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The Boston Tea Party was a protest that happened in 1773. Angry colonists wanted to be able to make their own laws. They also wanted a vote. Since Britain didn’t give the colonists a voice, they made a big protest by dumping 342 chests of tea into the water, which was worth millions of dollars in today’s money.
This event helped Americans find out that they should not have been treated like this. It also made people decide they wanted independence from Great Britain.
Causes of the Boston Tea Party
The Stamp Act
The Stamp Act was a tax on documents that British people in America had to pay. The British Empire needed more money. They thought that if they put a tax on printed paper, Americans could pay for it.
The printed paper included:
- playing cards
- business licenses
- legal documents
People in America were mad. Everybody needed all these papers, but they cost a fortune now!
Americans did not want to pay the tax, so they said it was not legal. Some people who worked as collectors for the papers stopped working because they did not want to be hurt by angry Americans.
The Townshend Acts
The British were happy with the imposed taxes. Now they decided that more things should be taxed.
The Townshend Acts were named after a British chancellor. He imposed duties on different goods that the colonists imported from England.
With the Townshend Acts, new taxes were put on:
These things are difficult for people in the colonies to produce on their own, so they would have no choice but to buy them from Britain.
Benjamin Franklin said that the colonists would only pay for these imports if they had to, and not because they wanted to.
The story of tea
You may enjoy tea today with a bit of sugar and milk, but tea was not well known in the past.
This plant came from China. Tea grew among the high mountains that separated China from India.
For over 1000 years, it was Chinese people who drank it. Chinese merchants traded tea to Japanese ships, Mongol horsemen, and Persian caravans for many years.
Few Europeans had tasted tea before 1680, but by the 18th-century, trading firms like the English East India Company were regularly selling it for a lot of money.
In England, tea became a household drink that people liked. A lot of people weren’t happy because they thought tea would make some bad habits like gossiping and being vain even worse, but the government did not stop them from bringing it in and selling it.
Tea was brought to America by the British. Some people bought tea legally, but other people smuggled tea to avoid taxes that were imposed in the Townshend Acts.
“Taxation without representation”
The British had been taxing the colonists. They did not feel that was fair. They had been taxed by Britain to pay for expenses from a war. The Americans also felt that Parliament did not have the right to tax them because they were not in Parliament.
So things became unstable in Boston because of the taxes. Colonists were mad at Great Britain for making them pay taxes without giving them a say in what those taxes were for.
The Boston Massacre
Boston had been occupied for a while with the British. After a long period of tension, there was a fight in the streets between Bostonians and Redcoats, the English soldiers.
The soldiers swarmed all over Boston and barged into people’s homes without permission. Finally, there was a group called the Sons of Liberty who couldn’t take it anymore and revolted against Britain.
A boy is killed
Skirmishes have been happening between colonists and soldiers. Patriots sometimes attacked stores that sold British goods.
In February, a mob of patriots attacked one store.
A customs officer, who lived near the store, tried to stop them by firing his gun through the window of his house. He accidentally killed an 11-year-old boy named Christopher Seider. This only angered the patriots more.
March 5, 1770
Five civilians were killed in a riot by gunfire from soldiers. This event is known as the Boston Massacre.
The first man to die at the Boston Massacre was a dockworker named Crispus Attucks. He had African and Indigenous descent. Little is known about him, but he is one of the most important figures in the American Independence War.
This is the illustration made by Paul Revere of the Boston Massacre. It includes a poem that he wrote. He copied it from another artist but did not give credit to him.
The Sons of Liberty held funerals for the victims and organized a vigorous propaganda effort to get people to feel sorry for them. They called the tragedy a “bloody massacre” (you can read that at the top of the illustration).
The Sons of Liberty
The Boston Tea Party was organized by Sam Adams who is also known as part of the organization Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty were a group of men who were tired of the injustices caused by the British.
They protested because they wanted their rights back and wanted to get rid of British rule. People who did this included John Adams, John Hancock, James Otis, Josiah Quincy, and Paul Revere, among others.
The Daughters of Liberty
The Daughters of Liberty did not join in on the protests with the Sons of Liberty. Instead, they participated in boycotts and helped people make goods instead of buying British goods.
In 1768, when Boston merchants signed a paper that said they would not import or sell British goods, this led to a shortage of specific things like textiles. The Daughters of Liberty organized spinning bees to help make the fabric so that people could get dressed.
The Daughters of Liberty met at the house of a minister in Boston. The party was concluded with great tunes, anthems, and liberty songs.
Here is a poem that appeared at the time in the local newspapers:
YOUNG ladies in town, and those that live round, Let a friend at this season advise you; Since money's so scarce, and times growing worse, Strange things may soon hap and surprise you... No more ribbons wear, nor in rich silks appear; Love your country much better than fine things Begin without passion, 'twill soon be the fashion To grace your smooth locks with a twine string,
September 27, 1773
Seven ships loaded with two thousand chests of tea left London. Four went to Boston, and the other three went to New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.
One ship from Boston was lost at sea in a storm, while one ship from Philadelphia had all its tea taken off for a return trip back to London.
So only three ships came to Boston Harbor to Griffin’s Wharf. In the 18th century, Griffin’s Wharf was a busy place for ships. It is where people destroyed the tea in 1773. But now it’s underwater because of landfills in Boston, and no one knows where it is.
The colonists did not want the boats. They told the leader of the colony that they wanted them to leave. But he said “no.” People who lived there took care of these boats instead.
December 16, 1773
In the middle of the night, many people boarded 3 ships in Boston harbor.
In about two hours, they lifted 340 chests full of tea from the ship to the ground. They used hatchets to open the chests. Then they emptied their contents over rails on the ship.
Since it was low tide, you could see huge clumps of what they had thrown overboard piling up by the ships.
One of the green teas that were on the Boston ships was called hyson and was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Who spilled the tea?
A lot of people took part in the Boston Tea Party. Many of them didn’t want to get caught, so they kept their identities hidden. To this day, we know that 116 people were there.
But not all of them are known- many went to their graves without telling who they were. Many were from Boston or nearby, but some came from as far away as Worcester in the middle of Massachusetts.
They wrapped blankets around their shoulders and had covered their faces with paint and soot. A newspaper report called them “resolute men (dressed like Mohawks or Indians).”
After the night of the tea party, the colonists would go out to ships and sink all of the remaining boxes of tea in Boston harbor.
March 24, 1774
They had parties until 3 months later when British soldiers barged into people’s houses whenever they felt like it. The colonists were not allowed to leave Boston until they had paid for all of their tea.
The King of England was angry. He didn’t like what people in Boston had done. He helped pass a law to punish the men who dumped tea into the water.
The British kept trying to control the colonies, and the colonies rejected that idea. This was one of the significant events leading up to the Revolutionary War with Britain.
Tossing tea into Boston harbor was not called a tea party until 1829. The report of the death of an old man named Nicholas Campbell in Providence, who “was one of the ever-memorable Boston Tea Party” – that committed one of the first acts against British oppression – had this saying attached to it.
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