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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 issue a letter to every town in Massachusetts decrying the British East India Company’s tea monopoly and the tea tax.
  • November 27 – 2,500 people gather in a town meeting at Old South Meeting House, and appointed 25 men to guard the ships when they arrived so no tea could 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 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 owned in a common bonfire.
  • December 14 – A second 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) – Deadline for resolving the issue is midnight. A third meeting of the Body of the People gathers at the Old South Meeting House. 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.  Meeting at Old South Meeting House hears of Rotch’s failed mission and orders him to request pass to remove ship from harbor from Governor Hutchinson.
  • December 16 (afternoon) – Rotch goes to Governor Hutchinson’s in Milton, MA, and is denied his request for a pass. Upon hearing Rotch’s report at Old South Meeting House, 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.

1774

  • January 19 – King George III receives first news of the Boston Tea Party. Parliament decides to punish Boston.
  • March 8 – Bostonians destroy tea on the ship Fortune, which had arrived from London carrying tea two days earlier.
  • 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

  • April 18 – General Gage orders British soldiers to destroy weapons depot in Concord.
  • April 19 – Battle at Lexington and Concord
  • April 19, 1775 – March 17, 1776 – Siege of Boston, in which New England militiamen surrounded Boston to prevent movement of British troops. British troops use Old South Meeting House as a riding school, having gutted the building of its pews and burned them for firewood.
  • May 10 – The Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia.
  • June 17 – The Battle of Bunker (Breed’s) Hill, the first battle to demonstrate to both colonists and the English that the recently-formed colonial forces were willing and able to stand up to the Royal army.
  • 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.