In December 1773, three British ships, carrying tea from China, docked at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston. The crates of tea were sent to the Colonies by the British East India Company. Governor Thomas Hutchison ordered the tea tax be paid and the tea be unloaded. The Colonists refused.
The British Empire, deep in debt, saw the Colonies as a cash cow. However, Colonists argued that since they were not represented in Parliament, taxes could not be levied against them. Hence the phrase, no taxation without representation.
BOSTON TEA PARTY
So on the 16th of December, Samuel Adams led the Sons of Liberty, dressed as Indians, to Griffin’s Wharf to dump 342 chests of tea into the harbor. It took almost 100 Colonists nearly three hours to dump over 90,000 pounds of tea. The value of that tea is around $1 million in today’s money. The political insurrection 250 years ago became known as the Boston Tea Party.
Samuel Adams and John Hancock, both signers of the Declaration of Independence, organized the Sons of Liberty. Fearing retribution, the names of most of the 100 Colonists involved in the insurrection remain unknown. Only one Colonist, Francis Akeley, was arrested and imprisoned.
THE STAMP ACT
The Stamp Act of 1765 eight years earlier angered Colonists. Parliament imposed a tax, represented by an official stamp, on various documents and forms of paper, including playing cards. So unpopular was the Stamp Act that Colonists turned away ships carrying stamped items without allowing the cargo to be unloaded. Therefore, the organized and concerted resistance made it impossible for the British government to collect the tax. Parliament finally repealed it in 1766.
THE BOSTON MASSACRE
British soldiers had occupied Boston for several years, much to the chagrin and consternation of the Colonists. It all came to a head in March of 1770. Colonists confronted eight British soldiers who were guarding the Boston Customs House. The growing crowd quickly became an angry mob. Feeling threatened, the soldiers fired into the crowd of people, killing five citizens and injuring six more. News reports, along with silver engravings by Paul Revere depicting the Boston Massacre, spread throughout the Colonies. This served to further infuriate the Colonists.
THE INTOLERABLE ACTS
Subsequently, in 1774, the British Parliament passed several punitive laws meant to punish the citizens of Boston in particular, and by extension, Colonists in general. Known collectively as the Coercive Acts, they soon became known as the Intolerable Acts because of their perceived cruel and severe nature. King George III authorized a blockade of Boston Harbor, banned exports to foreign ports, eliminated the right to a fair trial, and forced Colonists to provide living quarters to British soldiers. That was intolerable.
THE SHOT HEARD ’ROUND THE WORLD
The following year, in April 1775, British soldiers marched on Lexington and Concord to seize weapons from Colonists. The British intended to suppress a potential rebellion. No one is sure who fired the first shot in the early morning hours of April 19th, but when it was over, eight patriots lay dead with another dozen or so wounded. That shot was heard ‘round the world and started the American Revolution.
INSURRECTION LED TO INDEPENDENCE
The brave men and women of Colonial America had been pushed around long enough. Colonists had suffered at the hands of a corrupt and uncaring government that wouldn’t respond to their grievances. They had endured foreign occupation, been denied their rights, were taxed to the hilt, isolated from the rest of the world, and ignored by the government. Enough was enough! The ensuing events are part of the very soul of America’s founding as an independent nation.
A year later, July 4th to be exact, the Continental Congress put pen to paper. “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another …”
Brave, dedicated, and passionate Colonists started with the Boston Tea Party Insurrection and ended up with freedom and independence. What resolve! What tenacity!
Sons of Liberty founder Samuel Adams once said, “If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” Where are they now when we need them most?
Image from: npr.org