|The Breed's Hill
Tea Party Animals
by Dan Shippey & Michael Burns
It was Friday morning, December 17th, and the harbor was a mess. The damage has been estimated at about three million dollars by today’s standards. Law enforcement was unsure what to do next. Critics were writing condemnations of the previous night’s event, while supporters were writing songs about it. Two hundred and thirty six years later, we are still talking about it. Say what you will about the Sons of Liberty, they threw one memorable party. So memorable that modern political protests ranging from anti-war to anti-big government have evoked the name Tea Party for their own events. But while everyone knows something about the Boston Tea Party of 1773, there are a lot of fascinating things most people don’t know.
We often hear of the “Mohawk Indian”
disguises worn by the participants, but we never hear why they were
dressed so. The event itself was largely organized by members of the
Masonic order, who were very deliberate about the symbols they
chose. The Native American was a symbol of complete
The protestors were not protesting high
tax rates, as is often assumed today. In fact, the taxed tea was
cheaper than the untaxed tea being smuggled into
The £25,000 to £90,000 (reports vary) worth of tea that was thrown into the harbor that cold December night was shipped in crates that were covered with canvas. This is something that the paintings never get right, probably because the earliest image I can find of the tea party was created more than ten years after the event by someone who wasn’t there.
The tea was loose leaf tea (in spite of what you may have heard in some east coast museums), and a great deal of it was green tea, which was more expensive and very popular in the era. Although the famous Boston Tavern Song mentions
Many people are surprised to learn that George Washington was not a supporter of the Tea Party. While he supported the ideals behind the Tea Party, he was appalled at the destruction of private property. The destruction of the tea came close to anarchy in his mind. This aspect of the event even worried the participants. When it was discovered that the lock broken on one ship belonged to that ship’s Captain, a replacement lock was sent to him. After the destruction of the tea some of the protestors even swept the docks clean. The protestors wanted to make it clear that the only thing they were targeting was the tea. When Benjamin Franklin stated that the cost of the destroyed tea had to be repaid, a group of merchants offered to do so; the British Government refused to accept.
There were spinoff parties even back then.
There are stories of citizens in other places dumping their tea or
signing pacts to stop drinking tea and boycotting its purchase.
Perhaps one of the most interesting events took place in
People rarely talk about the consequences of
the Boston Tea Party. Nancy Pelosi denounced the party as a
“manufactured protest” and “Astroturf, not grassroots” (oh wait…that
was the 2009 Tax Day Tea Party). Seriously, the Boston Tea Party led
to the Intolerable Acts being made law by the British Parliament.
These Acts included the closing of