The Boston Tea Party
By John Andrews
From a letter written to a friend in 1773
On November 29, 1773, there arrived in Boston
Harbor a ship carrying an hundred and odd chests
of the detested tea. The people in the country
roundabout, as well as the town's folk, were
unanimous against allowing the landing of it - but
the agents in charge of the consignment persisted
in their refusal to take the tea back to London.
The town bells were rung, for a general muster of
the citizens. Handbills were stuck up calling on
"Friends! Citizens! Countrymen!"
Mr. Rotch, the owner of the ship, found
himself exposed not only to the loss of his ship, but
to the loss of the money value of the tea itself,
if he should attempt to send her back without
clearance papers from the custom house - for the
admiral kept a vessel in readiness to seize any
ship which might leave without those papers.
Therefore, Mr. Rotch declared that his ship
should not carry back the tea without either the
proper clearance or the promise of full indemnity
for any losses he might incur.
Matters continued thus for some days,
when a general muster was called of the people of Boston
and of all the neighboring towns. They met,
to the number of five or six thousand, at ten
o'clock in the morning, in the Old South Meeting
House - where they passed a unanimous vote THAT THE
TEA SHOULD GO OUT OF THE HARBOR THAT AFTERNOON!
A committee, with Mr. Rotch, was sent
to the custom house to demand a clearance. This the
collector said he could not give without the duties
first being paid. Mr. Rotch was then sent to ask
for a pass from the governor, who returned answer
that "consistent with the rules of government
and his duty to the king he could not grant
one without they produced a previous clearance
from the office."
By the time Mr. Rotch returned to the
Old South Meeting House with this message, the
candles were lighted and the house still crowded
with people. When the governor's message was
read a prodigious shout was raised, and soon afterward
the moderator declared the meeting dissolved.
This caused another general shout, outdoors
and in, and what with the noise of breaking
up the meeting, one might have thought that the
inhabitants of the infernal regions had been let
That night there mustered upon Fort
Hill about two hundred strange figures, SAID TO BE
INDIANS FROM NARRAGANSETT. They were clothed
in blankets, with heads muffled, and had copper
colored countenances. Each was armed with a
hatchet or axe, and a pair of pistols. They spoke
a strange, unintelligible jargon.
They proceeded two by two to Griffin's Wharf,
where three tea-ships lay, each with one hundred
and fourteen chests of the ill-fated article on
board. And before nine o'clock in the evening
every chest was knocked into pieces and flung
over the sides.
Not the least insult was offered to any one,
save one Captain Conner, who had ripped up the
linings of his coat and waistcoat, and, watching
his opportunity, had filled them with tea. But,
being detected, he was handled pretty roughly.
They not only stripped him of his clothes, but
gave him a coat of mud, with a severe bruising
into the bargain. Nothing but their desire not to
make a disturbance prevented his being tarred
The tea being thrown overboard, all the
Indians disappeared in a most marvelous fashion.
The next day, if a stranger had walked through
the streets of Boston, and had observed the calm
composure of the people, he would hardly have
thought that ten thousand pounds sterling of
East India Company's tea had been destroyed
the night before.