American Indian Council
You Believe It:
Exposing the myths behind commonly believed fallacies"
by Herb Reich
Boston Tea Party Myth:
On December 16, 1773, a group of colonists dressed as Indians boarded a ship
anchored in Boston Harbor and tossed chests of British tea overboard as a
protest against a tax on the tea imposed without their consent. The citizens
were objecting to a feared increase in the price of their precious tea. So goes
the story, memorialized in American history as the Boston Tea Party.
Don't you believe it.
The facts tell it somewhat differently. The colonists did not expect an increase
in their taxes: quite the opposite. Influential merchants feared for their
market dominance in the tea trade.
The Tea Act, designed to save the East Indian Company from bankruptcy by making
its prices more competitive, actually reduced the duty on imported British Tea,
which then lowered the price to the consumer. But the spectra of competition
threatened the brisk commerce in smuggling tea from Holland by American traders,
notable among them John Hancock. The expectation of cheap British tea caused the
famous incident, not the imposition of a new tax or an anticipated increases in
the cost of living.
But the event was strategically misrepresented as a popular demonstration
against a repugnant autocracy. In truth, the incident was engineered by American
commercial interests, acting to preserve their control of the profitable
American tea business.
However, not all colonists applauded the event. Benjamin Franklin felt the East
India Company should be reimbursed for the loss of its property. George
Washington feared the incident would bring British retaliation. It was, after
all, a crime-the wanton destruction of another's property-but became a patriotic
Skyhorse Publishing, 555 Eight Avenue, NY, NY 10018
Chapter: Boston Tea Party, p. 76