Economic causes of the Boston Tea Party
In 1773 the East India Company was one of the strongholds of British economy. Suddenly it found itself at odds with the American non-importation restrictions on tea and with a huge inventory it could not move. The company was not able to meet its payment on dividends and loans and was moving towards bankruptcy. Of course the British government was reluctant to let it happen from fear that this may disrupt financial markets. As an alternative to a direct loan the Ministry decided to allow the company to send tea to America without paying an export duty.
The king and Lord North, losing sight of the principle involved, foolishly thought this measure would quiet the Americans, "for," North said, "men will always go to the cheapest markets." So another opportunity for reconciliation was lost. In May, Parliament passed an act in accordance with the king's desires, for so favoring the East India Company--a vast monopoly sitting heavily on the commercial enterprise of England--while respectful petitions and remonstrances from his loyal subjects in America, touching the highest interests of the nation, were treated with scorn.
The king, in answer to such papers, announced that he considered his "authority to make laws in Parliament of sufficient force and validity to bind his subjects in America in all cases whatsoever, as essential to the dignity of the crown, and a right appertaining to the state, which it was his duty to preserve entire and inviolate;" and he expressed his displeasure because, in their petitions and remonstrances, that right was brought into question.
The East India Company, hoping, yet doubting, accepted the proposed arrangement. In August they received a proper license, and filled ships with cargoes of tea for American ports. Agents were appointed at all the sea-ports to receive the tea, and relief for the embarrassed company seemed to be nigh. They were warned by Franklin and other Americans that they would suffer loss by the operation, for their countrymen would not accept the new arrangement. But Lord North quieted the fears of the Company by saying: "It is no purpose making objections, for the king will have it so. He means to try the question with the Americans."
The colonists accepted the issue. They met the commercial question with one of deeper significance than that of the dearness or cheapness of a commodity. Is there a duty for revenue, imposed on tea? was the true question. It was answered in the affirmative, and it was resolved that tea, whatever its price, should not be landed in America until that duty was taken off.
The committees of correspondence soon produced unity of sentiment on that point throughout the colonies. Public meetings were held. Mutual support was pledged; the agents or consignees were requested to resign, and when the tea-ships arrived, they were not allowed in some places to discharge their cargoes. The spirit of the stamp-act days was aroused.