The Boston Tea Party occurred 240 years ago, on Dec. 16, 1773. Some say it was the actual beginning of the war for American independence. At the very least, it was an important precursor of the Revolutionary War, which officially began in April 1775.
As is widely known, the issue was taxation. More specifically, it was about taxation without representation. The colonialists didn’t mind paying taxes as such. They just didn’t want to send the money raised to King George and a government in which they had no voice.
A large majority of the colonialists were from Great Britain, and they liked their tea. The British, though, levied taxes on the tea they shipped to the Colonies—three pence per pound (equivalent to about $1.15 now). That may not seem like a lot, but the colonialists were consuming well over a million pounds of tea a year.
On that December evening in 1773, some 5,000 people met in the Old South Meeting House to debate British taxation. That gathering-place was the sanctuary used by Old South Church, which was founded in 1669; the church constructed their new facility in 1729 and in the 1770s it was still the largest auditorium in Boston.
After the meeting some of the protesters, many disguised as Indians, boarded three British ships in Boston Harbor and threw 342 chests of tea into the water. (The value of that tea would be worth about $1,700,000 today.)
That happening is what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party, although that term was not used until the 1820s.
|A 1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier (1813-88), half of the Currier & Ives combo|
In 1973, the U.S. Post Office commemorated the 200th anniversary of that act of protest against Britain by issuing a set of four first-class (8-cent) stamps, together making one scene of the Boston Tea Party.
More recently, in 2009 grassroots political protest spawned what came to be termed the Tea Party movement. That movement is credited with electing 28 U.S. Representatives in 2010, helping the Republicans take control of the House.
At the beginning of this year, there were 48 Representatives who were members of the Tea Party Caucus, chaired by Michelle Bachmann. All are Republicans, including two of the eight Representatives of Missouri (where I live).
While there are numerous economic matters that are of great concern to the Tea Party movement, one of their main concerns is not raising taxes. In fact, they want to reduce the size of government and lower taxes as much as possible.
Even though there is a similarity in name, these modern-day “patriots” are quite different from those who participated in or supported the 1773 Boston Tea Party with the slogan “no taxation without representation.”
The current Tea Party seems to want representation with no (or at least very little) taxation. Those are two widely different matters.
The efforts of the original Tea Party in 1773 meant the loss of revenue for the British government, but it didn’t mean lower taxes for the colonialists.
The contemporary Tea Party movement works so their members, and many other U.S. citizens, would pay some less in taxes. And it is mainly the poor and needy who are the losers, with cuts in “food stamps” and now soon in unemployment benefits.