Case Study



Boston Tea Party Historical Society

John Hancock - Smuggling Powerhouse

John Hancock did not directly participate in the Boston tea party. But he stood to lose the most from the East India Company imports of English tea to Boston. On the other hand Samuel Adams who led the Mohawks aboard the British ships was so close to John Hancock that Bostonians even joked that "Sam Adams writes the letters [to newspapers] and John Hancock pays the postage". You do the math.

John Hancock was a wealthy shipping magnate, who made the bulk of his money illegally by smuggling. Many colonials were smugglers, Hancock just happened to have a flair for it. Because the ever-tightening British policies that came about after the French and Indian War were aimed at his sort, he wholeheartedly took part in the call for Revolution.

It was a well known fact that John Hancock had made his fortune through smuggling Dutch tea, which was cheaper than East Indian tea. A commonly forgotten fact is that East Indian prices were cut before the introduction of the three pence tax, in effect making its price, even with the tax, cheaper than Hancock’s tea. Presented with this information, many loyalists did not wonder at Hancock’s involvement in the boycotting of East Indian tea and indeed, the entire war.

After he inherited a fortune in his mid-20s, this elegant dandy nearly single-handedly bankrolled the early protests in Boston.

Hancock smuggled glass, lead, paper, French molasses and tea. In 1768, upon arriving from England, his sloop Liberty was impounded by British customs officials for violation of revenue laws. This caused a riot among some infuriated Bostonians, depending as they did on the supplies on board. In the late 1760s, he was formally charge with smuggling and although certainly guilty, his attorney was able to get Hancock relieved of all charges. The lawyer was Sam's cousin, John Adams.



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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