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Who Started the Boston Tea Party

From the “Talking History with Benjamin L. Carp” Video Series – Webisode 2


i ithink there are two competing theories both of which might be equally valid at the same time about who planned the tea party.

one theory says is that there was a cobol of respected gentlemen, an active middle class of folks in boston that were behind the planning of protest events. people like samuel adams.

groups like the north end caucus groups like the boston committee of correspondence that were part of a network of communicating between the massachusetts house of representatives, printers in boston, the boston crowd right and lower class figures might be taking direction from more upper-class figures and that’s who’s motivating them.

the other theory is that’s uh… is that the average working bostonians themselves were upset about the tea act and were motivated themselves to do something about the tea and we’ve seen evidence.

we’ve seen stories we’re told later on that seem to conform to either one of those types of stories either that it was directed by wealthier more respected gentleman or that it was spontaneous in coming from the bottom up uh… being directed by ordinary bostonians and either those theories is really intriguing.

well boston merchants were definitely worried about their commerce and they had been ever since 1764 and the passage of the sugar act. merchants are always operating one you know false step away from bankruptcy and so anything that’s going to interfere with their ability to trade with france anything that’s going to interfere with their ability to maybe smuggle on occasion anything that’s going to interfere with
what they saw as the proper channels of commerce they’re going to see as a threat and so the more uh…

you know the more taxes they see the more enforcement of customs regulations that they see they worry about it cutting into their bottom line and so that certainly what’s motivating wealthy merchants. now how does that affect ordinary bostonians? well ordinary bostonians want jobs from these wealthy merchants

they want to be able to be paid to build the ships they want to be paid to serve aboard the ships they want to be paid to repair the ship’s when they’re broken, supply them with barrels so something that effects the wealthy merchants might actually undermine the entire waterfront community. We don’t want to romanticize this too much obviously, you know.

wealthy people and their employees don’t always see eye to eye about everything on but all of them had reasons to be upset and feel threatened by the tea act and other actions by the british government.

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....

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