Simply Historic: The Boston Tea Party
Just the other night when I was watching a movie I couldn’t believe how many times “going for coffee” was mentioned as a double entendre for going on a date, for work meetings and just meeting anyone in general! “Grabbing a coffee” is truly imbedded in our society as a social activity that goes way beyond the actual act of getting a cup of joe. Even though coffee may have its spotlight in our everyday ongoings and vernacular, tea has had more that its fifteen minutes of fame, in fact, history is “steeped” with tea! (yeah I had to do it)
This weekend I will be headed to my hometown city of Boston, and it took me all of two seconds before I realized I would write about the Boston Tea Party. Growing up in the American education system we all learn about this event at some point and for some of us (particularly those of us on the east coast) you learn about it in elementary school, middle school and again in High School! Despite that all of that education some of the details are still a little fuzzy, so I’ll do a brief, slightly less boring, version of the Boston Tea Party (pronounced: Bhawston Tea Pawtty)
So what most of us remember of the Boston Tea Party is that sometime in the 1700’s (1773 to be exact) the colonists were pissed about being taxed on tea and other products that were being imported from Great Britain, and in response they rioted against the shipment and threw all of the tea into the Boston Harbor (Hawbaw). Ok this we know. But today, in a brief and interesting fashion, I will explain WHY the British were taxing the American colonists, WHY the colonists were pissed, and WHY they threw the tea into the harbor.
Back in the early 1700’s tea had become immensely popular and the British Empire had a nice monopoly on it. Any tea being imported by the East India Company was taxed 25% and then was given an additional tax upon consumption. Not only that but there were many people who were smuggling tea through the Dutch importers! Tea was being smuggled like drugs are today! The Dutch had a much better price on tea because they didn’t put a tax on it when it was imported into the country. The British, hating to lose, and hating to lose money even more, decided to shift the tax over to the American colonists. Now at this time you could tax if your Parliament representative agreed to the tax, but the American colonists had no representatives and couldn’t fight these charges.
In 1772 the price of tea increased, sales decreased and therefore a surplus of tea began to build up in Great Britian. Decisions were made to keep costs down and so they cut out the middleman wholesalers and decided to export to the colonies on their decisions, not based on actual demand. I love this, it actually makes America look like the British dumping ground for everything they didn’t want to deal with! Sell it to the Europeans? No, no they’ll still be able to get a cheaper smuggling price. Wait, what did you say? Those folks across the water? Oh yeah, let’s just send it to them AND still tax it, they won’t know what’s coming!…But they did.
The American colonists heard what was going on as the seven ships crossed the Atlantic carrying 600,000 pounds of tea to deliver it to the ports of New York, Charleston, Philadelphia and Boston. In the three other cities, the protests convinced the tea consignees to send the tea back to Britain, unopenend and untouched. Boston however had a more difficult fight because the governor Thomas Hutchinson ignored the protestors and convinced the tea consignees (who were his sons) to keep the ships in port and ordered all the tea to be brought to shore.
Thousands of colonists gathered in Fanueil Hall and the Old South Meeting House to discuss how to deal with the three ships full of tea in their port. The infamous Samuel Adams, while not directly involved, held the meeting to discuss the issue and firmly supported the colonists’ revolt on the British taxation. After all the meetings and finding out that neither side was backing down, the colonists took action. That night about 100 men, some dressed as Native Americans, boarded all three tea ships and dumped ever single carton of tea into the water.
There is a fanatastic personal eyewitness account from one of the men who dressed up as a Native American and joined the hundreds that joined in removing and sinking all the tea from the ships that fateful night. You can find it located here http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/teaparty.htm
The Boston Tea Party was one of many events where colonists and the British Empire didn’t see eye to eye, however many consider it to be the event that lit the fuse of the American Revolution powder keg (pronounced: pawda keg). So I guess in a way, our freedom to have coffee dates, no inforced importation of goods, and the fact that we don’t speak in a British accent (although we all want to) can be attributed to tea and its place in history. Not a bad rap at all.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this bit of tea history!
Links to pictures and information