Case Study



Boston Tea Party Historical Society

Economic causes of the Boston Tea Party

The earliest public meeting to consider the reception that should be given to the tea-ships on their arrival, was held in the city of New York, on the 15th of October, 1773. Intimations had reached the city on the 11th, that a tea-ship had been ordered to that port; and at the meeting held at the coffee-house, in Wall street, grateful thanks were voted to the patriotic American merchants and ship-masters in London who had refused to receive tea as freight from the East India Company.

On the following day (October 16) a large meeting was held in the State-house yard, in Philadelphia, for the same purpose. When word reached the city that a tea-ship had been ordered to that port, the newspapers denounced the whole scheme as a ministerial trick to ensnare and enslave the Americans.

The people were much excited, and the meeting in the State-house yard was a "monster" gathering for that day. Eight spirited resolutions were adopted, the most vital of which was one that declared "That the resolution lately entered into by the East India Company, to send out their tea to America subject to the payment of duties on its being landed here, is an open attempt to enforce the ministerial plan, and a violent attack upon the liberties of America." They also resolved that it was the duty of every American to oppose the attempt to force the tea and taxes upon them.

The consignees of the proscribed herb, in Philadelphia, were, by another resolution, requested, "from a regard to their character and the good order of the city and province, immediately to resign." Already a self-constituted "committee for tarring and feathering" had issued a manifest to the pilots on the Delaware, telling them to do their duty in case they should meet the tea ship Polly, Captain Ayres. They were to warn him not to go to Philadelphia, and to promise him, in case he persisted in doing so, that he would have "a halter around his neck, ten gallons of liquid tar scattered over his pate, with the feathers of a dozen wild geese laid over that to enliven his appearance."

The same committee threatened the consignees; and when, on Christmas day, the news reached Philadelphia that the long-expected Polly was "below," several gentlemen proceeded to meet her. She was intercepted a few miles below the city. When her captain was told about public sentiment in Philadelphia, he left his ship and accompanied the gentlemen to the city.

The next day an immense public meeting was held at the State-house, to "consider what was best to be done in that alarming crisis." It was resolved that the tea should not be landed, nor the tea-ship be allowed to enter the port, or be registered at the Custom-house. It was also resolved that the tea should be sent back, and that the vessel should make her way out of the river and bay as soon as possible.

News that a similar spirit had been manifested in Charleston, New York and Boston, drew hearty thanks from the meeting in Philadelphia. The Captain (Ayres) of the Polly pledged himself to conform to the wishes of the people, and so the latter triumphed. A contemporary writer said: "The foundations of American liberty are more deeply laid than ever."



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The Location

The Ships

Origin of the Tea


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Samuel Adams Biography

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Top 10 preceding historic events

Triangular trade in the colonies

Tea Party reenactment script

The Tea Act of 1773

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The Actual Tea Chest

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