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What Was The Boston Tea Party

Significance Of The Boston Tea Party For Upsc Exam

The story behind the Boston Tea Party – Ben Labaree

The American Revolution is an important topic in world history for the UPSC mains exam. In this article, we talk about the Boston Tea Party for the IAS exam.

The Boston Tea Party was one of the most important events in History, as it paved the way for the American revolutionary war to break out, which eventually resulted in freedom from British rule. Thi article will highlight the details of the events.

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Making Money From The American Colonies

Saddled with the expense of maintaining an army in America and of supporting numerous governmental officials there, Britons not surprisingly looked to the colonies for a source of revenue.

Their first effort, the Stamp Act, was repealed in 1766 after less than a year because of violent American protests.

The following year, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend, offered another means of raising a revenue in America. By his act, duties were collected in the colonies on a number of commodities commonly imported from the mother country. By far the most important of these was tea, which was subjected to a duty of three-pence per pound.

The issue of no taxation without representation, which rallied colonial opposition to the new act, focused on the tea-duty, for of all the newly-taxed commodities, tea was the most commonly used. Agreements signed by merchants not to import British manufacturers were quickly supplemented by anti-tea-drinking pledges circulated through the towns and villages of America.

Various local substitutes for English tea were publicized by the patriots, including Labradore tea, made from the redroot bush. Ladies drank the new concoction at parish spinning bees, and proclaimed its virtues in the local press. The campaign featured newspaper doggerel like the following verse addressed to the ladies of Boston.

For the year 1770, only 147 pounds of legal tea entered at the former port, and a skimpy 65 pounds at the latter.

What Happened After The Tea Party

Boston Harbor was shut down.For weeks after the Boston Tea Party, the 92,000 pounds of tea dumped into the harbor caused it to smell. As a result of the Boston Tea Party, the British shut down Boston Harbor until all of the 340 chests of British East India Company tea were paid for. This was implemented under the 1774 Intolerable Acts and known as the Boston Port Act. The Intolerable Acts outraged and unified the American colonists even more against British rule. In addition to the Boston Port Act, the Intolerable Acts also implemented the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act, the Quartering Act, and the Quebec Act. American colonists responded with protests and coordinated resistance by convening the First Continental Congress in September and October of 1774 to petition Britain to repeal the Intolerable Acts. The Boston Tea Party was the first significant act of defiance by American colonists. The implication and impact of the Boston Tea Party was enormous ultimately leading to the sparking of the American Revolution which began in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775.

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Province Of Massachusetts Bay

Province of Massachusetts Bay
Map depicting the colonial claims related to the province

The Province of Massachusetts Bay was a colony in which became one of the of the United States. It was chartered on October 7, 1691, by and , the joint monarchs of the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The charter took effect on May 14, 1692, and included the , the , the , , , , and the Commonwealth of is the direct successor. Maine has been a separate state since 1820, and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are now Canadian provinces, having been part of the colony only until 1697.

The name Massachusetts comes from the Massachusett Indians, an tribe. It has been translated as “at the great hill”, “at the place of large hills”, or “at the range of hills”, with reference to the and to in particular.

Historic Boston Tea Party Landmarks

Boston Tea Party

The actual location of the Tea Party has a great historic significance, but being nothing more than a memorial marker on a busy street corner it make one wonder if there are other historic places in Boston that are connected with the most famous American protest. If fact even after the unfortunate fire at the Boston Tea Party ship museum there are still several such landmarks that will impress even a serous history buff.

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The Boston Tea Party Didnt Directly Lead To Further Revolutionary Actions

Theres no doubt that many American colonists were less than thrilled with King George III. Still, the tossing of the tea into the harbor wasnt the actual spark that lit the revolutionary fire, but it was a necessary precursor. King Georges retaliation against the colonies for the Boston Tea Party and its message of American defiance was the spark.

While it wasnt the kings tea or his ships, the British government was not pleased by what unfolded in Boston, and the EIC and the British government were deeply entwined. As a result, the king needed to reassert his dominance over the colonists and remind them who was in charge. This was accomplished by the passage of the Coercive Acts of 1774, which were known in the colonies as the Intolerable Acts. Its no coincidence that the first three applied to Massachusetts exclusively.


The first act closed Boston Harbor and put a Royal Navy blockade in place to ensure that the only things going in or out of the port were for the benefit of British soldiers stationed there. The blockade was to remain in place until the colonists compensated the East India Company for the destroyed tea.

The third act allowed the royal governor to move trials to other countries or even to England if it was determined that an indifferent trial cannot be had within the said province. This effectively eliminated the right to a fair trial by ones peers, which flew in the face of the Magna Carta that had been in place since 1215.


Who Organized The Boston Tea Party

Though led by Samuel Adams and his Sons of Liberty and organized by John Hancock, the names of many of those involved in the Boston Tea Party remain unknown. Thanks to their Native American costumes, only one of the tea party culprits, Francis Akeley, was arrested and imprisoned.

Even after American independence, participants refused to reveal their identities, fearing they could still face civil and criminal charges as well as condemnation from elites for the destruction of private property. Most participants in the Boston Tea Party were under the age of forty and sixteen of them were teenagers.

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The Boston Tea Party Was Not A Response To A New Tea Tax

Americans hate paying taxes this was also the case in colonial times, so it would make sense that the overt display of disobedience like the Boston Tea Party would have been spurred by yet another financial burden imposed on the average citizen from across the Atlantic but it wasnt. The Boston Tea Party took place due to a lack of a tax.

The British East India Company had long supplied much of the British world with tea. But, when the world economy shifted, the company found itself with a surplus of tea that it couldnt sell without taking a loss. King George III and his Parlament intervened and hooked the company up with a pretty sweet bailout.

The solution was to give EIC a free pass on taxes due to the crown for any tea that came into England and was then bound for the American colonies. The only fee the company would pay was a small import duty once the tea reached the colonies. This allowed the East India Company to reduce the consumer price for its tea in America while still maintaining a healthy profit that was almost entirely tax-free. Lower tea prices for colonists should have been a good thing, right? It wasnt that simple.


The tax forgiveness for the EIC enraged the American colonists for a couple of reasons. First, it was yet another example of government decision-making taking place thousands of miles away and with no input from those it impacted.

On This Day The Boston Tea Party Lights A Fuse

Liberty’s Kids 101 – The Boston Tea Party (Pilot, Part I)

On December 16, 1773, a group of Colonists destroyed a large British tea shipment in Boston harbor. So did this act of defiance light a fire that led to American independence within the next decade?

For years, Americans refused to buy British tea because it included a tax levied on tea drinkers, a thought that repulsed colonists who didnt believe they should be taxed without a representative sitting in the British parliament to voice their concerns.

Instead, Americans bought tea smuggled into the colonies. But in May 1773, Parliament gave the East India Company a tea monopoly in America that also made British tea much cheaper than smuggled tea.

The animosity had been brewing among the American colonists for months. On October 16, 1773, a group of Philadelphia patriots decided to tell the British Crown that it would mount a boycott of tea, months before a similar act in Boston.

The publication of a document from the meeting called Philadelphia Resolutions triggered public protests in Boston and Philadelphia. The claim of parliament to tax America, is, in other words, a claim of right to levy contributions on us at pleasure, the Resolutions said. The duty, imposed by parliament upon tea landed in America, is a tax on the Americans, or levying contributions on them, without their consent.

Three weeks later, a similar group met at Faneuil Hall in Boston, and it adopted the Philadelphia Resolutions.

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Why Did The Boston Tea Party Happen

In the 1760s, Britain was deep in debt, so British Parliament imposed a series of taxes on American colonists to help pay those debts.

The Stamp Act of 1765 taxed colonists on virtually every piece of printed paper they used, from playing cards and business licenses to newspapers and legal documents. The Townshend Acts of 1767 went a step further, taxing essentials such as paint, paper, glass, lead and tea.

The British government felt the taxes were fair since much of its debt was earned fighting wars on the colonists behalf. The colonists, however, disagreed. They were furious at being taxed without having any representation in Parliament, and felt it was wrong for Britain to impose taxes on them to gain revenue.

Provisions Of The Act

The Act, which received the on May 10, 1773, contained the following provisions:

  • The Company was eligible to be granted license to export tea to North America.
  • The Company was no longer required to sell its tea at the .
  • Duties on tea destined for North America “and foreign parts” would either be refunded on export or not imposed.
  • Consignees receiving the Company’s tea were required to pay a deposit upon receipt of tea.

Proposals were made that the Townshend tax also be waived, but North opposed this idea, citing the fact that those revenues were used to pay the salaries of crown officials in the colonies.

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Second Boston Tea Party

A second Boston Tea Party took place in March 1774, when around 60 Bostonians boarded the ship Fortune and dumped nearly 30 chests of tea into the harbor.

The event didnt earn nearly as much notoriety as the first Boston Tea Party, but it did encourage other tea-dumping demonstrations in , New York and South Carolina.

How Did The Boston Tea Party Start

Boston Tea Party

The passage of the Tea Act by the British Parliament gave the East India Company exclusive rights to transport tea to the colonies and empowered it to undercut all of its competitors. The leaders of other major cities in the colonies cancelled their orders in protest, but the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony allowed tea to arrive in Boston. In response, several colonists stormed the tea ships and tossed the cargo overboard.

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Colonists Werent Protesting A Higher Tax On Tea

Easily the biggest surprise about the Boston Tea Party is that the uprising wasnt a protest against a new tax hike on tea. Although taxes stoked colonist anger, the Tea Act itself didnt raise the price of tea in the colonies by one red cent .

The confusion is partly timing and partly semantics. Bostons Sons of Liberty were absolutely responding to the British Parliaments passage of the Tea Act of 1773 when they planned the Boston Tea Party. And with a name like the Tea Act, its fair to think that the law was all about raising taxes on tea.

An American colonist reads with concern the royal proclamation of a tax on tea in the colonies as a British soldier stands nearby with rifle and bayonet, Boston, 1767.

The truth is that tea imports to the American Colonies had been taxed by the Crown since the passing of the 1767 Townshend Revenue Act, along with taxes on other commodities like paper, paint, oil and glass. The difference is that all of those other import taxes were lifted in 1770, except for tea, a pointed reminder of the Kings control over his far-off subjects.

Cheaper tea sounds good, says Carp, but for the Sons of Libertymany of whom were merchants and even tea smugglersthe Tea Act smelled like a ploy to get the masses comfortable with paying a tax to the Crown.

Boston Tea Party Aftermath

While some important colonist leaders such as John Adams were thrilled to learn Boston Harbor was covered in tea leaves, others were not.

In June of 1774, George Washington wrote: the cause of Bostonever will be considered as the cause of America. But his personal views of the event were far different. He voiced strong disapproval of their conduct in destroying the Tea and claimed Bostonians were mad. Washington, like many other elites, held private property to be sacrosanct.

Benjamin Franklin insisted the British East India Company be reimbursed for the lost tea and even offered to pay for it himself.

No one was hurt, and aside from the destruction of the tea and a padlock, no property was damaged or looted during the Boston Tea Party. The participants reportedly swept the ships decks clean before they left.

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Developments A Year Before The Boston Tea Party

In the first place, several of the consignees were closely related to Governor Hutchinson, including his own sons. Secondly, the Governor was in no mood to give in to the demands of the patriots that the tea be returned to England as soon as it arrived. After many years of struggle with the likes of Sam Adams, he had reached the end of his patience.

Most recently, in the summer of 1773, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay had passed a resolution demanding the removal from office of both the governor and Lieutenant governor. Hutchinson was ready for a showdown. He had good reason to think that he could win this contest, for at Boston were stationed two regiments of troops, several ships of the British fleet, and the office of the Customs Commissioners.

British authority seemed well established. The patriots, on the other hand, were equally determined to force the issue. Embarrassed by recent disclosures that large quantities of dutied tea had entered at Boston in recent years, Adams and his supporters were stung by criticism from the patriots at New York and Philadelphia that the Bostonians were unreliable. There could be no backing down now.

On November 28, the bluff-bowed ship Dartmouth worked its way into Boston Harbor with the first shipment of tea to reach America under the Companys new plan. Mass meetings immediately demanded that the consignees resign their commissions and order the vessel to return to England.

Where Did The Boston Tea Party Happen

Liberty’s Kids HD 101 – The Boston Tea Party (Pilot, Part I) | History Cartoons for Children

Griffins Wharf.The Beaver, Dartmouth, and Eleanor were moored at Griffins Wharf in Boston. It is at this location where the December 16, 1773 destruction of the tea occurred. The original location of the Boston Tea Party no longer exists because of extensive landfills that destroyed the location. This was caused by the city of Bostons rapid expansion in the 19th century. In 18th century Boston, Griffins Wharf was a bustling center for maritime commerce and shipping. The exact location of the original Griffins Wharf is open to debate, but the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, located on the Congress Street Bridge, is located near the approximate area where the Boston Tea Party took place. A historical marker commemorating the Boston Tea Party stands on the corner of Congress and Purchase streets.

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Boston Tea Party Ships And Museum


The Boston Tea Party Museum is located on the Congress Street Bridge in Boston. It features reenactments, a documentary, and a number of interactive exhibits. The museum features two replica ships of the period, Eleanor and Beaver. Additionally, the museum possesses one of two known tea chests from the original event, part of its permanent collection.

Resisting The Tea Act

A Society of Patriotic Ladies at Edenton in North CarolinaEdenton Tea Party

In September and October 1773, seven ships carrying East India Company tea were sent to the colonies: four were bound for Boston, and one each for New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. In the ships were more than 2,000 chests containing nearly 600,000 pounds of tea. Americans learned the details of the Tea Act while the ships were en route, and opposition began to mount. Whigs, sometimes calling themselves Sons of Liberty, began a campaign to raise awareness and to convince or compel the consignees to resign, in the same way that stamp distributors had been forced to resign in the 1765 Stamp Act crisis.

Colonial merchants, some of them smugglers, played a significant role in the protests. Because the Tea Act made legally imported tea cheaper, it threatened to put smugglers of Dutch tea out of business. Legitimate tea importers who had not been named as consignees by the East India Company were also threatened with financial ruin by the Tea Act. Another major concern for merchants was that the Tea Act gave the East India Company a monopoly on the tea trade, and it was feared that this government-created monopoly might be extended in the future to include other goods.

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