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The Boston "Tea Party"
In 1773, however, Britain furnished Adams and his allies with
an incendiary issue. The powerful East India Company, finding
itself in critical financial straits, appealed to the British
government, which granted it a monopoly on all tea exported to
the colonies. The government also permitted the East India
Company to supply retailers directly, bypassing colonial
wholesalers. By then, most of the tea consumed in America
was imported illegally, duty-free. By selling its tea through
its own agents at a price well under the customary one, the East
India Company made smuggling unprofitable and threatened to
eliminate the independent colonial merchants. Aroused not
only by the loss of the tea trade but also by the monopolistic
practice involved, colonial traders joined the radicals
agitating for independence.
In ports up and down the Atlantic coast, agents of the East
India Company were forced to resign. New shipments of tea
were either returned to England or warehoused. In Boston,
however, the agents defied the colonists; with the support of
the royal governor, they made preparations to land incoming
cargoes regardless of opposition. On the night of December 16,
1773, a band of men disguised as Mohawk Indians and led by
Samuel Adams boarded three British ships lying at anchor and
dumped their tea cargo into Boston harbor. Doubting their
countrymen's commitment to principle, they feared that if the
tea were landed, colonists would actually purchase the tea and
pay the tax.
A crisis now confronted Britain. The East India Company had
carried out a parliamentary statute. If the destruction of
the tea went unpunished, Parliament would admit to the world
that it had no control over the colonies. Official opinion
in Britain almost unanimously condemned the Boston Tea Party as
an act of vandalism and advocated legal measures to bring the
insurgent colonists into line.
Questions with answers in bold:
1. What organization, in 1773, was granted a monopoly on all tea imported by the colonies?
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Text courtesy of the U.S. State Department, Bureau of International Information Programs, 2005