Shoemaker and the Tea Party

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Throughout history, historians have spun events in order to alter and adjust others’ views on the event. This is especially true during Colonial times and the time leading up the American Revolution. During this time, information about the colonist’s events was passed on through word of mouth. One such man that was notorious for this was George Robert Twelves Hewes. Hewes was a Boston shoemaker, who at the age of twenty-eight witnessed four of his closest friends shot to death by The British red coats; he also participated in many of the key events of the Revolutionary crisis.1 Hewes recollections of the events that took place were passed along in the monograph The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution by Alfred F. Young. His recollections of the dumping of the tea into the harbor lead the reemergence of how significant the dumping of the tea was for the United States of America. However, stories of Hewes were also spun in order to alter the views of others. In 2008 we saw a reemergence of an everyday person taking center stage in a presidential race when John McCain, the republican nominee, introduced “Joe the Plumber.” Although he was a fictional character, he stood for the average, everyday working class person, much like how George Robert Twelves Hewes was portrayed as an everyday person making a difference in the world during the 19th century. George Robert Twelves Hewes was present at the Boston massacre and three years later at the dumping of the tea into the Boston harbor. At the time of the event it was played down and nearly blocked out of many colonists’ minds all together. In fact, the term “Tea Party” does not arise until the 1830s.2 “The ‘discovery’ of George Robert Twelves Hewes, who until 1834 was an unknown historical figure in either print or oral culture, save, of course to his family and the circles around him.”3 It can be said that Hewes helped to bring light to how revolutionary and significant the dumping of the tea really was. The dumping of the tea was a significant event for virtually all colonists. “Men in almost every patriotic family had taken part in the event, either attending the body meetings, watching the action at the wharf, or joining the boarding parties.” 4 However, colonists played down the significance of the Boston Tea Party that occurred December 16, 1773. At the time, the event was perceived as over stepping the boundaries; it was even looked upon as a radical event. The colonists, with a wiliness to forget, chose to not compose articles containing information about the dumping of tea in order prevent repercussions from Parliament, among other things. However, to the dismay of the colonists, these repercussions would come about anyways. Their actions would inevitably led to severe retaliation from Great Britain in the form of the Intolerable Acts. When the Intolerable Acts were enacted upon the colonies, it gave Parliament the power to move trials to other colonies or back to England if the King feared that the jury would not try the case fairly, also all law officers were subject to appointment by the royal governor, and all town meetings that didn't have approval of the royal governor were banned. The Intolerable acts also had two additional clauses that closed the port of Boston until the price of the dumped tea was recovered. Also enacted with the Intolerable Act was the Quartering Act, which allowed royal troops to stay in houses or empty buildings if barracks were not available.5 Ultimately these events led to the start of the American Revolution and the fight for independence. While colonists tried to spin events their way, it failed and the colonists were faced with harsh punishment. In addition to the events leading up to the American Revolution being spun, Hewes’s character was also spun by many different people, including James Hawkes and Benjamin Thatcher. Both these authors wrote biographies about Hewes, each with their own strengths...
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