Summary – Boston Tea Party

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Summary – Boston Tea Party

The people in Boston were meeting at the Old South Church. It is believed to be the largest town meeting in Boston in which 5,000 people attended. One messenger was sent to the Governor of Boston, Thomas Hutchinson, to tell him that the ships that held the tea needed to leave Boston Harbor. The colonists wanted to send a message that they would not put up with the tax on Tea since they had no representation in Parliament.

The messenger returned with the news that Hutchinson refused to budge: he would not allow the ships to leave without unloading their cargoes of tea. Those in attendance began shouting their own ideas for how to respond. Some wanted to hold the ships out of the water, drag them to Boston common, and burn them.  Others suggested torching the vessels right at the wharf. but Adams, Hancock, and the Sons of Liberty had been expecting just this news, and they had already set a backup plan in motion. Even as the messenger relayed his report to the assembly, dozens of young men were slipping out the door and darting through the city's alleyways. John Adams rose suddenly and announced, “this meeting can do nothing more to save this country.”

At that very moment, the assembly heard loud yells coming from the street. A band of about 30 young men appearing as Native Americans showed up in the church’s front door. The timing was so precise that some historians believe that Adam’s’ statement was in fact a signal for the Indians to arrive. Someone inside the church shouted, "the Mohawks are come!" And the crowd poured out to watch what happened next. A few of the so-called “Mohawks” were the same young men who had slipped away during one of the men's speeches. Most were apprentices selected for the job but the sons of liberty had organized with military precision. By the time the call came, their disguises had been put on. Of course, no one truly mistook them for “Mohawks.”

They wore raggedy clothes, boots and blankets thrown over their heads. They painted their faces. It's not entirely clear why they chose to dress up as Indians. There were shots from several people in the crowd who are obviously aware of what the sons of liberty had planned. "Boston Harbor teapot tonight!" The Indians proceeded to the harbor, the crowd following along.

Despite later rumors, Sam Adams and John Hancock and other well-known patriots did not participate in the events of that night. They had set the tea party in motion now it was time for the people to carry it on. The rain had stopped, but the night turned colder and the moon could be seen overhead. They carried torches and lanterns that made everything light as day.

As they reached Griffin’s wharf they saw three ships silently in the water. The Sons of Liberty did not expect the British to take action against the protesters. A large scale bloodbath was the last thing the government wanted. The “Mohawks” surrounded themselves with the people at the meeting – in other words they used them as a human shield. When the protesters reached the harbor the shield fell away and they walked alone to Griffin's wharf. There they divided into three previously determined groups and each boarded one of the ships: the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver.

Schoolbook accounts of the Boston tea party often to pick Indians laughing and talking. In truth, the task was physically exhausting. Three ships contained a total of 342 chests of tea. Most weighed 400 pounds apiece. Once the chest was raised, they would attack it with axes, hatchets, and clubs. Open chests were thrown over the railings and the tea was dumped overboard. One of the protesters recalled: “I never labored harder in my life.”

By 9 o'clock, the Boston tea party had run its course. Within the span of a few hours the men who destroyed 92,600 pounds of tea, an astonishing amount worth more than 9,659 pounds at the time. The amount destroyed is as much is $1 million in today's currency.

  1. Why were the people upset with the fact that there were ships that had tea on them in the Boston Harbor?

  2. What was the job of the messenger?

  3. Who was Thomas Hutchinson?

  4. What did men of Boston dress up as for the Boston Tea Party?

  5. What did they wear?

  6. True or False: Sam Adams and John Hancock participated in the Boston Tea Party.

  7. Why is it false that the colonists would have been laughing as they threw the chests of tea overboard?

  8. How much was the tea that was destroyed worth?

  9. How do you think the British government will react to the Boston Tea Party?

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