A Brewing Revolution
The Tea Party Protests that Ignited America’s Fight for Independence
On May 10, 1773, the Parliament of Great Britain passed the Tea Act, which granted a monopoly to the British East India Company on tea sales in the American colonies. This act, along with other policies and taxes imposed on the colonies by Britain, opened the dam that was holding back the resentment felt by the American colonists which led to a series of protests throughout the original 13. Altogether, these would become known as the Tea Party Protests and starting December 2023, 250 years will have passed since these took place.
Dec 3, 1773 – Charleston, South Carolina
Before its more famous successor, protestors in Charleston, South Carolina refused to allow an East India Company ship named the London to bring its tea into the port. Rather than tossing the tea (a running theme that will happen later), the boycotters took the tea off the ship and stored it in the Charleston Exchange Building. Visit SC RevWar 250
Dec 16, 1773 – Boston, Massachusetts
During this most famous and iconic moment in American history, a group of colonists made their act of defiance a little more dramatic. This group called themselves the “Sons of Liberty” and many of them disguised themselves as Native Americans. They boarded the British ships that were docked at Boston Harbor, took the entire shipment of tea on these ships, and hoisted them into the water below. The Boston Tea Party accelerated and intensified colonial support for what would become the American Revolution. Learn More with Revolution 250.
W.D. Cooper. The Boston Tea Party. 1789.
Dec 25, 1773 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The protests against “taxation without representation” continued into the City of Brotherly Love. A shipment of tea roughly twice as large as the one in Boston sailed up the Delaware River and was then brought into Philadelphia on Christmas Day. Unlike in Boston a week prior, there was no destruction of tea during this event. Why? Because the Philadelphians intimidated the ships’ captains to the point that no attempt was made to unload the tea in the first place. Visit America250PA.
Oct, 1774 – North Carolina
Women took the center stage in North Carolina. Sometime between March 25 and April 5, 1774, it was said that a group of women gathered to publicly burn tea in Wilmington. Not much is known about this event other than a quote from an observer who witnessed it. On October 25, 1774, a group of women gathered in Edenton to formally protest. An official petition was created that was signed by 51 women which was then sent to the British newspapers the Morning Chronicle and the London Advertiser. The British responded by mocking the American women who dared to get involved into politics. Visit America250NC.
A Society of Patriotic Ladies, at Edenton, North Carolina. 1775.
Oct 19, 1774 – Annapolis, Maryland
If hurling tea into a harbor isn’t theatrical enough, maybe this one will do. On October 14, 1774, the Peggy Stewart docked in Annapolis and was carrying indentured servants and tea. The indentured servants on the ship became ill on the trip. In order to release them, one of the owners of the ship, Anthony Stewart, paid the import tax which the local colonists did not react kindly to. On October 19, they took over the ship and put it to the torch, burning both it and the 2,230 pounds of tea on board. Visit the Maryland 250 Commission
Francis Blackwell Mayer. The Burning of Peggy Stewart. 1896.
Nov 7, 1774 – Yorktown, Virginia
Parliament’s reaction to the 1773 Boston Tea Party wasn’t exactly pleasant. They responded by passing the Intolerable Acts with one of their effects being the closing of the port of Boston. In response, the colonists agreed to boycott goods from England during the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia which started September 5, 1774.
In our very own Virginia, this boycott started on November 1. A ship, ironically called the Virginia arrived in Yorktown carrying two half-chests of tea. After waiting for a committee in Williamsburg to figure out how to handle the situation, a group of men took matters into their own hands, boarded the ship, and hoisted the tea into the York River, much like the Sons of Liberty did almost a year prior. Learn more with the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation
Sidney King. Yorktown Tea Party. circa 1960
Dec 22, 1774 – Greenwich, New Jersey
To avoid the colonists in Philadelphia, Captain J. Allen of the Greyhound changed the ship’s course to Greenwich. The tea that was brought by that ship was then stored in a cellar owned by Dan Bowen, a British sympathizer. When the local colonists learned of this, they broke into the cellar, took the tea, and set it on fire. After the last of these major protests, it would not be long until the Revolution was in full swing. Visit the Crossroads of the American Revolution
The Greenwich Tea Burning Monument, Greenwich, NJ.
Steeped for a Revolution
There was no turning back after these acts. The pot was boiling, and the colonies were steeped in a revolutionary fervor. The tea party protests would be the first step in brewing the eventual United States of America.