December 16, 2010

Anniversary of Boston Tea Party – 1773

On this date in 1773, a mob of 30 to 130 American colonists protested the British Tea Act and taxation without representation by boarding ships and destroying 342 chests of tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor.

This was a key event in the growth of the American Revolution. The anger the colonists felt was reasonable, but this event was, simply stated, a mob destroying other people's property.

After the Destruction of the Tea (as it used to be called—the festive term “Tea Party” was only used a century later), an amazing constitution was written and a pretty great nation was founded. But the destruction of the tea didn't lead directly to those good things—it directly led to more repressive laws, violence, and armed revolution.

From our vantage point today, we may think that the colonists flinging tea into the harbor were being patriotic and principled, but if something a lot like that happened today, most people would think it a criminal act and would be calling for the police to arrest the perpetrators and the judges to pack them off to jail.

...Including most of the people in the so-called “Tea Party” movement (unless it was they and their cronies doing the destruction, of course!).

It's interesting to see how time and hindsight change perception of events. Although Samuel Adams tried to “spin” the lawless destruction (which he probably did not plan, despite stories to the contrary) as a principled protest, American writers used to ignore this event because they didn't want to celebrate the destruction of property. In the 1830s things began to change.


Have a tea party.

Or hold a protest.

Either way, be civilized and polite, and don't destroy anything!

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