Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Boston Tea Party: December 1773

On December 16, 1773, a group of American colonists in Boston, Massachusetts gathered to perform an act of civil disobedience. It is now called the Boston Tea Party.

Earlier in that year, the British Parliament, which then governed the English colonies in America, passed a law it thought would stop protests there. Many taxes the colonists did not like had been repealed, but the new law continued a tax on tea. The law gave a monopoly on tea sales in the colonies to the British East India Company. This company was failing. It had a lot of unsold tea. A monopoly would let it sell the tea at a lower price because it would be the only place to buy tea.

The British government thought that the low cost of tea for the Americans would make them forget about the tax. The British East India Company owed money to the British government and could pay the money back. The government would also earn revenues from the tax. Everyone should be happy.

(Today, we would call this a government “bailout” of the privately owned East India Company.)

The colonists didn’t see why they should be happy. The new law would hurt local merchants who would not be able to buy and sell tea. Also, the tax was still being charged, and the colonists had vowed not to allow imports of taxed goods until the tax was repealed. The colonists tried to talk to the Massachusetts colonial governor about this on December 16, 1773. The governor said he would meet them, but when they arrived at the meeting, the governor had gone away to his house in the country!

There were three ships in Boston Harbor loaded with British tea, surrounded by British war ships. The colonists dressed up as Mohawk Indians (although no one was fooled; the disguises were not very good) and went to the harbor that same day. They divided into three groups and boarded each of the ships. They politely asked the captains for the keys to the cargo hold. There was no resistance. They then began tossing boxes of tea overboard into the harbor. When they were done, they left. It was very orderly.

They destroyed over 92,000 pounds of tea (that's around 42,000 kilograms of tea floating in Boston Harbor!). The British responded to this action by the colonists with a law that took away their right to govern themselves. The colonists then formed illegal provincial assemblies. The British sent an invasion force from England to restore order. In 1775, colonists and British fought at the towns of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. The American Revolution had begun.

Some of the words in this article are defined in Quizlet at
The name of the glossary is: )Boston Tea Party.

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