in the 2006 Encyclopedia of the New American Nation.
The Boston Tea Party of 1773 occurred in response to the rising financial crisis of the British East India Company, but more importantly, it was in protest to the “taxation without representation” by the Parliament on the British American colonies.
Parliament passed the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767 in hopes of offsetting the revenue lost due to the ongoing smuggling of Dutch tea. The act levied a new tax on several commodities, British tea included, but instead of the tea tax solving the smuggling problem, it renewed a controversy about Parliament’s right to tax the colonies.
Whig colonists began to boycott the goods and protest against the taxes. Parliament was forced to repeal the Townshend taxes in 1770, but it kept the tax on tea. In 1772, Parliament passed the Tea Act that actually lowered the tax on tea that was imported into Britain, however it kept the tea taxes that were imported into the colonies the same.
In 1773, four ships carrying East India Company tea were sent to Boston, and one ship each were bound for New York, Philadelphia and Charleston. Opposition to the Tea Act began to mobilize the Americans colonists. Protestors of every colony except Massachusetts, where Gov. Thomas Hutchinson had convinced the tea consignees not to back down, were able to successfully turn the ships back to England.
After the tea ship Dartmouth arrived in the Boston Harbor, Samuel Adams called for a meeting on Nov. 29, 1773, in which thousands of colonists arrived. Where British law required the ship to unload and pay its taxes within 20 days, the mass meeting passed a resolution urging the captain of the Dartmouth to send the ship back without paying the taxes.
Gov. Hutchinson shot down the resolution, and two more tea ships, the Eleanorand the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor. On the last day of the Dartmouth’sdeadline, roughly 5,000 people gathered around the Old South Meeting House where it had met before. After receiving a report that Gov. Hutchinson had again refused to let the ships leave, people poured out of the meeting house and headed to the harbor. That evening, a group of as little as 30 or as many as 200 men, some dressed as Mohawk Indians, boarded the vessels and dumped all 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor.
A common misconception about the original Boston Tea Party is that it was a protest of high taxes, but the price of tea was actually reduced by the Tea Act of 1773. The Boston Tea Party was instead a response to the extent of Parliament’s authority on the colonies, including the right to tax on goods, without giving the colonies any representation in the legislature.