The Boston Tea Party: The Colonial Issue of Taxation without Representation

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he Boston Tea Party (referred to in its time simply as "the destruction of the tea" or by other informal names and so named until half a century later,[2]) was a political protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, a city in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the tax policy of the British government and the East India Company that controlled all the tea imported into the colonies. On December 16, 1773, after officials in Boston refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain, a group of colonists boarded the ships and destroyed the tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor. The incident remains an iconic event of American history, and other political protests often refer to it. The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America against the Tea Act, which had been passed by the British Parliament in 1773. Colonists objected to the Tea Act because they believed that it violated their rights as Englishmen to "No taxation without representation," that is, be taxed only by their own elected representatives and not by a British parliament in which they were not represented. Protesters had successfully prevented the unloading of taxed tea in three other colonies, but in Boston, embattled Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to allow the tea to be returned to Britain. The Boston Tea Party was a key event in the growth of the American Revolution. Parliament responded in 1774 with the Coercive Acts, or Intolerable Acts, which, among other provisions, ended local self-government in Massachusetts and closed Boston's commerce. Colonists up and down the Thirteen Colonies in turn responded to the Coercive Acts with additional acts of protest, and by convening the First Continental Congress, which petitioned the British monarch for repeal of the acts and coordinated colonial resistance to them. The crisis escalated, and the American Revolutionary War began near Boston in 1775. •

Background

Plaque affixed to side of the Independence Wharf building (2009) The Boston Tea Party arose from two issues confronting the British Empire in 1765: the financial problems of the British East India Company, and an ongoing dispute about the extent of Parliament's authority, if any, over the British American colonies without seating any elected representation. The North Ministry's attempt to resolve these issues produced a showdown that would eventually result in revolution.[3] Tea trade to 1767

As Europeans developed a taste for tea in the 17th century, rival companies were formed to import the product from China.[4] In England, Parliament gave the East India Company a monopoly on the importation of tea in 1698.[5] When tea became popular in the British colonies, Parliament sought to eliminate foreign competition by passing an act in 1721 that required colonists to import their tea only from Great Britain.[6] The East India Company did not export tea to the colonies; by law, the company was required to sell its tea wholesale at auctions in England. British firms bought this tea and exported it to the colonies, where they resold it to merchants in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.[7] Until 1767, the East India Company paid an ad valorem tax of about 25% on tea that it imported into Great Britain.[8] Parliament laid additional taxes on tea sold for consumption in Britain. These high taxes, combined with the fact that tea imported into Holland was not taxed by the Dutch government, meant that Britons and British Americans could buy smuggled Dutch tea at much cheaper prices.[9] The biggest market for illicit tea was England—by the 1760s the East India Company was losing £400,000 per year to smugglers in Great Britain[10]—but Dutch tea was also smuggled into British America in significant quantities.[11] In 1767, to help the East India Company compete with smuggled Dutch tea, Parliament passed the Indemnity Act, which lowered the tax on tea consumed in Great Britain, and gave the East...
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