Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Boston Tea Party

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Although I'm sure very few tea parties on Beacon Hill today involve the Sons of Liberty dressed up as Narragansett Indians, the most famous 'tea party' in American history certainly did...

On this day in 1773, in order to protest the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767, more than 8,000 colonists crowded into Boston's Old South Meeting House just long enough to get their dander up; following that little pep rally they repaired to the harbor, where the HMS Dartmouth, HMS Beaver and HMS Eleanor were relieved of 45 tons of tea (worth £10,000), which was then ignominiously dumped into the water. One of the leaders of the rebellion was John Hancock, who was not only the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, but the only one to sign it on July 4th, 1776.

The event would light the fuse for the American Revolution, but could have easily been prevented had colonial officials been able to secure some kind of representation for them at Westminster; the right of the population to expect representation in exchange for taxation was one of the key dicta of English common law dating back to the Magna Carta. Instead, the English responded to this nascent colonial uppitiness with a series of legislation collectively known as the Intolerable Acts starting in 1774.

And we all know how well that approach turned out for them...
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