When the members of British Parliament debated the Tea Act, some were skeptical of the measure’s success. William Dowdeswell stood up and said, “I tell the Lord Noble [the bill’s author] now, if he don’t take off the duty, they won’t take the tea.” He had little idea how accurate he would be. The majority of Parliament’s members didn’t side with Dowdesdell, and the Tea Act of 1773 was passed in May.
Over the next few months, word of the Tea Act began trickling through the Colonies. It was accompanied by a rumor that 300 chests of tea were headed for Boston Harbor in what appeared to be a test of wills. Those opposed to the Act moved into high gear, working hard to convince their fellow citizens to abstain from British tea. The Town Meeting of Boston met and, led by Samuel Adams, drafted a resolution reminding men of their freedoms and chastising the British for, once again, imposing legislation on the Colonies without consent.
Newspapers got into the act as well. The Massachusetts Spy turned up the rhetoric and Ira Stoll’s biography of Samuel Adams gives the details. The paper suggested that the (supposedly) incoming tea would likely be infested with disease-carrying insects. It could not be sold in England, so it was being shipped to the Colonies. The best remedy was simply to avoid the tea altogether.
On November 28, 1773, the rumor became reality when the Dartmouth arrived in Boston Harbor, carrying 114 chests of East India Company tea. The Eleanor arrived on December 2nd with another 114 chests and the Beaver joined them on the 15th with her 112 chests.
The pieces were now in place for the most famous of all pre-Revolution events…The Boston Tea Party.
Recommended Viewing: The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum website – Lots of great stuff, and an actual museum that’s currently under construction.