Samuel Adams and "The Boston Tea Party"
Feeling grew stronger and matters grew worse until at length, after something like three years, Parliament took off all the new taxes except the one on tea. “They must pay one tax to know we keep the right to tax,” said the King. It was as if the King’s followers had winked slyly at one another and said: “We shall see - we shall see! Those colonists must have their tea to drink, and a little matter of threepence a pound they will overlook.”
It would have been much better for England if she had taken off all the taxes and made friends with the colonists. Many leaders in that country said so, but the stubborn King was bent upon having his own way. “I will be King,” he said. “They shall do as I say.”
Then he and his followers worked up what seemed to them a clever scheme for hoodwinking the colonists. “We will make the tea cheaper in America than in England,” they said. “Such a bargain! How can the simple colonists resist it?” Great faith was put in this foolish plan.
But they were soon to find out that those simple colonists were only Englishmen across the sea, that they too had strong wills, and that they did not care half so much about buying cheap tea as they did about giving up a principle and paying a tax, however small, which they had no part in levying.
King George went straight ahead to carry out his plan. It was arranged that the East India Company should ship cargoes of tea to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.
In due time the tea arrived. Then the King’s eyes were opened. What did he find out about the spirit of these colonists? That they simply would not use this tea. The people in New York and Philadelphia refused to let it land, and in Charleston they stored it in damp cellars, where it spoiled.
But the most exciting time was in Boston, where the Tory governor, Hutchinson, was determined to carry out the King’s wishes. Hence occurred the famous “Boston Tea Party,” - a strange tea-party, where no cups were used, no guests invited, and no tea drunk! Did you ever hear of such a party? Let us see what really happened.
It was on a quiet Sunday, the 28th of November, 1773, when the Dartmouth, the first of the three tea ships bound for Boston, sailed into the harbor. The people were attending service in the various churches when the cry, “The Dartmouth is in!” spread like wild-fire. Soon the streets were alive with people. That was a strange Sunday in Puritan Boston.
The leaders quickly sought out Benjamin Rotch, the owner of the Dartmouth, and obtained his promise that the tea should not be landed before Tuesday. Then they called a mass meeting for Monday morning, in Fanueil Hall, afterward known as the “Cradle of Liberty.”
The crowd was so great that they adjourned to the Old South Church, and there they overflowed into the street. There were five thousand in all, some of them from near-by towns. Samuel Adams presided. In addressing the meeting, he asked: “Is it the firm resolution of this body not only that the tea shall be sent back, but that no duty shall be paid thereon?” “Yes!” came the prompt and united answer from these brave men.
So the patriots of Boston and the surrounding towns, with Samuel Adams at their head, were determined that the tea should not be landed. Governor Hutchinson was equally determined that it should be. A stubborn fight, therefore, was on hand.
The Boston patriots appointed men, armed with muskets and bayonets, to watch the tea ships, some by day, others by night. Six post-riders were appointed, who should keep their horses saddled and bridled, ready to speed into the country to give the alarm if a landing should be attempted. Sentinels were stationed in the church belfries to ring the bells, and beacon-fires were made ready for lighting on the surrounding hilltops.
Tuesday, December 16, dawned. It was a critical day. If the tea should remain in the harbor until the morrow - the twentieth day after arrival - the revenue officer would be empowered by law to land it forcibly.
Men, talking angrily and shaking their fists with excitement, were thronging into the streets of Boston from the surrounding towns. By ten o’clock over seven thousand had assembled in the Old South Church and in the streets outside. They were waiting for the coming of Benjamin Rotch, who had gone to see if the collector would give him a “clearance,” or permission to sail out of the port of Boston with the tea.
Rotch came in and told the angry crowd that the collector refused to give the clearance. The people told him that he must get a pass from the governor. Then the meeting adjourned for the morning.
At three o’clock in the afternoon a great throng of eager men again crowded the Old South Church and the streets outside to wait for the return of Rotch. It was an anxious moment. “If the governor refuses to give the pass, shall the revenue officer be allowed to seize the tea and land it to-morrow morning?” Many anxious faces showed that men were asking themselves this momentous question.
But while, in deep suspense, the meeting waited for Rotch to come they discussed the situation, and suddenly John Rowe asked: “Who knows how tea will mingle with salt water?” At once a whirlwind of applause swept through the assembly and the masses outside. A plan was soon formed.
The afternoon light of the short winter day faded, and darkness deepened; the lights of candles sprang up here and there in the windows. It was past six o’clock when Benjamin Rotch entered the church and, with pale face, said: “The governor refuses to give a pass.”
An angry murmur arose, but the crowd soon became silent as Samuel Adams stood up. He said quietly: “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.”
These words were plainly a signal. In an instant a war-whoop sounded outside, and forty or fifty “Mohawks,” or men dressed as Indians, who had been waiting, dashed past the door and down Milk Street toward Griffin’s Wharf, where the tea ships were lying at anchor.
It was then bright moonlight, and everything could be plainly seen. Many men stood on shore and watched the “Mohawks” as they broke open three hundred and forty-two chests, and poured the tea into the harbor. There was no confusion. All was done in perfect order. But what a strange “tea party” it was! Certainly no other ever used so much tea or so much water.
Soon waiting messengers were speeding to outlying towns with the news, and Paul Revere, “booted and spurred,” mounted a swift horse and carried the glorious message through the colonies as far as Philadelphia.