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The Boston Tea Party: No Taxation Without Representation

Boston Tea Party
Original Artist – Robert Reid Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On December 16, 1773 a group of demonstrators disguised as Indians destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent to the colonies by the East India Company. The protesters who were members of the Sons of Liberty boarded three British ships and threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor destroying the tea. John Adams referred to the protest as “the Destruction of Tea In Boston.”

The British government was not pleased by this political protest by the insolent colonists and this single act eventually lead to the American Revolution that began near the city of Boston in 1775

The Tea Party Resistance

In 1773 the British Parliament passed the Tea Act and that prompted the resistance movement throughout the colonies. The Tea Act actually reduced the taxes paid by the colonists to about half of what their British counterparts were paying in England.

Colonists resisted the Tea Act because they felt it still violated the very rights they had left England to avoid — “No taxation without representation.”

The Boston Tea Party was not the only site where resistance to the Tea Act occurred. Protesters successfully stopped taxed tea from being unloaded in three other colonies. But in Boston, the Royal Governor, Thomas Hutchinson would not allow the tea to be returned to Great Britain.

The American Revolution

The Boston Tea Party was a key event inspiring American resistance against the taxation and interference of the British Crown. The British Parliament came down hard on the colonists in 1774 passing the Coercive Acts, or Intolerable Acts, which, along with other provisions, ended local self-government in Massachusetts and closed Boston’s commerce.

More and more acts of resistance were organized throughout the 13 colonies finally reaching a head with the convening of the First Continental Congress. The Continental Congress petitioned England to repeal the acts to no avail. From that point on the American Revolutionary War was inevitable.

Some Tea Party Facts

  • George Washington did not support the protesters efforts. Washington felt that private property was sacred and thought the protestors should have compensated the East India Company for damages.
  • The Boston Tea Party was not called that until a newspaper article gave it that terminology in 1826. Two books published in the 1830’s helped to inscribed it into American history.
  • There was a second Boston Tea Party three months after the original. Sixty disguised men boarded the ship “Fortune” in March of 1774. Only 30 chest of tea were destroyed making it significantly less successful than the original.

Some Final Thoughts

The first amendment in the US Constitution gives all Americans the right “… of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” American’s have a long and checkered history of protesting. From the Boston Tea Party to the modern Tea Party political movement to Occupy Wall Street citizens have taken to the streets to let their desires about government known to all.

Not all protests have been peaceful. Kent State and the Civil Rights movements in the south during the 1960’s are examples of protests that ended with many injuries and death. In spite of these unfortunate acts American protests have, for the most part, lead to positive changes for society. Mob rule is never productive but protesting has inspired people in power to reexamine societal norms.

Let’s all hope that future protests will result in a better, freer society for all of us.

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