On December 16, 1773, a monumental event took place that was crucial to the growth of the American Revolution. This event was known as The Boston Tea Party, taking place in Boston, a city in the British colony of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Patriots were in immense disapproval on how parliament was trying to monopolize the market on American tea importation granted to the East India Company (Boston Tea Party). The East India Company was a failing British corporation. This Company was on the verge of bankruptcy. They had millions of pounds of unsold tea that sat in warehouses.
The idea was to persuade English and colonial consumers to buy East India Company tea to save one of Britain’s largest corporations. In order to make this happen, British Parliament proposed the Tea Act of 1773. The Tea Act allowed the East India Company to sell through agents in America without paying the taxes normally collected in Britain, which allowed the company to undersell even smugglers in the colonies (David Goldfield). What drew major controversy with the Tea Act was that it retained the three pence Townshend duty on tea imported to the colonies.
The colonists objected to the Tea Act. They believed that this act violated their rights to “No taxation without representation,” which meant that they would only be taxed by their own elected representatives and not by the British Parliament that did not represent them. Regardless of what the colonists thought, consignees were selected in Boston, New York, Charleston, and Philadelphia, and then 500,000 pounds of tea were shipped across the Atlantic in September. The first tea ship, Dartmouth, reached Boston November 27, and two more were sent shortly after that.
There were several meetings held demanding that the tea be sent back to England with the duty not paid for. Tension was rising when patriot groups tried to persuade the consignees and the governor to accept this approach. On December 16th, citizens, some disguised as Mohawk Indians, pushed toward Griffin’s Wharf and boarded the tea ships (Boston Tea Party). In a course of three hours they dumped three hundred and forty two chests of tea into the harbor, turning it into a teapot (Boston Tea Party Historical Society). The chests held more than 90,000 pounds of tea, which would cost nearly $1,000,000 dollars today (Boston Tea Party).
There were certainly several participants and witnesses to the accounts of what occurred at the Boston Tea Party. Although all of the participants were taking part in the same event, their memories of their accounts do seem to differ. The first thing that I noticed was the number of participants. David Kinnison, the longest surviving participant from the Boston Tea Party, claims that there were only 24 men involved (Boston Tea Party Historical Society). His statement matches up well with Samuel Cooper, a participant that was just 16 at the time, who claims that there were around 20 men (Boston Tea Party Historical Society).
Then you have John Andrews, claiming that there were around 200 citizens dressed as Indians. Another thing that seems unclear is the way the ships were taken over (Boston Tea Party Historical Society). George Hewes, a Boston shoemaker and participant, states that they were divided into 3 groups, one for each ship. Joshua Wyeth, also a participant, who was only just 16, also states that they took to the three ships at the same time. On the other hand, the Massachusetts Gazette states that they worked their way from ship to ship, after emptying one ship they would move to the next.
There are many differences in the accounts of what exactly happened at the Boston Tea Party, which I think helps decipher the truthful accounts from the fabricated ones (Boston Tea Party Historical Society). Most of the witnesses that were actually a part of the Boston Tea Party had testimonies that were exceptionally similar. I believe the only thing that may have caused them to be slightly different would be the fact that it was a little over half a century later when they were trying to recollect the events.
I also think that the participants swearing to secrecy had an impact on some of the misleading information, such as the discrepancy on the number of participants. Most of the participants had mentioned around 20 men being involved, when in fact the number was found to be a lot greater than that. The participants in the destruction did not even acknowledge each other even when boarding the ships, breaking open the chests and dumping the tea, so of course they are not going to be truthful about how many citizens were actually involved.
I also believe that some of the information misinterpreted for fabrication might be due to the participant not writing their story themselves. George Hewes account of what happened was written by him, Joshua Wyeth’s account was recorded from his words, Samuel Cooper’s came directly from him also. All of these accounts seemed to be relatively similar; where as accounts that were retold by biographers may have changed along the way. Also, participants stories did not coincide on what time the event was actually over.
John Andrews wrote that before nine o’clock every chest was destroyed, but Samuel Cooper’s account placed the end of the destruction at ten o’clock (Boston Tea Party Historical Society). Considering that Samuel Cooper had a role in this momentous event, I would give him the benefit of the doubt as to telling the truth of when the event actually came to an end (Boston Tea Party Historical Society). Another person who played an interesting role in the Boston Tea Party was Paul Revere. Revere felt strongly about the movement toward political independence from Great Britain.
He was a very well rounded artisan and intellectual. Revere was a silversmith whose work brought him in close contact with patriots like John Hancock and Samuel Adams. He used his talents to support the colonial struggle against Britain. Revere soon assumed the role of a leader, along with Adams, of the Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty were a secret patriotic organization formed in 1765 to prevent the Stamp Act (Paul Revere). The Sons of Liberty also organized the Boston Tea Party.
Revere was also one of the many patriots who dressed up as an Indian and took part in the Boston Tea Party Protest against parliamentary taxation without representation (Boston Tea Party Historical Society). After the Tea Party, Revere was sent by the citizens of Boston to deliver news of the party to the other colonists in New York and Philadelphia. When he returned, he was appointed one of 25 men by the citizens of Boston to stand guard over the tea bearing vessels, in order to prevent the overexcited townspeople from doing further damage to the ship (Facts on Paul Revere).
I would say Paul Revere played a significant role in the Boston Tea Party; he played the part of a ringleader and was a very influential role model. The acts that he participated in would not be condoned by Britain. The Boston Tea Party ultimately captured the attention of Parliament and produced a furious reaction. A lot of people in America and also in Britain were surprised about the destruction of property in the Tea Party. Parliament decided that this epic event demanded an immediate display of power. In the spring of 1774, parliament passed a series of totalitarian measures to be known as the Coercive Acts.
These acts included the Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until Bostonians paid for the tea and uncollected duties. The Massachusetts Government Act, this act stated that members of the governor’s council and sheriffs would be appointed rather than elected and limited the number of town meetings that could be held without the governor’s prior approval. The Administration of Justice Act, which allowed any British soldier or official who was charged with a crime to be tried in England, where they would most likely receive a slap on the wrist.
The Quartering Act of 1774 permitted the army to lodge soldiers in any civilian building if necessary. All of these acts were in response to the Boston Tea Party and attempts of Britain to gain royal control. Most colonists referred to these acts as the Intolerable Acts rather than the Coercive Acts, they viewed these acts as a threat to liberty in the colonies. The spirit of protest began to spread, more and more colonists became politicized. They began to realize their common interests as Americans and their differences from the British. America was starting to rebel, but had not yet launched a revolution (David Goldfield).
Although, the acts they were taking were starting to have a major influence on America. The Boston Tea Party effected America in many ways. There were a lot of different factors and rebellious acts that eventually snowballed into war, but I would say the Boston Tea Party was the most significant. The passing of the Coercive Acts and parliaments refusal to revoke them led to a great deal of disgruntlement from the colonists. The Boston Tea party most definitely sparked the Revolution, which may have otherwise been delayed or never happened at all.
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