Winter hours: we are open Thurs-Mondays, tours 10a-4p.
Plan Visit > Masks are mandatory for ALL guests.
Starting Jan 15: Per the City of Boston, ALL persons 12 year & older MUST show proof of vaccination to enter the museum. View Safety Guidelines >

The Ship Captains

From the “Talking History with Benjamin L. Carp” Video Series – Webisode 6


I think the ship captains play a really interesting role in the story of the boston tea party. there were a number of american ship captains who could have taken the tea over to america from london but a lot of them refused. they know this cargo is going to be trouble uh… but three ship captains all of them eventually become loyalists, do consent to take the cargo over to america.

they wind up in the middle of this political firestorm um… and they must have just been really annoyed. a lot of them want to just unload their bring some american cargo on board and head back to london. that was how you made money. you kept on trucking.

but what they find instead is that with the bostonian sons of liberty want to march on board at night and guard the cargo so it doesn’t get off loaded

so they have people trooping all around and then the moment comes on december 16,

“you down there, down in the hold we are coming below.”

people coming on board demanding to be able to get access to the cargo. chopping open the crates dumping the stuff over the sides

i think that that that seeing that experience at the boston tea party ships and museum is really fun and really shows the dilemma the different actors were facing

not just the participants, not just the boston sons of liberty but ship captains as well. and you know some of the loyalists were more sympathetic to the tea act.

I think the american protest against the tea, obviously something that americans
celebrate of but it’s also something that has intrigued audiences internationally as well the idea of using boycotts to protest either big government or big corporations is something that’s part of the legacy of civil disobedience

I think that the dramatic, really visual nature of the throwing tea into the harbor, of destroying something in order to make a point

i think that that’s also something that radicals uh… all over the world have of looked at in terms of their own social movements, for their own nationalist i think that there is an appeal about the tea party both abroad and at home. but again you know it’s something that’s mixed depending on what your perspective is.

Professor Benjamin L. Carp Profile Picture

Professor Benjamin L. Carp

Benjamin L. Carp is an associate professor of early American history at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. He has written about firefighters and the American Revolution, nationalism in Revolutionary America and the Civil War South, cities and the American Revolution, and the Boston Tea Party. He grew up in Woodmere, New York....

More about museum contributor


Sign up to receive special offers, discounts and news on upcoming events.