On Thursday, December 16, 1773, an estimated seven dozen men, many amateurishly disguised as Indians—then a symbol of freedom—dumped about £10,000 worth of tea in the harbor. Whatever their motives at the time, they unleashed a social, political, and economic firestorm that would culminate in the Declaration of Independence two and a half years later.
The Boston Tea Party provoked a reign of terror in Boston and other American cities, with Americans inflicting unimaginable barbarities on each other. Tea parties erupted in American cities up and down the colonies. The turmoil stripped tens of thousands of Americans of their dignity, their homes, their properties, and their birthrights—in the name of liberty and independence. Nearly 100,000 Americans left the land of their forefathers forever in what was history’s largest exodus of Americans from America. Nonetheless, John Adams called the Boston Tea Party nothing short of “magnificent.” And he went on to say that the “destruction of tea is so bold, so daring, so firm…it must have important consequences.”
Ironically, few if any Americans today—even those who call themselves Tea Party Patriots—would be able to name even one of the estimated eighty participants in the original Boston Tea Party. Nor are many Americans aware of the “important consequences” of the Tea Party. The acute shortage of tea that followed the Tea Party, of course, helped transform Americans into coffee drinkers, but its effects went far beyond culinary tastes.
The Tea Party would affect so many American minds, hearts, and souls that it helped spawn a new, independent nation whose citizens would govern themselves.
“Harlow Giles Unger has taken a much-written-about subject from America’s past and looked at it with fresh eyes, finding insights and drawing conclusions that will startle not a few people.” (Thomas Fleming, New York Times best-selling author)
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