Logo   The Boston Tea Party
The settlers of New England had always paid lip service to the sovereignty of the British crown, but not taxes. They had always governed themselves, so why pay the king?



(Continued from: Colonial New England)

New England's colonists had built their own prosperity despite laws promulgated in London that placed burdens and restraints on their economic activities. Governors sent out by the king were universally disliked, and often forced to return home by the cantankerous colonists.

It was King George III (reigned 1760-1820) who forced the issue, refusing to bear the irritation of the Americans' independent spirit any longer. Taxes were imposed on the colonies, even though the colonists had no elected representatives and no voice in Parliament. Resentment grew as the colonists chafed under the burden of taxation without representation.

The king was determined to force the issue, but it was the colonists who lit the fuse on the powderkeg. In March 1770, a crowd of Bostonians began taunting royal army sentries, and soon the mob got out of hand. Greatly outnumbered, the soldiers fired into the crowd, killing five citizens in what would be known as the Boston Massacre.

Life in Boston was outwardly peaceful for a few years, but king and Parliament were still determined to rule the unruly colonists, and the colonists were determined not to permit interference with their privileges of self-government, now a century and a half old.

As a symbol of London's supremacy, a tax was placed on tea shipped to the colonies. Tea was to New England then what coffee is to America today, and the tax was widely reviled, not so much for its economic impact, which was minimal, but because of its symbolic importance: virtually everyone drank tea, and thus everyone was forced to pay the tax.

The political temperature rose as American patriots formed secret societies, such as the Sons of Liberty and the Committees of Correspondence, and worked out plans of resistance to London's control.

In the autumn of 1773, matters came to a head as the patriotic activists insisted that the king's governor order HMS Dartmouth, arriving in Boston with a cargo of taxable tea, to go back where it came from. Governor Hutchinson would not give the order, so on the night of December 16, bands of patriots disguised as Indians and blacks boarded the Dartmouth and two other ships and dumped their cargoes of tea into Boston harbor. The night's action became known as the Boston Tea Party.

When London learned of this rebellious act, laws were passed that were meant to strangle the colonial economy and to teach the nasty colonists a lesson. The political temperature in New England neared the boiling point.

Next: Battle of Lexington

Colonial New England

Battle of Lexington

Battle of Concord

Battle of Bunker Hill

Patriots' Day

Declaration of Independence

Timeline of New England History

New England Geology

New England History

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