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One thing more was essential to the success of the colonists,--union. Instead of pulling different ways, as from a variety of causes they had hitherto done, the different colonies must bring their combined efforts to bear in order to effect the desired result. This was brought about by the destruction of the tea in Boston harbor, and by the Boston port bill, and other coercive measures, its immediate consequence.

The impolitic reservation of the duty on tea produced an association not to drink it, and caused all the merchants, except a few in Boston, to refuse its importation.

Three hundred women of Boston, heads of families, among them many of the highest standing, had, as early as February, 1770, signed an agreement not to drink any tea until the impost clause of the revenue acts was repealed. The daughters of liberty, both north and south, did the same. The young women of Boston followed the example of their mothers, and subscribed to the following pledge:

    "We, the daughters of those patriots who have, and do now appear for the public interest, and in that principally regard their posterity, as such do with pleasure engage with them in denying ourselves the drinking of foreign tea, in hopes to frustrate a plan that tends to deprive a whole community of all that is valuable in life."

From this time forth tea was a proscribed beverage throughout the colonies. "Balsamic hyperion," made from the dried leaves of the raspberry plant; thyme, extensively used by the women of Connecticut; and various other substitutes came into general use. The newspapers of the day abound with details of social gatherings, in which foreign tea was totally discarded. They also voiced the public abhorrence for it, or what it represented, by applying to it all the objurgatory and abusive epithets they could muster--and their vocabulary was by no means limited--such as "detestable," "cruel," "villainous," "pernicious," "fatal," "devilish," "fiendish," etc.

Of course there were those who would not deny themselves the use of tea,--drinking it clandestinely in garrets, or preparing it in coffee-pots to deceive the eye, resorting to any subterfuge in order to indulge in the use of their favorite beverage. These people, when found out, did not fail to receive the condemnation of the patriotic men and women, who, from principle, abstained. There was still a considerable consumption of tea in America, as the article could be obtained more cheaply from Holland than from the English East India Company, and on arrival here could easily be smuggled ashore. It was supposed that of the three millions of inhabitants of the colonies, one-third drank tea twice a day, Bohea being the kind preferred; and it was estimated that the annual consumption, in Massachusetts alone, was two thousand four hundred chests, some eight hundred thousand pounds.

Tea continued to arrive in Boston, but as no one would risk its sale, it was stored. The "Boston Gazette," in April, 1770, said: "There is not above one seller of tea in town who has not signed an agreement not to dispose of any tea until the late revenue acts are repealed."

John Hancock offered one of his vessels, free of charge, to re-ship the tea then stored in Boston. His offer was accepted, and a cargo despatched to London. So strict was the watch kept upon the traders, that many of those suspected of illicit dealings in tea, among whom was Hancock himself, found it convenient to publish cards declaring their innocence. Governor Hutchinson wrote at this time (April, 1770,) to Lord Hillsborough, the English secretary, "That the importers pleaded that they should be utterly ruined by this combination, but the Boston zealots had no bowels, and gave for answer, 'that if a ship was to bring us the plague, nobody would doubt what was necessary to be done with her;' but the present case is much worse than that." Theophilus Lillie, who was selling tea contrary to the agreement, found, one morning, a post planted before his door, upon which was a carved head, with the names of some tea importers on it, and underneath, a hand pointing towards his shop. One of his neighbors, an informer, named Richardson, asked a countryman to break the post down with his cart. A crowd gathered, and boys threw stones and chased Richardson to his house. He fired into them with a shotgun, and killed a German lad of eleven years, named Snider. At his funeral, five hundred children walked in front of the bier; six of his school-fellows held the pall, and a large procession moved from liberty tree to the town-house, and thence to the burying-place. This exciting affair, preceded by a few days only, the memorable "Boston massacre" of March 5, 1770.

The application of the East India Company to the British government for relief from pecuniary embarrassment, occasioned by the great falling off in its American tea trade, afforded the ministry just the opportunity it desired to fasten taxation upon the American colonies. The company asked permission to export tea to British America, free of duty, offering to allow government to retain sixpence per pound, as an exportation tariff, if they would take off the three per cent. duty, in America. This gave an opportunity for conciliating the colonies in an honorable way, and also to procure double the amount of revenue. But no! under the existing coercive policy, this request was of course inadmissible. At this time the company had in its warehouses upwards of seventeen millions of pounds, in addition to which the importations of the current year were expected to be larger than usual. To such a strait was it reduced, that it could neither pay its dividends nor its debts.

By an act of parliament, passed on May 10, 1773, "with little debate and no opposition," the company, on exportation of its teas to America, was allowed a drawback of the full amount of English duties, binding itself only to pay the threepence duty, on its being landed in the English colonies.

In accordance with this act, the lords-commissioners of the treasury gave the company a license (August 20, 1773,) for the exportation of six hundred thousand pounds, which were to be sent to Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston, S.C., the principal American ports. As soon as this became known, applications were made to the directors by a number of merchants in the colonial trade, soliciting a share of what promised to be a very profitable business. The establishment of a branch East India house, in a central part of America, whence the tea could be distributed to other points, was suggested. The plan finally adopted was to bestow the agency on merchants, in good repute, in the colonies, who were friendly to the administration, and who could give satisfactory security, or obtain the guaranty of London houses.

The company and its agents viewed this matter solely in a commercial light. No one supposed that the Americans would oppose the measure on the ground of abstract principle. The only doubt was as to whether the company could, merely with the threepenny duty, compete successfully with the smugglers, who brought tea from Holland. It was hoped they might, and that the difference would not compensate for the risk in smuggling. But the Americans at once saw through the scheme, and that its success would be fatal to their liberties.

The new tea act, by again raising the question of general taxation, diverted attention from local issues, and concentrated it upon one which had been already fully discussed, and on which the popular verdict had been definitely made up. Right and justice were clearly on their side. It was not that they were poor and unable to pay, but because they would not submit to wrong. The amount of the tax was paltry, and had never been in question. Their case was not--as in most revolutions--that of a people who rose against real and palpable oppression. It was an abstract principle alone for which they contended. They were prosperous and happy. It was upon a community, at the very height of its prosperity, that this insidious scheme suddenly fell, and it immediately aroused a more general opposition than had been created by the stamp act. "The measure," says the judicious English historian, Massey, "was beneficial to the colonies; but when was a people engaged in a generous struggle for freedom, deviated by an insidious attempt to practice on their selfish interests?"

"The ministry believe," wrote Franklin, "that threepence on a pound of tea, of which one does not perhaps drink ten pounds a year, is sufficient to overcome all the patriotism of an American." The measure gave universal offence, not only as the enforcement of taxation, but as an odious monopoly of trade. To the warning of Americans that their adventure would end in loss, and to the scruples of the company, Lord North answered peremptorily, "It is to no purpose making objections, the king will have it so. The king means to try the question with America." How absurd was this assertion of prerogative, and how weak the government, was seen when on the first forcible resistance to his plans, the king was compelled to apply to the petty German states for soldiers. Lord North believed that no difficulty could arise, as America, under the new regulation, would be able to buy tea[1] from the company at a lower price than from any other European nation, and that buyers would always go to the cheapest market.

Before receiving intelligence of the passage of the new act, in the summer of 1773, political agitation in the colonies had in great measure subsided. The ministry had abandoned its design of transporting Americans to England for trial; the people were prosperous; loyal to the king; considered themselves as fellow subjects with Britons, and indignantly repelled the idea of severing their political connection. The king, however, was obstinately bent upon maintaining the supreme authority of parliament to make laws binding on the colonies "in all cases whatsoever." He was unfortunate in having for his chief adviser, Lord North, who sought to please the king even against his own better judgment. He was still more unfortunate in North's colleagues,--Mansfield, Sandwich, Germaine, Wedderburne and Thurlow,--violent or corrupt men, wholly unfit for the grave responsibilities they had assumed.

Governor Hutchinson[2] asserts that "when the intelligence first came to Boston it caused no alarm. The threepenny duty had been paid the last two years without any stir, and some of the great friends to liberty had been importers of tea. The body of the people were pleased with the prospect of drinking tea at less expense than ever. The only apparent discontent was among the importers of tea, as well those who had been legal importers from England, as others who had illegally imported from Holland, and the complaint was against the East India Company for monopolizing a branch of commerce which had been beneficial to a great number of merchants."

The circular-letter of the Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence of October 21, 1773,--by which time the public sentiment against the new regulation had been thoroughly aroused,--said of it: "It is easy to see how aptly this scheme will serve both to destroy the trade of the colonies and increase the revenue. How necessary then it is that each colony should take effectual methods to prevent this measure from having its designed effects."

One of the Boston consignees writing to London, says, under date of 18th October: "But what difficulties may arise from the disaffection of the merchants and importers of tea to this measure of the East India Company, I am not yet able to say. It seems at present to be a matter of much speculation, and if one is to credit the prints, no small opposition will be made thereto.... My friends seem to think it will subside; others are of a contrary opinion." Another, under date of October 30th, gives it as his opinion that the uneasiness is fomented, if not originated, by persons concerned in the Holland trade, a trade which, he is informed, is much more practiced in the Southern governments than here.