December 16: The Boston Tea Party

Boston_Tea_Party-1973On this day in 1773, a group of American patriots disguised as Mohawk Indians, calling themselves the Sons of Liberty, stormed a ship in Boston and dumped the ship’s cargo into Boston Harbor. Of course, you know this event as the Boston Tea Party.

Now we are all familiar with the Boston Tea Party, but do you know why this event happened? It all began because the East India Company was in financial distress. Although the company had a monopoly on the importation of tea to England and its colonies, it was facing significant competition from smugglers who snuck Dutch tea into the realm. So, to improve the EIC’s financial position, the British government gave the EIC a refund on the fees they would pay to ship tea to the colonies. However, to offset this loss of government funds, a new tax was levied on the sale of tea and other goods in the American colonies.

Unsurprisingly, this did not sit well with colonists. British law said that British subjects could not be taxed without the consent of their elected representatives and the colonists in America could not elect any representatives to Parliament. To that end, the British Americans were being taxed without representation, which made this tax illegal.

Soon, there were many protests in the colonies, and the tax was actually reduced. However, there were still concerns that Parliament would again try to overstep colonial authority. There were also concerns that since the British government had given the EIC a monopoly on tea, what was to stop it from giving other companies monopolies on other goods? As part of the continued protests, tea ships were turned away at all American ports, except in Boston where the colonial governor actually supported Parliament’s position.

So, when the tea ship Dartmouth arrived in the Boston Harbor in late November, a plan was devised to subvert the governor and Parliament’s wishes. Namely, a group of men led by Samuel Adams stood watch over the ship to make sure that no tea was unloaded. For days, the Dartmouth and its cargo sat in Boston Harbor, and Governor Hutchinson refused to let the ship leave without paying its import duty. So on the evening of December 16, 1773 between 30 and 130 members of the Sons of Liberty boarded the Dartmouth and two other tea ships that had entered the port and tossed all 342 of the ships’ tea chests into the harbor. The men wore elaborate Mohawk Indian costumes for two reasons: The first was to provide some anonymity while performing this illegal act; the second to represent the fact that they were symbolically breaking with their supposed English heritage, and embracing their identity as Americans.

Interestingly, this event wasn’t referred to as the Boston Tea Party until the 1830s. Up until that point historians of the young American nation were reluctant to celebrate the wanton destruction of property, and the event then known as the “”destruction of the tea” was often omitted from early histories of the American Revolution. However, in the 1830s, the memory of the American Revolution experienced a bit of a revival and the commemoration of the events and heroes of the Revolution returned the Boston Tea Party to the public memory. The term was first used in 1833 when a biography of George Robert Twelves Hewes, one of the few then living participants in the Tea Party, was published with the title A Retrospect of the Boston Tea-Party.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a highly alcoholic beverage called the Boston Tea Party. It’s similar to a Long Island Iced Tea, but it’s shockingly more alcoholic than that old dreaded drink.

Boston Tea Party

  • 1/2 ounce Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Rum
  • 1/2 ounce Gin
  • 1/2 ounce Grand Mariner
  • 1/2 ounce Tia Maria
  • 1/2 ounce Amaretto
  • 1/2 ounce sweet and sour mix
  • Cola

Pour everything into a pint glass with ice and top off with cola. Garnish with a orange slice.

Tomorrow: The real reason for the season.

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