Boston Tea Party

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1

In the spring of 1773, the East India Company had a large amount of surplus tea on hand. To aid the failing company, thwart the smuggling of Dutch tea, and reassert its authority to levy taxes on the colonies, Parliament authorized the Tea Act on 10 May 1773. Tea sold in America would carry no duty for the East India Company; instead, the tea would be taxed at the point of entry in colonial ports. Consignees, or special agents, were appointed in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Charleston to receive and sell the tea.

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2

On Sunday, 28 November, the Dartmouth, carrying 114 chests of tea, arrives in Boston Harbor. A meeting, open to all Bostonians and anyone from neighboring towns who chooses to attend (a group identified as the Body), is called at Faneuil Hall. When the crowd swells, it adjourns to Old South Meeting House. The Body speaks, demanding that the tea be returned, and the assembly appoints a watch of 25 men to guard Griffin's Wharf.

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3

By 15 December, the Eleanor and the Beaver, also both laden with tea, arrive at Griffin's Wharf. The law is clear: if the duty on the Dartmouth's tea is not paid by 17 December, the customs officer is authorized to seize the ship and its cargo. The governor, the ships' owners, and the tea consignees all refuse to return the tea to England. Voting at a 16 December meeting at Old South, the Body resolves to prevent the East India tea from being landed, stored, sold, or consumed. At the conclusion of the meeting, the crowd streams out onto the street, chasing 30 to 60 men dressed as Indians down to Griffin's Wharf. In what John Adams calls an intrepid "exertion of popular power," the men proceed to dump 342 chests of tea into the sea.

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4

Governor Hutchinson is incensed, calling the dumping of the tea high treason. Energized by their victory, boisterous patriots urge Bostonians, "keep up your courage." When news of the event arrives there, New York celebrates Boston's Indians, as does Philadelphia. Boston, once suspect, is now praised for its steadfast opposition to tyrannical English policies.

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