Today in History: 249th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party
by M.C. Millman
A significant act of defiance occurred 249 years ago today when American colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians destroyed 342 crates of British tea.
British Parliament imposed a series of taxes on American colonists to help pay their debts. Such taxes included the Stamp Act, which taxed almost every piece of printed paper, and the Townshend Acts of 1767, which taxed essentials like glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea.
Britain did eventually repeal those taxes, aside from the tea tax. Colonists were frustrated and angry with British taxation policies on North American colonies. As a direct response to Britain imposing "taxation without representation," a group known as the Sons of Liberty spearheaded the revolution known today as the Boston Tea Party.
On December 16, 1773, three ships filled with tea had been waiting for twenty days to unload. According to TeachingHistory.org, if the tea wasn't unloaded, then customs wasn't paid. The Sons of Liberty organized a continuous watch of the vessels to ensure the ships were not unloaded.
Three groups of around 50 men boarded the ships just after six o'clock that night. The men efficiently brought the 342 chests of tea (a total of 90,000 pounds) onto the deck. They split the chests open and threw the tea and chests overboard into the harbor. The entire 'party' took around three hours.
As a result of this revolution, King George III and the British Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in retribution to quell the "commotions and insurrections," according to the Massachusetts Historical Society. The series of acts closed Boston Harbor until the destroyed tea was paid for and altered government and justice systems, stripping away any remaining liberties.
The event was the first significant act of defiance against British rule over the colonists. It demonstrated to Great Britain that Americans wouldn't tolerate taxation and tyranny. It also inspired patriots across all 13 colonies to fight for independence.
While Britain put the Coercive Acts in place to extinguish the rebellion in New England and prevent other colonies from uniting, it had the opposite effect. The colonies were angered instead by the blatant display of tyranny, bringing them closer together on the path to freedom.