The Tea Act

The Tea Act, passed by parliament in 1773, granted the British East India Company Tea a monopoly on tea sales in the American colonies. This compelled the Sons of Liberty, on the night of December 16, 1773 to disguise themselves as Mohawk Indians, board three ships moored in Boston Harbor, and destroy over 92,000 pounds of tea.

The policy fueled opposition and resentment among American colonists and triggered the Boston Tea Party. A tax on tea had existed since The Townshend Revenue Act, which taxed tea, glass, lead, oil, paint, and paper. Due to boycotts and protests, the Townshend Revenue Act’s taxes were repealed on all commodities except tea in 1770. The Tea Act was a bailout to help the British East India Company out of debt. What angered the American colonists about the Tea Act was the British East India Company’s government monopoly on tea. It granted the British East India Company license to export their tea to the American colonies; opening markets to the lucrative American colonies.

Seventeen Million Pounds of Unsold Tea: With the passing of the Tea Act, the seventeen million pounds of unsold surplus tea the British East India Company owned could be sold to markets in the American colonies. The tea was to be shipped to the American colonies and sold at a reduced rate. American colonists were outraged and believed the Tea Act was an attempt to gain colonial support for the tax already enforced. Prior to the Tea Act, colonial merchants purchased tea directly from British markets or smuggled it from illegal markets. They then shipped it back to the colonies for resale. Outraged that American merchants were undercut, colonists initially in Philadelphia and New York refused the British East India Company tea to be offloaded and sent the ships back to England. In many colonial ports the shipment of British East India Company tea was unloaded and left untouched on the docks to rot. Three ships of tea arrived in Boston late in 1773. The colonists, led by the Sons of Liberty, wanted the ships to return to England and refused the unloading of the ships, but the governor refused to send them back. The framework for the Boston Tea Party was set, and on December 16, 1773, 340 chests of British East India Company were dumped into Boston Harbor by the Sons of Liberty.

Source: The Tea Act
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