Samuel Adams led an effort for weeks to negotiate a resolution to the Bostonian’s desire to not unload, not tax and not put for sale, the East India Company monopolized tea sitting in Boston Harbor since late November, 1773, but to no avail.
December 15, Resolves were passed by the Assoc of the Sons of Liberty in New York against the trading and selling of tea [East India Co. monopoly].
— DVM III
The day was rainy and chilly as most Massachusetts days in mid-December. The Assembly at the Old South Meeting House was held at 9AM and here the letters from Lexington and Plymouth were read to the people. Again, each community affirming commitment to the cause and will give their lives to the endeavor. The meeting was adjourned and scheduled to reconvene at 3PM. The afternoon meeting was to again have an inquest as to why the tea remained in the harbor. This information was to be gone over again for the benefit of the newly arrived hundreds from the out-lying communities, freshly arrived. The meeting last for two hours and instructed that the ship owners are to once again have an interview with (Acting) Governor for his permission to sail without unloading the tea consignments. The meeting adjourned until 6PM at which time an answer should be presented.
At 6PM, the multitude of citizens arranged themselves within the pews and gallery of Old South. Nothing yet from the ship owners or the Governor, but none was expected. One citizen, Josiah Quincy (member of the Committee of Correspondence) spoken of the peoples resolve and popular acclamations of willing to gives our lives. Others gave voice in similar tones to the crowd as all waited for the final answer from Governor Hutchinson.
Finally, the message arrives around 7PM, that there shall be no passes. Samuel Adams stands and says the words “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country,” In the back of the room and outside in the street, the Sons of Liberty street gang called the “Mohawks”, react to that remark by moving swiftly to Griffins wharf and board the three tea ships Dartmouth, Eleanor and Beaver.
The Mohawk’s a group of a few dozen men, clothed to resemble Indians, extracted the tea from the cargo holds and disperse the leaves into the waters of the harbour. When completed, the ships were cleaned of debris and with no causalities.
“Some interesting extra facts
Late Thursday the 16, December 1773, was cold (low 35 degrees and rainy). The estimates of over 200 men are reported as having been involved. A list of 116 men is recorded with the added fact many not listed were there. The sheer weight of the containers indicates the time involved would be more than two hours as reported. Later, a letter from Dr. Warren to a friend also says the same and estimates the time rage to be more of 4 hours or 7 to 11PM but more likely nearer 8 to mid-night.
Each full container had a weight of 400 pounds, which is a total of all three ships at about 90,000 lbs. (45 tons) of tea, was thrown overboard. The destroyed tea was worth an estimated £10,000. The timing was more based on the local authority’s response then given credit. The British Army was inside Castle William and/or on Governors Island. There was no way the local guards were going to get involved with a few thousand irate Bostonians. They learned that lesson in 1771. So, they slowly rowed to the Island and give alarm. Mustering troops (late evening) and embark them and row them (in force) to the wharf then disembark. Muster into ranks and march over to the area. That would take four to five hours. The riot was over and the insurgents gone. No Loyalist could identify anyone as the “Mohawks” who had smudged their faces in charcoal.
“Next: Interesting point to the story is the lack of damage to property. All three ships were owned by Boston merchants and Lodge Brothers of the Saint Andrew Freemasons or the St Johns. In fact, Rotch (the owner of the Dartmouth) was the Grand Master of St. John’s. Each owner easily could be considered part of the over-all scheme of things. They knew from the beginning that once the ships docked, they were bound by law to remain until said cargo was unloaded, i.e. 20 days. Everything was very convenient.”
“Note: The incident was only referred to as the destruction of the tea at Boston. The earliest newspaper reference to the “Boston Tea Party” doesn’t appear until 1826. In the 1830s, two book; “Retrospect of the Boston Tea-Party” by G.R.T. Hewes and “Traits of the Tea Party” also by G.R.T. Hewes coined the express and is improperly used today.
“Sam Adams: Pioneer in Propaganda” by John Miller
“Samuel Adams: A Life” by Ira Stoll
“Life and Times of Joseph Warren” by Richard Frothingham
“Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party” by Benjamin Carp
The Boston Tea Party 1773” by Benjamin Labaree
“Peter Oliver’s Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion” edited D. Adair & J.A. Schutz
(The above article was originally published Dec 16, 2014) Below is a reenactment of the event that Camp Constitution Media videotaped in 2018: