May 10, 1773: Parliament passes the Tea Act;
December 16, 1773: Boston Tea Party;
On May 10, 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act. The Tea Act was meant to save the East India Tea Company from bankrupcy. It allowed the East India Tea Company to send half a million pounds of tea to America subject only to a three cent per pound tax. This would allow it to undersell smuggled Dutch tea and legally imported tea. The tea was to be delivered to consignees in New York, Charleston, Philadelphia and Boston.
On October 16, the Philadelphia consignees were forced to resign by a committee of citizens. The New York consignees resigned when the Sons of Liberty called them enemies of America. The Charleston shipment arrived on December 2 and the consignees were forced to resign on December 3. The tea was impounded after the 20-day waiting period expired. Three Tea Act ships arrived in Boston on November 27, 1773.
Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty prevented the Boston ships from being unloaded. The ships agreed to leave without unloading the tea, but Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson would not clear them to leave, because he was determined to uphold the law. As the end of the 20-day waiting period neared, the radical patriots decided that seizure would not be a solution either. They felt that the confiscated tea would be sold for customs expenses and thus the illegal tax would still have been paid.
To prevent the tea from being seized and sold, Samuel Adams organized the Boston Tea Party. On the night of December 16, the evening before the 20-day waiting period ending, several thousand colonists gathered near the wharf and encouraged sixty men who were thinly disguised as Mohawk Indians. The men boarded the three tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea overboard. The tea was valued at over 90,000 pounds.
The Boston Tea Party inspired several other tea parties in New York (April 22, 1774), Annapolis, Maryland (October 19, 1774) and Greenwich, New Jersey (December 22). The British reacted to the Boston Tea Party with the Intolerable Acts, which included closing Boston Harbor and imposing martial law.