The Boston Tea Party – Taxation Continues! Background

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The Boston Tea Party – Taxation Continues!
Background: The British Government has recently passed the Tea Act making the American colonists pay a small tax on all tea bought in the colonies. The Americans find this tax outrageous. They refuse to give Parliament the right to tax them in all cases. In 12 of the 13 Colonies, the ships carrying the tea were met in port by angry mobs and turned back to England. However, in Massachusetts, the most radical of all the colonies, the tea lands and is waiting on the ship to be given out. The King’s governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, is determined to see the tea tax paid.
Setting: It is December 16th 1773 in Boston, Massachusetts. Hundreds of people cram into the common hall to listen to Samuel Adams. Adams is the leader of the Sons of Liberty and the responsibility is given to him as to what the people of Boston should do concerning this new crisis.
Adams: Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention. A great and sorrowful day it is my friends. Our cruel and twisted mother, England, is once again trying to deny our natural rights of liberty and freedom.
(A rumble of disproval from the crowd. Adams picks up on this and shows his own anger and frustration.)
Adams: They tried with the Stamp Act; they tried with the Townsend Acts and now this new tax! A small tax they say, a tax on tea. How could we possible be against it? Do they really think tea will sweeten the bitterness of their tyranny?
Crowd Member One: NO!
Adams: Correct you are, friend. So what can we do? In all 12 other colonies, the brave sons of liberty met the ships carrying this vile tea. And in all twelve other colonies the tea went back to the mother country. But not so in Massachusetts! No, our beloved King has decided to make an example out of us. He wants to show the world that his laws, no matter how unjust and unfair to our people, will be enforced.
(A hissing breaks out among the crowd as they show their anger towards the king)
Crowd Member Two: He’s a TYRANT!
Crown Member Three: Hear, Hear!
Adams: Order, order please. So I went to our governor, Thomas Hutchinson and pleaded our cause. The governor knows of our anger. He knows of our dedication. He knows that we will not lie down and let Parliament step all over us. So how does Governor Hutchinson respond?
(Adams motions to the sheriff of Boston. The man shows his nervousness as his shaky hands fumble with a paper he’s about to read.)
Sheriff: People of Boston, I have here a letter from our governor, Thomas Hutchinson. It says: “To the people of Boston. You are warned that this meeting tonight is seen as against the public interest. You are ordered to leave immediately. If this order is not followed and you refuse to leave the meeting, you shall continue this unlawful meeting at your utmost peril” signed Thomas Hutchinson.
(The hissing in the crowd increases at these words.)
Adams: This letter shows the true face of the British. They dare to call our meeting against the public interest? It is their tax that is against the public interest!
Crowd Member One: Hear, Hear!
Adams: We are ordered to leave this meeting? Tell me friends, how long have we people of Boston enjoyed the right to meet together where we want?
Crowd Member Two: For one hundred years.
Adams: Yes! And our governor will sweep away our rights that we’ve enjoyed for one hundred years in the blink of an eye.
Crowd Member Three: Tyrants!!
Adams: The time has come to end this standoff. Will we let the British take money out of our pockets without our consent?
Crowd: No!
Adams: Will we give up our basic rights that we’ve enjoyed for a hundred years so easily?
Crowd: No!
Adams: Will we give in to the bullying of Hutchinson? Will we give into the threat that if we continue meeting we will be killed?
Crowd: No!
Adams: People of Boston, now is the time to fight.
Crowd Member One: But what can we do. The tea is already here. We can’t force it back to England.
Adams: Then we will just have to show Parliament where they can stick their tea!

  1. Why do the Americans consider the Tea Act to be an outrageous violation of their rights?

  1. How has Boston become the focal point of the struggle over the tea act?

  1. Who is the leader of the Sons of Liberty?

  1. What has Governor Hutchinson done to try and stop the Sons of Liberty from meeting?

Eyewitness Account of the Boston Tea Party

It was now evening, and I immediately dressed myself in the costume of an Indian, equipped with a small hatchet, which I and my associates denominated the tomahawk, with which, and a club, after having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired to Griffin's wharf, where the ships lay that contained the tea. When I first appeared in the street after being thus disguised, I fell in with many who were dressed, equipped and painted as I was, and who fell in with me and marched in order to the place of our destination.

When we arrived at the wharf, there were three of our number who assumed an authority to direct our operations, to which we readily submitted. They divided us into three parties, for the purpose of boarding the three ships which contained the tea at the same time. The name of him who commanded the division to which I was assigned was Leonard Pitt. The names of the other commanders I never knew.
We were immediately ordered by the respective commanders to board all the ships at the same time, which we promptly obeyed. The commander of the division to which I belonged, as soon as we were on board the ship appointed me boatswain, and ordered me to go to the captain and demand of him the keys to the hatches and a dozen candles. I made the demand accordingly, and the captain promptly replied, and delivered the articles; but requested me at the same time to do no damage to the ship or rigging.
We then were ordered by our commander to open the hatches and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard, and we immediately proceeded to execute his orders, first cutting and splitting the chests with our tomahawks, so as thoroughly to expose them to the effects of the water.
In about three hours from the time we went on board, we had thus broken and thrown overboard every tea chest to be found in the ship, while those in the other ships were disposing of the tea in the same way, at the same time. We were surrounded bv British armed ships, but no attempt was made to resist us.
We then quietly retired to our several places of residence, without having any conversation with each other, or taking any measures to discover who were our associates; nor do I recollect of our having had the knowledge of the name of a single individual concerned in that affair, except that of Leonard Pitt, the commander of my division, whom I have mentioned. There appeared to be an understanding that each individual should volunteer his services, keep his own secret, and risk the consequence for himself. No disorder took place during that transaction, and it was observed at that time that the stillest night ensued that Boston had enjoyed for many months.
During the time we were throwing the tea overboard, there were several attempts made by some of the citizens of Boston and its vicinity to carry off small quantities of it for their family use. To effect that object, they would watch their opportunity to snatch up a handful from the deck, where it became plentifully scattered, and put it into their pockets.
One Captain O'Connor, whom I well knew, came on board for that purpose, and when he supposed he was not noticed, filled his pockets, and also the lining of his coat. But I had detected him and gave information to the captain of what he was doing. We were ordered to take him into custody, and just as he was stepping from the vessel, I seized him by the skirt of his coat, and in attempting to pull him back, I tore it off; but, springing forward, by a rapid effort he made his escape. He had, however, to run a gauntlet through the crowd upon the wharf nine each one, as he passed, giving him a kick or a stroke.
Another attempt was made to save a little tea from the ruins of the cargo by a tall, aged man who wore a large cocked hat and white wig, which was fashionable at that time. He had sleightly slipped a little into his pocket, but being detected, they seized him and, taking his hat and wig from his head, threw them, together with the tea, of which they had emptied his pockets, into the water. In consideration of his advanced age, he was permitted to escape, with now and then a slight kick.
The next morning, after we had cleared the ships of the tea, it was discovered that very considerable quantities of it were floating upon the surface of the water; and to prevent the possibility of any of its being saved for use, a number of small boats were manned by sailors and citizens, who rowed them into those parts of the harbor wherever the tea was visible, and by beating it with oars and paddles so thoroughly drenched it as to render its entire destruction inevitable.
-- George Hewes

  1. Why do you think the Sons of Liberty disguised themselves as Indians?

  1. Why do you think the captains of the ships didn’t put up a fight when boarded by the Americans?

  1. What did they do to the King’s tea?

  1. What message were the Sons of Liberty making by destroying the King’s tea?

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