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Tea in His Boots

A special meeting of the Massachusetts Historical Society was held in Faneuil Hall on December 16, 1873 to “commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the destruction of the tea in Boston Harbor.”

Photo of Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall

A letter, written by Society member William T. Davis of Plymouth, MA was read aloud and included in the minutes. As a boy, Mr. Davis recalled hearing the accounts of a woman who was living in Boston at the time of the rebellion. He writes:

Mrs. Cotton, of whom I commenced speaking, was thirteen years of age at the time of the destruction of the tea, and a scholar attending the school and living in the family of Lady Hazeltine, whose house stood in Milk Street, near the Old South. I have heard her tell the story of the Indians and their war-whoop more than once; and she took special pride in remembering that the man-servant in the family came home with tea in his boots, and she with other members of the family drank of it on the following day.

Mrs. Cotton was in the habit of repeating to her friends a piece of paper on the subject of the destruction of the tea, and at their request placed it on paper for preservation. …it was a contemporaneous production and written out by a person who witnessed some features of the event you celebrate, and drank of the historic tea.

I enclose that very handwritten poem

As near beauteous Boston lying,

On a gentle swelling flood,

Without Jack or pennant flying,

Three ill-fated Tea-ships rode:

Just as glorious Sol was setting,

On the wharf a numerous crew,

Sons of freedom, fear forgetting,

Suddenly appeared in view.

O’er the heads, in lofty mid-sky,

Three bright angels then were seen:

This was Hamden, that was Sydney,

And fair Liberty between.

Quick as thought, without delay,

Axes, hammers, were display’d,

Spades & shovels in array—

Oh, what a glorious Crash they made!

Captains, you may hoist your Streamers,

Quickly plow it o’er the wave;

Tell your Masters they were Dreamers

When they thought to Cheat the Brave.


These lines, with some changes in the construction, and with the addition of three stanzas, were published in the Boston Evening Post of Monday, January 24, 1774.

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Bruce Richardson

MSN calls Bruce Richardson "A leading tea expert involved in tea's American renaissance for over 30 years." The native Kentuckian is a writer, photographer, tea blender, and frequent guest speaker at tea events across the globe. He can often be found appearing on television and radio talk shows, or as a guest speaker at professional seminars such as World Tea Expo or China Global Tea Fair. He is the author ...

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