On Dec. 14, 1773, thousands of people from Boston and surrounding towns met at the Old South Meeting House in response to the "tea crisis."
The crisis resulted from a tea tax imposed by the distant imperial capital in London. The colonists were committed to boycotting the East India Company and ensuring that the hated tax was never paid. Public meetings had been held for weeks by a group considering itself the Body of the People. Now, however, a deadline was rapidly approaching, and the tax had to be paid in three days.
Then as now, those on opposing sides of the political divide saw the people involved through partisan lenses. Sam Adams, perhaps the leading colonial voice for independence, described the Body of the People as "the respectable inhabitants of this and the adjacent towns.” He said, “The business of the meeting was conducted with decency, unanimity, and spirit.”
However, Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson saw it differently. He described those opposing the tax as "principally of the lower ranks of the people and even journeymen tradesmen were brought in to increase the number." Just in case you missed his point, Hutchinson added that "the rabble were not excluded."
The December 14 meeting sent a final appeal to Hutchinson in search of a legal and peaceful solution. However, Hutchinson refused to budge. His reply was received at another public meeting on Dec. 16. Sam Adams then declared, "This meeting can do nothing more to save the country!"
With that, the colonists’ backup plan was put in motion and entered the history books. Hundreds of patriots dressed as Mohawk Indians dumped 340 chests of British East India Company tea into the harbor—more than 92,000 pounds of tea. In today’s money, that was roughly $1.7 million worth of tea. However, the efforts were quite disciplined. No damage was done to the ships, other items onboard, or the crews.
Paul Revere got news of the event to New York within five days. The Committees of Correspondence quickly spread the word to all the colonies. However, it took more than a month before officials in London were warned of the incident.
"The Boston Tea Party was the first significant act of defiance by American colonists and is a defining event in American history." The British response was to demand full payment for the lost cargo from Boston. When that was refused, the port was closed in an effort to destroy the town. The British treatment of the colonists set in motion a series of events leading to the American War of Independence.
Just over a year later, the British attempted to seize colonial weapons and leaders (Sam Adams and John Hancock). They marched to Lexington and Concord where the shot heard ‘round the world was fired on April 19, 1775.
Each weekday, Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology. Columns published on Ballotpedia reflect the views of the author.
Scott Rasmussen is founder and president of the Rasmussen Media Group. He is the author of "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System," "In Search of Self-Governance," and "The People’s Money: How Voters Will Balance the Budget and Eliminate the Federal Debt." Read more reports from Scott Rasmussen — Click Here Now.
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