1973 8¢ Boston Tea Party
US #1480-83 – Wealthy colonists offered to pay for the lost tea, but the British refused.

On December 16, 1773, a group of Massachusetts colonists known as the Sons of Liberty staged a dramatic protest against British taxes – the famed Boston Tea Party.

1958 Liberty Series - 25¢ Paul Revere
US #1048 – Revere was a member of the Sons of Liberty and may have been present at the Tea Party.

The French and Indian War left Britain in debt. So taxes were levied on the New World colonies, which enraged colonists. The slogan, “No taxation without representation,” became popular in Massachusetts and protests were staged. In 1770, British soldiers fired on a group of angry patriots, killing five of them. The Boston Massacre, as it came to be known, sparked public sentiment against the British.

1985 8¢ Great Americans: Henry Knox
US #1851 – Knox guarded one of the ships, ensuring the tea wasn’t unloaded before the uprising.

Britain continued to impose new tea taxes on the colonies. The colonists weren’t simply upset at the taxes themselves, but a number of important factors. For one, they didn’t believe Parliament should have the authority to tax the colonies if they didn’t have a representative there to act in their interests. Also, Britain had essentially formed a tea monopoly (by only allowing colonies to buy from one source) and colonists feared this could later extend to other goods.

1982 Samuel Adams Commemorative cover
Item #126391 – Commemorative cover marking Adams’ birthday

In the early fall of 1773, Britain sent seven ships carrying 600,000 pounds of tea to the colonies. Protesters met with the consignees (colonial merchants who would sell the incoming tea) and convinced many of them to resign and send the arriving tea back to England. In fact, they resigned everywhere except Massachusetts. The colonial governor there refused to back down and convinced his consignees not to resign. On November 29, when the tea ship arrived in Boston Harbor, Samuel Adams called for a meeting. Thousands turned out, and Adams presented a resolution, urging the ship’s captain to take the tea back to England. The governor refused to allow the ship to leave without paying the duty.

1973 8¢ Boston Tea Party Classic First Day Cover
US #1480-83 – Classic First Day Cover

Unfazed by the governor’s resistance, Adams called another meeting on December 16. But upon hearing that the governor once again refused to let the ships leave, Adams declared that “this meeting can do nothing further to save the country.” Shortly after some 100 to 130 men left the meeting for the harbor. Some of them painted their faces and donned the clothes of Mohawk Warriors. After dark, they boarded the three British ships, and dumped all 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The tea was valued at 9,000 pounds sterling – a tremendous sum of money.

1973 8¢ Postal Card - Samuel Adams
US #UX66 – Samuel Adams First Day Postal Card

It’s been debated whether Adams helped plan the Boston Tea Party or not. Either way, once it was over, he widely publicized and defended it. Similar “tea parties” soon took place elsewhere in America, and the British government was outraged. Following the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament decided on harsher means to make the colonies more cooperative. Parliament passed a series of laws they called the Coercive Acts – bluntly called the Intolerable Acts by American patriots. These laws greatly restricted the colonies, particularly Massachusetts, which lost its self-government and commerce.

1974 10¢ First Continental Congress
US #1543-46 – Bicentennial stamp block honoring the First Continental Congress.

Colonists felt the rules were a threat to their rights, and formed the First Continental Congress to discuss the situation. This led to greater unity among the colonies and increased support for independence, setting the stage for the Revolutionary War.

Discover what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. Today, December the 16th, is Ludwig Beethovens 240th birthday! He was 3 years old at the time of the Boston Tea Party….

  2. I enjoy this block, also I like to know if member could request for specific stamps to be show on this day in history.

  3. This account of the Boston Tea Party showed what was to become a typical white man’s attempts to blame the Indians for everything even after the Untied States became a separate country. That may be why all Indian victories over the whites were known as “massacres” and when the whites prevailed as heroic victories. The Boston Tea Party was a first attempt it seems to lay blame on Indians in disputes such as Sand Hill in the 1860’s. We still have that attitude that “white is right.”

    1. I don’t think the members of the Boston Tea Party were attempting to fool the British that Mohawk Indians were conducting the raid.

  4. Thanks Mystic, for a great reminder of a very important moment in the history of formation the United States. I agree with Mr. Graff, the Tea Party resistance group used the Mohawk tribe as a scapegoat. They should have gone in as themselves and not tried to lay the blame on the innocent Native Americans.

  5. The history about stamps, is a great way of information. I rate it as #1 being one of the best.
    I know myself an around 1500 people and so read them all.

  6. The block of 4 stamp commemorating the Boston Tea Party was one of my favorites from the bicentennial celebration stamps. I learned much more than I previously knew from your complete history of what was behind the action taken by the colonists. Thank you!

  7. Well, it was still a convenient dodge to “blame” the Indians. This was a bold strike against British dominations of the American colonists, so why not dress as usual and boldly say something like, “We are Americans or Massachusettites or Bostonians and here is your damn tea?” Another point could be made that this set a precedent of opposition to taxes of all types. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”

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