A Short History of the Boston Tea Party

In 1773, all the fuss about tea in Boston had come to a boil.

Three ships loaded with tea sat anchored in Boston harbor. The Patriots were determined to prevent the tea from being landed on American soil, because if it landed a tax would be due upon it. This shipment of tea was from the East India Company, and it would be sold only to seven Boston merchants selected by the East India Company—all loyal to the British government.

On November 28, 1773, the first of the Tea Party ships arrived in Boston, and the tax on tea had to be paid within 21 days. Thousands of people gathered in Boston to discuss the “tea crisis.” On November, 29 a meeting was held at the Old South Meeting House—nearly 4000 people attended.

The resolves from the meeting were signed “the People” and the meeting became known as “the Body of the People.” No other political meeting in Boston had been attended by such a mix of social classes. Merchants, professionals and master artisans were joined by journeymen, seamen, laborers, and apprentices. The meeting voted to put a guard of 25 men on the tea ship to ensure that the tea would not be unloaded.

Two more ships arrived with tea by December 7. For almost three weeks, the Body of the People met at Old South Meeting House to try to find a way to prevent the tea from being unloaded.

The patriots wanted Francis Rotch, who owned the first ship, to sail it back to England with its tea still on board. Governor Hutchinson, on the other hand, wanted that tea unloaded and the tax paid. The deadline was fast approaching.

On December 16, 1773,colonists gathered at the Old South Meeting House. Over 5,000 people, more than a third of Boston’s entire population, crowded into the meeting house. The Patriot leaders asked Francis Rotch to make a final plea to the Governor for permission to leave the harbor without unloading the tea. Rotch made the request and the Governor refused.

The Patriots had exhausted all legal means to keep the tea from being unloaded. Hearing the news, Samuel Adams is said to have declared: “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country!” as a pre-arranged signal to the Sons of Liberty to put a surprising plan into action. Hundreds of people rushed to the docks. It took 150 men nearly three hours to dump 340 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.

At the meetings at Old South Meeting House, the spark of revolution was first ignited. The Boston Tea Party became the catalyst to the American Revolution, and a turning point in the history of a colony poised to become an independent nation.

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Source: A Short History of the Boston Tea Party
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