On This Day, Dec. 16, 1773 – Boston Patriots Dump the Tea


1773 – Nearly 350 chests of tea were dumped into Boston Harbor off of British ships by Colonial patriots.

During the 1760s Parliament passed a series of acts designed to reduce the British national debt and to finance the costs of keeping regular soldiers on the American frontier. The most notorious of these was the Stamp Act (1765), which placed a tax on almost every public piece of paper in the colonies, including newspapers, pamphlets, diplomas, licenses, packs of cards, almanacs, and dice. The colonists fiercely resisted these taxes, organizing public protests and intimidating tax collectors. The Stamp Act resistance was the most widespread and best organized inter–colonial protest before the tea crisis of the 1770s. In the face of such widespread opposition the British Parliament backed down. It repealed the Stamp Act and its companion taxes in 1766.

The following year Parliament tried another means of raising money, through the Townshend Duties or Revenue Acts (1767), so named after Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles “Champagne Charlie” Townshend. Instead of placing a direct tax on materials that colonists bought and sold, these acts made certain important items such as lead, glass, paint, paper, and tea more expensive. The colonists responded by refusing to buy those products. Citizens at all levels of society either refused to drink tea or bought black-market varieties that came from Dutch colonies.

Faced with widespread American opposition, the British government backed down. The Townshend Duties were repealed on March 5, 1770, with the exception of a three penny duty on tea, kept to prove that Parliament had the right to tax the colonies.

In September of 1773 the East India Company readied 600,000 pounds of tea in 2,000 chests for shipment to the colonies. The cargoes arrived at major colonial ports a month and a half later and met with hostile receptions. In New York and Philadelphia angry crowds forced local officials to send the tea ships back to England without unloading their cargoes. In Annapolis, Maryland, demonstrators burned a tea ship, and in New Jersey arsonists set fire to a warehouse where unloaded tea was stored.

In Massachusetts, however, Governor Hutchinson decided to face down the demonstrators. When Boston citizens, led by patriot Samuel Adams refused to allow the tea ships to unload, Hutchinson called on the Royal Navy to blockade Boston harbor so that the ships could not leave port. He knew that British law required a ship to unload its cargo after 20 days in port and he planned to use this law to sidestep Adams and his patriot followers.

The 20 day waiting period ended for the Dartmouth on December 16. On that day Sam Adams and his party tried to contact Governor Hutchinson to convince him to let the ships leave harbor. Hutchinson refused and, at five o’clock in the afternoon, the meeting of Boston citizens broke up. Some of them followed George Hewes’ example, by dressing up as Native Americans. Carrying tomahawks and clubs, they marched to Griffin’s Wharf. Hewes and his companions took great pains that nothing but the tea was destroyed and that no one profited from the destruction.

1653 – Oliver Cromwell became lord protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.

1809 – Napoleon Bonaparte was divorced from the Empress Josephine by an act of the French Senate.

1901 – “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” by Beatrix Potter, was printed for the first time.

1903 – Women ushers were employed for the first time at the Majestic Theatre in New York City.

1905 – Sime Silverman published the first issue of “Variety“.

1916 – Gregory Rasputin, the monk who had wielded powerful influence over the Russian court, was murdered by a group of noblemen.

1944 – During World War II, the Battle of the Bulge began in Belgium. It was the final major German counteroffensive in the war.

1950President Harry Truman proclaimed a national state of emergency in order to fight “Communist imperialism.”

1972 – The Miami Dolphins became the first NFL team to go unbeaten and untied in a 14-game regular season. The Dolphins went on to defeat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.

1973 – O.J. Simpson broke Jim Brown’s single-season rushing record in the NFL. Brown had rushed for 1,863 yards, while Simpson attained 2,003 yards.

1985 – Reputed organized-crime chief Paul Castellano was shot to death outside a New York City restaurant.

1990 – Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a leftist priest, was elected president in Haiti’s first democratic elections.a

1991 – The U.N. General Assembly rescinded its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism by a vote of 111-25.

1995 – Many U.S. government functions were again closed as a temporary finance provision expired and the budget dispute between President Clinton and Republicans in Congress continued.

2000 – U.S. President-elect George W. Bush selected Colin Powell to be the first African-American secretary of state. Powell was sworn in January 20, 2001.


Source: Encyclopedia.com; On-This-Day.com


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