On Dec. 16, 1773, a group of Bostonians dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded ships docked in Boston Harbor and dumped some 340 chests of tea into the water. Today marks the 240th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.
“A number of brave & resolute men, determined to do all in their power to save their country from the ruin which their enemies had plotted, in less than four hours, emptied every chest of tea on board the three ships commanded by the captains Hall, Bruce, and Coffin, amounting to 342 chests, into the sea!! without the least damage done to the ships or any other property. The matters and owners are well pleas’d that their ships are thus clear’d; and the people are almost universally congratulating each other on this happy event,” reads an article from the Dec. 20, 1773, edition of the Boston Gazette, recounting the details of the infamous nonviolent political protest.
This protest was a challenge against the Tea Act of 1773, which gave the nearly bankrupt British East India Company a monopoly on tea exports to America and forced the colonists to acknowledge British taxation, a thorn in their sides due to a monumental war debt from the French and Indian War. The Tea Act, and the facts that the colonists were required to provide room and board to the British standing army in America and had to pay taxes on everything from molasses to paper goods to glass, were all fuel to the fire of the impending American Revolution. Although Parliament repealed most of these taxes, the seeds of resentment, mistrust and anti-establishment had been planted in the colonists’ minds.
Most colonists applauded the action of the Boston Tea Party, while the powers-that-be in London reacted swiftly and severely. In March 1774 Parliament passed the Intolerable Acts, which closed the port of Boston and stripped Massachusetts of self-government, among other measures. The American Revolution began a year later.
The guide “The American Revolution, 1763-1783” documents this tumultuous time in American history from British reform and colonial resistance to America’s war victory through various Library of Congress collections and presentations. This resource is one of several that highlights the ups and downs of the nation’s development, from its early beginnings as a settlement to a post-war United States.