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In March 1770, Parliament repealed the Townshend Duties when the North ministry replaced the Pitt ministry. The only remaining duty was the duty on tea. Parliament kept the duty on tea at the request of the King, in order to assert the right of England to tax the Colonies.

The American Merchants accepted this compromise and the agitation in the Colonies would soon die down. Tea smuggling continued however, to avoid paying the remaining duty. This would all change when Parliament passed the infamous Tea Act of 1773.

Tea Act of 1773

The Tea act of 1773 was an attempt to assist the British East India Company out of its financial troubles. This act in effect gave the company a virtual monopoly on the tea trade in the colonies. By eliminating the middlemen, it made the tea cheaper than the highly taxed imported tea that the colonial merchants sold.
(Read this broadside, atributed to Macius about this act on the Library of Congress website.)

This monopoly on the tea trade caused outrage among the colonial merchants because it was felt that if the East India Company could receive a monopoly on this one article of trade, what was to keep the British government from closing out the local merchants from other profitable trades.

The Colonists fought back by not allowing the companies ships to land in either Philadelphia or New York. In Charleston, the tea was locked away in warehouses until the war broke out. In Boston, it was a different matter.

The Boston Tea Party

This incident was the first act of resistance that ended with the destruction of a large amount of private property before the actual war broke out.Boston prevented the tea ships from landing their cargo. When the Massachusetts governor, Thomas Hutchinson, whose family was one of the merchants consigned to sell the tea, heard about this, he refused to allow the tea ships to leave port until they unloaded the cargo.

In response to this, on December 16, 1773, a protest meeting took place in the Old South Meeting House. At this meeting, Sam Adams gave the pre-arranged signal to the "Indians". These Indians went to the harbor boarded the tea ships and threw 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The total cost of damages was $10,000 Lbs.

This overt act against British authority caused such consternation in Britain that in 1774, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts.


The following sites discuss the Boston Tea Party and the Tea Act.

  1. Intolerable Act Protest Print
    This page from the Colonial Williamsburg web site discusses the reaction of the Intolerable Acts after the Boston Tea Party.
  2. History of Tea
    This site gives an interesting history of tea. It also discusses the East India Company.
  3. Tea Act, Tea Party, The Intolerable Acts
    This page discusses the Tea act and its consequences.