Thirteen Colonies. Great Britain. American Patriots strongly opposed the taxes in the Townshend Act as a violation of their rights.
The Boston Tea Party of 1773
Demonstrators, some disguised as Native Americans , destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company. They boarded the ships and threw the chests of tea into the Boston Harbor. The British government responded harshly and the episode escalated into the American Revolution.
The Tea Party became an iconic event of American history, and since then other political protests such as the Tea Party movement have referred to themselves as historical successors to the Boston protest of The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America against the Tea Act, which had been passed by the British Parliament in Colonists objected to the Tea Act because they believed that it violated their rights as Englishmen to " no taxation without representation ", that is, to be taxed only by their own elected representatives and not by a British parliament in which they were not represented.
Boston Tea Party
In addition, the well-connected East India Company had been granted competitive advantages over colonial tea importers, who resented the move and feared additional infringement on their business. Protesters had successfully prevented the unloading of tea in three other colonies, but in Boston, embattled Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to allow the tea to be returned to Britain.
Parliament responded in with the Intolerable Acts , or Coercive Acts, which, among other provisions, ended local self-government in Massachusetts and closed Boston's commerce. Colonists up and down the Thirteen Colonies in turn responded to the Intolerable Acts with additional acts of protest, and by convening the First Continental Congress , which petitioned the British monarch for repeal of the acts and coordinated colonial resistance to them.
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The crisis escalated, and the American Revolutionary War began near Boston in The Boston Tea Party arose from two issues confronting the British Empire in the financial problems of the British East India Company; and an ongoing dispute about the extent of Parliament's authority, if any, over the British American colonies without seating any elected representation. The North Ministry 's attempt to resolve these issues produced a showdown that would eventually result in revolution. As Europeans developed a taste for tea in the 17th century, rival companies were formed to import the product from China.
British firms bought this tea and exported it to the colonies, where they resold it to merchants in Boston, New York , Philadelphia , and Charleston. These high taxes, combined with the fact that tea imported into the Dutch Republic was not taxed by the Dutch government, meant that Britons and British Americans could buy smuggled Dutch tea at much cheaper prices.
Controversy between Great Britain and the colonies arose in the s when Parliament sought, for the first time, to impose a direct tax on the colonies for the purpose of raising revenue. Some colonists, known in the colonies as Whigs , objected to the new tax program, arguing that it was a violation of the British Constitution. Britons and British Americans agreed that, according to the constitution, British subjects could not be taxed without the consent of their elected representatives.
In Great Britain, this meant that taxes could only be levied by Parliament. Colonists, however, did not elect members of Parliament, and so American Whigs argued that the colonies could not be taxed by that body. According to Whigs, colonists could only be taxed by their own colonial assemblies. Colonial protests resulted in the repeal of the Stamp Act in , but in the Declaratory Act , Parliament continued to insist that it had the right to legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever".
When new taxes were levied in the Townshend Revenue Act of , Whig colonists again responded with protests and boycotts.
Merchants organized a non-importation agreement, and many colonists pledged to abstain from drinking British tea , with activists in New England promoting alternatives, such as domestic Labrador tea. Dutied British tea continued to be imported into Boston, however, especially by Richard Clarke and the sons of Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson , until pressure from Massachusetts Whigs compelled them to abide by the non-importation agreement. Parliament finally responded to the protests by repealing the Townshend taxes in , except for the tea duty, which Prime Minister Lord North kept to assert "the right of taxing the Americans".
The Indemnity Act of , which gave the East India Company a refund of the duty on tea that was re-exported to the colonies, expired in With this new tax burden driving up the price of British tea, sales plummeted.
The company continued to import tea into Great Britain, however, amassing a huge surplus of product that no one would buy. Eliminating some of the taxes was one obvious solution to the crisis. The East India Company initially sought to have the Townshend duty repealed, but the North ministry was unwilling because such an action might be interpreted as a retreat from Parliament's position that it had the right to tax the colonies. Another possible solution for reducing the growing mound of tea in the East India Company warehouses was to sell it cheaply in Europe.
This possibility was investigated, but it was determined that the tea would simply be smuggled back into Great Britain, where it would undersell the taxed product.
This would allow the company to reduce costs by eliminating the middlemen who bought the tea at wholesale auctions in London. The act granted the EIC a monopoly on the sale of tea that was cheaper than smuggled tea; its hidden purpose was to force the colonists to pay a tax of 3 pennies on every pound of tea.
The Tea Act thus retained the three pence Townshend duty on tea imported to the colonies. Some members of Parliament wanted to eliminate this tax, arguing that there was no reason to provoke another colonial controversy. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer William Dowdeswell , for example, warned Lord North that the Americans would not accept the tea if the Townshend duty remained.
Even with the Townshend duty in effect, the Tea Act would allow the East India Company to sell tea more cheaply than before, undercutting the prices offered by smugglers, but also undercutting colonial tea importers, who paid the tax and received no refund.
In , legally imported Bohea , the most common variety of tea, sold for about 3 shillings 3s per pound. This effort to hide the tax from the colonists was unsuccessful.
The Boston Tea Party
In September and October , seven ships carrying East India Company tea were sent to the colonies: four were bound for Boston, and one each for New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. The protest movement that culminated with the Boston Tea Party was not a dispute about high taxes. The price of legally imported tea was actually reduced by the Tea Act of Protesters were instead concerned with a variety of other issues. The familiar "no taxation without representation" argument, along with the question of the extent of Parliament's authority in the colonies, remained prominent.
Colonial merchants, some of them smugglers, played a significant role in the protests. Because the Tea Act made legally imported tea cheaper, it threatened to put smugglers of Dutch tea out of business. In New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, protesters successfully compelled the tea consignees to resign. In Charleston, the consignees had been forced to resign by early December, and the unclaimed tea was seized by customs officials.
Benjamin Rush urged his fellow countrymen to oppose the landing of the tea, because the cargo contained "the seeds of slavery". In every colony except Massachusetts, protesters were able to force the tea consignees to resign or to return the tea to England. He convinced the tea consignees, two of whom were his sons, not to back down. Thousands of people arrived, so many that the meeting was moved to the larger Old South Meeting House.
Meanwhile, the meeting assigned twenty-five men to watch the ship and prevent the tea — including a number of chests from Davison, Newman and Co. Governor Hutchinson refused to grant permission for Dartmouth to leave without paying the duty. Two more tea ships, Eleanor and Beaver , arrived in Boston Harbor there was another tea ship headed for Boston, William , but it encountered a storm and put aground at Cape Cod — where the tea cargo was successfully landed — before it could reach its destination  .
On December 16 — the last day of Dartmouth' s deadline — roughly 5,  to 7,  people out of a population of roughly 16,  had gathered around the Old South Meeting House. After receiving a report that Governor Hutchinson had again refused to let the ships leave, Adams announced that "This meeting can do nothing further to save the country.
However, this claim did not appear in print until nearly a century after the event, in a biography of Adams written by his great-grandson, who apparently misinterpreted the evidence.
While Samuel Adams tried to reassert control of the meeting, people poured out of the Old South Meeting House to prepare to take action. In some cases, this involved donning what may have been elaborately prepared Mohawk costumes. It showed that the Sons of Liberty identified with America, over their official status as subjects of Great Britain.
Boston Tea Party (1773) American Revolution
That evening, a group of 30 to men, some dressed in the Mohawk warrior disguises, boarded the three vessels and, over the course of three hours, dumped all chests of tea into the water.
Whether or not Samuel Adams helped plan the Boston Tea Party is disputed, but he immediately worked to publicize and defend it.
By "constitution" he referred to the idea that all governments have a constitution, written or not, and that the constitution of Great Britain could be interpreted as banning the levying of taxes without representation.
For example, the Bill of Rights of established that long-term taxes could not be levied without Parliament, and other precedents said that Parliament must actually represent the people it ruled over, in order to "count".
If he had done what the other royal governors had done and let the ship owners and captains resolve the issue with the colonists, Dartmouth , Eleanor and Beaver would have left without unloading any tea. In Britain, even those politicians considered friends of the colonies were appalled and this act united all parties there against the colonies. The Prime Minister Lord North said, "Whatever may be the consequence, we must risk something; if we do not, all is over".
The incident resulted in a similar effect in America when news of the Boston Tea Party reached London in January and Parliament responded with a series of acts known collectively in the colonies as the Intolerable Acts.
These were intended to punish Boston for the destruction of private property, restore British authority in Massachusetts, and otherwise reform colonial government in America.
Although the first two, the Boston Port Act and the Massachusetts Government Act , applied only to Massachusetts, colonists outside that colony feared that their governments could now also be changed by legislative fiat in England.
The Intolerable Acts were viewed as a violation of constitutional rights, natural rights , and colonial charters, and united many colonists throughout America,  exemplified by the calling of the First Continental Congress in September A number of colonists were inspired by the Boston Tea Party to carry out similar acts, such as the burning of Peggy Stewart.
The Tea Act
This is the most magnificent Movement of all. The People should never rise, without doing something to be remembered—something notable And striking. This Destruction of the Tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important Consequences, and so lasting, that I cant but consider it as an Epocha in History.
There was a repeat performance on March 7, , but it was much less destructive. In February , Britain passed the Conciliatory Resolution , which ended taxation for any colony that satisfactorily provided for the imperial defense and the upkeep of imperial officers.
The tax on tea was repealed with the Taxation of Colonies Act , part of another Parliamentary attempt at conciliation that failed.
John Adams and many other Americans considered tea drinking to be unpatriotic following the Boston Tea Party. Tea drinking declined during and after the Revolution, resulting in a shift to coffee as the preferred hot drink. According to historian Alfred Young , the term "Boston Tea Party" did not appear in print until According to Young, American writers were for many years apparently reluctant to celebrate the destruction of property, and so the event was usually ignored in histories of the American Revolution.
This began to change in the s, however, especially with the publication of biographies of George Robert Twelves Hewes , one of the few still-living participants of the "tea party", as it then became known. The issue was never the tax but how the tax was passed without American input; United States Congress taxed tea from to The Boston Tea Party has often been referenced in other political protests.
What happened at the Boston Tea Party?
When Mohandas K. Gandhi led a mass burning of Indian registration cards in South Africa in , a British newspaper compared the event to the Boston Tea Party. American activists from a variety of political viewpoints have invoked the Tea Party as a symbol of protest. In , on the th anniversary of the Tea Party, a mass meeting at Faneuil Hall called for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon and protested oil companies in the ongoing oil crisis.
Afterwards, protesters boarded a replica ship in Boston Harbor, hanged Nixon in effigy, and dumped several empty oil drums into the harbor. In , a libertarian political party called the " Boston Tea Party " was founded. It features reenactments, a documentary, and a number of interactive exhibits.