Arthur Lee was a supporter of American Independence who wrote numerous political pamphlets that served as propaganda in Europe. He gained support from France and Spain to secure military material for the fight for independence. Samuel wrote this letter to his friend Arthur Lee who resided in Europe. Read in his own words the development of the activities that led to the to the Boston Tea Party incident.
Boston, Dec. 31, 1773
My Dear Sir, I am now to inform you of as remarkable an event as has yet
happened since the commencement of our struggle for American liberty. The meeting of the town of Boston, an account of which I enclosed in my last, was succeeded by the arrival of the Falmouth, Captain Hall, with 114 chests of the East India Company’s tea, on the 28th of November last. The next day the people met in Faneuil hall, without observing the rules prescribed by law for calling them together ; and although that hall is capable of holding 1200 or 1300 men, they were soon obliged for the want of room to adjourn to the Old South meeting-house; where were assembled upon this important occasion 5000, some say 6000 men, consisting of the respectable inhabitants of this and the adjacent towns. The business of the meeting was conducted with decency, unanimity, and spirit. Their resolutions you will observe in an enclosed printed paper. It naturally fell upon the correspondence for the town of Boston to see that these resolutions were carried into effect. This committee, finding that the owner of the ship after she was unloaded of all her cargo except the tea, was by no means disposed to take the necessary steps for her sailing back to London, thought it best to call in the committees of Charlestown, Cambridge, Brookline, Roxbury, and Dorchester, all of which towns are in the neighbourhood of this, for their advice and assistance. After a free conference and due consideration, they dispersed. The next day, being the 14th, inst. the people met again at the Old South church, and having ascertained the owner, they compelled him to apply at the custom house for a clearance for his ship to London with the tea on board, and appointed ten gentlemen to see it performed ; after which they adjourned till Thursday the 16th. The people then met, and Mr. Rotch informed them that he had according to their injunction applied to the collector of the customs for a clearance, and received in answer from the collector that he could not consistently with his duty grant him a clearance, until the ship should be discharged of the dutiable article on board. It must be here observed that Mr. Rotch had before made a tender of the tea to the consignees, being told by them that it was not practicable for them at that time to receive the tea, by reason of a constant guard kept upon it by armed men ; but that when it might be practicable, they would receive it. He demanded the captain’s bill of lading and the freight, both which they refused him, against which he entered a regular protest. The people then required Mr. Rotch to protest the refusal of the collector to grant him a clearance under these circumstances, and thereupon to wait upon the governor for a permit to pass the castle in her voyage to London, and then adjourned till the afternoon. They then met, and after waiting till sun-setting, Mr. Rotch returned, and acquainted them that the governor had refused to grant him a passport, thinking it inconsistent with the laws and his duty to the king, to do it until the ship should be qualified, notwithstanding Mr. Rotch had acquainted him with the circumstances above mentioned. You will observe by the printed proceedings, that the people were resolved that the tea should not be landed, but sent back to London in the same bottom ; and the property should be safe guarded while in port, which they punctually performed. It cannot therefore be fairly said that the destruction of the property was in their contemplation. It is proved that the consignees, together with the collector of the customs, and the governor of the province, prevented the safe return of the East India Company’s property (the danger of the sea only excepted) to London. The people finding all their endeavours for this purpose thus totally frustrated, dissolved the meeting, which had consisted by common estimation of at least seven thousand men, many of whom had come from towns at the distance of twenty miles. In less than four hours every chest of tea on board three ships which had by this time arrived, three hundred and forty-two chests, or rather the contents of them, was thrown into the sea, without the least injury to the vessels or any other property. The only remaining vessel which was expected with this detested article, is by the act of righteous heaven cast on shore on the back of Cape Cod, which has often been the sad fate of many a more valuable cargo. For a more particular detail of facts, I refer you to our worthy friend, Dr. Hugh Williamson, who kindly takes the charge of this letter. We have had great pleasure in his company for a few weeks past; and he favoured the meeting with his presence.
You cannot imagine the height of joy that sparkles in the eyes and animates the countenances as well as the hearts of all we meet on this occasion; excepting the disappointed, disconcerted Hutchinson and his tools. I repeat what I wrote you in my last; if lord Dartmouth has prepared his plan let him produce it speedily; but his lordship must know that it must be such a plan as will not barely amuse, much less farther irritate but conciliate the affection of the inhabitants.
I had forgot to tell you that before the arrival of either of these ships, the tea
commissioners had preferred a petition to the governor and council, praying “to resign themselves and the property in their care, to his excellency and the board as guardians and protectors of the people, and that measures may be directed for the landing and securing the tea,” &c. I have enclosed you the result of the council on that petition. He (the governor) is now, I am told, consulting his lawyers and books to make out that the resolves of the meeting are treasonable. I duly received your favours of the 23d June, of the 21st July and 13th October, and shall make the best use I can of the important contents.
Believe me to be affectionately your friend,
P.S. Your letter of the 28th August is but this moment come to hand. I hope to have leisure to write you by the next vessel. Our friend Dr. Warren has written to you by this; you will find him an agreeable and useful correspondent.
Samuel Adams to Arthur Lee, 31 December 1773, The Writings