The Aftermath

east india tea leaves
Tea leaves in glass bottle collected on the shore of Dorchester Neck the morning of 17 December 1773. Massachusetts Historical Society.

December 17, 1773 to April 19, 1775: “The Aftermath”

This is the most magnificent Movement of all. There is a Dignity, a Majesty, a Sublimity in this last Effort of the Patriots that I greatly admire. This Destruction of the Tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, so intrepid, and so inflexible, and it must have so important Consequences and so lasting, that I cannot but consider it as an Epocha in History.
~ John Adams, December 17, 1773

Many of the Boston Tea Party participants fled Boston immediately after the destruction of the tea to avoid arrest. George Hewes remembered, “We then quietly retired to our several places of residence, without having any conversation with each other, or taking any measures to discover who were our associates… There appeared to be an understanding that each individual should volunteer his services, keep his own secret, and risk the consequence for himself. No disorder took place during that transaction, and it was observed at that time that the stillest night ensued that Boston had enjoyed for many months.” Only one member of the Sons of Liberty, Francis Akeley, was caught and imprisoned for his participation. He was the only person ever to be arrested for the Boston Tea Party. No one died during the Boston Tea Party. There was no violence and no confrontation between the Patriots, the Tories and the British soldiers garrisoned in Boston. None of the members of the crews of the Beaver, Dartmouth, or Eleanor were harmed. This was the first organized act of rebellion against British rule and the Sons of Liberty were very careful about how the Boston Tea Party was planned and executed.

british tories
The Tories. 1893. New York Public Library.

The News Spreads

Paul Revere rode to Manhattan, New York, arriving on December 21 to deliver the news of the Boston Tea Party. The news the Boston Committee of Correspondence sent to New York was the following: “We had a greater Meeting of the Body than ever. The Country coming in from Twenty Miles round, and every Step was taken that was practicable for returning the Teas. The Moment it was known out of Doors, that Mr. Rotch could not obtain a Pass for his Ship by the Castle, a Number of People huzza’d in the Street, and in a very little Time, every Ounce of the Teas on board of Capt. Hall, Bruce, and Coffin, was immersed in the Bay, without the least Injury to private Property. The Spirit of the People on this Occasion surprised all Parties, who viewed the Scene.”

boston harbor tea party
Destruction of tea at Boston Harbor. Library of Congress.

Ensuring the Tea was Destroyed

For weeks after the Boston Tea Party, Boston Harbor smelled as a result of over 92,000 pounds of tea dumped into the harbor. To keep looters from salvaging the British East India Company Tea dumped into Boston Harbor, the Sons of Liberty would go out in boats and hit the tea with oars and clubs in an attempt to sink it in hopes of making the tea useless. George Hewes remembered, “The next morning, after we had cleared the ships of the tea, it was discovered that very considerable quantities of it were floating upon the surface of the water; and to prevent the possibility of any of its being saved for use, a number of small boats were manned by sailors and citizens, who rowed them into those parts of the harbor wherever the tea was visible, and by beating it with oars and paddles so thoroughly drenched it as to render its entire destruction inevitable.”

british east india tea company logo
British East India Company Logo

News Reaches London

The news of the Boston Tea Party reached London, England on January 20, 1774, and as a result the British shut down Boston Harbor until all of the 340 chests of British East India Company tea were paid for. This was implemented under the 1774 Intolerable Acts and known as the Boston Port Act. In addition to the Boston Port Act, the Intolerable Acts also implemented the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act, the Quartering Act, and the Quebec Act. American colonists responded with protests and coordinated resistance by convening the First Continental Congress in September and October of 1774 to petition Britain to repeal the Intolerable Acts.

disguised patriots carrying tea crates
The Boston Tea-Party. 1888. New York Public Library.

Sparking the American Revolution

The Boston Tea Party was the first significant act of defiance by American colonists and is a defining event in American history. The implication and impact of the Boston Tea Party were enormous ultimately leading to the start of the American Revolution which began in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775.

“The Dye is cast: The People have passed the River and cutt away the Bridge: last Night Three Cargoes of Tea, were emptied into the Harbour. This is the grandest, Event, which has ever yet happened Since, the Controversy, with Britain, opened!”
~ John Adams to James Warren, December 17, 1773