The Boston Tea Party, 238 Days Ago Today

Original Tea Leaves From the Boston Tea Party

The British decided to support their wasteful spending by taxing the colonies, from the Sugar Act in 1764, the Currency Act, which prohibited the colonies from issuing their own currency to the 1765 Quartering Act which forced colonists to give room and board to British troops.

The colonists were irate and boycotted British goods, boycotts which intensified with each act.

The Stamp Act was passed in 1764 by the British, requiring taxes on newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets, broadsides, legal documents, dice, and playing cards. Issued by Britain, the stamps were affixed to documents or packages to show that the tax had been paid.

The boycotts by colonists intensified and the British repealed it in 1766, but they passed the Declaratory Act the same year. It said that Parliament could make laws binding the American colonies “in all cases whatsoever.”

In 1767 the Townshend Acts, were passed by Parliament and allowed for taxes on glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea. The Acts were cut back in 1770 because of the loss of revenue from the boycotts. The tax on tea was maintained.

A riot between citizens, calling themselves the Sons of Liberty, and the British soldiers broke out over the quartering act. The British overreacted and sent troops to Boston. When the troops arrived in Boston, it provoked a conflict, later called the Boston Massacre. It wasn’t much of a massacre but the reaction was as if it were.

Three Americans were killed and the soldiers were put on trial. John Adams, the future second President, defended them and the soldiers were found guilty of crimes other than murder.

After that, citizens attacked the British schooner, the Gaspee. The British planned to capture the citizens and send them to Britain for trial, which infuriated the colonists.

The 1773 Tea Act reduced the tax on imported British tea, giving the British an unfair advantage. Citizens demanded the tea be returned to Britain without payment of taxes, which the British refused to do, demanding payment.

On Monday morning, the 29th of November, 1773, a handbill was posted all over Boston, containing the following words –

Friends! Brethren! Countrymen!–That worst of plagues, the detested tea, shipped for this port by the East India Company, is now arrived in the harbor; the hour of destruction, or manly opposition to the machinations of tyranny, stares you in the face. Every friend to his country, to himself and to posterity, is now called upon to meet at Faneuil Hall, at nine o’clock THIS DAY (at which time the bells will ring), to make united and successful resistance to this last, worst, and most destructive measure of administration.”

On December 16, the Sons of Liberty, which included Samuel Adams, boarded the ships disguised as Indians and dumped all the tea in the harbor.

The American Revolution began two years later.

The following is an account of a participant, David Kinnison, the longest living participant of the Boston Tea Party –

David Kinnison, the last survivor of the BTP lived until 115 years old and was actually photographed few years before he passed away.

The engraving was made from a dageuerreotype, an early type of photograph exposed directly onto a silver plate with photo coating. It was taken from life in August, 1848, when Mr. Kinnison was 111 years old. His actual signature is also presented here.

David Kinnison, soldier, born in Old Kingston, near Portsmouth, Maine on November 17, 1736. He died in Chicago, Illinois, on February 24, 1851. His predecessors from the father side were known for longevity. His great-grandfather, who came from England and settled in Maine, lived to a long age. His grandfather lived until the age of one hundred and twelve years and ten days. His father died at the age of one hundred and three years and nine months.

He was married four times, had four children by his first wife and eighteen by his second, none by the last two. He did not know how to read until he was sixty years old and was taught by his granddaughter, and learned to sign his name while a soldier of the Revolution, which is all the writing he has ever accomplished.

In Lebanon, Maine he owned a farm, and was one of seventeen men of Lebanon who formed a political club and gathered for secret meetings in a local tavern “Colonel Gooding” in a private room reserved for such gatherings. The owner of the establishment, was reportedly not aware of the exact object of their meetings. Similar clubs were formed in Philadelphia, Boston and the towns around. Between them they kept up a correspondence. The Lebanon club then determined, whether assisted or not to destroy the tea at all costs. The men arrived to Boston, where they were joined by others and twenty four disguised as Indians, rushed on board, twelve armed with muskets and bayonets, the rest with tomahawks and clubs, having first agreed to stand by each other to the last and that the first man who faltered should be knocked on the head and thrown over with the tea. They expected to have a fight, and did not doubt that an effort would be made for their arrest. “But” (in the language of the old man) “we cared not more for our lives than three straws, and determined to throw the tea overboard. We were all captains, and every one commanded himself.” They pledged themselves in no event, while it should be dangerous to do so, to reveal the names of the party – a pledge that was faithfully observed until the war of the Revolution was brought to a successful issue.

Kinnison was in active service during the Revolutionary war, and later settled in Danville, Vermont, where he again returned to farming for eight years. He then removed to Wells, Maine, and lived there until the war of 1812, through which he served, being wounded at Williamsburg. In 1845 he went to Chicago, reduced to extreme poverty, with a pension of $96 a year, and until 1848 earned money by manual labor. At a public anti-slavery meeting in the summer of 1848 he addressed the audience with marked effect. He was the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party. Reprint from: Boston Tea Party Historical Site