By Enyeribe Ejiogu
From the earliest days, when the Chinese discovered the benefits of tea during the Tang Dynasty, it has always played a role in politics.
Tea was accidentally discovered in 2737 BCE, when the leaf of a nearby shrub, Camellia sinensis, fell into the water, which the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong, was boiling. Ever since, it has been woven into the history, culture of China.
In the course of time and through trading contact, the British imbibed the Chinese love for tea. It also developed a unique English tea culture that was and introduced this to its colonies and territories, including America.
For the British, tea export was a lucrative trade that generated revenue for the Crown. In the 13 colonies of Britain in America, consumption grew annually with the result that several businesses became big time importers and distributors of tea. Hundreds of teahouses also sprang up across the colonies. Similarly rumblings of opposition to the continued domination of the colonies by the British Crown began be heard.
The bubble burst, according to Wikipedia, when the British Parliament passed the Tea Act of 1773. The new law was designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade. The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut even tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny. People in the colonies vehemently opposed the tea tax.
Following the enactment of the Tea Act, at most American ports, the resistance group known as the Sons of Liberty scared off British ships conveying tea by threatening their captains with tarring, feathering or worse. Not long after, three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, a leader of the group called The Patriot, Samuel Adams, organized a raid with about 60 members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group.
On the night of December 16, 1773, members of the group disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians and boarded three British ships laden with a huge cargo of tea and moored in Boston Harbor. The group over-powered the crew of the ships and dumped the 342 chests of tea into the water. The cargo of tea weighed about 92,000 pounds (roughly 46 tons). The huge chests were smashed open with an assortment of axes before being dumped into the water. It took over three hours to empty the tea cargo into the water. The night raid on the ships became known as the Boston Tea Party, and a direct protest against the tea tax. The colonists were paying a tea tax of between 0.8 per cent (3 pence per pound) and 66 per cent (4 shillings per pound).
The raid immediately assumed a far-reaching political significance as it gave rise to a stirring slogan, “No taxation without representation,” which became a rallying call for political independence from Britain.
The British tea dumped in Boston Harbour that night was valued at $18,000. Today, the worth of the tea dumped in the water has been estimated to be $1,000,000.
The British Parliament, outraged by the blatant destruction of British property, enacted the five Coercive Acts of 1774, which the colonists derisively referred to as the Intolerable Acts. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America, and required colonists to quarter British troops.
The colonists subsequently called the first Continental Congress to consider a united American resistance to the British. The Boston Tea Party was the key-event for the Revolutionary War. With this act, the colonists started the violent part of the revolution. It was the first try of the colonists, to rebel with violence against their own government. Then the government passed taxes on lead, paint, paper and tea.
Prior to the Tea Act, the British Parliament has passed the Townshend Acts in 1767, which imposed duties on various products imported into the British colonies. This raided a storm of colonial protest and non-compliance that forced the repeal of the law in 1770, except the duty on tea, which was retained by Parliament to demonstrate its presumed right to raise such colonial revenue without colonial approval. The merchants of Boston circumvented the act by continuing to receive tea smuggled in by Dutch traders. This led the parliament to pass the Tea Act. The law specified that tea ex[ported to the colonies was to be carried only in East India Company ships and sold only through its own agents, bypassing the independent colonial shippers and merchants. The company thus could sell the tea at a less-than-usual price in either America or Britain; it could undersell anyone else. The perception of monopoly drove the normally conservative colonial merchants into an alliance with radicals led by Samuel Adams and his Sons of Liberty.
In such cities as New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, tea agents resigned or canceled orders, and merchants refused consignments. In Boston, however, the royal governor, Thomas Hutchinson, resolved to uphold the law and maintained that the three ships, the Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver, which were about reach port should be allowed to deposit their cargoes and that appropriate duties should be honoured.
This string of legislations constituted an important factor that contributed to the American Revolution. Colonists felt that the tea tax legislation violated their rights as Englishmen and their natural rights as human beings.
The news of the Boston Tea Party reached London, England on January 20, 1774, and as a result the British shut down Boston Harbor until all of the chests of British East India Company tea were paid for. This was implemented under the 1774 Intolerable Acts and known as the Boston Port Act. The Sons of Liberty was an organization that was created in the 13 American colonies. The secret society was formed to protect the rights of the colonists and to fight taxation by the British government. They played a major role in most colonies in battling the Stamp Act in 17 In retaliation, Parliament passed the series of punitive measures known in the colonies as the Intolerable Acts, including the Boston Port Bill, which shut off the city’s sea trade pending payment for the destroyed tea. The British government’s efforts to single out Massachusetts for punishment served only to unite the colonies and impel the drift toward war.