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The Boston Tea Party of 1773

The Boston Tea party of 1773 came just three years after the Boston Massacre. Despite the widespread publicity surrounding the tragedy of the Boston Massacre, cooler heads prevailed for the next year or two. Moderates on both sides of the Atlantic argued that compromises could still be reached. An equally famous and more peaceful protest came about, the Boston Tea Party of 1773

Then the powerful, but poorly run, British East India Company found it had 17 million pounds of surplus tea on its hands. So the British government gave the company a monopoly on the American tea business. With a monopoly, the company could lower its prices enough to undercut the smuggled tea the colonists drank instead of paying the British tax.

But even with lower prices, the colonists still didn’t like the arrangement. It was the principle of the tax itself, not the cost of the tea. Shipments of English tea were destroyed or prevented from being unloaded or sold.

On December 16, 1773, colonists poorly disguised as Native Americans boarded three ships in Boston Harbor, smashed in 342 chests of tea, and dumped the whole mess into the harbor, where, according to one eyewitness, “it piled up in the low tide like haystacks.” No one was seriously hurt, although one colonist was reportedly roughed up a bit for trying to stuff some of the tea in his coat instead of throwing it overboard.

King George III wasn’t amused by the colonists’ lack of respect. “The die is now cast,” he wrote to his latest prime minister, Lord North, who had succeeded Townshend upon his sudden death. “The colonies must either submit or triumph.”

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