By coincidence, on the day of the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770, Lord North, the successor to Townshend as Minister, was addressing the British Parliament urging them to repeal many of the provisions of the Townshend Acts most abhorred by the colonists. The boycott of English goods in America had greatly diminished the profits of manufacturing in England and the manufacturers were blaming the Crown for their problems. The Act was repealed on April 12, 1770.
The Townshend Act was repealed because of its effects on business in England; however, Parliament was not willing to give up its futile efforts to extract taxes from the colonies. They repealed the tax on those items manufactured in England but kept the tax on tea as a token of their claimed authority to tax English subjects in America. In response, the colonists maintained their boycott on tea imported from England and increased their consumption of Dutch tea smuggled in from Holland. In what Parliament considered as a clever move on its part, it passed the Tea Act on May 10, 1773. As already noted, this Act gave the East India Company a monopoly on tea sales to the colonies, lowered the tax on it, and permitted the company to ship tea directly to the colonies without first going through customs in England. Thereby, significantly undercutting the price of smuggled tea sold by local merchants.
However, it did not solve the problems for England caused by the colonies boycott. The Ports of New York and Philadelphia refused to allow ships carrying British tea to unload at their docks, sending them back to England with their cargo. In Massachusetts, however, Governor Hutchinson insisted that the ships be allowed to dock and unload their cargo, possibly because two of his sons were among the special merchants to whom the privilege of selling English tea was assigned. In late November, three ships arrived from England carrying tea destined for the consignees in Boston. On Monday morning, November 29, handbills appeared all over town. "Friends! Brethren! Countrymen!--That worst of plagues, the detested tea, shipped for this port by the East India Company, is now arrived in the harbor” the handbill announced.
The colonists refused to allow the ships to be unloaded while the Governor and the Customs Agents refused to allow them to leave the harbor without collecting the duty on their cargo. Things remained at a stalemate for over two weeks. On December 16, with as many as 7,000 people, many of them from as far away as Maine, milling about the wharfs where the ships were docked, a meeting led by Sam Adams was held at the Old South Meeting House. At the meeting it was resolved that the ships should leave the harbor without payment of the duty. They selected a committee to carry the message to the Custom House where the Collector of Customs rejected their demand.
It was now early evening. A group of about 200 assembled on a nearby hill. As a disguise, they painted their faces with soot from a nearby blacksmith and otherwise made themselves to look like Indians. This ploy was symbolic and not an attempt to lay blame on Indians for what was to happen. Wearing Indian dress when engaging in protests or formal ceremonies was a custom of the Sons of Liberty. To the colonists, Indians were symbolic of freedom. The group then marched to the docks in columns of two. They divided into three groups with a commander over each. Each group then boarded one of the ships and demanded from the Captain, keys to the cargo hold. They met no resistance from the ships’ captains or crews and the British troops on other ships in the harbor did not interfere. The order and precision with which the raid was carried out is another indication that the participants were members of the Sons of Liberty, a group of patriots that had grown considerably since the Boston Massacre three years before.
In a span of three hours between 7 and 10 P.M., they destroyed and dumped, 90,000 pounds of tea in 342 containers. A full container weighed 400 lbs each and a half-container weighed 100 lbs. Each container was hauled on deck and broken open with hatchets. The contents, along with the containers were then dumped into the harbor. Large quantities of the tea thrown into the harbor collected on the surface. Other men in row boats stirred and beat at the floating tea with paddles until it sank, assuring that none of it could be salvaged and used later.
The Boston Tea Party Historical Society claims that 116 people took an active part in the action. Many of the participants were later identified and interviewed by journalists and others. One of those identified was our ever-present friend, Paul Revere. Another participant, George Hewes, later described the order and precision with which the mission was executed.
“When we arrived at the wharf, there was three of our number who assumed an authority to direct our operations, to which we readily submitted. They divided us into three parties, for the purpose of boarding the three ships which contained the tea at the same time. The name of him who commanded the division to which I was assigned was Leonard Pitt. The names of the other commanders I never knew. We were immediately ordered by the respective com- manders to board all the ships at the same time, which we promptly obeyed. The commander of the division to which I belonged, as soon as we were on board the ship, appointed me boatswain, and ordered me to go to the captain and demand of him the keys to the hatches and a dozen candles. I made the demand accordingly, and the captain promptly replied, and delivered the articles; but requested me at the same time to do no damage to the ship or rigging. We then were ordered by our commander to open the hatches and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard, and we immediately proceeded to execute his orders, first cutting and splitting the chests with our tomahawks, so as thoroughly to expose them to the effects of the water.”
Reaction from the British government was swift and harsh. In May and June of 1774 the retaliatory Acts known as the Coercive or “Intolerable” Acts were passed by Parliament with the full approval of George III.
The Coercive Acts or “Intolerable Acts”
On April 22, 1774 British Prime Minister Lord North addressed the Parliament, saying in part,
“The Americans have tarred and feathered your subjects, plundered your merchants, burnt your ships, denied all obedience to your laws and authority; yet so clement and so long forbearing has our conduct been that it is incumbent on us now to take a different course. Whatever may be the consequences, we must risk something; if we do not, all is over.”
At his urging, Parliament passed four pieces of legislation in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party: The Boston Port Act, A new Quartering Act, the Administration of Justice Act, and the Massachusetts Government Act. They followed these with passage of the Quebec Act. These Acts had the effect of hardening the radical sentiments prevalent in the colonies and led to the calling of the First Continental Congress at Philadelphia in September 1774.
The Boston Port Act Closed the Port of Boston until it reimbursed the East India Company for the tea destroyed in the Boston Tea Party and paid for the damage done to the Customs Offices during the uprising.
The Massachusetts Government Act abrogated the Massachusetts’ royal charter and gave the British government more control over its affairs. It removed the right of Bostonians to elect members of the governing council and allowed the Crown to appoint and dismiss council members. Other officials that had been previously elected by the people were now to be appointed by the royal Governor. Town meetings were also forbidden or seriously restricted by the Act.
The Quartering Act provided that the governor could provide housing for soldiers in any available building but did not continue the requirement of the previous Quartering Act of 1765 that necessary provisions should be provided by the citizens of Boston.
The Administration of Justice Act, also referred to locally as the “Murdering Act”, provided for a change of venue for government officials charged with any crime growing out of their enforcement of the law or suppressing riots or insurrections. This was to avoid their being tried by hostile juries.
The Quebec Act of 1774 expanded provisions of the 1763 Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Years War. It defined the boundaries of the Quebec colony and territory as covering the area now occupied by the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. A new oath of allegiance was instituted without reference to the Protestant religion. It guaranteed the freedom to practice the Catholic religion and restored the use of French Civil Law for civil matters. The combined Intolerable Acts proved to be “one bridge too far” for the British. One year later on April 19, 1775 the “shot heard round the world” was fired on the Lexington Green setting off the Revolutionary War.
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Philosophy of Evil Socialism in America
"The struggle of History is not between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; it is between government and the governed."