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A Tea Party Timeline: 1773-1775

1773

  • May 10 – Parliament passes the Tea Act, which lowered the tax on tea to three pence per pound in an effort to bolster the British East India Company and implicitly asserted Parliament’s right to continue taxing the American colonies.
  • August 4 – The East India Company announces the selection of tea consignees, the only merchants who will be allowed to sell tea. Seven are chosen from Boston, all are Loyalists.
  • September 6 – A New York newspaper publishes the full text of the Tea Act for the first time in the colonies, provoking sharp debate.
  • November 3 – Boston’s North End Caucus demands, unsuccessfully, that the tea consignees resign at noon under the Liberty Tree, a gathering place for Patriot rallies.
  • November 5 – A town meeting at Faneuil Hall draws over 1,000 – more than a third of Boston’s voting population. Committees are formed to call on tea consignees and demand their resignation.
  • November 17 – A mob smashes the windows at the home of wealthy tea consignee Richard Clarke
  • November 18 – Another town meeting calls for resignation of tea consignees, consignees refuse. A committee with representatives from Roxbury, Dorchester, Brookline, Cambridge, Charlestown, and Boston meet at Faneuil Hall and issues a letter to every town in Massachusetts decrying the British East India Company’s tea monopoly and the tea tax.
  • November 272,500 people gather in a town meeting at Old South Meeting House, and appoint 25 men to guard the ships when they arrive so no tea can be unloaded in secret.
  • November 28 – The Dartmouth, the first of the tea ships, arrives in Boston Harbor. Twenty days from this date the cargo must be unloaded and the tax paid or the ship and cargo can be seized by customs officials.
  • November 29 The “Body of the People” meet at the Old South Meeting House. This meeting is not an official town meeting, but instead includes participants from outlying towns and those who do not meet the property requirements for voting. The large meeting moves from Faneuil Hall to Old South Meeting House. The meeting resolves the tea must not be unloaded, but instead sent back to England.
  • November 30 - The Body of the People continues to meet at Old South Meeting House.  Artist John Singleton Copley, who has strong personal ties to both patriots and loyalists, tries to arrange a compromise between the “Body of the People” and the tea consignees. The consignees offer to store the tea, but the meeting at Old South Meeting House finds that offer unacceptable.
  • December 2 – The brig Eleanor, also carrying tea, is brought to Griffin’s Wharf, where Dartmouth is docked.
  • December 7 – The brig Beaver arrives in Boston Harbor carrying tea, but carriers of smallpox are on board, and the ship is detained for six days before it can land.
  • December 13 – Boston learns that tea consignees in Philadelphia have resigned due to community pressure. New York’s consignees had already given up responsibility for the tea that landed in their harbor.
  • December 13 – Citizens of Lexington, Massachusetts burn all the tea they own in a common bonfire.
  • December 14 – A meeting of the Body of the People is held at the Old South Meeting House. The meeting demands that Francis Rotch, owner of the tea ship Dartmouth, request clearance to leave from custom officials. Rotch makes the request but clearance is denied.
  • December 16 (morning)A Meeting of the Bosy of the People is held at Old South Meeting House. The deadline for resolving the tea issue is midnight. The crowd is estimated at 5,000 – 7,000 people, with overflow standing in the street – the meeting is larger than the voting population of Boston. Francis Rotch, owner of the tea ship Dartmouth, reports that he has failed to secure clearance from customs officials to leave without unloading the tea. The Body of the People orders him to request a pass to remove his ship from the harbor from Governor Hutchinson, who is at his house in Milton Massachusetts.
  • December 16 (afternoon)The Meeting of the Body of the People at Old South Meeting House hears from Francis Rotch that his request for a pass to leave the harbor from GOvernor Hutchinson is denied. Upon hearing Rotch’s report Samuel Adams declares, “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country,” a phrase that is widely believed to have been the secret signal for patriots to move to the harbor and destroy the tea.
  • December 16 (evening) – Between 6:00 and 9:00 P.M. 340 chests of tea are destroyed and thrown from the tea ships into the harbor. While the tea is being destroyed, the meeting continues at Old South Meting House with leading patriots Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Josiah Quincy and others taking part to ensure they are not accused of participating in the destruction. 

1774

  • January 19 – King George III receives first news of the Boston Tea Party. Parliament decides to punish Boston.
  • March 5 - John Hancock delivers a speech on the anniversary of the Boston Massacre at Old South Meeting House to an audience of over 4,000 men and women. 
  • March 8 – Bostonians destroy 28 amd 1/2 crates of tea on the ship Fortune, which had arrived from London carrying tea two days earlier.
  • March 8 - At the burial of Lieutenant Governor Andrew Oliver, a loyalist, Sons of Liberty cheer as his coffin is lowered into the grave.
  • March 30 – Parliament passes The Boston Port Bill, closing Boston to ocean traffic until the destroyed tea is paid for. The destroyed tea was worth over 9,000 pounds sterling, which would be worth over 2 million in today’s US dollars.
  • May 10 – News of the Port Bill reaches Boston.
  • May 13 – Boston town meeting votes to refuse to pay for destroyed tea, and to call on the other colonies to halt all trade with Great Britain.
  • May 17 – General Thomas Gage becomes governor of Massachusetts, replacing the civilian governor Thomas Hutchinson.
  • May 20 – Parliament passes Administration of Justice Act, effectively placing Massachusetts under martial law. Parliament also passes the Massachusetts Government Act, stripping the citizens and local governments of many of their powers and turning a number of previously elected positions into appointed positions. The Government Act also required that the people get the governor’s consent before holding a Town Meeting, except for one annual meeting.
  • June 1 – Boston Port Bill goes into effect.
  • June 2 – Parliament amends the Quartering Act of 1765, giving the governor greater power to use town resources and uninhabited buildings to house soldiers. The act did not require citizens to lodge soldiers in their homes, but such a requirement had been used in England in the past
  • September 5 – First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia, officially bringing together representatives of many English colonies for the first time.
  • October 26 – The First Continental Congress sends a Petition to the King calling for the repeal of the Coercive Acts (Port Bill, Justice Act, Government Act, and Quartering Act).
  • December 22 – Patriots in Greenwich, New Jersey burn a load of tea that was destined for Philadelphia.

1775

  • March 6 - Dr. Joseph Warren delivers a speech marking the anniversary of the Boston Massacre to an overflow audience of thousands of men and women at Old South Meeting House. The crowd includes many British soldiers and tensions are high. Warren climbs in the pulpit window in order to enter the crowded Meeting House.
  • April 18 – General Gage orders British soldiers to destroy weapons depot in Concord.
  • April 18 - Dr. Joseph Warren dispatches Paul Revere and William Dawes (a member of Old South) by separte routes to warn that "The British are coming".
  • April 19 – Battles at Lexington and Concord mark the beginning of the American Revolution.
  • April 19 – British troops occupy Boston and the Siege of Boston begins, in which New England militiamen surrounded Boston to prevent movement of British troops.
  • April - British troops occupy Old South Meeting House and use it as a riding school for British Officers, gutting the building and burning the pews for firewood.
  • May 10 – The Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia.
  • June 17 – The Battle of Bunker (Breed’s) Hill.
  • July 8 – The Second Continental Congress sends the Olive Branch Petition to King George III, a last effort at reconciliation rather than fighting for independence.

1776

  • March 17 - The British troops are driven out of Boston by the Continental Army under the leadership of General George Washington.