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Men on the dock watching crowded ships in the distance throwing items overboard. Text on right side refers to the Boston Tea Party.
"Boston tea-party." Three cargoes of tea destroyed. Dec. 16, 1773, c1903. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The 250th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party

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Tomorrow, December 16, marks 250 years since the political protest that eventually led to the creation of the United States of America. On December 16, 1773, American patriots disguised as Mohawk Indians threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor, in what would later be called the “Boston Tea Party.” The Americans were challenging 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.” Great Britain imposed punitive measures on the colony of Massachusetts, and Boston specifically, as it was known as the center of colonial hostility. These punishments included the four acts known as the Intolerable Acts in America, or the Coercive Acts in Britain.

The Acts included:

  1. Boston Port Act (closed Boston Harbor until restitution was made for the destroyed tea)
  2. Massachusetts Government Act (replaced the elected local government with an appointed one)
  3. Act for the Impartial Administration of Justice (gave governor authority to move any trial to another colony or Great Britain)
  4. Quartering Act (required colonists to house British troops in unoccupied dwellings at the colonists expense)

These punishments, meant to reimpose strict British control over the colonies, had the opposite effect and led directly to the convening of the First Constitutional Convention and declaring independence.

A depiction of the Boston Tea Party with men cheering on docks while men dressed as Indians throw wood containers into the water.
The destruction of tea at Boston Harbor, 1846. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The new display of A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation includes the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, where you can find information about the Journals of the Continental Congress in seven volumes. You can augment your reading of the early politicians with breaking news from broadsides in the collection Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774 to 1789 or viewing maps from the collection American Revolution and Its Era: Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750 to 1789.

Title page of The Massachusetts Spy, Dec. 23, 1773. Newspaper tells of the Boston Tea Party.

Boston will be celebrating and reenacting all day tomorrow, as they have been commemorating all year in anticipation of this day. Even some public libraries have found a special way to mark the occasion!

How will you celebrate? A nice cup of tea and a story of daring deeds, perhaps?

The Boston tea party. Watson, Henry C. (Henry Clay). 1888.


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  1. Says the British required colonists to house British troops in unoccupied dwellings at the colonists’ expense.
    Compare 2023, case before SCOTUS now (Loper v. Raimondo) challenging the government requiring private fishing vessels to house and pay for a government employee on-board.

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