The Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773


.
.

Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
.

Without the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, the American revolutionary war would not have taken place at all; or would have been delayed for many decades more.

Boston Tea Party - 01

Canada, France, and the United Kingdom use the name Seven Years’ War to describe the European and Asian conflicts, as well as the North American conflict.

The “French and Indian War” (1754–1763) is the American nomenclature for the North American theater of the Seven Years’ War fought primarily between the colonies of British America and New France, with both sides supported by military units from their parent countries, namely Great Britain and France. However, many historians and scholars in America, such as Fred Anderson like their colleagues in other countries refer to the conflict as the “Seven Years’ War”, regardless of the theatre.

The British distracted by the French and Indian war were losing control over their colonial governments that were increasingly vying for independence. The wars proved costly for the British. The Imperial Crown wanted to reestablish sovereign control over their colonies. At the end of the war in 1763, as a means of recouping the war expenses, King George III and his government contemplated on taxing the American colonies.

The Stamp Act (1765), the Townshend Acts (1767) and the Boston Massacre (1770) infuriated the colonists in America, straining relations with the mother country.

In the 17th century, Europeans developed a taste for tea and many companies in Europe imported tea from China. In 1698, the English Parliament gave the monopoly to the East India Company to import tea. Until 1767, the East India Company paid an ad valorem tax of about 25% on tea that it imported into Great Britain.

Soon tea became popular in the British colonies. The East India Company did not export tea to the colonies; the law required the company to sell the tea it imported to wholesalers at auctions in England. British firms bought this tea and exported it to the colonies, where they resold it to merchants in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.

The Dutch government did not tax tea imported into Holland. However, the English Parliament imposed additional taxes on tea sold for consumption in Britain. These high taxes impelled the Britons and the British Americans to buy smuggled Dutch tea at much cheaper prices. Soon England became the biggest market for smuggled tea. In 1760s, the East India Company was losing £400,000 per year to smugglers in Great Britain. At the same time, British America smuggled Dutch tea in significant quantities because they did not have to bear the 25% tax on tea which the East India Company paid to the British government.

In 1767, to help the East India Company compete with smuggled Dutch tea, the English Parliament passed the Indemnity Act which lowered the tax on tea consumed in Great Britain. It also gave the East India Company a refund of the 25% duty on tea re-exported to the colonies. This move reduced the price of legally imported tea. Even so, the colonists concerned with a variety of other issues protested.

To offset the loss of government revenue, the English Parliament passed the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767, which levied new taxes in the colonies. Townshend’s taxes rekindled the controversy about the right of the English Parliament to tax the colonies. This laid the groundwork for the American Revolution.

In early 1770s, the British East India Company was in financial difficulties. It held a massive surplus of tea in its London warehouses. To help the struggling company survive, and also to undercut the price of tea smuggled into Britain’s North American colonies, the English Parliament presented the Tea Act of 1773. This Act granted the British East India Company the right to ship its tea directly to North America and the right to the duty-free export of tea from Britain. However, the tax imposed by the Townshend Acts and collected in the colonies remained in force. The Tea Act received the royal assent on May 10, 1773.

To offset the loss of government revenue, the English Parliament passed the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767, which levied new taxes in the colonies. Townshend’s taxes rekindled the controversy about the right of the English Parliament to tax the colonies. This laid the groundwork for the American Revolution.

The Indemnity Act of 1767, which gave the British East India Company a refund of duty on re-exported tea to the colonies, expired in 1772. This left the Company in serious financial crisis. It held a massive surplus of tea in its London warehouses.

To help the struggling company survive, and also to undercut the price of tea smuggled into Britain’s North American colonies, the English Parliament presented the Tea Act of 1773.

The Tea Act forced the colonies to import tea only from Great Britain. This Act granted the British East India Company the right to ship its tea directly to North America and the right to the duty-free export of tea from Britain. However, the tax imposed by the Townshend Acts and collected in the colonies remained in force. The Tea Act received the royal assent on May 10, 1773.

The Tea Act allowed the British East India Company to reduce costs of the tea by eliminating the middlemen who bought the tea at wholesale auctions in London. In July 1773, the Company selected colonial merchants in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Charleston to receive the tea on consignment. The consignees would in turn sell the tea for a commission.

Nathaniel Dance Lord North

Prime Minister Frederick North

However, the Tea Act retained the three pence Townshend duty on tea imported to the colonies. Some members of the English Parliament argued that there was no reason to provoke another controversy since the Americans would not accept the tea if the Townshend duty remained; even so, Prime Minister Fredriclk North did not want to give up the revenue from the Townshend tax that primarily served to pay the salaries of colonial officials. He maintained the right of taxing the Americans was a secondary concern. According to historian Benjamin Labaree, “A stubborn Lord North had unwittingly hammered a nail in the coffin of the old British Empire.”

In September and October 1773, seven ships carrying more than 2,000 chests containing nearly 600,000 pounds of East India Company tea set sail to the American colonies – four bound for Boston and one each for New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.

While the ships were en route, Americans learned the details of the Tea Act. Whigs (a nickname for Patriots), sometimes calling themselves Sons of Liberty mobilized a coalition of merchants and artisans to oppose the delivery and distribution of the inbound tea. They began a campaign to raise awareness about the implications of the provisions in the Tea Acts, namely, implicitly agreeing to accept English Parliament’s right of taxation.

The colonies sent no representatives to the British Parliament, and so they had no influence over the taxes raised, levied, or how they would be spent. Therefore, they objected to the Tea Act because they believed it violated their rights as Englishmen to be taxed without their consent. They raised the slogan:

“No Taxation Without Representation”

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 the smugglers of Dutch tea out of business. Other legitimate importers of tea, not chosen as consignees by the British East India Company, also faced financial ruin because of the Tea Act. Most American merchants feared that this type of government-created monopoly might be extended to include other goods in the future.

Governor Thomas Hutchinson

Thomas Hutchinson, the last civilian Royal Governor of the Massachusetts Colony.

The Whigs convinced, and in some instances harassed the Company’s authorized consignees to resign, in the same way the stamp distributors were forced to resign during the 1765 Stamp Act crisis. They successfully prevented the unloading of taxed tea in three colonies and forced the ships to turn back to England. They could not do so in Massachusetts. In Boston, Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to allow the tea to be returned to England. He convinced the tea consignees, two of whom were his sons, not to back down.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, painted by Charles Willson

Dr. Benjamin Rush, painted by Charles Willson

Benjamin Franklin said the British were trying to use cheap tea to “overcome all the patriotism of an American”. Benjamin Rush, a Founding Father of the United States who lived in the state of Pennsylvania urged his fellow Americans to oppose the landing of the tea, because the cargo contained “the seeds of slavery”.

When the Philadelphians received word that the East India Company’s tea shipments were on their way, on October 16th, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Colonel William Bradford, Thomas Mifflin, Dr. Thomas Cadwalader, and other local leaders and members of the Philadelphia Sons of Liberty organized a meeting at the Pennsylvania State House. They adopted eight resolutions, one of which stated: “That the duty imposed by Parliament upon tea landed in America is a tax on the Americans, or levying contributions on them without their consent.” The most important one read:

“That the resolution lately entered into by the East India Company, to send out their tea to America subject to the payment of duties on its being landed here, is an open attempt to enforce the ministerial plan, and a violent attack upon the liberties of America.”

Printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette, these declarations comprised the first public protest against the importation of taxed tea from England.

Samuel Adams -  one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Samuel Adams – one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

In Boston, Whig leader Samuel Adams called for a mass meeting to be held at Faneuil Hall. Three weeks later, on November 5, 1773, at a town meeting at Faneuil Hall the Bostonians adopted the same resolutions that Philadelphians had promulgated earlier. In their resolution the Bostonians declared:

“That the Sense of the Town cannot be better expressed on this Occasion, than in the words of certain Judicious Resolves lately entered into by our worthy Brethren the Citizens of Philadelphia”

(fromResolutions Of The Town Of Boston, November 5, 1773“, Boston Record Commissioner’s Report, vol. xviii., pp. 142, 143; a draft of the preamble, in the handwriting of Adams, is in the Mellen Chamberlain collection, Boston Public Library.)

The tea ship Dartmouth arrived in the Boston Harbor in late November, 1773. On Monday morning, November 29th, a handbill posted all over Boston, contained the following words:

“Friends! Brethren! Countrymen! – That worst of plagues, the detested tea, shipped for this port by the East India Company, is now arrived in the harbor.”

That day Whig leader, Samuel Adams called for a mass meeting, to be held at Faneuil Hall. As thousands of people arrived, the meeting shifted to a larger venue – the Old South Meeting House. The assembled passed a resolution, introduced by Adams urging the captain of the Dartmouth to turn back to England without paying the import duty. Meanwhile, the meeting assigned twenty-five men to watch the ship and prevent unloading of the tea from the ship.

British law required the Dartmouth to unload its cargo of tea and pay the customs duties within twenty days; if not the customs officials could confiscate the cargo. Governor Hutchinson refused to grant permission for the Dartmouth to leave without paying the duty.

Two more tea ships, the Eleanor and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor. Another ship, the William headed for Boston encountered a storm and sank before it could reach Boston.

On December 16th, the last day of the Dartmouth’s deadline to pay the customs duties, about 7,000 people gathered around the Old South Meeting House. After receiving a report that Governor Hutchinson had again refused to let the ships leave, Samuel Adams announced: “This meeting can do nothing further to save the country”.

Immediately, people poured out of the Old South Meeting House. Samuel Adams tried to reassert control of the meeting, but the throng headed out to prepare to take action.

Gadsden flag

Gadsden flag

mohawkSome donned elaborately prepared Mohawk costumes, disguising their faces, because of the illegality of their protest. Dressing as a Mohawk warrior was a specific and symbolic choice. As with the rattlesnake on the Gadsden Flag, the historical American flag with a yellow field depicting a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike, and the use of the Bald Eagle as the national symbol, this displayed something specifically American overriding any traditional European symbolism. This gesture showed the British that the Sons of Liberty identified themselves with America and derided their official status as subjects of Great Britain.

In the evening, a group of 30 to 130 men some disguised as Mohawk warriors, boarded the three vessels – Dartmouth, Eleanor and the Beaver. Over the course of three hours, they dumped 342 chests of tea into the water.

Eventually, the Boston Tea Party proved to be one of the many courses that culminated in the American Revolutionary War.

Click on the image below to see video

Boston Tea Party - 02
.

Enhanced by Zemanta
About these ads