It’s quite an uncanny coincidence, but a day after International Tea Day, we have the commemoration of the Boston Tea Party, a political protest by a group called the Sons of Liberty, in Boston, Massachusetts. The protest was aimed against the tax policy of the British government and the East India Company that controlled all the tea imported into British colonies.
British colonies had long rebelled against taxes imposed by the British Parliament, claiming they had no obligation to pay. Parliament ended up retracting the taxes, but kept a duty on tea. While this meant tea would be cheaper to the colonies than before, the duty that was still charged was seen as a statement by Parliament that it retained the right to tax colonies, and this resulted in widespread reaction.
When three tea ships from the East India Company arrived in Boston, a furious reaction followed. On 16 December 1773, 7000 locals gathered at the wharf where the ships were docked. It was insisted that the tea ships should leave the harbour without paying the required customs duty, but the Collector of Customs would not release the ships before they paid their duties. This stalemate pushed events to a head, and by early evening a group of about 200 men in disguise gathered on a nearby hill, marched to the wharf, boarded the ships and proceeded to turn Boston Harbour into a giant teacup by dumping all the crates of tea from the three ships into the harbour.
The act of defiance was initially simply known as “the destruction of the tea”, and only started being referred to as the Boston Tea Party some 50 years later, when newspapers started referencing the event as such. Two books released in the 1830’s, “Traits of the Tea Party” and “A Retrospect of the Tea-Party”, cemented the name in popular culture.
From the Boston revolt, action spread to other colonies, with cities such as New York, Charleston and Annapolis also experiencing tea dumped off ships or burned in protest. Over the years the Boston Tea Party became a symbol of protest to many political activists.
Personally, I am just curious what all the tea dumped in the harbour did to the local marine population? Given the range of suggested health benefits of tea that I mentioned yesterday, I can just imagine there must have been some fish swimming around with extremely strong cardiovascular systems and super immunity!