Mary Beth Writes

Here’s my question. The "Tea Party” touts their patriotism as if they are patriotic and the rest of us aren't. Why? What happened at that first  Boston Tea Party? Why did those early patriots have one?

(If I can write this without looking anything up, I’m giving myself an A.  If I have to fact-check a few things, I am giving myself an A-. If I go looking in the Internet for a Wikipedia article to copy and paste, I will go back to writing about cats.)

In the mid-1700’s England and France were conniving and wrangling to get new and keep old territories on which they could impose their colonial/imperialist greed.

In the American colonies this had boiled over into what we call “The French-Indian War”. It should have been called “The French and English will now fight for domination in the new world by allying with various Indian nations who will actually fight in most of the battles and suffer most of the losses.”  I’ve also read that scholars say that this war should more accurately be called “The First World War”.

As an FYI, these on-going skirmishes and battles were where a young soldier, George Washington, learned his craft and earned his stripes.

These military adventures were expensive. England was bleeding money. Parliament enacted taxes on the Colonies because they had just defended the colonies from the French and the French-backed Indians.

The British tried various systems of taxes. A lot of the colonists did not see the logic of paying taxes to England to be defended from Indians that were a thousand miles away (in the Midwest and Canada) when the Indians down the block were so unnerving to the colonists who had recently stolen their lands.

Many of the English soldiers as well as the political Brits sent to rule colonies, collect taxes, and lead the troops – acted like jerks. The colonists were right there, they saw how their hard work was being ripped off to feather the nests of English fat cats. (Um, do cats have nests? I’ll just flash my Artistic License here…)

Animosity is rampant. Not all colonists feel this ire, but the ones with a lot of energy to build successful lives outside sweetheart deals and on-going graft with the Brits – those colonists are the most irritated. Other colonists are working with and for English endeavors, or they are more recently emigrated from England and still have strong ties, or they are just more inclined to put up with the rules and not bring on a destructive situation that, they think, will only make life tougher.  It isn’t as if all the colonists think the same.

Anyways, in 1773 all the forces and opinions are mingling and simmering.

One of parliament’s money-raising regulations was to ban the purchasing of tea from anyone except the East India Company. East India was the business arm of British government in Asia. So American business guys with chutzpah proceeded to build very successful businesses smuggling tea from Dutch traders. Two guys who made parts of their fortunes this way were Samuel Adams and John Hancock. You may have heard of them.

Parliament became irritated and replied “Okay, we are taking the tax OFF East Indian tea. Now our tea will be cheaper than smuggled tea. Your fellow citizens are going to buy it and you (insert rough language here) can just go to (insert where you think the Lords would like to send Sam and John and the rest of those blasted Americans).”

Only thing is, a lot of Americans said, “We’re tired of these Parliament games, too. We’ll boycott all the tea and drink water and acorn juice.” (I’m dying to go to Wikipedia here. You can, if you are curious, look up “Colonial era substitutions for tea”. I think they really did use acorns. Or maybe that was a poison Can’t remember.)

New York and other harbors did not allow the English ships carrying East India tea to even come into the harbor.

In Boston the British governor had appointed his two sons to be the distributor of East India tea. This would make his sons very rich. Powerful men appointing their sons to lucrative positions – this is the kind of stuff that was making the colonists so angry. Oh yeah. 

Three ships laden with chest of tea came into the harbor. The Americans wouldn’t unload it. There is a harbor-rule that says ships have to exit the harbor within 20 days. The governor was pretty sure he could get the tea off those ships in three weeks.

He couldn’t. No one would unpack them.  

On the night of December 16, 1773 – the last day those ships could be in port - angry colonists including Samuel Adams boarded one of those ships. A few of the men dressed themselves as Mohawk Indians (who were the scariest Indians in New England). They had strict orders. Open the chests of tea, don’t steal any of it, don’t wreck anything else on the ship, and don’t hurt anyone. Just dump the tea.

There were 2000 chests of tea on the three ships. That night those men emptied 475 of the chests on one of the ships. The value in modern terms was - a cool million.

They got back off the ship. Not much more happened right away.

English Parliament was REALLY irritated and slowly enacted harsher laws all over the colonies. Which made the locals even more irritated. So there was a War for Independence and Bob’s your uncle.

Sam Adams and the rest were not simply protesting the paying of taxes.

  • They were angry that taxes were going to build far-off coffers emptied from fighting foreign wars.
  • They were angry they weren’t being defended from local dangers (angry, cheated Indians) around them.
  • They were infuriated that men in power were utilizing regulations to make themselves richer at the expense of ordinary people.
  • They were very angry that unusually-low, subsidized prices were going to cut competition until there was only one company, at which point everyone was pretty sure, the prices would jack sky-high.
  • So they protested. As in, they carried out a symbolic action against the Men in Power, which that required chutzpah and courage.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it….?

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Thank you for writing this article, it helped me to understand the gripes of the colonists more clearly. At first, I was confused as to why they did what they did and what was making everyone so upset. Your article helped clarify this for me. Thank you... again.

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