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Things are rarely as they seem, especially when it comes to war and history. As teachers debate the use of social media in the classroom, an important question arises: With limiting the access to knowledge (especially opposing views), are current understandings of history out of context? One such moment of history that is being questioned is the Tea Act.

Although labeled as the cause of the Revolutionary War, the Tea Act was not the sole reason for this war. Many factors, such as taxes and the role of the British parliament in the history of colonial America, led to battle and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. The Tea Act was just another on a long list of grievances that built the tension to result in the Revolutionary War. Let’s take a closer look as to the reasons why.

The Tea Act and the Boston Tea Party

First, let’s take a look at the Tea Act and the Boston Tea Party that resulted afterwards. The Tea Act of 1773 was instated when the British East India Company was facing financial struggles. This act made the company’s tea much cheaper than the overtaxed tea the people in the colonies sold, giving the East India Company a monopoly over the tea trade in the budding Americas.

 

Of course, the colonial merchants were not happy about this. If Britain could institute a monopoly on one trade, what’s to stop them from doing that to other trades? The colonists were not ready to lose out on any more business.

 

In Philadelphia and New York, East India Company ships were barred from docking, while in historic Charleston (where many of the sites involved in the Revolutionary War can still be seen today), the tea was locked up. However, Boston took a different tactic. Although colonials tried to follow Philadelphia and New York’s example, the Massachusetts governor would not allow the ships to leave since he had family consigned to sell the tea on board.

 

This led Sam Adams and others to plan the covert mission that was the Boston Tea Party. That night, colonists stormed the company’s ships and threw 342 chests of tea overboard. Not only was Britain furious about the loss of money (about $1.4 million today to be exact), but also the colonists’ audacious lack of respect of their authority. This led Parliament to pass the Coercive Acts, the true straw that broke the camel’s back.

The Coercive Acts

The Coercive Acts was a direct response and punishment of the Boston Tea Party. Four out of the five acts that were passed in 1774 were meant to serve as disciplinary actions, with three of them even mentioning Boston by name.

 

The first act was called The Boston Port Act. This closed Boston’s port until all the damages the East India Company incurred during the Boston Tea Party were paid in full. Since Boston’s economy was heavily dependent on its port, this brought financial troubles upon all the citizens.

 

The Massachusetts Act was the second Coercive Act. This removed many rights of self-government with the change of the Massachusetts Charter of 1691. The Administration of Justice Act made it so that if a British official ran into trouble with colonial law, they could take their trial to England.

 

The fourth Coercive Act, the Quartering Act, allowed soldiers to be quartered in Boston taverns or vacant buildings. The final act dealt with boundary lines religious liberty. By yielding to these acts, colonials would be giving up almost all of their rights to self-government.

 

This, they could not do. This led them to realize that their only course of action was to seek complete independence from Britain and start their own country so they could experience true freedom from tyranny. The rest, as you would say, was history.

Final Thoughts

Even though the Tea Act and the Boston Tea Party were what enacted the Coercive Acts, they were not the sole causes of what would ultimately lead to the Revolutionary War. Many steps and occurrences led to that moment.

 

Tension was already in the air with too many taxes and not enough rights. The Coercive Acts were the one thing the colonists could not bear with and finally put their foot down. In the end, the Tea Act was just another match that stoked the fire that was to become the Revolutionary War.  

 

 

 

Works Cited


  1. “Causes of the American Revolution: The Coercive Acts.” 18th Century History
  2. “Causes of the American Revolution: The Tea Act and the Boston Tea Party.” 18th Century History
  3. “Charleston Historic Sites: 10 Musts for Photography, Tours.” iTrip
  4. “Social media debate - to use in the classroom or ignore.” University of Cincinnati

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About the Author

Avery Taylor Phillips – Avery is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.