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This week in history: The Boston Tea Party

December 17, 2019
“Americans throwing the cargoes of the Tea Ships into the River at Boston” from 
The History of North America by W.D. Cooper published in 1789

This week in 1773, the Sons of Liberty disguised themselves as Native Americans, boarded British ships in Boston Harbor, and dumped 342 chests of tea into the water. The Boston Tea Party escalated the colonists’ struggle against the Tea Act, which the British Parliament had passed in May, imposing a tax on tea. The colonists had long enjoyed a period of “benevolent neglect”—low taxes and little interference from their government in London—but those days had recently come to an end. Parliament needed money and looked to its American colonies for a contribution. To the colonists, this was “no taxation without representation,” since the colonies had no Members of Parliament and so no vote or voice. To the British, the taxes were more than fair, since the colonists had long enjoyed the benefits of the British Empire, including military protection from the French and Native Americans, without shouldering the cost. Neither side ever budged, so we now remember the Boston Tea Party as a key step toward rebellion and the American War for Independence.

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