The Boston Tea Party
is among the best-known happenings in Americanhistory. In foreign nations, it is maybe the only incident linkedwith the Boston town. This reputation is well earned because BostonTea Party was the spur that contributed to the American Revolution.It was not supposed to happen in the first place, in remembrance, itwas sarcastic that the most melodramatic rejection of tea from theBritish East Company took place in Boston and not in any other citylike Philadelphia or New York City. On December 16, 1773, Bostonshould have been the least prone to host the destruction of the teaconsignments, given its prior record of importing British tea (Carp,Benjamin L.). The big question is "Did Dutch Smugglers Provokethe Boston Tea Party?" This can be answered well by positioningBoston within the trans-Atlantic and inter-colonial networks thatsustained it. If it were not for the pressure from smugglers in the"Dutch trade" operational within Philadelphia and New,Boston would have not exerted as much energy into the protestsagainst tea. The Atlantic smugglers doing business with the Dutch aswell as other European countries shaped the settings for the BostonTea Party and assisted in provoking it. Any Boston businessman,politician, or shoemaker also contributed as much to the developmentof surroundings that preceded the Boston Tea Party, (Carp, Benjamin L339.).
“The role of the smugglers was central to the formation of arevolutionary consciousness among Boston merchants” (Carp, BenjaminL. 343). In the 16th century, the Dutch had infiltrated the westernSpain and Eastern Portugal, though the Netherlands did not have thesurplus population to place colonies matching those of othercountries. Throughout the next three centuries, regardless of theireconomic and military decline as well as the English Navigation Acts,designed to eliminate them, the Dutch never entirely gave up itsinvolvement in Atlantic trade. To be sure, its impartiality duringmost of the regal wars of the 18th century sporadically permitted fora healthy income from smuggling. In unison, the British Americans,the Dutch, as well as the British had aided create a unified Atlanticsystem that depended on business, shipping, basic crops, and slavery.Simultaneously, as one historian reasoned “The geographicallocation of the Caribbean colonies made it virtually impossible toimpose a ban on inter colonial and international trade” (Ranlet,Philip 597) Resultantly, the colonialists of American mainland reapedprofits from British and French Molasses. In between, the Dutchsustained a free trade code amidst business giants like Portugal,France, and Great Britain. To maintain profits, Dutch businesspeopleand their smuggling partners thus swayed the administrations ofempires as well as the peace of the nations.
Tea was in various aspects a perfect commodity to smuggle throughthis illegitimate network, because it was valuable, lightweight, inhigh demand, and it attracted massive British taxes. The British EastIndia Company theoretically had a monopoly on wholesale of tea inGreat Britain, and as payback for its monopoly privileges, theBritish reserves mined high taxes on tea sales. Most European nationshad a comparatively little use for tea but to smuggle it to Britainand its colonies. The companies of Europe, consequently, made muchmoney from importing their tea from China then trading much of it tothe smugglers who smuggle into British harbors and bays. In thedecade before the American Revolution, smuggling in the Europeancontinent became highly commercialized. It took place in nearly allcustoms districts in colonies. ‘‘In some of the Colonies,“ wrotea Massachusetts historian, ‘‘it was notorious that the smuggledTeas were carted through the Streets at Noon Day“ (Carp, BenjaminL.). Northern businesspeople grumbled that they needed to do businesswith foreign countries to survive. The Americans who dwelled in thecity became fully familiarized with smuggling, and as theirincentive, smugglers offered lower prices to their loyal customersand often gained greater profits.
Smugglers in New York City were predominantly connected to what wasthen referred to as the "Dutch trade" Even though it ishard to trace out a shadowy network of illegal shipping, historianshave struggled to map it out. A majority of New York tradingcompanies had Dutch origins, were extensions of Dutch companies orallied to Dutch businesses. The Caribbean islands of Netherlands wereespecially significant for smuggling. Partly because English speakersoften combined Dutch with German, and partly because Anglo tradersoften considered northern Europe as one unit, "Dutch Trade"applied to trade with all countries who were closely related to, andbought tea smuggled through New York City market.
In 1767, the parliament passed two Acts that changed the American teabusiness. The first one, the Indemnity Act scrubbed domestic tax ontea and allowed a drawback of twenty-five percent tax on all teaexported to Northern America, which would make it inexpensive toexport tea into America. The second Act, Charles Townshend`s, imposeda tax of three pennies per sterling pound on tea brought to America.According to Richard, a large tea importer in Boston, "the firstact made sense, but the second act seemed to help no one except forsmugglers seeking to undercut the prices of the British East IndiaCompany." Meanwhile, the Townshend`s tax on tea mistakablyassisted the political system of American radicals, the American Sonsof Liberty, who had first started creating associations during theStamp Act crisis. This network inciting one another throughcorrespondence and printed material, raised the shout of ‘‘notaxation without representation“ while they engineered boycotts andprotests across the colonies ("Journal Of The Early Republic:Volume 32, 2012" 760). The network believed that the new taxesand regulations were destructive to the commerce of America andBritish, and unless British traders were ready to join them in thefight to force the parliament, the foreign competitors of theterritory would escape with the colonial trade.
The northern traders entered into nonimportation treaties, agreeingnot to import British tea or other commodities. These agreements,imposed by local committees, were critical in marshaling atrans-Atlantic clutch of traders to demonstrate against Britishpolicy, though they were also rather divisive. It was alleged thatself-interest, instead of pure principle, pressed the protestors.Smugglers tried to edge and thus abolish the Townshend`s Act, thenagain not all colonial territories smuggled similarly. According to asource, "Southern consumers apparently preferred the quality andprice of British tea, and their traders tended not to run illegalgoods. To supply the cravings of customers in Pennsylvania, New York,and Rhode Island, where nonimportation agreements discouraged importsfrom Great Britain, merchants largely imported Dutch tea instead"(Agnew, Jean-Christophe 129). Approximately two thousand chests oftea from Netherlands docked in Philadelphian docks yearly, fivehundred in Rhode Islands, and fifteen hundred in New York. This was ahuge business that translated to £16000 per annum of illegalDutch-American trade.
The Boston "merchants," also, had entered thenonimportation treaties, and the Sons of Liberty vociferously andviolently imposed them. Nevertheless, such enforcement did not thwartBritish tea from finding its way into Boston. A writer of Amherstwrote in 1774, “Boston the loudest in the cry for supporting theassociation, did import great quantities of English tea, and slylywith great profit supplied their Neighbors, as appeared by the CustomHouse Books.” Apart from importing legal tea, Boston also reshippedit to other colonial territories, which interfered with the businessof smugglers in those areas. The Boston Chronicle had publishedstatistics that revealed that the Sons of Liberty were deceitful,unfair, and opportunistic. In 1769, it also released the shipmentexhibits showing local ships that had brought in commodities in thepast months. The culprit included supporters of the government, butalso traders connected with the Sons of Liberty. These disclosuresbrought conflict within Boston Sons of Liberty, as well as theirpartners in other colonies. The nonimportation treaties started todisintegrate. As authentic traders, the Clarkes were betterpositioned to carry out flourishing business, and in April 1769 theywrote, ‘‘we are informed that the consumption, of tea,increases“ (Agnew, Jean-Christophe 130)
The philandering Bostonians sourced their tea from several avenues.For instance, they bought legal tea, got it from New York smugglers,or smuggled it themselves through Dutch trade. Meanwhile, in New Yorkand Philadelphia, the Sons of Integrity struggled to maintain thenonimportation treaties amid resistance from powerful groups ofMerchants and conservative politicians. The Trans-Atlantic tea tradealso continued, via both legal as well as illegal routes. APhiladelphian trader wrote, tho` I much fear, great Quantities ofthat Article, will be Smuggled to the loss of the fair Trader“(Carp, Benjamin L.), as he wished the agreement not to import teacould succeed.
On November 23, 1771, customs officers on duty aboard a small boatintercepted a pilot in the Delaware River that was heading up theriver to Philadelphia from Chester. The officers found that the shipwas loaded with 15 chests and 20 quarter chests of smuggled tea. Theyshepherded the seized vessel up to Red Bank, where they were forcedto anchor after the wind died down. Later in the night, another pilotboat and three small ships docked alongside the seized boat and theschooner. The customs officials were anxious, but they saw only twopeople on the boat. All over sudden, several armed men surged outfrom the cabin of the boat and hold, ‘‘rushed out & boardedthe prize.“ The faces of these men were covered in black, and theeyewitnesses later guessed that they were ‘‘some of the principleMerchants in this City in disguise,“ because even though they woresailor`s jackets, they had white Leggings that were visible in themoonlight. The men wielded guns, cutlasses, and clubs, and theyattacked the customs officers ‘‘with such violence that they . .. Laid most of them flat upon the Deck“ Carp, Benjamin L. 355). Theyforced them below decks and secured the trapdoors. Those in smugglingbusiness were willing to risk acts of violence to benefit fromillegal tea.
Boston traders were still importing tea through legal networks, andthe Sons of Liberty in the mid colonies hated them for this. The TeaAct of 1773 adjusted import duties in a way that although it did notinflict new duties, it granted drawbacks to British tradersdelivering tea to colonies, making authentic East India Company teamuch inexpensive for the Americans. The Sons of Liberty dreaded thatthis would lure the American people into supporting the police andcivil officers, by paying unfair taxes. The company directed four outof the seven ships to Boston port, a sign that it planned to makeBoston a Beachhead for the shipments. It was well known that iflanded in American, the tea would flood the whole market going at alower value than the smuggled ones. Hence, for the Sons of Liberty,it was crucial for the dwellers of the four port terminuses to stopthe tea from being landed. The wellbeing of the Dutch smugglersdepended on the ability of Boston to hold ground. A writer submittedthat "Boston either return its tea to England or insist oncopying the resolutions of Philadelphia and New-York to destroy it."On Nov. 29, 1773, the shipment arrived in Boston (Carp, Benjamin L.358)..
The governor had no intent of allowing the colonists impose thereturn of ships, and because of the boycotts, the ships were notunloaded. Thus they were held at the port waiting for the customs tobe paid and the tea unloaded. On December 16, "there was ameeting of the citizens of the county of Suffolk, convened at one ofthe churches in Boston, for the purpose of consulting on whatmeasures might be considered expedient to prevent the landing of thetea or secure the people from the collection of the duty. At thatmeeting, a committee was appointed to wait on Governor Hutchinson,and request him to inform them whether he would take any measures tosatisfy the people on the object of the meeting" He pledged afeedback by 5 pm, and the committee met at his residence at thattime, but he was absent. "Let every man do his duty, and be trueto his country," the committee shouted as they called off themeeting (Carp, Benjamin L. 359). That night, over a hundred armed mendressed in "Indian" garb raided the ships. They tore openthe chests of tea and emptied the contents into the harbor. It isapproximated that a hundred thousand pounds of tea, valued at £9000were destroyed that night, in what became known up to date as “theBoston Tea Party”.
is one of the famous happenings in Americanhistory and was the spur that led to American Revolution. It has beenasked, “Did Dutch Smugglers Provoke the Boston Tea Party?”. Thisquestion can be answered well by positioning Boston within thetrans-Atlantic and inter-colonial systems that maintained it. TheAtlantic smugglers doing business with the Dutch as well as otherEuropean countries shaped the surroundings for the Boston Tea Partyas well as assisted in provoking it. “The role of the smugglers wascentral to the formation of a revolutionary consciousness amongBoston merchants.” The events that happened in the 16th centurygave rise to the conditions that led to the destruction ofapproximately a hundred thousand pounds of British tea, valued at£9000, in what has been branded "the Boston Tea Party."
Agnew, Jean-Christophe. "Reviews Of Books:The Marketplace OfRevolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence T. H.Breen". The American Historical Review, vol 110, no. 1,2005, pp. 129-130. Oxford University Press (OUP).
Carp, Benjamin L. "Did Dutch Smugglers Provoke The Boston TeaParty?". Early American Studies: An InterdisciplinaryJournal, vol 10, no. 2, 2012, pp. 335-359. Johns HopkinsUniversity Press. Web
"Journal Of The Early Republic: Volume 32, 2012". JournalOf The Early Republic, vol 32, no. 4, 2012, pp. 759-760. JohnsHopkins University Press. Web
Ranlet, Philip. "WhoseAmerican Revolution Was It? Historians Interpret The Founding. ByAlfred F. Young And Gregory H. Nobles. (New York, NY: New YorkUniversity Press, 2011. Pp. Vi, 287. $26.00.)". Historian,vol 74, no. 3, 2012, pp. 596-598. Wiley-Blackwell.
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