How Tea Changed America Forever

If you were to walk down any high street in practically any major city in the world you could be forgiven for thinking that Americans drink nothing but Coffee. There's a Starbuck's or Costa on every corner.

It is true that Americans love their fix of the black stuff but while coffee may be a more popular drink in the United States than tea, there's no denying the place of tea in the nation's history. The Boston Tea Party is a part of American history that every school kid learns at an early age. It was a key moment for both the US and the UK.

The Boston Tea Party was an act of protest by American colonist in Boston in 1773. Many people regard it as the first incident on the road to revolution and independence from the British and it is still celebrated all across the United States today as a mark of its importance.

The seeds of the protest were sown when the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townsend Acts of 1767 meant that the colonists were heavily taxed by the British despite not being represented in the Westminster Parliament. A wealthy Bostonian, John Hancock, had his ship seized after he protested at the acts and was charged with smuggling. The ship was aptly named 'Liberty'. The charges were later dropped but he continued to protest and continued to be harassed by the authorities as a result.

Hancock decided to aim his displeasure at the British East India Company and started a boycott on their tea from China. Sales fell by hundreds of thousands of pounds and in 1773 the company had huge debts and couldn't sell its tea. Hancock and others were importing tea from the Netherlands and not paying tax on it, this prompted the British government to pass and act that enabled the company to sell its tea without paying any tax in Britain on it. This meant the British East India Company could sell its product directly to customers in America at half the price of people like Hancock.

Resentment grew among the colonists at the favourable treatment afforded to the company and their were protests in Philadelphia and New York but it was Boston that was to become infamous in the whole affair. There were violent protests and many people were threatened.

In November 1773 a ship called the Dartmouth was involved in a stand off in Boston harbour. It carried East India Company tea. There were meetings held by the protestors and each one was larger and rowdier than the previous. On December 16 an estimated 8,000 people attended one such meeting. The Darmouth and two other vessels agreed to return to England without unloading their cargo but the governor, Thomas Hutchinson, said they couldn't leave without being unloaded first.

The protestors boarded all three ships thinly disguised as native Americans and worked throughout the night emptying the tea overboard into the harbour. As day broke over 342 casks or 90,000 lbs of tea was in the water. Nothing else was taken and only a single padlock had been broken.

The knock on effects of the incident included the relaxing of some laws which British politicians found unacceptable and resentment against the colonists grew. Some of the protestors were charged with High Treason and the port of Boston was closed. The Boston Tea Party effectively acted as a trigger for the American War of Independence.

The influence of the protest continued to be felt long after the civil war was over and even Mahatma Gandhi used the incident as a template for his famous salt protest against the British in India.

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About The Author, Dominicdonaldson
Dominic Donaldson is an expert in the food and drink industry.
Find out more about tea and the history of tea.