- The Seven Years' War: background and combatants
- The Seven Years' War: battles and legacy
- Seven Years' War: lesson overview
- Seven Years' War
- Pontiac's uprising
- Uproar over the Stamp Act
- The Townshend Acts and the committees of correspondence
- The Boston Massacre
- Prelude to revolution
- The Boston Tea Party
- The Intolerable Acts and the First Continental Congress
- Lexington and Concord
- The Second Continental Congress
- The Declaration of Independence
- Women in the American Revolution
- The American Revolution
The Boston Tea Party
After Parliament passed the Tea Act, American colonists reacted with a tea party of their own.
- The Boston Tea Party, which involved the willful destruction of 342 crates of British tea, proved a significant development on the path to the American Revolution.
- The Boston Tea Party, which occurred on December 16, 1773 and was known to contemporaries as the Destruction of the Tea, was a direct response to British taxation policies in the North American colonies.
- The British response to the Boston Tea Party was to impose even more stringent policies on the Massachusetts colony. The Coercive Acts levied fines for the destroyed tea, sent British troops to Boston, and rewrote the colonial charter of Massachusetts, giving broadly expanded powers to the royally appointed governor.
British taxation policies
After the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, the British Empire was in financial distress. Though the British had won the war, they had spent vast amounts of blood and treasure in the process. At the end of the war, the British Parliament sought to replenish its depleted coffers by taxing the North American colonies.
When the British Prime Minister, Lord North, proposed the Tea Act in May 1773, he was not even thinking of the North American colonies, but rather of the East India Company, which had assumed control over India. In exchange for the power to appoint its governors, North loaned the company £1.5 million—the equivalent of about $270 million today. North also granted the company a monopoly on the right to sell tea in the North American colonies.
View of the London headquarters of the East India Company.
The Boston Tea Party
As the British authorized the shipment of thousands of pounds of tea to its colonies in North America—Boston, Charleston, New York City, and Philadelphia—colonial tea merchants protested.
In Boston, Governor Thomas Hutchinson, a pro-British Loyalist, demanded that the ships be allowed to dock and that colonial merchants pay the duties on the cargo. Boston was the center of colonial revolutionary fervor, and its radicals did not take kindly to Hutchinson’s demands. The Sons of Liberty, a secret society formed by radical colonists to protest British taxation policies after the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765, spearheaded the opposition to the Tea Act.
On December 16, 1773 at Griffin’s Wharf, a group of approximately 50 Bostonians disguised as Native Americans boarded the ships Beaver, Dartmouth, and Eleanor, and proceeded to dump 342 crates of tea into the Boston harbor. In doing so, they destroyed almost 10 thousand pounds sterling worth of tea—worth about $1.7 million today—that belonged to the British East India Company. The incident, referred to at the time by John Adams as the Destruction of the Tea, would not become known as the Boston Tea Party for another fifty years.
Currier & Ives print of American colonists dressed as Native Americans dumping tea into Boston Harbor.
Paul Revere carried the news of the destruction of the tea to New York, which in turn refused to allow the British ships to unload. In Philadelphia, as well, townspeople gathered to turn the British ships away from harbor. In Charleston, the ship was docked, but customs officials seized the cargo.
The British empire strikes back
Instead of reforming their tax policies or accommodating the demands of the colonists, the British responded to the incident by passing the Coercive Acts, which shut down Boston’s port, modified the charter of Massachusetts—effectively shutting down the colony’s legislative assembly—and sent British troops under General Thomas Gage to occupy Boston.
Gage was appointed governor, with broadly expanded powers to appoint local sheriffs, lodge troops in private homes, and deny townspeople permission to hold meetings. In response, the colonies called for a continental congress. The First Continental Congress convened in the autumn of 1774 and approved a general boycott of British goods. The stage was set for the ultimate showdown between the British and the colonies in the American War for Independence.
What do you think?
How would you describe British tax policies in the colonies?
How important do you think the Boston Tea Party was in the ultimate outbreak of war between Britain and its North American colonies?
Why do you think the British refused to back down in the face of opposition to its policies?
Want to join the conversation?
- Why did Sons of Liberty choose to disguise Native Americans except for hiding their identity? And why as Mohawk Indians?(17 votes)
- In fact, no one would have been fooled by their enactment of native Americans. it was not for Natives to be blamed, but they used the native dress and clothing to disguise and make it harder to figure out their identity. Mohawk Indians were probably the most familiar Natives they knew how to dress as. But again, it would have been very hard to fall for the trick of thinking them as natives, and that was not their incentive.(7 votes)
- Could the author clarify the connection between Lord North granting the East India Company a monopoly and why the "colonial tea merchants protested"? Where else would the colonial tea merchants have gotten their tea from? Were duties not being paid prior to the monopoly being granted? Thanks.(8 votes)
- The merchants were often able to get a good deal from Dutch importers, even though that was illegal. The other point not mentioned is that the East India Company was in poor financial condition, and many people in the British government owned shares in the company. They were looking out for their own interests when they looked out for the company.(4 votes)
- what did the americans do before the boston tea party?
i mean did they do any Procession or anything like that?(6 votes)
- Boston Massacre. Hung fake corps on the Tree of Liberty.(5 votes)
- Why exactly were the British sending so much tea to Boston? I didn't really get that part.(3 votes)
- The colonists were very reliant on tea, as the colonists were originally from Britain.(3 votes)
- why id the sons of liberty just wear a mask instead of full on clothes?!(2 votes)
- They marked their faces too in addition to the clothing.(10 votes)
- Why do you think the British refused to back down in the face of opposition to its polocies?(5 votes)
- The same reason those in power don't back down to "petty rebellions" now. No respect for the weak and testosterone....(3 votes)
- Were the coercive acts just another term for the intolerable acts?(3 votes)
- The Intolerable Acts were what the American colonists called the Coercive Acts, which was the official name of the series of laws.(6 votes)
- In exchange for the power to appoint its governors, North loaned the company £1.5 million—the equivalent of about $270 million today - Does anybody have any information in regards to the loaning of this money and why the east India company where in need of such a large sum of money, when they had already 'assumed control over India' ?(5 votes)
- Maybe for the same reason that wealthy companies, such as Apple or Google, borrow money today. Because it's is using OPM (Other People's Money). When using OPM you can get an infinite return on your investment...(1 vote)
- Why was there a tea party in the first place i mean why did they have one?(2 votes)
- It wasn't really a tea party....they just called it that because a bunch of colonists dumped tea of the ship into the harbor, because they were rebelling against the Tea Act....I think the king himself gave it the name "Boston tea party".(5 votes)
- Why did they tax the colonies so much(3 votes)
- The empire offered services to its overseas subjects. Those services cost the empire money. The income from the overseas territories and subjects was not enough to cover the costs of the services rendered. Rather than tax the people in the imperial homeland to support subjects and territories abroad, the empire chose to tax the overseas subjects to pay their own way. That's why.(3 votes)