The Boston Tea Party is one of those events in American history that really needs no introduction and no explanation. Frankly, very little needs to be said about it at all…it’s that well-known. The Sons of Liberty dressed themselves up like local tribes of Natives, boarded the tea ships in the harbor, and proceeded to dump 90,000 pounds of tea overboard. But maybe you didn’t know that it happened on December 16, 1773. So that should just about cover it for Today’s History Lesson.
Maybe we should give just a bit of context. The British East India Company enjoyed a government-sponsored monopoly on tea sales, not only in the Colonies, but in Britain as well. The Colonists (and the British, for that matter), desirous of avoiding the heavy taxes the monopoly allowed, turned to the world’s second oldest profession: smuggling. Tea from Holland wasn’t taxed, so purchasing it and sneaking it into the country for sale not only made the smugglers a fortune, but provided tea to consumers at a hefty discount. The British East India Company saw a significant reduction in sales.
Over time, the tea company’s plight worsened, and British government responded in a most progressive way. They simply reduced the tariffs on tea by passing the Tea Act of 1773 in May. The government took a hit in revenue, but this move wasn’t about revenue, it was about retribution. Now British tea was cheaper than the smuggled Dutch tea.
Many of the Colonists, some probably over cups of British tea, talked with raised voices and sharp hand gestures about how the British could simply run roughshod over them whenever they saw fit. A few of the Colonists decided that direct action was needed. And those were the seeds that, when planted and watered, grew to become the Boston Tea Party.
Recommended Reading: Samuel Adams: A Life