Samuel Adams Heritage Society

Pre-Revolution Activities

Tea Act and Boston Tea Party

Samuel Adams spent a great deal of time and effort promoting the opposition to the British Tea Act of 1773 which became the catalyst to the Boston Tea Party. Reacting to colonial pressure in 1770, Lord North repealed four of the five Townshend Duties, keeping only the tax on tea. The American colonists refused to buy the commodity out of principle of no taxation without representation. The local population chose to consume smuggled tea which was actually more expensive. This situation brought financial difficulty to the East Indian Company.

In 1773 the Tea Act was passed which gave the East Indian Company the monopoly to import tea to the colonies and the power to choose only selected merchants to distribute the commodity. This Act taxed the tea at the source in India rather than at the consumer level therefore making tea cheaper for consumers in the colony. But the colonists were not fooled by these new measures, they did not like the power the government had over the distribution of tea and they were suspicious over their intentions. So, when the first shipment of tea arrived at the ports of Philadelphia and New York they were not allowed to land.

In Boston, Sam Adams was promoting opposition to the Tea Act. On November 3, 1773 he published an influential article, Resolutions of the Town of Boston. In it he calls for all Americans to oppose this tax and to not pay the duty on tea or become “an enemy to America”. He also called for the resignation of the East Indian Company representative in the colony in order to keep the peace and order in town.

When the East Indian ship, the Dartmouth arrived at Boston Harbor it was not allowed to unload. SA wanted the ship to return without paying the importation duties, which was required by law. He held a meeting at Faneuil Hall and by his own account in a letter addressed to Arthur Lee, 31 December 1773, at least seven thousand men, many of whom had come from towns at the distance of twenty miles had gathered near the proximities of Faneuil Hall to support Adams’ petition for the ship to return but Governor Hutchinson refused to give permission and strongly stood his ground. That evening a group of angry men who were attending the meeting left to the harbor where the ships were docked, some of them disguised as Mohawk Indians and in less than four hours the contents of 342 chests was thrown into the sea without injury to the vessels or any other property.

We do not know for sure if Adams attended or directly incited the Boston Tea Party but we do know that he worked hard to publicize it and to defend it making it part of his fight for independence.

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