What Was the Cause of the Boston Tea Party?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
The Boston Tea Party occurred at a time when the American colonists were beginning to revolt against the British.
The Boston Tea Party occurred at a time when the American colonists were beginning to revolt against the British.

Before the United States of America was an independent sovereign nation, it was a collection of colonies under British rule. During the 1770s, colonists began to become increasingly agitated with the way Parliament was imposing taxes and other regulations upon the colonies, especially considering the colonies were not represented in Parliament at all. The Boston Tea Party was one of the consequences of this taxation without representation, and it was a direct act of rebellion against a new tea tax imposed by the British government. The event is so called because the Boston Tea Party took place in Boston, Massachusetts and involved a ship full of tea.

David Kennison, the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party, lived to 115 years of age.
David Kennison, the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party, lived to 115 years of age.

The ship in question had come into port with instructions to unload boxes full of tea and pay the associated duty required by British Law. American politician and influential revolutionary Samuel Adams devised a plan to demand the ship unload the tea and return to England without having paid the duty. The Governor of Massachusetts refused to let the ship leave port without paying the duty, and so the ships remained in the harbor while Adams organized meetings to address the situation. When the Governor again refused to release the ships without the duty being paid, the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party had begun and colonists began heading toward the ships in the harbor.

Colonists threw tea overboard to protest mandatory taxes.
Colonists threw tea overboard to protest mandatory taxes.

The actual identities of the perpetrators of the Boston Tea Party are unknown, but it is widely speculated that tea smugglers and merchants from Boston boarded the ship to throw the chests of tea overboard. Many of these protesters were dressed as Indians to disguise their identities. All of the tea on board the ship was destroyed, as it was thrown into the waters of Boston Harbor. The number of men who boarded the ship is also unknown.

Boston's role in shaping local and U.S. political history is still on display at old government buildings that still stand in the city.
Boston's role in shaping local and U.S. political history is still on display at old government buildings that still stand in the city.

After the Boston Tea Party occurred, Samuel Adams defended the act publicly and used it as a tool for furthering the cause of independence. The act itself was not a demonstration against the new tax or higher prices — the price of tea actually went down as a result of the tea tax — but instead against the handling of imposing regulations on the colonies while they were not represented in Parliament. In the eyes of the protestors, the new tax set a dangerous precedent for British rule in the colonies, and it was the latest in a long line of perceived offenses against the colonies.

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    • The Boston Tea Party occurred at a time when the American colonists were beginning to revolt against the British.
      By: Mark J. Grenier
      The Boston Tea Party occurred at a time when the American colonists were beginning to revolt against the British.
    • David Kennison, the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party, lived to 115 years of age.
      By: Seth Anderson
      David Kennison, the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party, lived to 115 years of age.
    • Colonists threw tea overboard to protest mandatory taxes.
      By: City of Boston Archives
      Colonists threw tea overboard to protest mandatory taxes.
    • Boston's role in shaping local and U.S. political history is still on display at old government buildings that still stand in the city.
      By: mdbrockmann82
      Boston's role in shaping local and U.S. political history is still on display at old government buildings that still stand in the city.