Case Study



Boston Tea Party Historical Society

British View vs. American View

The Traditional Version

"Taxation without representation is tyranny," British colonists protested when Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765. Even with the tax, British tea from India was still cheaper than inferior Dutch tea, but it was the principle involved that prompted the dumping of 342 cases of this disputed commodity into Boston Harbor in 1773.

Related Topics

Was the financial trouble of the East India Tea company what caused the Boston Tea Party?

The Case Study examines the entire depth of British colonial policies that led to the event.

The British Side

At considerable expense, Britain had won France’s North American territory in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). Britain now faced a large postwar debt and the responsibility of additional land to protect and govern. Highly burdened by taxes themselves, the British were merely asking the colonies to bear the expense of their own administration and defense. As each proposed revenue bill met with opposition, it was repealed, Parliament being anxious to appease the colonies. But such "lenity" only encouraged additional disobedience, which was skillfully orchestrated by colonial propagandists. The Boston Massacre of 1770, during which redcoats fired on a mob owing to extreme provocation, was played up as if hundreds of colonists had been killed instead of five.

Scarcely noted in the British press at first, the Boston Tea Party was magnified from a simple matter of destruction of property into an intolerable insult to British authority. Chiefly responsible for the incident were Sam Adams, a tough and cunning professional politician, who was said to control two Boston mobs which he exploited for his own personal gain and glory, and the rich and vain businessman John Hancock, later described as "an elegant revolutionary" of the "native governing class of merchants and landowners who interests were threatened by imperial policies and by the barrier to obtaining western land." These "incendiaries" used all manner of intimidation, even tarring and feathering loyal subjects of the king, to undermine their own current democratic self-rule, although British lawyers determined after careful consideration that the rebels were not guilty of high treason -- yet.

Thanks to the political and physical difficulties of conducting such a huge overseas operation, the world’s greatest power was defeated by a ragged band of revolutionaries. But the loss of the American colonies, as formalized by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, was taken by the British with characteristic aplomb -- rather as if a group of businessmen were closing down an unprofitable branch, it was said.



Numbers and Facts


Student Essays

The Location

The Ships

Origin of the Tea


Printable Poster

Samuel Adams Biography

Picture Galleries


Top 10 preceding historic events

Triangular trade in the colonies

Tea Party reenactment script

The Tea Act of 1773

Debate Arguments for the British

The Actual Tea Chest

The Ballad

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