Welcome to iBoston

The Boston Tea Party
December 16, 1773

tea party stamp

Three ships lay at Griffin's Wharf in Boston at an impasse. The Dartmouth, the Elanor and the Beaver were guarded by just over twenty revolutionary guards to prevent them from being unloaded. Yet Massachusetts Governor, Thomas Hutchinson, the grandson of Anne Hutchinson would not permit the ships to depart without unloading.

Prime Minister Lord NorthLord Frederick North, England's Prime Minister never expected this tea tax to cause an outcry, let alone revolution. In 1767 England reduced its property taxes at home. To balance the national budget they needed to find a mechanism for the American colonies to pay for the expense of stationing officials in them. Under the Townshed Act the officials would generate their own revenue by collecting taxes on all imported goods, and once paid affixing stamps on them. This Stamp Tax generated more in the way of protests and smuggling than added revenue.

Why tea?
Recognizing this failure, Lord North repealed the stamp tax in 1773, except for a reduced tax which remained on tea. This was both out of principal to maintain the English ability to tax, and to support a national company, the East India Tea Company, which had suffered revenue loss as nearly 90% of America's tea had been smuggled from foreign lands. This tea would be the only legally imported tea in the colonies, and old at a discount below customary prices to curtail smuggling.

American merchants recognized this monopoly took money from their pockets, and resisted this tea monopoly. Merchants added to the revolutionary fervor. Locally the agents of the East India company were pressured to resign their posts, and ships were sent away unloaded from American coasts.

sam adamsFor a decade Sam Adams had been inspiring revolution, this was his hour. Adams is widely believed to have orchestrated the Boston Tea Party. A town meeting was called for the evening of December 16th at Faneuil Hall. All British eyes were on the meeting, which when it overfilled Faneuil moved to the larger Old South Church.

There was little notice of a committee which met with Governor Hutchinson during the meeting, or the messenger who returned with news that no settlement could be reached. But at that exact moment colonials disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded the three ships.

As John Adams later noted, these were no ordinary Mohawks. They had already organized themselves into boarding parties who easily took over the merchant ships and demanded access to the cargo. Discipline prevented the participants from vandalizing the ships, or stealing tea for personal consumption. They destroyed 14,000 British pounds of tea, which equates to over one million dollars in today's currency.

Lord North's reaction was fierce. 3,000 British soldiers were sent to Boston, which equalled one fifth of the town's population. Boston's port was closed except for military ships, self governance was suspended. In order to house these troops, rights were given to soldiers to quarter themselves in any unoccupied colonial building. The Old South Church, the point were the teaparty was launched was gutted by the British and converted to a riding arena and pub for troops.

By January of 1775 it was clear to Lord North that revolution was at hand. He sent a peace making delegation offering to end all taxes provided the colonies promised to pay the salaries of civil authorities regularly. But it was too late. Events now overtook the hope of a peaceful reconciliation. That spring, on April 16th the American Crisis turned into the American Revolution, and Lord North tendered his resignation.

King George refused North's resignation, as he would for the duration of the American Revolutionary war. Lord North would ultimately be known as the Prime Minister who lost England's American colonies.

Online Branding and the Law
From the writers of iBoston.org
If you like our take on Boston History,
come see the future

Only at


Massachusetts Architecture | Public Art & Places | Historic People & Events | Research | About

This site is a public service of Wieneke Associates - Web Marketing
Copyright © 1997-2008, all rights reserved. |  Terms of Use  |  Contact Us