What Was the Boston Tea Party?

The Boston Tea Party was a political protest held in Boston on December 16, 1773, where a group of demonstrators, dressed up as Native Americans, destroyed a large shipment of tea sent by the British East India Company. The protest, held by the Sons of Liberty, triggered a series of events that culminated in the American Revolutionary War two years later.

The Boston Tea Party was the result of two issues: the financial problems the East India Company faced at the time, and the controversy surrounding the right of British Parliament to levy taxes on colonies. The East India Company was suffering losses because smuggled Dutch tea was sold cheaper, both in Britain itself and in the colonies. To help the company, British Parliament reduced taxes levied on tea exported to British colonies and shifted the burden to the colonies as a tea duty of three pence per pound, a rate that was maintained under the Tea Act of 1773.

Like the Stamp Act of 1765, the Tea Act stirred discontent and colonists argued that it was unconstitutional for the Parliament to levy taxes on colonies that were not represented by elected officials in Britain. As 1774 approached, with it came the prospects of another year of taxes imposed without input from the colonies. Finally the Sons of Liberty decided to send a clear message to Britain, taking action by dumping the tea shipment into Boston Harbor. Great Britain responded by ending self-government in Massachusetts, which led to other protests in the colonies, eventually leading to the American Revolutionary War in 1775.