to avoid arrest. Only one participant, Francis Akeley, was caught and imprisoned.
London heard about the Boston Tea Party on January 20, 1774, and as a result, shut down Boston Harbor until all 340 chests of the tea had been compensated for. This was part of the Intolerable Acts of 1774, which led to the growing resentment of the colonists and was a cause of the American Revolution.
The Boston Tea Party was the first organized defiance of the mother country, and it was an extremely successful one. It is remembered for its contribution to the start of the American Revolution, and to American History.
Sending love to Boston. Stay Strong, Stay Safe.