Boston Tea Party, Dec. 16, 1773

Hat tip: Politico
by Andrew Glass

An old engraving depicts citizens, partly disguised as Indians, throwing chests of tea into Boston Harbor in Boston on Dec. 16, 1773.
An old engraving depicts citizens, partly disguised as Indians, throwing chests of tea into Boston Harbor in Boston on Dec. 16, 1773. Photo: AP

On this day in 1773, in Boston Harbor, a group of Massachusetts colonists — some thinly disguised as Mohawk Indians — boarded three British merchant vessels and, over the course of the next three hours, dumped 342 chests of tea into the water.

The midnight raid, which has gone down in history as the “Boston Tea Party,” was mounted to protest the Tea Act of 1773. The bill had been enacted by the British Parliament with the aim of saving the faltering East India Co. by lowering tea taxes and granting the firm a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade. Many colonists viewed the Tea Act as another example of tax tyranny imposed from London. The raid proved to be a key event in the unfolding of the American Revolution.

In other colonies, protesters had met with some success. When three tea ships — the Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver — arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists also demanded that the tea be returned to England. But Massachusetts Gov. Thomas Hutchinson refused, urging the tea consignees, two of whom were his sons, not to back down. Samuel Adams, a patriot leader, immediately organized the “tea party” with about 60 members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group.

In 1774, Parliament, outraged by the destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts. They closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America and required colonists to quarter British troops.

The colonists reacted by calling the first Continental Congress to weigh united American resistance to the British. While coordinating colonial resistance, the Congress petitioned King George III to repeal the acts. As the crisis escalated, hostilities broke out near Boston in 1775.

Source: “The Third Phase of the American Revolution, 1773-1776,” by Peter Thomas (1991)

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