Three-quarters of the tea sold in America was smuggled into the country.
In 1763 King George III needed to raise money after heavy losses in the French and Indian War and imposed hefty taxes on his American colonies. On 22 March 1765 the Stamp Act was passed followed, two years later on 2 July 1767, by the Townsend Acts and the Boston Massacre on 5 March 1770 (in which five civilians were killed by British soldiers). The colonists claimed that they were not obliged to pay the new tariffs because they had no representation in Britain. Parliament agreed to withdraw the taxes but not the one imposed on tea. By 1773 the British East India Company had large stocks of tea that they were unable to sell and were facing bankruptcy. The government came to the aid of the East India Company and exempted it from taxes that the Americans still had to pay. This allowed them to undersell the American tea sellers and create a monopoly.
It was this reduction in tax and the consequent cheap British tea that precipitated the Boston Tea Party. Three-quarters of the tea sold in America was smuggled into the country. When the first shipments of tea arrived in New York and Philadelphia the Americans refused to allow the ships to dock. Three ships did manage to dock in Boston with the help of armed British vessels. One ship captain agreed to return to England but was prevented from doing so by the authorities. On the evening of 16 December, three groups of 50 men — the self-proclaimed Sons of Liberty —marched down to Griffin’s Wharf and boarded the three ships. By 9pm they had broken open 342 crates of tea and dumped the contents into Boston Harbour.
Griffin’s Wharf, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Thursday 16 December 1773
After destroying the tea the men washed and tidied up after themselves and the next day sent a man to repair a padlock that had been broken. It was then noted that large amounts of tea were floating on the water and, to prevent it being recovered, several small boats were rowed out and the tea hit with oars and paddles until it was waterlogged. When the Bostonians refused to pay for the tea they had ruined the British closed the port. They also introduced the Restraining Acts in 1774, which led to the American Revolution. However, not everyone was enamoured of the Tea Party — George Washington thought it would incur serious retaliations and Benjamin Franklin believed that the partygoers should reimburse the East India Company for their lost tea.