Throwing tea overboard: the Boston Tea Party's birth and its importance in US history

Categories: Boston Tea Party

The Boston Tea Party

Most people have heard about the Boston Tea Party. When Americans dumped British Tea in Boston Harbor. But not everyone understands the importance of it, and why the Tea Party is still remembered today.

It was on December 16, 1773, when American patriots disguised as Mohawk Indians threw 342 chests of tea belonging to the British East India Company from ships into Boston Harbor. The Americans were protesting both a tax on tea (the Townshend Acts) and the perceived monopoly of the East India Company (also the called English East India Company) (Britannica p.


The Townshend Acts were a series of four acts passed by the British Parliament in an attempt to assert what it considered to be its historic right of colonial authority through suspension of a recalcitrant representative assembly and through strict collection provisions of additional revenue duties. The British-American colonists named the acts after Charles Townshend, who sponsored them. The Suspending Act prohibited the New York Assembly from conducting any further business until it complied with the financial requirements of the Quartering Act (1765) for the expenses of British troops stationed there (Britannica p.

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1). The second act, often called the Townshend duties, and imposed direct revenue duties payable at colonial ports, on lead, glass, paper, paint, and tea. It was the second time in the history of the colonies that a tax had been levied solely for the purpose of raising revenue. The third act established strict and often arbitrary machinery of customs collection in the American Colonies, including additional officers, searchers, spies, coast guard vessels, search warrants, writs of assistance, and a Board of Customs Commissioners at Boston, all to be financed out of customs revenues (Britannica p.

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2). The fourth, and most important Townshend Act, lifted commercial duties on tea, allowing it to be exported to the Colonies free of all British taxes.

The acts posed an immediate threat to established traditions of colonial self-government. They were resisted everywhere with verbal agitation and physical violence, deliberate evasion of duties, renewed importation arguments among merchants, and overt acts of hostility toward British enforcement agents, especially in Boston. Colonial tumult, coupled with the instability of frequently changing British ministries resulted at the Boston Massacre (Britannica p1). In repeal all revenue duties except that on tea were lifted.

In 1773 Parliament passed a Tea Act designed to aid the financially troubled East Indian Company by granting it a monopoly on all tea exported to the colonies, an exemption on the export tax, and a "drawback" (refund) on duties owed on certain surplus quantities of tea in its possession. The tea sent to the colonies was to be carried only in East India Company ships and sold only through its own agents, bypassing the independent colonial shippers and merchants. The company thus could sell the tea at a less-than-usual price in either America or Britain; it could undersell anyone else (Britannica p.1). The perception of monopoly drove the normally conservative colonial merchants into an alliance with radicals, Sons of Liberty led by Samuel Adams

In such cities as New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, tea agents resigned or canceled orders and merchants refused consignments. In Boston, however, the royal governor Thomas Hutchinson determined to uphold the law and maintained that three arriving ships, the Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver, should be allowed to deposit their cargoes and that appropriate duties should be honored. On the night of Dec. 16, 1773, a group of about 60 men, encouraged by a large crowd of Bostonians, donned blankets and Indian headdresses, marched to Griffin's wharf, boarded the ships, and dumped the tea chests, valued at £18,000, into the water (Britannica p.1).

In retaliation, Parliament passed the series of punitive measures known in the colonies as the Intolerable Acts, firs the Boston Port Bill, which shut off the city's sea trade pending payment for the destroyed tea. Second, the Massachusetts Government Act abrogated the colony's charter of 1691, reducing it to the level of a crown colony, substituting a military government under General Thomas Gage, and forbidding town meetings without approval. Third, the Administration of Justice Act, was aimed at protecting British officials charged with capital offenses during law enforcement by allowing them to go to England or another colony for trial. The fourth Coercive Act included new arrangements for housing British troops in occupied American dwellings, thus reviving the indignation that surrounded the earlier Quartering Act, which had been allowed to expire in 1770. The British government's efforts to single out Massachusetts for punishment served only to unite the colonies and impel the drift toward war. (Britannica p.2)

Hopefully I have enlightened you on the subject of the Boston Tea party. It is easy to see how the first protest from the Sons of Liberty was so important. This event set the stage for many gruesome years in the fight for our nations independence. The Boston Tea Party helped to shape our great country to what it is today.

Updated: Feb 27, 2024
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Throwing tea overboard: the Boston Tea Party's birth and its importance in US history. (2024, Feb 27). Retrieved from

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