Remembering one of the most significant events in the history of America’s founding.
On May 10, 1773, British Parliament passed the Tea Act. A seemingly-simple-sounding law, this act allowed the British East India Company to sell tea from China in the American colonies but created a monopoly on tea sales in the process. Though the law passed no additional taxes, it is crucial to know what occurred prior to the Boston Tea Party in order to understand why the American colonists were upset with the British Empire.
Following the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, Britain had succumbed to major debt. Though Britain had won the eastern part of America and expelled French forces from Canada and the territory around the Mississippi River, Britain needed a way to pay off their debt, as the French and Indian War was very costly (it occurred not just in America, but worldwide). Beginning in 1767, British Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, which included five primary acts: the New York Restraining Act, the Revenue Act, the Indemnity Act, the Commissioners of Customs Act, and the Vice Admiralty Court Act. Though British Parliament saw these new laws as a way to rebuild their revenue and recover from debt, the American colonists were outraged. Then, in 1770, British troops in Boston gunned down five colonial citizens who were part of an outraged crowd, due to the Townshend Acts. What prompted these soldiers to fire on the crowd remains a mystery, and the event furthered colonial outrage towards the Crown.
Figure 1: Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770.
Mounting tension between the Empire and the colonists finally reached a breaking point on December 16, 1773. Members of the Sons of Liberty, lead primarily by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, stormed British East India Company ships in Boston Harbor. Their motto? No Taxation Without Representation. Although the Tea Act introduced no new taxes, the Sons of Liberty were beyond frustrated with Britain’s previous taxes, and the consequences following the introduction of the Tea Act proved to be the final straw for them.
Figure 2: Various members of the Sons of Liberty.
With some of them dressed as Mohawk Natives (due to the fact that they now considered themselves true Americans rather than British subjects), the Sons of Liberty boarded the ships and began tossing chests of tea into the harbor. This sparked a fire in the hearts of many colonists, but enraged the Crown, and this is considered one of the primary triggering events of the American Revolution. The event inspired generations of Americans, and today, the conservative Tea Party Movement has drawn its name and inspiration from the Sons of Liberty, with constitutionalists such as Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Tim Scott leading the charge for constitutional preservation and economic freedom.
Figure 3: Texas Senator Ted Cruz speaking at a Tea Party rally.
On this December 16th, we celebrate the 245th anniversary of one of the most iconic turning points in our nation’s history. Let’s all make it a point to educate our fellow Americans on this revolutionary moment.