The Tea Act and the Boston
Tea Party, 1773-1774
On December 16, 1773, about fifty members of the Sons of Liberty (see Chapter 18) dressed as Native Americans and boarded the Dartmouth, a ship docked in Boston harbor. Methodically, the men dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor destroying £9,6591 worth of private property. While the act of destroying the tea may have been a simple one, its causes and repercussions were anything but simple.
Tea was the principal drink of Americans and the British, and in 1698, Parliament gave exclusive rights to import tea into Great Britain to the East India Company. In 1721 Parliament prohibited the colonies from importing tea from any source other than the East India Company. Even though Americans often ignored the law and smuggled tea, especially from Holland, the East India Company thrived.
The Stamp Act crisis of 1765 (see Chapter 16) and the passage of the Townshend Acts (see Chapter 20), which levied taxes on lead, tea, paint, paper, and glass, triggered a change in American thinking, and in 1767, angry Bostonians proposed that Americans stop using British commodities. Many merchants and others in the colonies rallied behind this plan of nonimportation (see Chapter 20). As a result, the amount of tea shipped by the East India Company to America decreased from 1768 to 1772 from approximately 562,281 pounds per year to 213,417.2
Even though not all Americans joined in nonimportation, enough did that Parliament lifted the Townshend Acts in 1770 with one exception-- the duty on tea. In 1773 Parliament decided that, in order to bolster the East India Company, which now was on the verge of collapse, it would