Out-of-doors political activity anniversary
"I love the smell of tea in the harbor in the morning." Image
In the 1760s, many Brits in America were enraged when Parliament levied taxes on the sale of sugar, coffee and wine, and allowed them no voice in the matter.
Some MPs had qualms, but others, supported by George III, insisted that Parliament could tax every British subject wherever he was and despite his lack of representation. This was contrary to the rights gained by the Brits since the 13th century, and William Pitt the Elder passionately urged Parliament to allow Brits in America to be represented in Parliament.
Why the fuss over taxes?
You might wonder why Brits in America were so concerned about taxes. There were several reasons.
Like EU functionaries today, British governors in America lived lavishly. The hard-working citizen could see his tax money being wasted, and was infuriated.
In addition to their natural compulsion to keep what they earned for their families, Brits realized that some taxes were counter-productive because they would depress the economy, and destroy everyone's well-being.
Because they lived several hundred years ago, we might imagine they knew less about politics or economics than we do. But reading their letters, newspapers and thousands of political pamphlets it becomes obvious that they understood at least as much as we do. Those of us who are dependent on a few mainstream newspapers and the BBC are probably less informed. Like a teabag we are well steeped in the prevailing propaganda, but know little else.
The tea party
In 1773, Parliament gave the East India Company preferential treatment so it could undersell American tea merchants (and smugglers), and in November, three East India ships loaded with tea sailed into Boston Harbor.
Resentful Bostonians decided to send the ships back to London, but the governor refused to allow the ships to leave until import duties were paid. Eight thousand Bostonians protested, to no avail.
On the night of 16 December, 150 activists disguised as American Indians boarded the ships, and dumped over 200 tons of tea into the drink. Samuel Adams, who would become governor of Massachusetts years later, was said to be leading them.
This is what the historian Gordon Wood called "out-of-doors political activity". It has a long and noble tradition in Britain and America.