Boston Tea Party
Overview
 
The Boston Tea Party was a direct action
Direct action
Direct action is activity undertaken by individuals, groups, or governments to achieve political, economic, or social goals outside of normal social/political channels. This can include nonviolent and violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action...

 by colonists in Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts
Province of Massachusetts Bay
The Province of Massachusetts Bay was a crown colony in North America. It was chartered on October 7, 1691 by William and Mary, the joint monarchs of the kingdoms of England and Scotland...

, against the British government
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 and the monopolistic East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 that controlled all the tea imported into the colonies. On December 16, 1773, after officials in Boston refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain, a group of colonists boarded the ships and destroyed the tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor is a natural harbor and estuary of Massachusetts Bay, and is located adjacent to the city of Boston, Massachusetts. It is home to the Port of Boston, a major shipping facility in the northeast.-History:...

. The incident remains an iconic event of American history, and other political protests often refer to it.

The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America
British America
For American people of British descent, see British American.British America is the anachronistic term used to refer to the territories under the control of the Crown or Parliament in present day North America , Central America, the Caribbean, and Guyana...

 against the Tea Act
Tea Act
The Tea Act was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain. Its principal overt objective was to reduce the massive surplus of tea held by the financially troubled British East India Company in its London warehouses. A related objective was to undercut the price of tea smuggled into Britain's...

, which had been passed by the British Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 in 1773.
Encyclopedia
The Boston Tea Party was a direct action
Direct action
Direct action is activity undertaken by individuals, groups, or governments to achieve political, economic, or social goals outside of normal social/political channels. This can include nonviolent and violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action...

 by colonists in Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts
Province of Massachusetts Bay
The Province of Massachusetts Bay was a crown colony in North America. It was chartered on October 7, 1691 by William and Mary, the joint monarchs of the kingdoms of England and Scotland...

, against the British government
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 and the monopolistic East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 that controlled all the tea imported into the colonies. On December 16, 1773, after officials in Boston refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain, a group of colonists boarded the ships and destroyed the tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor is a natural harbor and estuary of Massachusetts Bay, and is located adjacent to the city of Boston, Massachusetts. It is home to the Port of Boston, a major shipping facility in the northeast.-History:...

. The incident remains an iconic event of American history, and other political protests often refer to it.

The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America
British America
For American people of British descent, see British American.British America is the anachronistic term used to refer to the territories under the control of the Crown or Parliament in present day North America , Central America, the Caribbean, and Guyana...

 against the Tea Act
Tea Act
The Tea Act was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain. Its principal overt objective was to reduce the massive surplus of tea held by the financially troubled British East India Company in its London warehouses. A related objective was to undercut the price of tea smuggled into Britain's...

, which had been passed by the British Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 in 1773. Colonists objected to the Tea Act for a variety of reasons, especially because they believed that it violated their right
Rights of Englishmen
The rights of Englishmen are the perceived traditional rights of British subjects. The notion refers to various constitutional documents that were created throughout various stages of English history, such as Magna Carta, the Declaration of Right , and others...

 to be taxed only by their own elected representatives
No taxation without representation
"No taxation without representation" is a slogan originating during the 1750s and 1760s that summarized a primary grievance of the British colonists in the Thirteen Colonies, which was one of the major causes of the American Revolution...

. Protesters had successfully prevented the unloading of taxed tea in three other colonies, but in Boston, embattled Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to allow the tea to be returned to Britain. He apparently did not expect that the protestors would choose to destroy the tea rather than concede the authority
Authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

 of a legislature in which they were not directly represented.

The Boston Tea Party was a key event in the growth of the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. Parliament responded in 1774 with the Coercive Acts, which, among other provisions, closed Boston's commerce
Boston Port Act
The Boston Port Act is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain which became law on March 30, 1774, and is one of the measures that were designed to secure Great Britain's jurisdictions over her American dominions.A response to the Boston Tea Party, it outlawed the use...

 until the British East India Company had been repaid for the destroyed tea. Colonists in turn responded to the Coercive Acts with additional acts of protest, and by convening the First Continental Congress
First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen North American colonies that met on September 5, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to the passage of the Coercive Acts by the...

, which petitioned the British monarch
Petition to the King (1774)
The Petition to the King was a petition sent to George III of Great Britain by the First Continental Congress. The petition expressed loyalty to the king and hoped for redress of grievances relating to the Intolerable Acts and other issues that helped foment the American Revolution.-Further...

 for repeal of the acts and coordinated colonial resistance to them. The crisis escalated, and the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 began near Boston in 1775.

Background

The Boston Tea Party arose from two issues confronting the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 in 1773: the financial problems of the British East India Company, and an ongoing dispute about the extent of Parliament's authority, if any, over the British America
British America
For American people of British descent, see British American.British America is the anachronistic term used to refer to the territories under the control of the Crown or Parliament in present day North America , Central America, the Caribbean, and Guyana...

n colonies without seating any elected representation. The North Ministry
North Ministry
The North Ministry governed the Kingdom of Great Britain from 1770 until 1782. Overseeing in this time the Falklands Crisis, the Gordon Riots and much of the American War of Independence. It was headed by the Tory politician Lord North and served under George III.-Membership:...

's attempt to resolve these issues produced a showdown that would eventually result in revolution.

Tea trade to 1767

As Europeans developed a taste for tea
Tea
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to hot water. The term also refers to the plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world...

 in the 17th century, rival companies were formed to import the product from the East Indies
East Indies
East Indies is a term used by Europeans from the 16th century onwards to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania, including the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines...

. In England, Parliament gave the East India Company a monopoly on the importation of tea in 1698. When tea became popular in the British colonies, Parliament sought to eliminate foreign competition by passing an act in 1721 that required colonists to import their tea only from Great Britain. The East India Company did not export tea to the colonies; by law, the company was required to sell its tea wholesale
Wholesale
Wholesaling, jobbing, or distributing is defined as the sale of goods or merchandise to retailers, to industrial, commercial, institutional, or other professional business users, or to other wholesalers and related subordinated services...

 at auctions in England. British firms bought this tea and exported it to the colonies, where they resold it to merchants in Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, Philadelphia, and Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

.

Until 1767, the East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 paid an ad valorem tax
Ad valorem tax
An ad valorem tax is a tax based on the value of real estate or personal property. It is more common than a specific duty, a tax based on the quantity of an item, such as cents per kilogram, regardless of price....

 of about 25% on tea that it imported into Great Britain. Parliament laid additional taxes on tea sold for consumption in Britain. These high taxes, combined with the fact that tea imported into Holland was not taxed by the Dutch government, meant that Britons and British Americans could buy smuggled
Smuggling
Smuggling is the clandestine transportation of goods or persons, such as out of a building, into a prison, or across an international border, in violation of applicable laws or other regulations.There are various motivations to smuggle...

 Dutch tea at much cheaper prices. The biggest market for illicit tea was England—by the 1760s the East India Company was losing £400,000 per year to smugglers in Great Britain—but Dutch tea was also smuggled into British America in significant quantities.

In 1767, to help the East India Company compete with smuggled Dutch tea, Parliament passed the Indemnity Act, which lowered the tax on tea consumed in Great Britain, and gave the East India Company a refund of the 25% duty on tea that was re-exported to the colonies. To help offset this loss of government revenue, Parliament also passed the Townshend Revenue Act
Townshend Acts
The Townshend Acts were a series of laws passed beginning in 1767 by the Parliament of Great Britain relating to the British colonies in North America. The acts are named after Charles Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who proposed the program...

 of 1767, which levied new taxes, including one on tea, in the colonies. Instead of solving the smuggling problem, however, the Townshend duties renewed a controversy about Parliament's right to tax the colonies.

Townshend duty crisis

Controversy between Great Britain and the colonies arose in the 1760s when Parliament sought, for the first time, to directly tax the colonies for the purpose of raising revenue. Some colonists, known in the colonies as Whigs
Patriot (American Revolution)
Patriots is a name often used to describe the colonists of the British Thirteen United Colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution. It was their leading figures who, in July 1776, declared the United States of America an independent nation...

, objected to the new tax program, arguing that it was a violation of the British Constitution. Britons and British Americans agreed that, according to the constitution, British subjects could not be taxed without the consent
No taxation without representation
"No taxation without representation" is a slogan originating during the 1750s and 1760s that summarized a primary grievance of the British colonists in the Thirteen Colonies, which was one of the major causes of the American Revolution...

 of their elected representatives. In Great Britain, this meant that taxes could only be levied by Parliament. Colonists, however, did not elect members of Parliament, and so American Whigs argued that the colonies could not be taxed by that body. According to Whigs, colonists could only be taxed by their own colonial assemblies. Colonial protests resulted in the repeal of the Stamp Act
Stamp Act 1765
The Stamp Act 1765 was a direct tax imposed by the British Parliament specifically on the colonies of British America. The act required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London, carrying an embossed revenue stamp...

 in 1765, but in the 1766 Declaratory Act
Declaratory Act
The Declaratory Act was a declaration by the British Parliament in 1766 which accompanied the repeal of the Stamp Act 1765. The government repealed the Stamp Act because boycotts were hurting British trade and used the declaration to justify the repeal and save face...

, Parliament continued to insist that it had the right to legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever".

When new taxes were levied in the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767, Whig colonists again responded with protests and boycotts. Merchants organized a non-importation agreement, and many colonists pledged to abstain from drinking British tea, with activists in New England promoting alternatives, such as domestic Labrador tea
Labrador tea
Labrador tea is a name commonly applied to three closely related species:* Rhododendron tomentosum ,...

. Smuggling continued apace, especially in New York and Philadelphia, where tea smuggling had always been more extensive than in Boston. Dutied British tea continued to be imported into Boston, however, especially by Richard Clarke
Richard Clarke (merchant)
Richard Clarke , Boston merchant and Loyalist, was the son of William and Hannah Clarke of Boston, where he was born. On May 3, 1733 he married Elizabeth Winslow, who has been variously said to be the daughter of Edmund, Isaac, and Col. Edward Winslow...

 and the sons of Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson, until pressure from Massachusetts Whigs compelled them to abide by the non-importation agreement.

Parliament finally responded to the protests by repealing the Townshend taxes in 1770, except for the tea duty, which Prime Minister Lord North kept to assert "the right of taxing the Americans". This partial repeal of the taxes was enough to bring an end to the non-importation movement by October 1770. From 1771 to 1773, British tea was once again imported into the colonies in significant amounts, with merchants paying the Townshend duty of three pence per pound. Boston was the largest colonial importer of legal tea; smugglers still dominated the market in New York and Philadelphia.

Tea Act of 1773

The Indemnity Act of 1767, which gave the East India Company a refund of the duty on tea that was re-exported to the colonies, expired in 1772. Parliament passed a new act in 1772 that reduced this refund, effectively leaving a 10% duty on tea imported into Britain. The act also restored the tea taxes within Britain that had been repealed in 1767, and left in place the three pence
Penny
A penny is a coin or a type of currency used in several English-speaking countries. It is often the smallest denomination within a currency system.-Etymology:...

 Townshend duty in the colonies. With this new tax burden driving up the price of British tea, sales plummeted. The company continued to import tea into Great Britain, however, amassing a huge surplus of product that no one would buy. For these and other reasons, by late 1772 the East India Company, one of Britain's most important commercial institutions, was in a serious financial crisis.

Eliminating some of the taxes was one obvious solution to the crisis. The East India Company initially sought to have the Townshend duty repealed, but the North ministry was unwilling because such an action might be interpreted as a retreat from Parliament's position that it had the right to tax the colonies. More importantly, the tax collected from the Townshend duty was used to pay the salaries of some colonial governors and judges. This was in fact the purpose of the Townshend tax: previously these officials had been paid by the colonial assemblies, but Parliament now paid their salaries to keep them dependent on the British government rather than allowing them to be accountable to the colonists.

Another possible solution for reducing the growing mound of tea in the East India Company warehouses was to sell it cheaply in Europe. This possibility was investigated, but it was determined that the tea would simply be smuggled back into Great Britain, where it would undersell the taxed product. The best market for the East India Company's surplus tea, so it seemed, was the American colonies, if a way could be found to make it cheaper than the smuggled Dutch tea.

The North ministry's solution was the Tea Act
Tea Act
The Tea Act was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain. Its principal overt objective was to reduce the massive surplus of tea held by the financially troubled British East India Company in its London warehouses. A related objective was to undercut the price of tea smuggled into Britain's...

, which received the assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

 of King George
George III of the United Kingdom
George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of these two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death...

 on May 10, 1773. This act restored the East India Company's full refund on the duty for importing tea into Britain, and also permitted the company, for the first time, to export tea to the colonies on its own account. This would allow the company to reduce costs by eliminating the middlemen who bought the tea at wholesale auctions in London. Instead of selling to middlemen, the company now appointed colonial merchants to receive the tea on consignment
Consignment
Consignment the act of consigning, which is placing any material in the hand of another, but retaining ownership until the goods are sold or person is transferred. This may be done for shipping, transfer of prisoners, to auction, or for sale in a store Consignment the act of consigning, which is...

; the consignees would in turn sell the tea for a commission. In July 1773, tea consignees were selected in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Charleston.

The Tea Act retained the three pence Townshend duty on tea imported to the colonies. Some members of Parliament wanted to eliminate this tax, arguing that there was no reason to provoke another colonial controversy. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer William Dowdeswell, for example, warned Lord North that the Americans would not accept the tea if the Townshend duty remained. But North did not want to give up the revenue from the Townshend tax, primarily because it was used to pay the salaries of colonial officials; maintaining the right of taxing the Americans was a secondary concern. According to historian Benjamin Labaree, "A stubborn Lord North had unwittingly hammered a nail in the coffin of the old British Empire."

Even with the Townshend duty in effect, the Tea Act would allow the East India Company to sell tea more cheaply than before, undercutting the prices offered by smugglers. In 1772, legally imported Bohea
Bohea
Bohea , a kind of oolong, or, in the 18th and early 19th centuries, black tea generally, as in Pope's line, "So past her time 'twixt reading and bohea.", or from Frances Hodgson Burnett's book 'A Lady Of Quality': "One may be sure that...many dishes of Bohea were drunk." Later the name 'bohea' has...

, the most common variety of tea, sold for about 3 shilling
Shilling
The shilling is a unit of currency used in some current and former British Commonwealth countries. The word shilling comes from scilling, an accounting term that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times where it was deemed to be the value of a cow in Kent or a sheep elsewhere. The word is thought to derive...

s (3s) per pound. After the Tea Act, colonial consignees would be able to sell it for 2 shillings per pound (2s), just under the smugglers' price of 2 shillings and 1 penny (2s 1d). Realizing that the payment of the Townshend duty was politically sensitive, the company hoped to conceal the tax by making arrangements to have it paid either in London once the tea was landed in the colonies, or have the consignees quietly pay the duties after the tea was sold. This effort to hide the tax from the colonists was unsuccessful.

Resisting the Tea Act

In September and October 1773, seven ships carrying East India Company tea were sent to the colonies: four were bound for Boston, and one each for New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. In the ships were more than 2,000 chests containing nearly 600,000 pounds of tea. Americans learned the details of the Tea Act while the ships were en route, and opposition began to mount. Whigs, sometimes calling themselves Sons of Liberty
Sons of Liberty
The Sons of Liberty were a political group made up of American patriots that originated in the pre-independence North American British colonies. The group was formed to protect the rights of the colonists from the usurpations by the British government after 1766...

, began a campaign to raise awareness and to convince or compel the consignees to resign, in the same way that stamp distributors had been forced to resign in the 1765 Stamp Act crisis.

The protest movement that culminated with the Boston Tea Party was not a dispute about high taxes. The price of legally imported tea was actually reduced by the Tea Act of 1773. Protestors were instead concerned with a variety of other issues. The familiar "no taxation without representation" argument, along with the question of the extent of Parliament's authority in the colonies, remained prominent. Some regarded the purpose of the tax program—to make leading officials independent of colonial influence—as a dangerous infringement of colonial rights. This was especially true in Massachusetts, the only colony where the Townshend program had been fully implemented.

Colonial merchants, some of them smugglers, played a significant role in the protests. Because the Tea Act made legally imported tea cheaper, it threatened to put smugglers of Dutch tea out of business. Legitimate tea importers who had not been named as consignees by the East India Company were also threatened with financial ruin by the Tea Act. Another major concern for merchants was that the Tea Act gave the East India Company a monopoly on the tea trade, and it was feared that this government-created monopoly might be extended in the future to include other goods.

South of Boston, protestors successfully compelled the tea consignees to resign. In Charleston, the consignees had been forced to resign by early December, and the unclaimed tea was seized by customs officials. There were mass protest meetings in Philadelphia. Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush was a Founding Father of the United States. Rush lived in the state of Pennsylvania and was a physician, writer, educator, humanitarian and a Christian Universalist, as well as the founder of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania....

 urged his fellow countrymen to oppose the landing of the tea, because the cargo contained "the seeds of slavery". By early December, the Philadelphia consignees had resigned and the tea ship returned to England with its cargo
Philadelphia Tea Party
The Philadelphia Tea Party was an incident in October 16, 1773, two months before the more famous Boston Tea Party, in which a British tea ship was intercepted by American colonists and forced to return its cargo to Great Britain.- Background :...

 following a confrontation with the ship's captain. The tea ship bound for New York City was delayed by bad weather; by the time it arrived, the consignees had resigned, and the ship returned to England with the tea.

Standoff in Boston

In every colony except Massachusetts, protestors were able to force the tea consignees to resign or to return the tea to England. In Boston, however, Governor Hutchinson was determined to hold his ground. He convinced the tea consignees, two of whom were his sons, not to back down.

When the tea ship Dartmouth arrived in the Boston Harbor in late November, Whig leader Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

 called for a mass meeting to be held at Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall , located near the waterfront and today's Government Center, in Boston, Massachusetts, has been a marketplace and a meeting hall since 1742. It was the site of several speeches by Samuel Adams, James Otis, and others encouraging independence from Great Britain, and is now part of...

 on November 29, 1773. Thousands of people arrived, so many that the meeting was moved to the larger Old South Meeting House
Old South Meeting House
The Old South Meeting House , in the Downtown Crossing area of Boston, Massachusetts, gained fame as the organizing point for the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. 5,000 colonists gathered at the Meeting House, the largest building in Boston at the time.-Church :The church, with its 56 m ...

. British law required the Dartmouth to unload and pay the duties within twenty days or customs officials could confiscate the cargo. The mass meeting passed a resolution, introduced by Adams and based on a similar set of resolutions promulgated earlier in Philadelphia
Philadelphia Tea Party
The Philadelphia Tea Party was an incident in October 16, 1773, two months before the more famous Boston Tea Party, in which a British tea ship was intercepted by American colonists and forced to return its cargo to Great Britain.- Background :...

, urging the captain of the Dartmouth to send the ship back without paying the import duty. Meanwhile, the meeting assigned twenty-five men to watch the ship and prevent the tea—including a number of chests from Davison, Newman and Co. of London—from being unloaded.

Governor Hutchinson refused to grant permission for the Dartmouth to leave without paying the duty. Two more tea ships, the Eleanor and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor (there was another tea ship headed for Boston, the William, but it encountered a storm and was destroyed before it could reach its destination). On December 16—the last day of the Dartmouth's deadline—about 7,000 people had gathered around the Old South Meeting House. After receiving a report that Governor Hutchinson had again refused to let the ships leave, Adams announced that "This meeting can do nothing further to save the country." According to a popular story, Adams's statement was a prearranged signal for the "tea party" to begin. However, this claim did not appear in print until nearly a century after the event, in a biography of Adams written by his great-grandson, who apparently misinterpreted the evidence. According to eyewitness accounts, people did not leave the meeting until ten or fifteen minutes after Adams's alleged "signal", and Adams in fact tried to stop people from leaving because the meeting was not yet over.

Destruction of the tea

While Samuel Adams tried to reassert control of the meeting, people poured out of the Old South Meeting House and headed to Boston Harbor. That evening, a group of 30 to 130 men, some of them thinly disguised as Mohawk Indians
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

, boarded the three vessels and, over the course of three hours, dumped all 342 chests of tea into the water. The precise location of the Griffin's Wharf site of the Tea Party has been subject to prolonged uncertainty; a comprehensive study places it near the foot of Hutchinson Street (today's Pearl Street).

Reaction

Whether or not Samuel Adams helped plan the Boston Tea Party is unknown, but he immediately worked to publicize and defend it. He argued that the Tea Party was not the act of a lawless mob, but was instead a principled protest and the only remaining option the people had to defend their constitutional rights.

Governor Thomas Hutchinson had been urging London to take a hard line with the Sons of Liberty. If he had done what the other royal governors had done and let the ship owners and captains resolve the issue with the colonists, the Dartmouth, Eleanor and the Beaver would have left without unloading any tea.

In Britain, even those politicians considered friends of the colonies were appalled and this act united all parties there against the colonies. The Prime Minister Lord North said, "Whatever may be the consequence, we must risk something; if we do not, all is over". The British government felt this action could not remain unpunished, and responded by closing the port of Boston and putting in place other laws known as the "Coercive Acts".

In the colonies, Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 stated that the destroyed tea must be repaid, all 90,000 pounds (which, at two shillings per pound, comes to £9,000, or £ today). Robert Murray, a New York merchant, went to Lord North with three other merchants and offered to pay for the losses, but the offer was turned down. A number of colonists were inspired to carry out similar acts, such as the burning of the Peggy Stewart. The Boston Tea Party eventually proved to be one of the many reactions that led to the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

.

In February, 1775, Britain passed the Conciliatory Resolution
Conciliatory Resolution
The Conciliatory Resolution was a resolution passed by the British Parliament in an attempt to reach a peaceful settlement with the Thirteen Colonies immediately prior to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War....

, which ended taxation for any colony that satisfactorily provided for the imperial defense and the upkeep of imperial officers. The tax on tea was repealed with the Taxation of Colonies Act 1778
Taxation of Colonies Act 1778
The Taxation of Colonies Act 1778 was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain which declared that Parliament would not impose any duty, tax, or assessment for the raising of revenue in any of the colonies of British America or the British West Indies...

, part of another Parliamentary attempt at conciliation that failed.

Legacy

According to historian Alfred Young, the term "Boston Tea Party" did not appear in print until 1834. Before that time, the event was usually referred to as the "destruction of the tea". According to Young, American writers were for many years apparently reluctant to celebrate the destruction of property, and so the event was usually ignored in histories of the American Revolution. This began to change in the 1830s, however, especially with the publication of biographies of George Robert Twelves Hewes
George Robert Twelves Hewes
George Robert Twelves Hewes was one of the last survivors of the American Revolution. He participated in the political protests in Boston at the onset of the Revolution, including the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre. Later he fought in the American Revolutionary War as a militiaman and...

, one of the few still-living participants of the "tea party", as it then became known.

The Boston Tea Party has often been referenced in other political protests. When Mohandas K. Gandhi led a mass burning of Indian registration cards in South Africa in 1908, a British newspaper compared the event to the Boston Tea Party. When Gandhi met with the British viceroy in 1930 after the Indian salt protest
Salt Satyagraha
The Salt March, also known as the Salt Satyagrahah began with the Dandi March on March 12, 1930, and was an important part of the Indian independence movement. It was a campaign of tax resistance and nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly in colonial India, and triggered the wider...

 campaign, Gandhi took some duty-free salt from his shawl and said, with a smile, that the salt was "to remind us of the famous Boston Tea Party."

American activists from a variety of political viewpoints have invoked the Tea Party as a symbol of protest. In 1973, on the 200th anniversary of the Tea Party, a mass meeting at Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall , located near the waterfront and today's Government Center, in Boston, Massachusetts, has been a marketplace and a meeting hall since 1742. It was the site of several speeches by Samuel Adams, James Otis, and others encouraging independence from Great Britain, and is now part of...

 called for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 and protested oil companies in the ongoing oil crisis
1973 oil crisis
The 1973 oil crisis started in October 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC proclaimed an oil embargo. This was "in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. It lasted until March 1974. With the...

. Afterwards, protesters boarded a replica ship in Boston Harbor, hanged Nixon in effigy, and dumped several empty oil drums into the harbor. In 1998, two conservative US Congressmen put the federal tax code
Internal Revenue Code
The Internal Revenue Code is the domestic portion of Federal statutory tax law in the United States, published in various volumes of the United States Statutes at Large, and separately as Title 26 of the United States Code...

 into a chest marked "tea" and dumped it into the harbor.

In 2006, a libertarian political party called the "Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party (political party)
The Boston Tea Party is a U.S. political party named after the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Its ideology is libertarian.A group of former Libertarian Party members founded the party in 2006...

" was founded. In 2007, the Ron Paul
Ron Paul
Ronald Ernest "Ron" Paul is an American physician, author and United States Congressman who is seeking to be the Republican Party candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Paul represents Texas's 14th congressional district, which covers an area south and southwest of Houston that includes...

 "Tea Party" money bomb, held on the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, broke the one-day fund-raising record by raising $6.04 million in 24 hours.

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