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The Boston Tea Party


In 1773, a significant event occurred that led to the American Revolutionary War. The British enacted a tax on tea sold to the American colonies and passed the Tea Act on December 16, which was taxation without representation. Colonial resistance to the tax took the form of the Boston Tea Party.

The British East India Company, which had a monopoly on tea sales, was on the verge of financial collapse. One of its few assets was seventeen million pounds of tea held in its London warehouses, which remained unsold because heavy taxes made it too expensive in Britain. The British government decided to save the company from ruin and bring in more much-needed revenue for the government. This plan received legislative form in the Tea Act. Colonists were opposed to paying any tax, and the people of Boston, Massachusetts responded more violently than those in any other town.

During the night of December 16, 1773, a group of men, called the Sons of Liberty, held a meeting to request that the British not land their tea ships at Boston harbor. Because their demand was denied, the adjourned the meeting, and made preparations to commit an act in protest. The men donned the attire of Mohawk Indians and proceeded to Griffin’s Wharf. The East India Company had three ships anchored at the harbor, the Beaver, Dartmouth, and Eleanor. These ships were actually built and owned by Americans, but the tea that was owned by the East India Company. The Sons of Liberty traveled in boats to the ships that had arrived from Britain filled with tea. The used axes to break open the 342 tea chests, causing the tea to flow into the water. The men hastily left the harbor where, fortunately, there were no injuries or casualties.

The British saw the Boston Tea Party as an outrage and determined not to let it go unpunished. They enacted the Boston Port Bill, which declared that until Massachusetts paid for the destroyed tea, a naval force would close Boston’s harbor to shipping. The fury in Boston was predictable, and sympathy for its plight poured in from every colony. The closing of Boston’s harbor was the first in a series of British parliamentary measures of 1774, known as the Coercive or Intolerable Acts, which pushed Britain and the American colonies closer to the American Revolution that began on April 19, 1175 in Massachusetts.

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