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Posts Tagged ‘1773’

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.

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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.

Almost…

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

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