Liberty at all hazards must be supported.

History Corner

The Boston Tea Party

On Decmber 16, 1773, a group of American colonists boards three ships in Boston Harbor and throws 46 tons of tea overboard in protest of the Tea Act, enacted by Britain earlier that year.

Believe it or not, the Tea Act did not raise taxes on the colonists. Americans had been paying taxes on tea since 1767, when the infamous Townshend Acts were enacted. At the time, there had been so much furor over the Townshend Acts that most of its taxes—taxes on glass, lead, oil, paint, and paper—were repealed. Yet even after all those repeals, the tea tax remained. Britain wanted to prove that it had a right to tax the colonists. The colonists, of course, disagreed. They felt they should not be taxed when they had no representation in Parliament.

So what was new about the Tea Act? The measure was enacted to help bail out the British East India Company, which had 17 million pounds of surplus tea. The Tea Act effectively gave a monopoly to the British East India Company, and it severely undercut American merchants. Ultimately, all of these actions resurrected the old discontent: The colonists did not think that the taxes on tea were legitimate in the first place. And they did not intend to pay taxes on a forced monopoly.

The first load of tea arrived in Boston in late November. According to British law, taxes on tea were due within 20 days of a ship arriving in harbor. Two more ships arrived on December 2 and December 15. Boston residents wanted to reject the tea and send the ship back, but the governor (a Loyalist) would not allow the ships to leave the port. The taxes for the first ship had to be paid by December 17.

The colonists were upset, to say the least, and multiple town hall-type meetings were held. One was attended by as many as 7,000 individuals! A secret plan was set into motion among a smaller subset of these colonists, the Sons of Liberty.

On the night of December 16, more than 100 members of the Sons of Liberty dressed up as American Indians. (They dressed as Indians to express to the world that they were “Americans,” not British subjects.) The men boarded the three ships and emptied their cargoes of tea into the harbor. The protest was more orderly than you might think. No looting was allowed. The protestors worked hard not to harm anything aboard the ships (except the tea). In fact, the protestors swept the ships and put everything back into place. And they returned, later, to replace the only non-tea item that had been harmed: a padlock on one of the ships.

When they were done, the protestors returned home, without attempting to discover each other’s identities. One protestor, George Hewes, later recalled the events: “We then quietly retired to our several places of residence, without having any conversation with each other, or taking any measures to discover who were our associates….There appeared to be an understanding that each individual should volunteer his services, keep his own secret, and risk the consequence for himself. No disorder took place during that transaction, and it was observed at that time that the stillest night ensued that Boston had enjoyed for many months.”

The British government was irate when it learned about the Boston Tea Party, and it responded by passing a series of measures that would be known as the Intolerable Acts.

You could say that the Boston Tea Party was just one of the many dominoes that fell and moved America closer to Revolution. But it was much more than that. It was a “magnificent Movement,” as future President John Adams would write in his diary.

Indeed, the impact of that night still reverberates down the ages. Don’t you think?

Become a Patriot Partner

All proceeds go toward educating our nation’s youth in the founding principles of our nation and the responsibility of good citizenship.

Recent Posts

A Republic, If You Can Keep It!

A Republic, If You Can Keep It by Bill Boillot. January 14, 2017 The importance of knowing history cannot be overstated.  History helps us to understand the present. People have largely neglected the power of history.  Understanding history brings the basic knowledge...

Learn the past to Understand the future

By Bill Boillot, 12/20/2016 Would you really like to learn more about the history and vision of the Founding Fathers and the documents they created but didn’t know where to turn?  Does knowing how your government is supposed to operate matter? Do you want to be...

The Case For Enumerated Powers

The Case For Enumerated Powers by Michael Murphy | Dec 19, 2016 Our founding fathers were not stupid men, nor did they wake up one day and decide Great Britain was causing problems and decided to revolt. The idea of liberty was not something that one day popped into...

Little Known Lady Patriot

Lydia Barrington Darragh (1728-1789) Lydia Barrington Darragh was a Philadelphia Quaker who became a Patriot spy during the American Revolution. Her courageous efforts helped prepare General George Washington for an attack by the British in December 1777. Born in 1729...

Samuel Adams and the Stamp Act.

Samuel Adams and the Stamp Act. On this day on November 1, 1765 the Stamp Act takes Effect. Sugar Act, 1764 and Stamp Act, 1765 The Sugar Act and the Stamp Act imposed by the British government in 1764 and 1765 respectively, was view with a disapproval eye among...

Welcome To The Civics Practice Test!

The civics practice test is a study tool to help you test your knowledge of U.S. history and government. Use this online tool to prepare for the civics portion of the naturalization test. 

This practice test contains 20 questions.

Mid-Term Election - November 8, 2022