History: December 16, 1773: The Original (Boston) Tea Party!

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A Brief History

On December 16, 1773, Americans proved that they were not willing to be pushed around by a government that levied onerous taxes upon them, and this displeasure was expressed in the civil act of defiance known to us today as The Boston Tea Party.

Digging Deeper

Today’s anti-tax minded Americans calling themselves the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party Movement (circa 2010) finds its origins in this step leading to the American Revolutionary War.

The Tea Act of May 10, 1773 had been passed by Parliament in England to tax tea headed for the colonies in America, and irate Americans sick and tired of being taxed without representation in Parliament had apparently had enough.  Patriots calling themselves Sons of Liberty went to Boston Harbor, some of them dressed up as Indians (Native Americans) in a disguise of their identities, but also as an implication of their identification as Americans first, rather than British.  This band of between 30 and 130 patriots boarded 3 ships laden with cases of tea and proceeded to smash those crates and toss the tea in the harbor.  A total of 342 chests of the tea were thus destroyed, and a profound statement had been made by the patriots.

What may not be commonly known is that this act of defiance was not based on an increase on the price of tea.  In fact, the Tea Act of 1773 actually reduced the price for the colonists!  The real issue was the fact that these tax laws could be levied without the participation of American voters and all the other extraneous taxes levied on the Americans.

A patriot leader in Boston, Samuel Adams, may or may not have planned or agreed to this event, but in either case he capitalized on it by using it in his anti-British propaganda.  Adams defended the action as not a mob affair, but that of an aggrieved public with legitimate concerns, a righteous and morally sound act.

Many prominent American patriots in the wake of the Boston Tea Party deemed tea drinking to be un-patriotic, and colonists largely shifted to  other beverages such as coffee.  The common name for the event, Boston Tea Party, was not coined until 1834 and previously had been referred to as “The destruction of the tea.”  The Boston Tea Party has become a symbol of resistance to oppression for all sorts of civil causes, including the cause of Indian independence led by Mahatma Gandhi and today’s TEA Party anti-tax, anti-big government movement in the United States.  Many other acts of defiance to governments are now referred to as “tea parties” in the common vernacular.

At first early 19th century writers and scholars were at least a bit reluctant to glorify an act of civil disobedience that resulted in substantial financial property loss, but as time went on the event reached its current hallowed place in American lore as a brave act by American heroes.  In any case, the Boston Tea Party was certainly a seminal event leading to the American Revolution and eventual Independence.

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Historical Evidence

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.