December 16, 2023, marks the 250th or  Semiquincentennial of The Boston Tea Party


December 16, 2023, marks the 250th or Semiquincentennial of The Boston Tea Party where members of the Sons of Liberty-some dressed up as Mohawk Indians- boarded three ships docked at Griffins Wharf in Boston, and dumped 46 tons of tea into the harbor.

Background to the Tea Party:

The British Parliament passed the Townshend Act in 1767 which levied direct taxes against the Colonists.  Prior to this, colonial governments elected by the people were the only entities that levied taxes.  There was much opposition to the Townshend Act on both sides of the Atlantic.  In 1770, Parliament repealed the Townshend Act with the exception the tax on tea. On May 10, 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act giving, for the first time, the East India Company a monopoly on the export of tea. The East India Company would appoint certain colonial merchants-consigners- the sole right to sell the tea to the detriment of other merchants who lost their livelihoods. While “Taxation without Representation” was one of the rallying cries of the Revolutionary War-along with “No King But King Jesus, the biggest objection Boston colonists had was that the tax was used to pay the salaries of the governor, and other colonial leaders, making these officials beholding and dependent to the Crown instead of the colonists.

In the fall of 1773, seven ships loaded with tea and other cargo sailed to America-four to Boston, one to Philadelphia, one to Charlestown, SC., one to New York City.  Local Patriots in Philadelphia and New York convinced the consigners to resign, and the tea went back to England. In Charleston, S.C, the tea was never claimed and ended up rotting in storage. The Dartmouth was the first ship to arrive at Boston’s Griffin Wharf.   By law, it had 20 days to land the tea, or it would be confiscated. Two other ships, the Beaver and Eleanor arrived a few weeks later.  A fourth ship ran aground on Cape Cod.  Colonists petitioned Governor Thomas Hutchinson to let the ships return the tea to England.  His sons Thomas and Elisha just happened to be the consignees.  Indeed, if the ships did not unload the tea, the owners were told that their ships would be fired upon as they sailed past Castle Island.

  The Tea Party

The 16th of December fell on a rainy and chilly Thursday. It was the last day that the Dartmouth had to unload its cargo.  The meeting at the Old South Meeting House was held in the morning where attendees were read letters of support from surrounding towns. The meeting ended and reconvened in the afternoon.   The meeting lasted a few hours and instructed that the ship owners are to have an interview with Governor Hutchinson to get permission to sail without unloading the tea.  At 6PM, close to forty percent of the 16,000 Bostonians arranged themselves in and out of the Old South Meeting House. No word as of yet from Hutchinson and the ship owners.   Josiah Quincy (member of the Committee of Correspondence) spoke of the peoples’ resolve and popular acclamations of willing to gives their lives. Others spoke in similar tones to the attendees.  Finally, around 7PM, they receive word that the ships must unload the tea.

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- reacted to that remark by moving swiftly to Griffin’s Wharf and board the three tea ships Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver. The men, some dressed as Mohawk Indians, extracted the tea from the cargo holds and disperse the leaves into the waters of the harbor. They were given strict orders not to do any damage or hurt any of the crew members of the three ships.  Men were posted in small boats preventing anyone from taking the tea.   The Caption of the Beaver, Hezekiah Coffin, turned over the keys to the storage holds and encouraged his men to participate in “Tea Party.” Forty-sic tons of tea worth approximately $2 million in today’s money ended up in the Harbor.

The British government’s response to the “Tea Party” was the passing of what became known as The Intolerable Acts which included the closing of Boston Harbor. This helped further unify the colonies and led our nation’s independence.

I highly recommend a visit to the Tea Party Museum located on Congress St and close to the location of the Tea Party.  The museum has two replicas of the ships-the Beaver and Eleanor, reenactors with attendee involvement and a multi-media presentation that brings history alive.  Among the museum’s collection is an original tea chest recovered from the event.  Their website:


In 2018, I had the opportunity to attend the Tea Party Reenactment with media credentials.  A link to the video of the event:

In 1874, Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote a poem entitled “A Ballad of the Boston Tea Party” A portion of that poem is found at an historic plaque at the site of the original location of the Tea Party on Boston’s Atlantic Ave.