Written by: Peggy O’Connor, National Vice Chair, Commemorative Events
December 08, 2023
On December 17, 1773, John Adams wrote, “Last night, three cargoes of tea were emptied into the Harbour. This is the grandest event which has ever yet happened since the controversy with Britain opened!” He also wrote, “The people should never rise without doing something to be remembered, something notable, and striking. The destruction of the tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid, and inflexible, and it must have so important consequences, and so lasting, that I can’t but consider it as an epocha in history.”
On November 28, 1773, the first of three ships arrived at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston. In 19 days, on December 16, 1773, 116 proven Tea Party participants destroyed 340 chests of tea weighing more than 92,000 lbs by dumping it into Boston Harbor. The colonists knew they had to do something to prevent the tea from being taken off the ship. They had asked the Royal Governor Hutchinson to allow the ships to be sent back to England without unloading the tea. He did not respond to this request. On December 17th customs officials were scheduled to board the ships to unload the tea. Once the tea was unloaded the tax would have to be paid. The events of December 16, 1773 started a chain reaction!
John Hancock and Samuel Adams, architects of the Boston Tea Party planned the event, but stayed at Faneuil Hall to establish an alibi. These were ordinary men doing an extraordinary action.
What happened after the Boston Tea Party was even more amazing. Men and women in other colonies rallied behind this idea and organized similar protests in their cities. As a result of the destruction of the tea in Boston, the British cut off all access to Boston by land and sea for three years. Bostonians were prevented from starving by sneaking food into Boston during those three years.
What made the Boston Tea Party so impactful in the history leading up to the Revolution?
The colonists’ major complaint was not that the tea was being taxed but that Parliament implemented the tax with no representation by the colonists. Parliament exerted this power move to gain more control over the colonists.