BOSTON TEA PARTY (1773). On Thursday, December 16, 1773, the evening before the tea was due to be landed, Captain Roach appealed to Governor Hutchinson to allow his ship to leave without unloading its tea. When Roach returned and reported Hutchinson's refusal to a massive protest meeting, Samuel Adams said to the assembly "This meeting can do nothing more to save the country". As though on cue, the Sons of Liberty thinly disguised as either Mohawk or Narragansett Indians and armed with small hatchets and clubs, headed toward Griffin's Wharf (in Boston Harbor), where lay Dartmouth and the newly-arrived Beaver and Eleanor. Swiftly and efficiently, casks of tea were brought up from the hold to the deck, reasonable proof that some of the "Indians" were, in fact, longshoremen. The casks were opened and the tea dumped overboard; the work, lasting well into the night, was quick, thorough, and efficient. By dawn, over 342 casks or 90,000 lbs (45 tons) of tea worth an estimated 10,000 or $1.87 million USD in 2007 currency) had been consigned to waters of Boston harbor. Nothing else had been damaged or stolen, except a single padlock accidentally broken and anonymously replaced not long thereafter.

Tea washed up on the shores around Boston for weeks. Many citizens of Boston attempted to carry off this tea. In an effort to thwart this looting, people rowed several small boats out to where the tea was visible and beat it with oars, rendering it unusable.

The fourth East India Company ship carrying tea did not arrive with the other three because it had run aground in Provincetown. All fifty-eight tea chests were salvaged and put onto a fishing schooner, which arrived safely in Boston and into Bostonians' teapots.

The Boston Tea Party was a catalyst that precipitated the Revolutionary War. On the night of 16 December 1773, as a crowd gathered on Boston's Griffin's Wharf, a group of about fifty men lightly disguised as Indians boarded the ships Dartmouth, Beaver, and Eleanor. In the next three hours, they broke open 340 chests of tea and dumped their contents into the water, destroying cargo worth nearly ten thousand pounds sterling belonging to Great Britain's East India Company. This dramatic action stemmed from a running controversy over Parliament's power to raise revenue by placing duties on imports into America. Colonists protested "taxation without representation," but Parliament retained the duty on tea as a symbol of its taxing authority. In 1773, ignoring warnings of a colonial reaction, Parliament authorized the East India Company to reduce its massive surplus by shipping thousands of pounds of dutied tea to Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Charleston, South Carolina.

At the other ports the tea ships were either turned back or their cargo seized by customhouse officials, but at Boston, Governor Thomas Hutchinson insisted that the tea be landed and the duties paid. His longtime adversary Samuel Adams adamantly opposed such payment. When negotiations broke down, Adams rallied his supporters at Boston's Old South Church, from where they marched to Griffin's Wharf. The event's larger importance lay in Great Britain's reaction. Instead of seeking reconciliation, the ministry passed the Coercive Acts (1774), closing the port of Boston, altering the colony's charter, and ordering British troops under General Thomas Gage to occupy the town. As colonists elsewhere rallied behind the beleaguered Bostonians, the First Continental Congress approved a stringent boycott of British goods. With neither side willing to back down, the final crisis was at hand.


Benjamin W. Labaree, The Boston Tea Party, 1964; reprints 1968, 1981.

Wikipedia - Boston Tea Party

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
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