Case Study



Boston Tea Party Historical Society

Why and how did the Boston Tea Party come about, and who threw the tea away?

I have several questions about the Boston Tea Party. One of my most intriguing is why and how did it come about for 342 chests of tea to be thrown into the water, and who did it? I am here to reveal these answers to you.

It all started in 1766, when the Townshend Acts were adopted. This allowed Parliament to tax the colonies on tea, lead, paint, paper, and many other items. In 1770, the Townshend Acts were repealed except for the small tax on tea. The purpose of this was to show that Parliament still had the right to tax the colonies. For most of the time, the tax was ignored as the colonists bought most of their tea from Dutch smugglers.

In 1773, the East India Company had all of its warehouses in England full. To escape financial ruin, Parliament adopted the Tea Act. This allowed the company to ship the tea directly to the colonies instead of to England and then the colonies.

The colonies reacted to this act as a bribery to get them to pay taxes. The tea, even with the tax, was extremely cheap and could easily undersell the Dutch. The idea was for the colonists to buy the cheaper tea and then save the company. What was too bad for the East India Company was that they had already been thought of as a monopoly in the colonies. The colonies could not deal with the chance of another monopoly.

The company sent about 500,000 pounds of tea to the colonies to be landed in several ports. The tea sent to New York and Philadelphia were sent back unloaded and unharmed. The tea sent to Charleston was unloaded and allowed to spoil in its chests. What happened, though, in Boston was the most radical of all.

Luckily for the tea merchants, they were friends or relatives of Governor Thomas Hutchinson. The opposition of the tea tax was led by Samuel and John Adams, Josiah Quincy, and John Hancock.

The first of the cargo ships reached Boston on November 27, 1773. The Sons of Liberty and the Committee of Correspondence stopped Francis Rotch and his ship, the Dartmouth and from unloading their tea. Two more ships, the Eleanor and the Beaver came later.

Rotch and the captains of the other two ships agreed to leave without unloading their cargo, but Governor Hutchinson denied them clearance. According to the law at that time, if the tea was not unloaded in twenty days (by December 17), then it was to be taken and sold at auction. That still meant that the tax would have to be paid, so the patriots decided to break the draw.

On the evening of December 16, several thousand people gathered around Old South Meeting House to listen to Samuel Adams and other serious colonists. Finally Adams closed by saying, "This meeting can do nothing more to save the country." This statement was a previously planned signal and at that point sixty men dressed as Mohawk Indians let out a war cry and headed towards Griffin's Wharf.

The "Indians" were believed to young men or apprentices. They were armed with small hatchets and covered in coal dust. When the "Indians" arrived at Griffin's Wharf they split into three groups under secret commanders. Two of the commanders were believed to be Leonard Pitt and Paul Revere, the third is unknown.

The "Indians" boarded the ships and promptly ask the captain for the keys and candles. Nothing on the ship was to be hurt or damaged, except for the tea. The chests of tea were first split open by the hatchets and then thrown overboard. The job was completed in three hours. The deck was then swept clean and everything left unharmed, except for the tea.

The "Party" was surrounded by British man-of-war ships, but no attempt was made to resist the them. After the "Party" everything was kept secret, no one was to know who was involved. There were also some attempts to steal tea, but most people were caught and thrown into the water. In the morning after the tea was destroyed, it was noticed that large amounts of tea were floating on top of the water. So many boats went out and drowned the tea prevent any from being saved.

All together, 342 chests of tea were destroyed totaling about £18,000 worth. After that Parliament passed The Five Intolerable Acts, one of which closed Boston Port until the tea was paid for.

I conclude that The Boston Tea Party came about because the British started to tax the colonies without the colonies permission. Although the tea tax may have been misinterpreted by the colonists, it did lead to the way of a great nation. As for who did it, that will remain a mystery forever.


1). Boston Tea Party - Eyewitness Account, The History Place, http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/revolution/teaparty.htm, Copyright © 1998.

2). New Standard Encyclopedia, Standard Educational Corporation, Chicago, IL, Copyright © 1991.

3). History of the United States, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, Copyright © 1992.

Created by Michael S. on December 21, 2000



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

Information about Peru culture, history, Inca civilization, Machu Picchu and travel

“Abolition of slavery had been the deepest desire and the great labor of my life” - Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Tuckahoe, Talbot County, Maryland...

Copyright © 2008 Boston Tea Party Historical Society
Designed by Holypark Media