Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Boston Tea Party….No, Not the Fox News Kind

December 16, 1773 marks the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.

In the years following the Seven Years War (or French and Indian War), some colonists became suspicious of the British, thinking they were attempting to subvert their liberties. These suspicions were further aroused by the passage of acts which imposed new taxes on the colonies; the Sugar Act, the Quartering Act, the Stamp Act and the Townsend Act. The Townsend Act placed a tax on British tea, paper and glass. Patriots like Samuel Adams, John Otis and John Dickinson protested this tax claiming “no taxation without representation.” The Townsend Act was repealed in 1770, but a tax on tea was retained to show that parliament believed it had the right to tax the colonies, even though no members of the colonies were represented in parliament.

With that background in mind, some colonists continued to protest British practices, and attempted to show their fellow colonists that the British were chipping away at their liberties, and violating English law in the process. Sometimes these methods of protest took strange turns. In one incident, a British custom vessel called the Gaspee ran aground off the coast of Rhode Island. Since the vessel had stopped several colonial smuggling ships, a group of colonists were quick to destroy it. A group dressed as Native Americans quickly boarded the ship. They ordered the crew off and then set the ship on fire. The British attempted to arrest those responsible in order to put them on trial in England.

The most famous of these incidents, however, was the Boston Tea Party. Colonists in Massachusetts and elsewhere who opposed the taxes boycotted British tea. Instead of British tea, they drank smuggled Dutch tea, or none at all. Parliament passed the Tea Act in 1773 to lower the price of East India Trading Company tea to make it lower than Dutch tea, even with the tax. The colonists still weren’t buying. Before a ship of British tea could be brought to shore, Boston colonists dressed as Native Americans boarded the ship and dumped 324 chests of tea into the harbor. Some praised the “tea party” as a defense of liberty, others were critical of the destruction of private property.

Here is Sesame Street’s interpretation of the “T” Party. Enjoy!

[Images via steadyhabits]

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