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Parent Category: Letters and Correspondence
Category: Letters and Correspondence: Tea Leaves
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Introduction
Among the causes which led to the American Revolution, the one most prominent in the popular judgment is the "tax on tea," imposed by Great Britain on her American colonies. The destruction, in Boston harbor, in December, 1773, of the cargoes of tea sent to that port by the East India Company, was undoubtedly the proximate cause of that memorable event, and in view of this fact, the occurrence,--"by far the most momentous in the annals of the town," says the historian Bancroft,--merits a more thorough and particular consideration than it has yet received.

The silence necessarily preserved by the actors in this daring exploit, respecting their connection with it, has rendered this part of the task one of no little difficulty. Their secret was remarkably well kept; and but for the family traditions which survive, we should know very little of the men who composed the famous Boston tea party.

Nevertheless, the attempt to gather up the scattered fragments of personal reminiscence and biography, in order to give a little more completeness to this interesting chapter of our revolutionary history, is here made. The fortunate recovery, by the publisher of this volume, of the letters of the American consignees to the East India Company, and other papers shedding light upon the transaction, affords material aid in the accomplishment of our purpose.

When King Charles II. had finished that first cup of tea ever brewed in England,--the gift of the newly-created East India Company,--no sibyl was at hand to peer into the monarch's cup and foretell from its dregs, the dire disaster to his realm, hidden among those insignificant particles. Could a vision of those battered tea chests, floating in Boston harbor, with _tu doces_, in the legible handwriting of history, inscribed upon them, have been disclosed to him, even that careless, pleasure-loving prince would have been sobered by the lesson. It was left for his successor, George III., who failed to read the handwriting on the wall,--visible to all but the willfully blind,--to realize its meaning in the dismemberment of an empire.

A survey of the progress of the revolution up to the beginning of the year 1773, will help us to understand the political situation. Ten years of constant agitation had educated the people of the colonies to a clear perception of their rights, and also to a knowledge that it was the fixed purpose of the home government to deprive them of the one they most valued, namely, that of being taxed with their own consent, through their local assemblies, as had always been the custom, and not at the arbitrary will of the British parliament--a body in which they were not and could not be represented--three thousand miles away. The strange thing about this is, that the people of Great Britain should not have seen in the light of their own past history--what they have since seen clearly enough--that the Americans were only contending for principles for which their own ancestors had often fought, and which they had more than once succeeded in wresting from the grasp of arbitrary and tyrannical sovereigns.

Their difficulty seems to have been that they looked upon the Americans, not as equals, but as inferiors, as their subjects, and as having no rights that an Englishman was bound to respect. Even the celebrated moralist, Dr. Johnson, could say of the Americans, "They are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging." King George III., that obstinate but well-meaning monarch, and his ministers, no doubt honestly believed that the republican tendencies of the colonists endangered British supremacy. Perhaps they were right in this, for it was the kind and degree of supremacy that was really in question. But in entertaining the belief that these tendencies could be eradicated at a blow, they were, as the event proved, grievously mistaken.

Another moving cause for the new policy toward the colonies was the heavy taxation at home,--a result of the late war. Some of this burden they hoped to transfer from their own shoulders to those of their transatlantic brethren.

The stamp act of 1765, repealed in the year following, was in 1767, succeeded by Charles Townshend's revenue acts, imposing duties on paper, painters' colors, glass and tea. The Americans opposed this measure with the only weapon at their command--the policy of non-importation. This policy, while causing much inconvenience to themselves, yet helped them materially in two ways. In the first place it stimulated home manufactures, and accustomed the people to do without luxuries, and in the second place by distressing British merchants and manufacturers, it brought the united influence of these two powerful bodies to bear upon parliament for a change in its policy.

The people of the colonies everywhere seconded the non-importation movement, entering at once upon a course of rigid self-denial, and their legislatures commended the scheme. An agreement, presented in the Virginia House of Burgesses, by Washington, was signed by every member. For more than a year, this powerful engine of retaliation waged war upon British commerce, in a constitutional way, before ministers would listen to petitions and remonstrances; and it was not until virtual rebellion in the British capital, born of commercial distress, menaced the ministry, that the expostulations of the Americans were noticed, except with sneers. Early in the year 1770, the obnoxious act was repealed, except as regarded tea. This item was retained in order that the right of parliamentary taxation of the colonies might be upheld. The liberal leaders of parliament did their best to prevent this exception, and the subject was fully and ably discussed, but they were overruled.

Besides these acts, which had aroused in the colonies a sentiment of union, and embodied an intelligent public opinion, there were others which had contributed to the same result. Such were the royal instructions by which, among other things, accused persons were to be sent to England, for trial. Still another, was the publication of a collection of letters from Governor Hutchinson, and other prominent colonial officials, revealing their agency in instigating the obnoxious measures. These and other aggravating causes had at length brought about that, without which, no revolution can succeed,--organization. Committees of correspondence, local and general, had been created, and were now in full operation.


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.


In a letter dated New York, November 5th, Abraham Lott, one of the New York consignees, says, that if the tea arrives subject to duty, "there will be no such thing as selling it, as the people would rather buy so much poison, as they say it is calculated to enslave them and their posterity, and are therefore determined not to take what they call the nauseous draught." The tenor of these letters and of the American newspapers, must have given the British public an inkling of what was to come.

It was thought by all the colonies that this was the precise point of time when it was absolutely necessary to make a stand, and that all opposition to parliamentary taxation must be for ever given up, if this critical moment was neglected. The only practical way open to defeat the measure seemed to be through popular demonstrations.

The press now became more active than ever in its political discussions. As to the mode of payment of the tea duty, it said: "We know that on a certificate of its being landed here, the tribute is, by agreement, to be paid in London. The landing, therefore, is the point in view, and every nerve will be strained to obtain it." It was asked in New York, "are the Americans such blockheads as to care whether it be a hot red poker, or a red hot poker which they are to swallow, provided Lord North forces them to swallow one of the two?"

"All America is in a flame on account of the tea exportation," wrote a British officer at New York to a friend in London. "The New Yorkers, as well as the Bostonians and Philadelphians, it seems, are determined that no tea shall be landed. They have published a paper in numbers called the 'Alarm.' It begins, 'Dear countrymen,' and goes on exhorting them to open their eyes, and then, like sons of liberty, throw off all connection with the tyrant--the mother country.' They have on this occasion raised a company of artillery, and every day almost, are practicing at a target. Their independent companies are out, and exercise every day. The minds of the townspeople are influenced by the example of some of their principals. They swear that they will burn every tea-ship that comes in; but I believe that our six and twelve pounders, with the Royal Welch Fusileers, will prevent anything of that kind."

Philadelphia, the largest town in the colonies, led off in the work of opposing the plans of the home government. In a handbill signed "Scævola," circulated there, with the heading, "By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall," the factors appointed, by the East India Company were characterized as "political bombardiers to demolish the fair structure of liberty;" and it was said that all eyes were fixed on them, and they were urged to refuse to act.

At a large meeting held at the State House on October 18, resolutions were passed declaring that the duty on tea was a tax imposed on the colonists without their consent, and tended to render assemblies useless; that the shipment by the East India Company was an attempt to enforce the tax, and that every one who should be concerned in the unloading, receiving or vending the tea, was an enemy to his country. In accordance with one of the resolutions of the meeting, a committee was appointed to wait on the consignees in that city, to request them, from regard to their own characters and the public peace, and good order of the city and Province, immediately to resign their appointment. The Messrs. Wharton gave a satisfactory answer, which was received with shouts of applause. Groans and hisses greeted the refusal of another firm to commit themselves, until the tea arrived. So general and so commanding was the movement, however, that in a few days they also resigned. "Be assured," wrote Thomas Wharton, one of the consignees, "this was as respectable a body of inhabitants as has been together on any occasion, many of the first rank. Their proceedings were conducted with the greatest decency and firmness, and without one dissentient voice."

A few days after the action of Philadelphia, a meeting was held at the city hall, New York, (October 26,) when the tea consignees were denounced, and the attempted monopoly of trade was stigmatized as a "public robbery." The press was active, and handbills were circulated freely among the people. A series of these called the "Alarm," has been already mentioned. "If you touch one grain of the accursed tea you are undone," was the sentiment it conveyed. "America is threatened with worse than Egyptian slavery.... The language of the revenue act is, that you have no property you can call your own, that you are the vassals, the live stock, of Great Britain." Such were the bold utterances of the New Yorkers. Within three weeks the New York agents withdrew from the field. It was thereupon announced that government would take charge of the tea upon its arrival.

The New York Sons of Liberty at once reorganized; owners and occupants of stores were warned against harboring the tea, and all who bought, sold or handled it, were threatened as enemies to the country. Handbills were issued, notifying the "Mohawks" to hold themselves in readiness for active work. At the very moment when the tea was being destroyed in Boston, handbills were circulating in New York calling a meeting of "all friends to the liberties and trade of America," for one o'clock the next day, at the city hall, "on business of the utmost importance."

John Lamb, one of the most active of the Sons of Liberty of New York, afterwards a colonel of artillery in the Revolutionary army, was the speaker at the meeting, and the large assembly unanimously voted that the tea should not be landed. The governor sent a message to the people by the mayor, engaging upon his honor that the tea should not be sold, but should remain in the barracks until the council advised to the delivery of it, or orders were received from England how to dispose of it, and that it should be delivered in an open manner at noon-day. The mayor having asked if the proposals were satisfactory, there was a general cry of "no! no!" The people were at length quieted with the assurance that the ship should be sent back.

It was at Boston, the ringleader in rebellion, that the issue was to be tried. It was then the most flourishing commercial town on the continent, and contained a population of about sixteen thousand, almost exclusively of English origin. Though there were no sidewalks in the town, and, except when driven aside by carts or carriages, every one walked in the middle of the street, "where the pavement was the smoothest," an English visitor had twenty years before pronounced it to be, "as large and better built than Bristol, or any other city in England except London." The only land communication between Boston and the surrounding towns at that period, was by way of the narrow neck at its southern extremity. Her inhabitants were industrious, frugal and enterprising, and were equally distinguished for their pertinacity and independence. They were nearly all of the same church, and were strict in the observance of Sunday. Though many had acquired a competence, few were very rich or very poor, and their style of living had little diversity. In her free schools all were taught to read and write. A score of enterprising booksellers, among them Henry Knox, imported into the colony all the standard books on law, politics, history and theology, while a free press and town meetings instructed her citizens in political affairs. Her mechanics, many of whom were ship-builders, were active in all town meetings. Ever jealous of her rights, she had grown up in their habitual exercise, and was early and strenuous in her opposition to the claims of parliamentary supremacy. Even her divines, many of whom were distinguished by their learning and eloquence, gave the sanction of religion to the cause of freedom. For these reasons Boston was the fittest theatre for the decisive settlement of the grave question at issue.


Two men of very different metal were especially prominent in Boston at this time,--Thomas Hutchinson, the royal governor, and Samuel Adams, the man of the people. Both were natives of the town, and graduates of Harvard College. Hutchinson, during a public life of over thirty years, had held the offices of representative, councillor, chief justice and lieutenant-governor. No man was so experienced in the affairs of the colony, no one so familiar with its history, usages and laws. As a legislator and as a judge he had manifested ability and impartiality.

Unfortunately for his peace of mind, and for his reputation, he set himself squarely against the popular movement. He advised altering the charters of the New England provinces; the dismemberment of Massachusetts; the establishment of a citadel in Boston; the stationing of a fleet in its harbor; the experiment of martial law; the transportation of "incendiaries" to England, and the prohibition of the New England fisheries, at the same time entreating of his correspondents in England to keep his opinions secret.

For these errors of judgment he paid dearly in the obloquy heaped upon him by his countrymen, and his exile from his native land, in which he earnestly desired that his bones might be laid. The recent publication of his diary and letters shows that he not only acted honestly and conscientiously in opposing the popular current, but that he, at the same time, used his influence to mitigate the severe measures of government. He counselled them against the stamp act; against closing the port of Boston, and against some features of the regulating act, as too harsh and impolitic. It was his sincere wish that his countrymen would admit the supremacy of parliament, and he believed that such a result could be attained without bloodshed. He was courteously received in England,--where his course was very generally approved,--and offered a baronetcy, which, however, he declined on the score of the insufficiency of his estate. His judgment in American affairs, though often sought by the ministry, seems to have been seldom followed. Candor requires that in the light of his letters and diary, in which his real sentiments appear, the harsh judgment usually passed upon Hutchinson, should be materially modified.

His opponent, Samuel Adams, the great agitator, possessed precisely those qualities that the times required. His political creed was, that the colonies and England had a common king, but separate and independent legislatures, and as early as the year 1769, he had been a zealous advocate of independence. He was the organizer of the Revolution, through the committees of correspondence, which he initiated, and was one of those who matured the plan of a general congress. A genuine lover of liberty, he believed in the capacity of the Americans for self-government. It was Samuel Adams who, the day after the "massacre" of March 5, 1770, was chosen chairman of the committee, to demand of the governor the immediate removal of the troops from the town of Boston. The stern and inflexible patriot clearly exposed the fallacy of Hutchinson's reply to the demand, and compelled the governor to yield. No flattery could lull his vigilance, no sophistry deceive his penetration. Difficulties did not discourage, nor danger appall him. Though poor, he possessed a lofty and incorruptible spirit, and though grave and austere in manner, was warm in his feelings. His affable and persuasive address, reconciled conflicting interests, and promoted harmonious action. As a speaker he was pure, concise, logical and impressive, and the energy of his diction was not inferior to the depth of his mind. As a political writer he was clear and convincing, and was the author of able state papers. No man had equal influence over the popular mind with Samuel Adams, who has been aptly styled, "the last of the Puritans."

At Boston, where the feeling against receiving the tea was strongest, the consignees were, "by a singular infelicity," either relatives of the hated governor, or in sympathy with the odious administration. Two of them were his sons. Richard Clarke was his nephew. One of Clarke's daughters married Copley, the painter, and became the mother of Lord Lyndhurst, the future lord-chancellor of England. Benjamin Faneuil and Joshua Winslow were respectable merchants. All but Faneuil were connected by marriage. They were well aware of the temper of the people, and of the proceedings in Philadelphia and New York; and would doubtless have yielded to the popular demands, but for Hutchinson. Public sentiment was stimulated against them by representing them as crown officers, whereas they were only factors. They were thus put upon the footing of the obnoxious stamp officers.


The North End Caucus,[3] composed mostly of mechanics, met frequently to consider what should be done, and voted (October 23d,) that they would oppose with their lives and fortunes, the vending of any tea that might be sent to the town for sale by the East India Company. "We were so careful," says Paul Revere, "that our meetings should be kept secret, that every time we met, every person swore upon the Bible not to discover any of our transactions, but to Hancock, Warren or Church, and one or two more leaders."

The Caucus and the Long-Room Club were local organizations, and were all included in the larger and more important one, known as "The Sons of Liberty." This association pervaded nearly all the colonies. It was first known in Boston as the "Union Club," and gained its later name from the phrase employed in the British parliament by Col. Barré, in his famous speech. It was formed in 1765, soon after the passage of the stamp act, and had among its members most of the leading patriots of the day. Their organization was secret, with private pass-words, to protect them from Tory spies. On public occasions, each member wore, suspended from his neck, a medal, on one side of which was the figure of a stalwart arm, grasping in its hand a pole, surmounted with a cap of liberty, and surrounded by the words, "Sons of Liberty." On the reverse was a representation of Liberty Tree. It was under this tree, in the open space known as "Liberty Hall,"--at the junction of Newbury, Orange and Essex Streets,--that their public meetings in Boston were held.

The Sons of Liberty issued warrants for the arrest of suspected persons; arranged in secret caucus the preliminaries of elections, and the programme for public celebrations; and in fact were the mainspring, under the guidance of the popular leaders, of every public demonstration against the government. In Boston they probably numbered about three hundred. The 14th of August,--the anniversary of the repeal of the stamp act,--was celebrated by them for several years, with grand display and festivity.

Under date of January 15, 1766, John Adams says, in his diary: "I spent the evening with the Sons of Liberty, at their own apartment, in Hanover Square, near the Tree of Liberty. It is a counting-room, in Chase & Speakman's distillery; a very small room it is. There were present, John Avery, a distiller, of liberal education; John Smith, the brazier; Thomas Crafts,[4] the painter; Benjamin Edes,[5] the printer; Stephen Cleverly, brazier; Thomas Chase, distiller; Joseph Fields, master of a vessel; Henry Bass; George Trott, jeweller; and Henry Welles. I was very cordially and respectfully treated by all present. We had punch, wine, pipes and tobacco, biscuit and cheese, etc. They chose a committee to make preparations for grand rejoicings upon the arrival of the news of a repeal of the stamp act." The counting-room of which Adams speaks, could, from its small size, have been the committee-room of the body only.

Governor Bernard wished to send some of the leading Sons of Liberty to England, for trial, but did not dare do so. New York was the centre of the organization, to which all communications from the other colonies were sent. A correspondent in London kept them informed of the proceedings and designs of the British ministry.


At one o'clock in the morning of the 2d of November, 1773, the consignees were aroused from their slumbers by a violent knocking at their doors, and a summons was left for them to appear at Liberty Tree on the following Wednesday, to resign their commissions; and not to fail at their peril. A handbill was, at the same time, posted about the town, notifying the people of Boston and the vicinity to be present at the same time and place, to witness their resignation.

[Illustration: Signature, Benjamin Church]

On the appointed day, a large flag was hung out at Liberty Tree. The public crier announced the meeting, at the top of his voice, and the church bells, were rung for an hour. At noon, five hundred persons assembled. Samuel Adams, John Hancock and William Phillips, representatives of Boston, were present, with William Cooper,--the patriotic town clerk,--and the board of selectmen. The consignees failing to appear, a committee, consisting of William Molineux, William Dennie, Dr. Joseph Warren, Dr. Benjamin Church,[6] Henderson Inches, Edward Proctor, Nathaniel Barber, Gabriel Johonnot,[7] and Ezekiel Cheever, waited on them at Clarke's warehouse, at the foot of King (now State) Street, where they, together with a number of their friends, had assembled. As they passed the town house, still standing at the head of this street, Hutchinson, who saw the procession, says that "the committee were attended by a large body of the people, many of them not of the lowest rank."

[Illustration: Signature, Henderson Inches]

Molineux was the spokesman. "From whom are you a committee?" asked Clarke. "From the whole people," was the reply. "Who are the committee?" "I am one," said Molineux, and he named the rest. "What is your request?" "That you give us your word to sell none of the teas in your charge, but return them to London in the same bottoms in which they were shipped. Will you comply?" "I shall have nothing to do with you," was the rough and peremptory reply, in which the other consignees, who were present, concurred. Molineux then read the resolve, passed at Liberty Tree, declaring that those who should refuse to comply with the request of the people, were "enemies to their country," and should be dealt with accordingly.

When the committee reported the result to the crowd outside, the cry was raised, "Out with them! out with them!" Those within attempted to close the doors; but the people unhinged them, and carried them off. Justice Nathaniel Hatch, who, in the king's name, now commanded the peace, was hooted at and struck, when the people were persuaded to desist. The committee returned to Liberty Tree, where they reported to the meeting, which quietly dispersed. Of those composing this gathering, the consignees wrote to the East India Company, as follows: "They consisted chiefly of people of the lowest rank; very few respectable tradesmen, as we are informed, appeared amongst them. The selectmen say they were present to prevent disorder." There can be little doubt that the political assemblies of that day, as do those at the present time, fairly represented the body of the people. The mechanics of Boston, whatever their rank in the social scale, were the active patriots of the revolutionary period.

The Sons of Liberty having failed, and the Tories asserting that the meeting at Liberty Tree was irregular, petitioners for a town meeting declared that the people were alarmed at a report that the tea had been shipped to America, and feared that the tribute would be exacted, and that the liberties, for which they had so long contended, would be lost to them and their posterity. A meeting was therefore called by the selectmen for the next day, at ten o'clock in the forenoon.

That night a threatening letter was placed under the door of Mr. Faneuil, one of the consignees, warning them that a much longer delay in complying, would not fail to bring upon them "the just reward of their avarice and insolence."

The town meeting, held on the 5th of November, was fully attended, and was presided over by John Hancock. After due consideration, it adopted the resolves of the Philadelphians of October 18, declaring that freemen have an inherent right to dispose of their property; that the tea tax was a mode of levying contributions on them without their consent; that its purpose tended to render assemblies useless, and to introduce arbitrary government; that a steady opposition to this ministerial plan was a duty which every freeman owed to his country, to himself, and to his posterity; that the East India Company's importation was an open attempt to enforce this plan; and that whoever countenanced the unloading, vending or receiving the tea, was an enemy to his country. A committee, consisting of the moderator, Henderson Inches, Benjamin Austin, and the selectmen of the town, were chosen to wait on the consignees and request them, from a regard to their own characters, and the peace and good of the town and province, immediately to resign their appointment.

At this meeting, a Tory handbill, called the "Tradesmen's Protest," against the proceedings of the merchants on the subject of tea importation, was introduced. After the reading, without comment, the tradesmen present were desired to collect themselves at the south side of the hall, where the question was put whether they acknowledged the "Tradesmen's Protest," and the whole, amounting to at least four hundred, voted in the negative. The paper, its printer, and those who circulated it, were denounced as base, false and scandalous. This gave a finishing blow to the "Protest," of which nothing more was heard.

After voting that it was the just expectation of the town that no one of its merchants should, under any pretext whatever, import any tea liable to duty, the meeting adjourned until three o'clock.

[Illustration: Signature, Joseph Warren]

At that hour there was again a full assembly. The committee reported that they had communicated the resolves of the town to the Messrs. Clarke and Mr. Faneuil, who informed them that they must consult Thomas and Elisha Hutchinson, the other consignees, who were at Milton, and could not give an answer until the following Monday. Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren, and Molineux were then desired to acquaint Messrs. Clarke and Faneuil, that the town expected an immediate answer from them. This was very soon received, and pronounced unsatisfactory, by a unanimous vote. John Hancock, John Pitts, Samuel Adams, Samuel Abbott, Joseph Warren, William Powell, and Nathaniel Appleton,[8] were chosen a committee to wait on the Hutchinsons, and request an immediate resignation, and the meeting adjourned until the next day.


On Saturday, Faneuil Hall was again crowded. The committee reported that it could not find Elisha Hutchinson, either at Milton or Boston. Thomas Hutchinson, Jr., informed them, in a letter, that when he and his brother were appointed factors, and the tea arrived, they would be sufficiently informed to answer the request of the inhabitants.

This reply stirred up some of the hot blood in the assembly, and a cry of "to arms! to arms!" was received with applause and clapping of hands. Discretion, as usual, prevailed, and the meeting voted that the replies were "daringly affrontive" to the town, and then dissolved. The governor tried to collect evidence of the inflammatory speeches that had been made, but could find no person willing to give it.

A quiet week followed. The tea-ships were nearing the harbor, and the journals were filled with political essays generally, strong, well put, and elevating in tone. Locke, in the "Boston Gazette," said: "It will be considered by Americans whether the _dernier ressort_, and only asylum for their liberties, is not an American Commonwealth." It was evident to the leaders on both sides, that a crisis was at hand. Hutchinson foresaw that this "would prove a more difficult affair than any which had preceded it;" and in his letters admits that the mass of the people acted in the conviction that their rights were invaded. Believing the supremacy of parliament was in issue, he determined, though standing almost alone, and in opposition to the advice of his political friends, to make no concession. In a letter written at this period, to Lord Dartmouth, Secretary for the Colonies, he describes, with minuteness, the state of political affairs. He says:

    ... "At present, the spirits of the people in the town of Boston are in a great ferment. Everything that has been in my power, without the Council, I have done, and continue to do, for the preservation of the peace and good order of the town. If I had the aid, which I think the Council might give, my endeavors would be more effective. They profess to disapprove of the tumultuous, violent proceedings of the people, but they wish to see the professed end of the people in such proceedings attained in the regular way; and, instead of joining with me in proper measures to discourage an opposition to the landing of the teas expected, one and another of the gentlemen, of the greatest influence, intimate that the best thing that can be done to quiet the people, would be the refusal of the gentlemen to whom the teas are consigned, to execute the trust; and they declare they would do it if it was their case, and would advise all their connexions to do it. Nor will they ever countenance a measure which shall tend to carry into execution an act of parliament which lays taxes upon the colonies, for the purpose of a revenue. The same principle prevails with by far the greater part of the merchants who, though in general they declare against mobs and violence, yet they as generally wish the tea may not be imported. The persons to whom the teas are consigned, declare that whilst they can be protected from violence to their persons, they will not give way to the unreasonable demands which have been made of them. I wish the vessels bound to New York may arrive before those designed to this Province. Governor Tryon I know to be well disposed to do his duty, and the people there are less disposed to any violent proceedings, as I have reason to think, than they are here, and an example of peace and good order there may have its influence here."

Samuel Adams, Hancock, Warren, Molineux and Young, the most prominent of the popular leaders, apprehended fully the responsibilities of the hour. They had a great principle to maintain, and the courage to uphold it. They knew that, though the people were with them, the failure to obtain the resignation of the consignees had inspired doubt in other quarters, as to whether Boston would meet the expectations of the patriots of other colonies. To such as questioned whether it was not premature to push matters to extremities, they replied, that if fidelity to the common cause was likely to bring on a quarrel with Great Britain, this was the best time for it to come. "Our credit," they said, "is at stake; we must venture, and unless we do, we shall be discarded by the Sons of Liberty in the other colonies, whose assistance we may expect, upon emergencies, in case they find us steady, resolute and faithful." With men like these "to the fore," though independence was scarcely dreamed of, revolution was a foregone conclusion.

Thomas Mifflin, an active patriot of Philadelphia, subsequently a general, and governor of Pennsylvania, when in Boston, said to some of these men, "will you engage that the tea shall not be landed? if so, I will answer for Philadelphia." And they pledged their honor that its landing should be prevented.

On November 11, Hutchinson issued the following order:

    "Massachusetts Bay. By the Governor.

    To Colonel John Hancock, Captain of the Governor's Company of Cadets, &c.


    The Cadet company, under your command, having signalized itself heretofore upon a very necessary occasion, and the late tumultuous proceedings in the town of Boston requiring that more than usual caution should be taken at this time for the preservation of the peace, I think it proper that you should forthwith summon each person belonging to the company to be ready, and to appear in arms at such place of parade as you think fit, whensoever there may be a tumultuous assembly of the people, in violation of the laws, in order to their being aiding and assisting to the civil magistrate as occasion may require."

This company, which was immediately under the governor's orders, had been of service during the stamp act riots, and had often been complimented for its discipline. The evident intent of this order, to use military force to suppress public assemblages, and the stationing of companies of British troops in the neighboring towns, augmented the uneasiness already felt. There was now, besides the soldiers at the castle, a considerable naval force in the harbor, under Admiral John Montagu.

On the morning of November 17, a little party of family friends had assembled at the house of Richard Clarke, Esq., known as the "Cooke House," near the King's Chapel, on School Street, to welcome young Jonathan Clarke, who had just arrived from London. All at once the inmates of the dwelling were startled by a violent beating at the door, accompanied with shouts and the blowing of horns, creating considerable alarm. The ladies were hastily bestowed in places of safety, while the gentlemen secured the avenues of the lower story, as well as they were able. The yard and vicinity were soon filled with people. One of the inmates warned them, from an upper window, to disperse, but getting no other reply than a shower of stones, he discharged a pistol. Then came a shower of missiles, which broke in the lower windows, and damaged some of the furniture. Influential patriots had by this time arrived, and put a stop to the proceedings, and the mob quietly dispersed. The consignees now called on the governor and council for protection.

During the day, an arrival from London brought the news that three ships, having the East India Company's tea on board, had sailed for Boston, and that others had cleared for Philadelphia.

A petition for a town meeting was at once presented to the selectmen, representing that the teas were shortly expected, and that it was apprehended that the consignees might now be sufficiently informed on the terms of its consignment, to be able to give their promised answer to the town. A meeting was therefore appointed for the next day.

John Hancock was the moderator of the last town meeting, in which public sentiment was legally brought to bear upon the consignees. It was held on the 18th. The meeting was quiet and orderly, and its business was speedily transacted.

A committee was appointed to wait on the consignees for a final answer to the request of the town, that they resign their appointment. This was their reply:

    "BOSTON, November 18, 1773.

    Sir,--In answer to the message we have this day received from the town, we beg leave to say that we have not yet received any order from the East India Company respecting the expected teas, but we are now further acquainted that our friends in England have entered into general engagements in our behalf, merely of a commercial nature, which puts it out of our power to comply with the request of the town.

    We are, sir, your most humble servants,

                                RICHARD CLARKE & SONS, BENJ. FANEUIL, JR., for self and JOSHUA WINSLOW, Esq., ELISHA HUTCHINSON, for my Brother and self."


Immediately on receiving this answer, the meeting, without vote or comment, dissolved. "This sudden dissolution struck more terror into the consignees," says Hutchinson, "than the most minatory resolves;" and but for his efforts, they would have followed the example of those of Philadelphia, who had resigned six weeks before.

Next day (November 19), the consignees, in a petition to the governor and council, asked leave to resign themselves, and the property committed to their care, to his Excellency and their Honors, as guardians and protectors of the people, and that means might be devised for the landing and securing the teas, until the petitioners could safely dispose of them, or could receive directions from their constituents. Their action was the cause of much comment in the newspapers, and debate in the council. It was urged in opposition to the scheme, that it was no part of the legitimate functions of this body to act as trustees and storekeepers for certain factors of the East India Company.

In a letter to a friend, dated November 24, Hutchinson thus expresses his views of the situation. He says:

    "When I saw the inhabitants of the town of Boston, assembled under color of law, and heard of the open declaration that we are now in a state of nature, and that we have a right to take up arms; and when in a town meeting, as I am informed, a call to arms was received with clapping and general applause; when a tumultuous assembly of people can, from time to time, attack the persons and the property of the king's subjects; and when assemblies are tolerated from night to night, in the public town hall; to counsel and determine upon further unlawful measures, and dark proposals and resolutions are made and agreed to there; when the infection is industriously spreading and the neighboring towns not only join their committees with the committee of Boston, but are assembled in town meetings to approve of the doings of the town of Boston; and, above all, when upon repeated summoning of the Council, they put off any advice to me from time to time, and I am obliged to consent to it, because all the voices there, as far as they declare their minds, I have reason to fear, would rather confirm than discourage the people in their irregular proceedings,--under all these circumstances, I think it time to deliberate whether his majesty's service does not call me to retire to the castle, where I may, with safety to my person, more freely give my sense of the criminality of these proceedings than whilst I am in the hands of the people, some of whom, and those most active, don't scruple to declare their designs against me."

And he concludes this doleful story with the question, "What am I in duty bound to do?" His position was certainly a very uncomfortable one.

Frequent conferences with the consignees were held by the selectmen of Boston. "Though we labored night and day in the affair, all our efforts could not produce an agreement between them and the town." So wrote John Scollay,[9] chairman of the Board of Selectmen, who also informs us, in a letter written December 23, that there was a way by which the consignees might have avoided trouble. "Had they," writes he, "on the terms of first application to them, offered to have stored the tea, subject to the inspection of a committee of gentlemen, till they could write their principals, and until that time (agreed that) no duty should be paid,--which no doubt the customs officers would have consented to,--I am persuaded the town would have closed with them."

The selectmen told the consignees plainly that nothing less than sending the tea back to England would satisfy the people. Some of their Tory friends also urged them to arrange matters in this way, but they would only agree (Nov. 27) that nothing should be done in a clandestine way; that the vessels should come up to the wharves, and that when they received the orders that accompanied the teas, they would hand in proposals to the selectmen, to be laid before the town. They meant only to gain time. They were determined to make the issue with the popular leaders on this question. They were backed by the governor and the influential Tories, and no doubt believed that they could carry their point.

On Monday, the 22d, the committees of correspondence of Dorchester, Brookline, Roxbury and Cambridge, met the Boston committee at the selectmen's chamber, Faneuil Hall.

They resolved unanimously to use their joint influence to prevent the landing and sale of the teas; prepared a letter to be sent to the other towns, representing that they were reduced to the dilemma, either to sit down in quiet, under this and every burden that might be put upon them, or to rise up in resistance, as became freemen; to impress the absolute necessity of making immediate and effectual opposition to the detestable measure, and soliciting their advice and co-operation. Charlestown was "so zealous in the cause," that its committee was added to the others. This body continued to hold daily conferences, "like a little senate," says Hutchinson.

The "Gazette" of November 22, said: "Americans! defeat this last effort of a most pernicious, expiring faction, and you may sit under your own vines and fig trees, and none shall, hereafter, dare to make you afraid."

On the 26th, the men of Cambridge assembled, and after adopting the Philadelphia resolves, "very unanimously" voted, "That as Boston was struggling for the liberties of their country, they could no longer stand idle spectators, but were ready, on the shortest notice, to join with it, and other towns, in any measure that might be thought proper, to deliver themselves and posterity from slavery."

[Illustration: (_From the original, in the possession of_ GEORGE H. ALLAN, _Boston_.)]

[Illustration: Signature, Francis Rotch

1750-1822. Bond, April 3^d 1773. £1000.]

On Sunday, the 28th, the ship "Dartmouth," Captain Hall, owned by the Quaker, Francis Rotch,[10] arrived in Boston harbor, with one hundred and fourteen chests of tea, and anchored below the castle. As the news spread, there was great excitement. Despite the rigid New England observance of the Sabbath, the selectmen immediately met, and remained in session until nine o'clock in the evening, in the expectation of receiving the promised proposal of the consignees. These gentlemen were not to be found, and on the next day, bidding a final adieu to Boston, they took up their quarters at the castle.

[Illustration: Signature, F. Rotch]

Hutchinson advised the consignees to order the vessels, when they arrived, to anchor below the castle, that if it should appear unsafe to land the tea, they might go to sea again, and when the first ship arrived she anchored there accordingly, but when the master came up to town, Mr. Adams and others, a committee of the town, ordered him at his peril to bring the ship up to land the other goods, but to suffer no tea to be taken out.

The committee of correspondence, who also held a session that day, seeing that time was precious, and that the tea once entered it would be out of the power of the consignees to send it back, obtained the promise of the owner not to enter his ship till Tuesday, and authorized Samuel Adams to summon the committees and townspeople of the vicinity to a mass meeting, in Boston, on the next morning. The invitation read as follows:

    "A part of the tea shipped by the East India Company is now arrived in this harbor, and we look upon ourselves bound to give you the earliest intimation of it, and we desire that you favor us with your company at Faneuil Hall, at nine o'clock to-morrow forenoon, there to give us your advice what steps are to be immediately taken, in order effectually to prevent the impending evil, and we request you to urge your friends in the town, to which you belong, to be in readiness to exert themselves in the most resolute manner, to assist this town in its efforts for saving this oppressed country."

The journals of Monday announced that the "Dartmouth" had anchored off Long Wharf, and that other ships with the poisonous herb might soon be here. They also contained a call for a public meeting, as announced in the following handbill, already printed and distributed throughout the town:

    "Friends! Brethren! Countrymen! That worst of plagues, the detested tea, shipped for this port by the East India Company, is now arrived in this harbor; the hour of destruction or manly opposition to the machinations of tyranny stares you in the face; every friend to his country, to himself, and posterity, is now called upon to meet at Faneuil Hall, at nine o'clock this day, (at which time the bells will ring,) to make a united and successful resistance to this last, worst and most destructive measure of administration.

    Boston, November 29, 1773."

[Illustration: Signature, Jon Williams]

At nine o'clock the bells were rung, and the people, to the number of at least five thousand, thronged in and around Faneuil Hall. This edifice, then about half as large as now, was entirely inadequate to hold the concourse that had gathered there. Jonathan Williams,[11] a citizen of character and wealth, was chosen moderator. The selectmen were John Scollay, John Hancock, Timothy Newell, Thomas Newhall, Samuel Austin, Oliver Wendell,[12] and John Pitts. The patriotic and efficient town clerk, William Cooper,[13] was also present. Samuel Adams, Dr. Warren, Hancock, Dr. Young and Molineux took the lead in the debate. The resolution offered by Adams, "that the tea should not be landed; that it should be sent back in the same bottom to the place whence it came, at all events, and that no duty should be paid on it," was unanimously adopted. On hearing of this vote the consignees withdrew to Castle William. For the better accommodation of the people, the meeting then adjourned to the Old South Meeting House.

The speeches made at the Old South have not been preserved. Some were violent, others were calm, advising the people by all means to abstain from violence, but the men in whom they placed confidence were unanimous upon the question of sending back the tea. Dr. Young held that the only way to get rid of it was to throw it overboard. Here we find the first suggestion of its ultimate fate. Both Whigs and Tories united in the action of the meeting. To give the consignees time to make the expected proposals, the meeting adjourned till three o'clock.

Of this assembly Hutchinson says: "Although it consisted principally of the lower ranks of the people, and even journeymen tradesmen were brought to increase the number, and the rabble were not excluded, yet there were divers gentlemen of good fortune among them." With regard to the speeches he observes: "Nothing can be more inflammatory than those made on this occasion; Adams was never in greater glory." And of the consignees he says: "They apprehended they should be seized, and may be, tarred and feathered and carted,--an American torture,--in order to compel them to a compliance. The friends of old Mr. Clarke, whose constitution being hurt by the repeated attacks made upon him, retired into the country, pressed his sons and the other consignees to a full compliance."

A visitor from Rhode Island who attended the meeting, speaking of its regular and sensible conduct, said he should have thought himself rather in the British senate than in the promiscuous assembly of the people of a remote colony.

At the afternoon meeting in the Old South, it was resolved, upon the motion of Samuel Adams, "that the tea in Captain Hall's ship must go back in the same bottom." The owner and the captain were informed that the entry of the tea, or the landing of it, would be at their peril. The ship was ordered to be moored at Griffins' wharf, and a watch of twenty-five men was appointed for the security of vessel and cargo, with Captain Edward Proctor as captain that night. It was also voted that the governor's call on the justices to meet that afternoon, to suppress attempted riots, was a reflection on the people.

Upon Hancock's representation that the consignees desired further time to meet and consult, the meeting consented, "out of great tenderness to them," and adjourned until next day. This meeting also voted that six persons "who are used to horses be in readiness to give an alarm in the country towns, when necessary." They were William Rogers, Jeremiah Belknap, Stephen Hall, Nathaniel Cobbett, and Thomas Gooding, and Benjamin Wood, of Charlestown.

The guard for the tea ships, which consisted of from twenty-four to thirty-four men, was kept up until December 16. It was armed with muskets and bayonets, and proceeded with military regularity,--indeed it was composed in part of the military of the town,--and every half hour during the night regularly passed the word "all's well," like sentinels in a garrison. It was on duty nineteen days and twenty-three hours. If molested by day the bells of the town were to be rung, if at night they were to be tolled. We have the names of those comprising the watch on November 29 and 30. They are:

  For November 29. Captain, EDWARD PROCTOR.

  Henry Bass. Foster Condy. John Lovell. John Winthrop. John Greenleaf. Benjamin Alley. Joshua Pico. James Henderson. Josiah Wheeler. Joseph Edwards. Jonathan Stodder. Stephen Bruce. Paul Revere. Moses Grant. Joseph Lovering. Dr. Elisha Story. Thomas Chase. Benjamin Edes. Joseph Pierce, Jr. Captain Riordan. John Crane. John McFadden. Thomas Knox, Jr. Robert Hitchborn.


  November 30. Captain, EZEKIEL CHEEVER.[14]

  Thomas Urann. William Dickman. Samuel Peck. Thomas Bolley. John Rice. Joseph Froude. Obadiah Curtis. George Ray. Benjamin Ingerson. Adam Collson. Daniel Hewes. Joseph Eayres. William Sutton. Ebenezer Ayres. William Elberson. Benjamin Stevens. James Brewer. Rufus Bant. William Clap. Nicholas Pierce. Thomas Tileston. Richard Hunnewell.

[Illustration: Signature, Ezekiel Cheever]

[Illustration: MAJOR GEN^L. JOSEPH WARREN

Slain at the Battle of Bunker Hill _June 17 1775_

(_Copied from the Boston print of 1782, it being from the London print previous to this date._)

"May our land be a land of liberty, the seat of virtue, the asylum of the oppressed, a name, a praise in the whole earth."--JOSEPH WARREN.

March 5, 1772.]

Hancock and Henry Knox were members of this volunteer guard. Volunteers were, after the first night, requested to leave their names at the printing-office of Edes and Gill; the duty of providing it having devolved upon the committee of correspondence.

    Obadiah Curtis, born in Roxbury, Mass., in 1724; died in Newton, Mass., November 11, 1811. He was a wheelwright by trade, and his wife, Martha, kept an English goods store, at the corner of Rawson's Lane, (now Bromfield Street,) and Newbury (now Washington) Street, and accumulated a handsome estate. Becoming obnoxious to the British authorities, Mr. Curtis removed with his family to Providence, remaining there until after the evacuation of Boston. A person who saw him at this time thus describes his appearance: "He was habited according to the fashion of gentlemen of those days,--in a three-cornered hat, a club wig, a long coat of ample dimensions, that appeared to have been made with reference to future growth, breeches with large buckles, and shoes fastened in the same manner."

    James Henderson was a painter, in Boston, at the beginning of this century.

    Daniel Hewes, a mason by trade, resided on Purchase Street, where he died July 9, 1821; aged 77. He was a brother of George Robert Twelves Hewes.

    Robert Hitchborn was a cooper, on Anne Street, in 1789.

    Thomas Knox, Jr., a branch pilot, died in Charlestown, Mass., in April, 1817; aged 75. He joined the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew in 1764. In 1789 his residence was on Friend Street.

    Joseph Lovering was a tallow chandler. He lived on the corner of Hollis and Tremont Streets, opposite Crane and the Bradlees. Joseph Lovering, Jr., held the light by which Crane and others disguised themselves in Crane's carpenter's shop, on the evening of December 16. Lovering was a prominent member of the Charitable Mechanic Association, was many years a selectman and a fireward under the old town government of Boston, and was also a member of the first Board of Aldermen, under Mayor Phillips. He followed his father's business, and was some years a partner in the firm of J. Lovering & Sons.

    Joshua Pico, a cooper, on Sheaffe Street, residing on Clarke Street; died in January, 1807.

    Joseph Pierce, Jr., was a merchant, at 58 Cornhill, in 1799.

    Nicholas Pierce was a bricklayer, on Back (Salem) Street, in 1800.

    John Rice was deputy-collector at Boston, 1789.

    Benjamin Stevens was a tailor, at 33 Marlboro' Street, in 1789.

    Jonathan Stodder was a member of St. Andrew's Lodge of Freemasons, in 1779.

    Thomas Tileston, born September 21, 1735, was a carpenter on Purchase Street, in 1789. His father, Onesiphorous Tileston, also a housewright and a man of wealth, was captain of the Artillery Company in 1762.

    John Winthrop resided in Cambridge Street, and died February 12, 1800; aged 53.

The power and influence of the Boston committee of correspondence, which played so important a part in the tea affair, can best be estimated by a glance at the list of names of its members. They were, Samuel Adams, James Otis, Joseph Warren, William Molineux, Dr. Benjamin Church, William Dennie, William and Joseph Greenleaf, Dr. Thomas Young, William Powell, Nathaniel Appleton, Oliver Wendell, Josiah Quincy, Jr., John Sweetser, Richard Boynton, John Bradford, William Mackay, Nathaniel Barber, Caleb Davis, Alexander Hill, and Robert Pierpont.

After the dissolution of the meeting of November 29, the committee met, and called on the committees from other towns to join them on all necessary occasions. Besides sending accounts of these events to all the towns, they also wrote to the committees of Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York and Philadelphia, explaining their course, acting, as they said, "in the faith that harmony and concurrence in action uniformly and firmly maintained, must finally conduct them to the end of their wishes, namely, a full enjoyment of constitutional liberty." They received cheering replies and encouraging assurances from all quarters.

At the meeting next morning, a letter to John Scollay from the consignees, containing their long-delayed proposals, was read. They expressed sorrow that they could not return satisfactory answers to the two messages of the town, as it was utterly out of their power to send the teas back, but said they were willing to store them until they could communicate with their constituents, and receive their further orders respecting them. This letter irritated the meeting, and it declined to take action upon it.

Before taking final leave of these obstinate gentlemen, I make a few citations from the recently published volume of "The Diary and Letters of Thomas Hutchinson." Writing to his son at the castle on November 30, Hutchinson says: "The gentlemen (consignees), except your uncle Clarke, all went to the castle yesterday. I hope they will not comply with such a monstrous demand." Hancock and Adams, he says, were two of the guard of the tea ship.

Thomas Hutchinson, Jr., to his brother Elisha:

    "CASTLE WILLIAM, December 14, 1773.

    ... I imagine you are anxious to know what the poor banished commissioners are doing at the castle. Our retreat here was sudden, but our enemies do not say we came too soon. How long we shall be imprisoned 'tis impossible to say.... I hear there is a meeting of the _mobility_ to day, but don't know the result. I hardly think they will attempt sending the tea back, but am more sure it will not go many leagues. The commissioners are all with us, and we are as comfortable as we can be in a very cold place, driven from our families and business, with the months of January and February just at hand.

    P.S.--Our situation is rendered more agreeable by the polite reception we met with from Col. Leslie, and the other gentlemen of the army."

And on January 9, 1774, he writes:

    "The Bostonians say we shall not return to town without making concessions. I suppose we shall quit the castle sometime this week, as we are all provided with retreats in the country. I have had a disagreeable six weeks of it, but am in hopes the issue will be well."

And again, on January 21, dated Milton:

    "I wrote you some time ago I was in hopes our harassment was drawing to a close, and that we should leave the castle last week. Mr. Faneuil and myself coming off caused a supposition that we intended for Boston, which was the cause of Saturday's notification which I sent you.[15] Mr. Faneuil is since returned to the castle, and I am really more confined than if I was there, as I keep pretty close to my home. Mr. Jonathan Clarke sails in a few days for England, of which I am very glad, as it may prevent misapprehension of our conduct on that side of the water.

A proclamation from the governor was brought in to the meeting by Sheriff Greenleaf, which he begged leave of the moderator to read. Objection was made, but at the suggestion of Samuel Adams the meeting consented to hear it. The governor charged that the meeting of the previous day "openly violated, defied and set at naught the good and wholesome laws of the Province, and as great numbers were again assembled for like purposes, I warn," he said, "exhort and require you, and each of you, thus unlawfully assembled, forthwith to disperse, and to surcease all further unlawful proceedings at your peril." The reading was received with general and continued hisses, and a vote that the meeting would not disperse. Mr. Copley, the son-in-law of Mr. Clarke, inquired whether the meeting would hear the Messrs. Clarke, and whether they would be safe while coming to and returning from the meeting, and whether two hours would be allowed him in which to consult with them. The request of Copley, who was sincerely desirous of effecting a peaceful solution of the difficulty, was granted, and the meeting then adjourned until two o'clock.

The proceedings of this afternoon briefly stated were, the promise of Rotch, the owner, and Hall, the captain of the "Dartmouth," and the owners of the two other vessels expected with teas, that that article should not be landed, but should go back in the same ships, and the apology of Mr. Copley for the time he had taken, he having been obliged to go to the castle, where the consignees decided that it would be inexpedient for them to attend the meeting, but added to their former proposal that the tea should be submitted to the inspection of a committee, and also saying that as they had not been active in introducing the tea, they should do nothing to obstruct the people in returning it.

This was voted unsatisfactory. Resolves were then passed to the effect that all who imported tea were enemies to the country; that its landing and sale should be prevented, and that the tea should be returned to the place whence it came. And the meeting also voted to send these resolves to every seaport in the colonies and to England. The committee of correspondence was charged to make provision for the continuation of the watch, and "the brethren from the country" were thanked for their "countenance and union," and desired to afford their assistance on notice being given, and it was also declared to be "the determination of this body to carry their votes and resolves into execution at the risk of life and property."

Speaking of this meeting, Hutchinson says: "A more determined spirit was conspicuous in this body than in any of the former assemblies of the people. It was composed of the lowest as well, and probably in as great proportion, as of the superior ranks and orders, and all had an equal voice. No eccentric or irregular motions were suffered to take place. All seemed to have been the plan of a few, it may be of a single person."

And in a private letter, dated December 1, Hutchinson writes:

    "While the rabble was together in one place, I was in another, not far distant, with his majesty's council, urging them to join with me in some measure to break up this unlawful assembly, but to no purpose. I hope the consignees will continue firm, and should not have the least doubt of it if it was not for the solicitation of the friends of Mr. Clarke. If they go the lengths they threaten, I shall be obliged to retire to the castle, as I cannot otherwise make any exertions in support of the king's authority."

The committee of correspondence omitted no step that prudence or caution could suggest to carry out the determination of the town. A letter from Philadelphia, just then received, said: "Our tea consignees have all resigned, and you need not fear, the tea will not be landed here nor at New York. All that we fear is that you will shrink at Boston. May God give you virtue enough to save the liberties of your country!"

A second and a third vessel soon arrived, and the selectmen gave peremptory orders, to prevent clandestine landing of the tea, and directed them to be anchored by the side of the "Dartmouth," at Griffin's Wharf. One guard answered for the three vessels. As the time drew near for the landing or return of the tea, the excitement of the community increased. "Where the present disorder will end," wrote Hutchinson, "I cannot make a probable conjecture; the town is as furious as in the time of the stamp act." "The flame is kindled," so wrote the wife of John Adams, "and like lightning, it catches from soul to soul.... My heart beats at every whistle I hear, and I dare not express half my fears."

Twenty days after her arrival in the port, a vessel was liable to seizure for the non-payment of duties on articles imported in her, nor on landing a portion of her cargo, could she be legally cleared. On official advice from the governor to Colonel Leslie, commander of the castle, and Admiral Montagu, the latter ordered the ships of war, "Active" and "King Fisher," to guard the passages to the sea, and permit no unauthorized vessels to pass. "The patriots," said Hutchinson, "now found themselves in a web of inextricable difficulties." "But where there is a will there is a way," and the patriots had more resources than the governor dreamed of.

Rotch, the owner of the "Dartmouth," was summoned before the committee (December 11), and was asked by Samuel Adams, the chairman, why he had not kept his pledge, to send his vessel and tea back to London. He replied that it was out of his power to do so. He was advised to apply for a clearance and a pass. "The ship must go," said Adams, "the people of Boston and the neighboring towns absolutely require and expect it."

The journals of the day are filled with items concerning the tea question. Little else was now thought of. They contained the resolves of the Massachusetts towns, encouraging Boston to stand firm, and assuring her of their support, and accounts from Philadelphia and New York of the determination to nullify the tea act, and of the declination of the consignees in the latter place.

The "Gazette," of December 13, editorially says: "The minds of the public are greatly irritated at the delay of Mr. Rotch, to take the necessary steps towards complying with their peremptory requisition." On this day an important session of the committee of the five towns already named took place at Faneuil Hall. "No business transacted matter of record," is the brief but suggestive entry as to its doings.

Dorchester, in legal town meeting, declared that, "should this country be so unhappy as to see a day of trial for the recovery of its rights by a last and solemn appeal to Him who gave them, they should not be behind the bravest of our patriotic brethren." Marblehead affirmed that the proceedings of the brave citizens of Boston, and of other towns, in opposition to the landing of the tea, were rational, generous and just; that they were highly honored for their noble firmness in support of American liberty, and that the men of the town were ready with their lives to assist their brethren in opposing all measures tending to enslave the country." Under date of December 3, the people of Roxbury voted that they were in duty bound to join with Boston, and other sister towns, to preserve inviolate the liberties handed down by their ancestors. Next day the men of Charlestown declared themselves ready to risk their lives and fortunes. Newburyport, Malden, Lexington, Leicester, Fitchburg, Gloucester, and other towns, also proferred their aid when needed.

The "Gazette," under date of Salem, December 7, has the following: "By what we can learn from private intelligence, as well as the public proceedings of a number of principal towns contiguous to the capital, the people, if opposed in their proceedings with respect to the tea, are determined upon hazarding a brush, therefore those who are willing to bear a part in it in preserving the rights of this country, would do well to get suitably prepared." This looked like business.

On the morning of December 14, the following handbill appeared in Boston:

    Friends! Brethren! Countrymen! The perfidious act of your reckless enemies to render ineffectual the late resolves of the body of the people, demands your assembling at the Old South Meeting House, precisely at ten o'clock this day, at which time the bells will ring."

The meeting thus called was largely attended. Samuel Phillips Savage,[16] of Weston, was chosen moderator. Bruce, the master of the "Eleanor," promised to ask for a clearance for London, when all his goods were landed, except the tea, but said that, if refused, "he was loth to stand the shot of thirty-two pounders." Rotch, accompanied by Samuel Adams, Benjamin Kent, and eight others, applied to the collector of the port for a clearance, and reported, on his return, that the collector desired to consult with the comptroller, and promised an answer on the following morning. The meeting then adjourned until Thursday.

[Illustration: Signature, Sam Phillips Savage]

Next day Rotch, with the Committee, proceeded to the Custom House. Harrison, the Collector, and Comptroller Hallowell, were both present. The owner said that he was required and compelled at his peril by the meeting to make the demand for the clearance of his vessel for London, with the tea on board, and one of the committee stated that they were present only as witnesses. The Collector unequivocally and finally refused to grant his ship a clearance until it should be discharged of the teas. The result was reported to the meeting on the following morning.


The eventful Thursday, December 16, 1773, a day ever memorable in the annals of the town, witnessed the largest gathering yet seen at the Old South Meeting House. Nearly seven thousand persons constituted the assembly. Business was laid aside, and notwithstanding the rain, at least two thousand people flocked in from the country for twenty miles around. This time there was no need of handbills--there were none. No effort was required to bring together the multitude that quietly but anxiously awaited the outcome of the meeting. The gravity of the situation was universally felt. Immediate action was necessary, as the twenty days allowed for clearance terminated that night. Then the revenue officials could take possession, and under cover of the naval force land the tea, and opposition to this would have caused bloody work. The patriots would gladly have avoided the issue, but it was forced upon them, and they could not recede with honor.

The committee having reported the failure of its application for a clearance, Rotch was directed to enter a protest at the Custom House, and to apply to the governor for a pass to proceed on this day with his vessel on his voyage for London. He replied that it was impracticable to comply with this requirement. He was then reminded of his promise, and on being asked if he would now direct the "Dartmouth" to sail, replied that he would not. The meeting, after directing him to use all possible dispatch in making his protest and procuring his pass, adjourned until three o'clock.

At the afternoon meeting, information was given that several towns had agreed not to use tea. A vote was taken to the effect that its use was improper and pernicious, and that it would be well for all the towns to appoint committees of inspection "to prevent this accursed tea" from coming among them. "Shall we abide by our former resolution with respect to the not suffering the tea to be landed?" was now the question. Samuel Adams, Dr. Thomas Young and Josiah Quincy, Jr.,[17] an ardent young patriot devotedly attached to the liberties of his country, were the principal speakers. Only a fragment of the speech of Quincy remains. Counselling moderation, and in a spirit of prophecy, he said:

    "It is not, Mr. Moderator, the spirit that vapors within these walls that must stand us in stead. The exertions of this day will call forth the events which will make a very different spirit necessary for our salvation. Whoever supposes that shouts and hosannas will terminate the trials of the day, entertains a childish fancy. We must be grossly ignorant of the importance and value of the prize for which we contend; we must be equally ignorant of the power of those who have combined against us; we must be blind to that malice, inveteracy and insatiable revenge which actuates our enemies, public and private, abroad and in our bosom, to hope that we shall end this controversy without the sharpest, the sharpest conflicts; to flatter ourselves that popular resolves, popular harangues, popular acclamations, and popular vapor will vanquish our foes. Let us consider the issue. Let us look to the end. Let us weigh and consider before we advance to those measures which must bring on the most trying and terrific struggle this country ever saw."

But the time for weighing and considering the business in hand had passed. Time pressed and decisive action alone remained. "Now that the hand is at the plough," it was said, "there must be no looking back."

At half-past four it was unanimously voted that the tea should not be landed. An effort was now made to dissolve the meeting, but it was continued at the request of some of those present from the country, who wished to hear the result of Rotch's application to the governor.

It was an unusual time of the year to be at a country seat, but Governor Hutchinson was found at his Milton residence by Rotch, who renewed his request for a pass. Questioned by the governor as to the intentions of the people, Rotch replied that they only intended to force the tea back to England, but that there might be some who desired that the vessel might go down the harbor and be brought to by a shot from the castle, that it might be said that the people had done everything in their power to send the tea back. "Catching at this straw, with the instinct of a drowning man," Hutchinson offered Rotch a letter to Admiral Montagu, commending ship and goods to his protection, if Rotch would agree to have his ship haul out into the stream, but he replied that none were willing to assist him in doing this, and that the attempt would subject him to the ill will of the people. Hutchinson then sternly repeated his refusal of a pass,[18] as it would have been "a direct countenancing and encouraging the violation of the acts of trade." Thus closed the last opportunity for concession.

[Illustration: Signature, John Rowe

"Who knows how tea will mingle with salt water?"--JOHN ROWE. _Old South Church, Boston, Dec. 16, 1773._]

It is only fair to say that the performance of what he honestly believed to be his duty was as vital a consideration with Thomas Hutchinson, the royal governor, as opposition to measures which he believed to be hostile to the liberties of his country was to Samuel Adams, the popular leader. We can at this day well afford to mete out this tardy justice to a man whose motives and conduct have been so bitterly and unscrupulously vilified and maligned as have been those of Thomas Hutchinson.

[Illustration: Signature, John Rowe]

When Rotch returned and told the result of his application, it was nearly six o'clock. Darkness had set in, and the Old South, dimly lighted with candles, was still filled with an anxious and impatient multitude. "Who knows," said John Rowe,[19] "how tea will mingle with salt water?" The people hurrahed vehemently, and the cry arose, "A mob! a mob!" A call to order restored quiet. Dr. Young then addressed the meeting, saying that Rotch was a good man, who had done all in his power to gratify the people, and charged them to do no hurt to his person or property.

To the final question then put to him, whether he would send his vessel back with the tea in her, under the present circumstances, he replied, that he could not, as he "apprehended that a compliance would prove his ruin." He also admitted that if called upon by the proper persons, he should attempt to land the tea for his own security.

Adams then arose and uttered the fateful words, "This meeting can do nothing more to save the country." This was doubtless the preconcerted signal for action, and it was answered by the men who sounded the war-whoop at the church door. The cry was re-echoed from the gallery, where a voice cried out, "Boston harbor a tea-pot to-night; hurrah for Griffin's wharf!" and the "Mohawks" passed on to cut the Gordian knot with their hatchets.

Silence was again commanded, when the people, after "manifesting a most exemplary patience and caution in the methods they had pursued to preserve the property of the East India Company, and to return it safe and untouched to its owners," perceiving that at every step they had been thwarted by the consignees and their coadjutors, then dissolved the meeting, giving three cheers as they dispersed.

Meanwhile a number of persons, variously estimated at from twenty to eighty, (their number increasing as they advanced,) some of them disguised as Indians, and armed with hatchets or axes, hurried to Griffin's (now Liverpool) wharf, boarded the ships, and, warning their crews and the customs officers to keep out of the way, in less than three hours time had broken and emptied into the dock three hundred and forty-two chests of tea, valued at £18,000. The deed was not that of a lawless mob, but the deliberate and well-considered act of intelligent, as well as determined, men. So careful were they not to destroy or injure private property, that they even replaced a padlock they had broken. There was no noise nor confusion. They worked so quietly and systematically that those on shore could distinctly hear the strokes of the hatchets. As soon as the people learned what was going forward, they made their way to the scene of operations, covering the wharves in the vicinity, whence they looked on in silence during the performance. The night was clear, the moon shone brilliantly, no one was harmed, and the town was never more quiet. Next day, the Dorchester shore was lined with tea, carried thither by the wind and tide. The serious spirit in which this deed was regarded by the leaders, is illustrated by the act of one who, after assisting his apprentice to disguise himself, dropped upon his knees and prayed fervently for his safety, and the success of the enterprise.

Among the spectators of the scene were Dr. John Prince, of Salem; John Andrews, and Dr. Hugh Williamson, who afterwards underwent an examination respecting the affair before the British House of Commons.

Where is now the wide Atlantic Avenue, the old footpath under Fort Hill, known as Flounder Lane, and afterwards as Broad Street, wound around the margin of the water. Sea Street was its continuation to Wheeler's Point (the foot of Summer Street). Opposite where Hutchinson (now Pearl) Street entered Flounder Lane, was Griffin's Wharf. The laying out of Broad Street and Atlantic Avenue, and the consequent widening and filling in, have resulted in obliterating Griffin's Wharf, although in Liverpool wharf it has a legitimate successor. The old dock logs were found near the centre of the avenue. The coal office of the Messrs. Chapin now occupies the site rendered memorable by the exploit of the Boston tea party.


The destruction of the tea is said to have been planned in the "Long Room," over Edes & Gills' printing-office, on the easterly corner of Franklin Avenue and Court Street, where the "Daily Advertiser" building recently stood. In their back office some of the party it is said were disguised.

Among the members of the "Long Room Club," as those who usually met here were styled, were Samuel Adams, Hancock, Warren, Otis, Church, Samuel Dexter, Dr. Samuel Cooper, and his brother, William Cooper, Thomas Dawes, Samuel Phillips Savage, Royal Tyler, Paul Revere, Thomas Fleet, John Winthrop, William Molineux, and Thomas Melvill.

A similar claim is also made for the "Green Dragon" tavern, then known as the "Freemasons' Arms," which stood near the northerly corner of Union and Hanover Streets, where the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew held its meetings. The honor belongs equally to both. In both, the consultations of the popular leaders were undoubtedly held and their plans laid. Prominent members of this Lodge, who were also active "Sons of Liberty," and members of the tea party were, Paul Revere, Edward Proctor, Thomas Chase, Adam Collson, Samuel Peck and Thomas Urann. Its later members, also identified with the tea party, were Samuel Gore, Daniel Ingersoll, Henry Purkitt, Amos Lincoln, James Swan, Robert Davis, Abraham Hunt, Eliphalet Newell and Nathaniel Willis. Other prominent Free Masons active in the tea affair were Dr. Warren and John Rowe. The tradition of the Lodge is, that the preliminaries of the affair were arranged here, and that the execution of them was committed mainly to the North End Caucus, with the co-operation of the more daring of the "Sons of Liberty." The committee of safety also met here. The record book of the lodge, under date of November 30, 1773, says:

    "Lodge met and adjourned. N.B.--The consignees of the tea took the brethren's time."

And on the eventful 16th of December:

    "The Lodge met and closed on account of the few members in attendance. Adjourned until to-morrow evening."

Three different parties, one or two of whom were disguised, had been prepared beforehand for this event, by the leaders. Certain it is that there were several squads in different parts of the town, who disguised themselves at their own or their neighbors' houses, and who then rendezvoused at points previously designated, before going to the wharf. Quite an Indian village was improvised at the junction of Hollis and Tremont Streets. John Crane, Joseph Lovering, and the Bradlees occupied opposite corners of this locality, the house and carpenter shop of Crane adjoining the residence of the famous Dr. Mather Byles. Captain Thomas Bolter and Samuel Fenno, also of the tea party, were near neighbors of Crane, and like him, were carpenters. Joseph Lovering, Jr., related that he held the light for Crane and some of his neighbors, to disguise themselves, in Crane's shop. The four brothers Bradlee, and a brother-in-law, were prepared for the occasion at their house opposite.

Perhaps the best contemporaneous account of the affair is the following, from the "Massachusetts Gazette," of December 23:

    "Just before the dissolution of the meeting," says the 'Gazette,' a number of brave and resolute men, dressed in the Indian manner, approached near the door of the assembly, and gave a war-whoop, which rang through the house, and was answered by some in the galleries, but silence was commanded, and a peaceable deportment enjoined until the dissolution. The Indians, as they were then called, repaired to the wharf, where the ships lay that had the tea on board, and were followed by hundreds of people, to see the event of the transactions of those who made so grotesque an appearance. The Indians immediately repaired on board Captain Hall's ship, where they hoisted out the chests of tea, and when on deck stove them and emptied the tea overboard. Having cleared this ship, they proceeded to Captain Bruce's, and then to Captain Coffin's brig. They applied themselves so dexterously to the destruction of this commodity, that in the space of three hours they broke up three hundred and forty-two chests, which was the whole number in these vessels, and discharged their contents into the dock. When the tide rose it floated the broken chests and the tea insomuch that the surface of the water was filled therewith a considerable way from the south part of the town to Dorchester Neck, and lodged on the shores. There was the greatest care taken to prevent the tea from being purloined by the populace; one or two being detected in endeavoring to pocket a small quantity were stripped of their acquisitions and very roughly handled. It is worthy of remark that although a considerable quantity of goods were still remaining on board the vessel, no injury was sustained. Such attention to private property was observed, that a small padlock belonging to the captain of one of the ships being broke, another was procured and sent to him. The town was very quiet during the whole evening and the night following. Those who were from the country went home with a merry heart, and the next day joy appeared in almost every countenance, some on account of the destruction of the tea, others on account of the quietness with which it was effected. One of the Monday's papers says the masters and owners are well pleased that their ships are thus cleared."

Another Boston paper says:

    "The people repaired to Griffin's wharf, where the tea vessels lay, proceeded to fix tackles and hoist the tea upon deck, cut the chests to pieces, and throw the tea over the side.... They began upon the two ships first, as they had nothing on board but the tea, then proceeded to the brig, which had hauled to the wharf but the day before, and had but a small part of her cargo out. The captain of the brig begged they would not begin with his vessel, as the tea was covered with goods belonging to different merchants in the town. They told him 'the tea they wanted, and the tea they would have, but if he would go into his cabin quietly, not one article of his goods should be hurt.' They immediately proceeded to remove the goods, and then to dispose of the tea."

From the "Evening Post" of Monday, December 20, 1773:

    "Previous to the dissolution, a number of persons, supposed to be the aboriginal natives, from their complexion, approaching the door of the assembly, gave the war-whoop, which was answered by a few in the galleries of the house, where the crowded assembly was convened. Silence was commanded, and prudent and peaceable deportment again enjoined. The savages repaired to the ships which contained the pestilential tea, and had begun their ravages previous to the dissolution of the meeting."

Extract from the log-book of the "Dartmouth:"

    "Thursday, December 16. This twenty-four hours rainy weather, terminating this day. Between six and seven o'clock this evening, came down to the wharf a body of about one thousand people, among them were a number dressed and whooping like Indians. They came on board the ship, and after warning myself and the custom-house officers to get out of the way, they undid the hatches and went down the hold, where was eighty whole, and thirty-four half chests, of tea, which they hoisted upon deck, and cut the chests to pieces, and hove the tea all overboard, where it was damaged and lost."


John Andrews, an eye-witness, in a letter to a friend relates particulars not elsewhere mentioned. While drinking tea at his house he heard "prodigious shouts," and went to the Old South Meeting House to ascertain the cause:

    "The house was so crowded," he says, "that I could get no further than the porch, when I found the moderator was just declaring the meeting to be dissolved, which caused another general shout out-doors and in, and three cheers. What with that and the consequent noise of breaking up the meeting, you'd thought the inhabitants of the infernal regions had broke loose. For my part, I went contentedly home and finished my tea, but was soon informed what was going forward. Not crediting it without ocular demonstration, I went and was satisfied. They mustered, I'm told, upon Fort Hill, to the number of about two hundred, and proceeded, two by two, to Griffin's wharf, where Hall, Bruce and Coffin lay.... The latter arrived at the wharf only the day before, and was freighted with a large quantity of other goods, which they took the greatest care not to injure in the least, and before nine o'clock in the evening every chest on board the three vessels was knocked to pieces and flung over the sides. They say the actors were Indians from Narragansett; whether they were or not, to a transient observer they appeared as such, being clothed in blankets, with their heads muffled, and copper-colored countenances, being each armed with a hatchet or axe, or pair of pistols, nor was their dialect different from what I conceive these geniuses to speak, as their jargon was unintelligible to all but themselves. Not the least insult was offered to any person save one Captain Connor, a letter of horses in this place, not many years since removed from dear Ireland, who had ript up the lining of his coat and waistcoat under the arms, and watching his opportunity, had nearly filled them with tea, but being detected, was handled pretty roughly. They not only stripped him of his clothes, but gave him a coat of mud, with a severe bruising into the bargain, and nothing but their utter aversion to making any disturbance prevented his being tarred and feathered."

Many interesting details are supplied by the reminiscences of the actors themselves, long afterwards. In the "Recollections of a Bostonian," published in the "Centinel," in 1821-22, the writer says he spent the night but one before the destruction of the tea as one of the guard detached from the new grenadier corps, in company with Gen. Knox, then one of its officers, on board one of the tea ships. He heard John Rowe suggest to the meeting in the Old South, "Who knows how tea will mingle with salt water?" a suggestion received with great applause. He further states that when the answer of the governor was reported to the meeting--

    "An Indian yell was heard from the street. Mr. Samuel Adams cried out that it was a trick of their enemies to disturb the meeting, and requested the people to keep their places, but the people rushed out and accompanied the Indians to the ships. The number of persons disguised as Indians is variously stated,--none put it lower than sixty, nor higher than eighty. The destruction was effected by them, and some young men who volunteered. One of the latter collected the tea which fell into the shoes of himself and companions, and put it in a phial and sealed it up,--now in his possession.... The hall of council is said to have been in the back room of Edes' printing-office, at the corner of the alley leading to Brattle Street Church, from Court Street."

In 1827, Joshua Wyeth, of Cincinnati, related the following particulars of the affair to Rev. Timothy Flint. Wyeth, then sixteen years old, was a journeyman blacksmith in the employ of Watson and Gridley. He says:

    "Our numbers were between twenty-eight and thirty. Of my associates I only remember the names of Frothingham, Mead, Martin and Grant. Many of them were apprentices and journeymen, not a few, as was the case with myself, living with Tory masters. I had but a few hours warning of what was intended to be done. We first talked of firing the ships, but feared the fire would communicate to the town. We then proposed sinking them, but dropped that project through fear that we should alarm the town before we could get through with it. We had observed that very few persons remained on board the ships, and we finally concluded that we could take possession of them, and discharge the tea into the harbor without danger or opposition. One of the ships laid at the wharf, the others a little way out in the stream, with their warps made fast to the wharf. To prevent discovery, we agreed to wear ragged clothes and disfigure ourselves, dressing to resemble Indians as much as possible, smearing our faces with grease and lamp black or soot, and should not have known each other except by our voices. Our most intimate friends among the spectators had not the least knowledge of us. We surely resembled devils from the bottomless pit rather than men. At the appointed time we met in an old building at the head of the wharf, and fell in one after another, as if by accident, so as not to excite suspicion. We placed a sentry at the head of the wharf, another in the middle, and one on the bow of each ship as we took possession. We boarded the ship moored by the wharf, and our leader, in a very stern and resolute manner, ordered the captain and crew to open the hatchways, and hand us the hoisting tackle and ropes, assuring them that no harm was intended them. The captain asked what we intended to do. Our leader told him that we were going to unload the tea, and ordered him and the crew below. They instantly obeyed. Some of our number then jumped into the hold, and passed the chests to the tackle. As they were hauled on deck others knocked them open with axes, and others raised them to the railing and discharged their contents overboard. All who were not needed for discharging this ship went on board the others, warped them to the wharf, when the same ceremonies were repeated. We were merry, in an undertone, at the idea of making so large a cup of tea for the fishes, but were as still as the nature of the case would admit, using no more words than were absolutely necessary. We stirred briskly in the business from the moment we left our dressing-room. I never worked harder in my life. While we were unloading, the people collected in great numbers about the wharf to see what was going on. They crowded around us so as to be much in our way. Our sentries were not armed, and could not stop any who insisted on passing. They were particularly charged to give us notice in case any known Tory came down to the wharf. There was much talk about this business next morning. We pretended to be as zealous to find out the perpetrators as the rest, and were all so close and loyal, that the whole affair remained in Egyptian darkness."


In 1835, a small volume appeared, entitled "Traits of the Tea Party," with a memoir of G.R.T. Hewes. From it we glean the following incidents.

Mr. Hewes thinks that among the speakers at the meeting on the afternoon of December 16, was John Hancock, who said that "the matter must be settled before twelve o'clock that night." Hewes positively affirms that he recognized Hancock, who worked by his side in the destruction of the tea, not only by his ruffles, which were accidentally exposed, and by his figure and gait, but by his voice and features, notwithstanding his paint, and the loosened club of hair behind. In this he was undoubtedly mistaken. Neither Hancock, Adams nor Warren were among the disguised Indians. There were enough who were competent for the business without them.

Just before the meeting dissolved, some one in the galleries (Mr. Pierce thinks it was Adam Collson) cried out with a loud voice, "Boston harbor a tea-pot to-night! Hurrah for Griffin's wharf!" This is probably the disorder checked by the chairman, and which was in response to the war-whoops outside. Three cheers were given by the meeting as it broke up.

The disguise of the Indians was hastily prepared. Many of them arrayed themselves in a store on Fort Hill. The original number of one of the parties was fifteen or twenty. Many others joined in the act of breaking up the boxes, who disguised themselves as best they could, and some, chiefly extempore volunteers, were not disguised at all. Hewes himself, while the crowd rushed down Milk Street, made his way to a blacksmith's shop, on Boylston's wharf, where he hastily begrimmed his face with a _soot_-able preparation, thence to the house of an acquaintance near Griffin's, where he got a blanket, which he wrapped around his person.

When he reached the wharf, there were many there, but no crowd. The moon shone brightly. From one hundred to one hundred and fifty were engaged. The whole were divided into three equal divisions, with a captain and boatswain for each. Hewes's whistling talent--a matter of public notoriety--procured him the position of boatswain in the party, under Captain Lendall Pitts, which boarded the brig. Many were fantastically arrayed in old frocks, red woolen caps or gowns, and all manner of like habiliments.

One of Pitts's first official acts was to send a message to the mate, who was in his cabin, for the use of a few lights and the brig's keys, so that as little damage as possible might be done to the vessel. The keys were handed over without a word, and he also provided candles. The three parties finished their separate tasks nearly at the same time, and without unnecessary delay. A number of sailors and others had joined them from time to time, and aided them in hoisting the chests from the hold.

Collecting on the wharf, which was now covered with spectators, a fresh inspection was instituted, and all the tea men were ordered to take off their shoes and empty them, which was supposed to be done. Pitts, who was a military man, and a prominent Son of Liberty, was appointed commander-in-chief; the company was formed in rank and file by his directions, with the aid of Barber, Proctor, and some others, and "shouldering arms,"--such as they had, tomahawks included,--they marched up the wharf, to what is now the east end of Pearl Street, back into town, and then separated and went quietly home.

All was done in plain sight of the British squadron, which lay less than a quarter of a mile distant. Admiral Montagu witnessed most of the affair from a more convenient point--the house of a Tory, named Coffin, on Atkinson Street, near the head of the wharf. Raising the window as they came along, he said, "Well, boys, you have had a fine, pleasant evening for your Indian caper, haven't you? But mind, you have got to pay the fiddler yet!"

"Oh, never mind!" shouted Pitts, "never mind, squire! Just come out here, if you please, and we'll settle the bill in two minutes." This caused a shout, the fife struck up a lively air, the admiral put the window down in a hurry, and the company marched on.

When Hewes reached home he told his wife the story. "Well, George," said she, "Did you bring me home a lot of it?" The only tea known to have been brought that night from the wharf was in the shoes of Thomas Melvill. A sample gathered on the Dorchester shore by Dr. Thaddeus M. Harris, is now preserved in the cabinet of the Antiquarian Society, at Worcester.

[Illustration: DIAGRAM SHOWING THE ROUTE TAKEN FROM THE OLD SOUTH CHURCH TO THE WHARF. (_See dotted lines._)]

One O'Connor, an Irishman, formerly a fellow apprentice with Hewes, attempted to secrete some of the tea. Hewes noticed a suspicious movement of his hands along the lining of his coat, and informed Pitts. Catching him by the skirts of his coat, he pulled him back as he was trying to escape, and he was quickly relieved of his cargo, as well as the apparel which contained it, and a few kicks were applied to hasten his retreat.

Early on the morning of the 17th, a long windrow of tea, "about as big as you ever saw of hay," was seen extending from the wharves down to the castle. A party of volunteers soon turned out in boats, and stirred it up in the "pot" pretty effectually.


Those who undertook to preserve any of the poisonous herb were sharply looked after by the patriots. A Boston paper of January 3, 1774, says:

    "Whereas, it was reported that one Withington, of Dorchester, had taken up and partly disposed of a chest of the East India Company's tea, a number of the Cape or Narragansett Indians went to the house of Captain Ebenezer Withington, and his brother Phillip, last Friday evening, and thoroughly searched their houses, without offering the least offence to any one. Finding no tea, they proceeded to the house of old Mr. Ebenezer Withington, at a place called Sodom, below Dorchester Meeting House, where they found part of a half-chest, which had floated, and was cast up on Dorchester Point. This they seized and brought to Boston Common, where they committed it to the flames."

Benjamin Simpson, a bricklayer's apprentice, says:

    "After the meeting in the Old South was over, there was a cry in the gallery of 'every man to his tent.' We repaired to the wharf. I went on board both ships, but saw no person belonging to them. In a few minutes a number of men came on the wharf, (with the Indian pow-wow,) went on board the ships, then lying at the side of the wharf, the water in the dock not more than two feet deep. They began to throw the tea into the water, which went off with the tide till the tea grounded. We soon found there was tea on board the brig also. A demand being made of it, the captain told us the whole of his cargo was on board; that the tea was directly under the hatches, which he would open if we would not damage anything but the tea, which was agreed to. The hatches were then opened, a man sent down to show us the tea, which we hoisted out, stove the chests and threw tea and all overboard. Those on board the ships did the same. I was on board the ships when the tea was so high by the side of them as to fall in, which was shovelled down more than once. We on board the brig were not disguised. I was then nineteen years old; I am now (1830) seventy-five."

Peter, the son of Benjamin Edes, the printer, in a letter to his grandson, Benjamin C. Edes, written in 1836, says of the tea party:

    "I know but little about it, as I was not admitted into their presence, for fear, I suppose, of their being known.... I recollect perfectly well that in the afternoon preceding the evening of the destruction of the tea, a number of gentlemen met in the parlor of my father's house,--how many I cannot say. As I said before, I was not admitted into their presence; my station was in another room, to make punch for them, in the bowl[20] which is now in your possession, and which I filled several times. They remained in the house till dark,--I suppose to disguise themselves like Indians,--when they left the house, and proceeded to the wharves where the vessels lay. Before they reached there they were joined by hundreds. I thought I would take a walk to the wharves as a spectator, where was collected, I may say, as many as two thousand persons. The Indians worked smartly. Some were in the hold immediately after the hatches were broken open, fixing the ropes to the tea-chests, others were breaking open the chests, and others stood ready with hatchets to cut off the bindings of the chests and cast them overboard. I remained till I was tired, and fearing some disturbance might occur, went home, leaving the Indians working like good, industrious fellows. This is all I know about it."

The account given by General Ebenezer Stevens to his son, Horatio Gates Stevens, is as follows:

    "I went from the Old South Meeting House just after dark. The party was about seventy or eighty. At the head of the wharf we met the detachment of our company (Paddock's Artillery) on guard, who joined us. I commenced with a party on board the vessel of which Hodgdon[21] was mate, (the 'Dartmouth') and as he knew me, I left that vessel with some of my comrades and went aboard another vessel, which lay at the opposite side of the wharf. Numbers of others took our places on board Hodgdon's vessel. We commenced handing the boxes of tea on deck, and first began breaking them with axes, but found much difficulty, owing to the boxes of tea being covered with canvas,--the mode that the article was then imported in. I think that all the tea was destroyed in about two hours. We were careful to prevent any being taken away. None of the party were painted as Indians, nor, that I know of, disguised, excepting that some of them stopped at a paint shop on the way, and daubed their faces with paint."

[Illustration: Signature, Alexander Hodgdon]

Robert Sessions, of South Wilbraham, (now Hampden) Mass., another actor in the scene, says:

    "I was living in Boston at the time, in the family of a Mr. Davis, a lumber merchant, as a common laborer. On that eventful evening, when Mr. Davis came in from the town meeting, I asked him what was to be done with the tea. 'They are now throwing it overboard,' he replied. Receiving permission, I went immediately to the spot. Everything was as light as day, by the means of lamps and torches; a pin might be seen lying on the wharf. I went on board where they were at work, and took hold with my own hands. I was not one of those appointed to destroy the tea, and who disguised themselves as Indians, but was a volunteer; the disguised men being largely men of family and position in Boston, while I was a young man, whose home and relations were in Connecticut. The appointed and disguised party proving too small for the quick work necessary, other young men, similarly circumstanced with myself, joined them in their labors. The chests were drawn up by a tackle,--one man bringing them forward, another putting a rope around them, and others hoisting them to the deck and carrying them to the vessel's side. The chests were then opened, the tea emptied over the side, and the chests thrown overboard. Perfect regularity prevailed during the whole transaction. Although there were many people on the wharf, entire silence prevailed,--no clamor, no talking. Nothing was meddled with but the teas on board. After having emptied the whole, the deck was swept clean, and everything put in its proper place. An officer on board was requested to come up from the cabin and see that no damage was done except to the tea. At about the close of the scene, a man was discovered making his way through the crowd with his pockets filled with tea. He was immediately laid hold of, and his coat skirts torn off, with their pockets, and thrown into the dock with the rest of the tea. I was obliged to leave the town at once, as it was of course known that I was concerned in the affair."

William Tudor, then a law student in the office of John Adams, and acquainted with some of the members of the tea party, gives in his "Life of James Otis," the following account of it:

    "A band of eighteen or twenty young men (no one of whom was in any disguise), who had been prepared for the event, went by the Meeting House giving a shout. It was echoed by some within; others exclaimed, 'the Mohawks are come!;' the assembly broke up and a part of it followed this body of young men to Griffin's wharf. Three different parties, composed of trust-worthy persons, many of whom were in after life among the most respectable citizens of the town, had been prepared, in conformity to the secret resolves of the political leaders, to act as circumstances should require. They were seventy or eighty in all, and when every attempt to have the tea returned had failed, it was immediately made known to them, and they proceeded at once to throw the obnoxious merchandise into the water. One, if not two of these parties, wore a kind of Indian disguise. Two of these persons, in passing over Fort Hill to the scene of operations, met a British officer who, on observing them, naturally enough drew his sword. As they approached, one of the Indians drew a pistol, and said to the officer, 'The path is wide enough for us all; we have nothing to do with you, and intend you no harm; if you keep your own way peaceably, we shall keep ours."

Henry Purkitt, Samuel Sprague and John Hooten, (all living in 1835,) were apprentices of about the same age. Purkitt and Dolbear were apprentices with Peck, the cooper, in Essex Street. While at their work they heard a loud whistle, which startled them, and which they followed till it brought them to the wharf. Their part of the play was on the flats, by the side of one of the vessels,--for it was nearly low tide,--and with other boys, by direction of the commander, to break up more thoroughly the fragments of chests and masses of tea thrown over in too great haste. They found their return upon deck much facilitated by the immense pile which had accumulated beneath and around them. The commander acted as an interpreter for those persons,--apparently five or six aboard each vessel,--who especially assumed the Indian guise. These were no doubt among the principal directors of the whole affair. They affected to issue their orders from time to time in an Indian jargon, the interpreter communicating what the chiefs said; attended to the procuring of keys and lights, the raising of the derricks, trampling the tea into the mud, sweeping the decks at the close of the scene, calling up the mate to report whether everything (except, of course, the tea) was left as they found it, etc.

Purkitt and Dolbear went home early. Peck, who was believed to be one of the chiefs, came in rather softly, at one o'clock in the morning. The boys noticed some indications of red paint behind his ears, next day. The only tools they used were staves, which they made before starting.


David Kinnison, the last survivor of the tea party, died at Chicago in 1852, at the great age of one hundred and fifteen. He was one of seventeen inhabitants of Lebanon, Maine, who had associated themselves together as a political club, and, who had determined, at all hazards, to destroy the tea, whether assisted or not. Some of them repairing to Boston, joined the party, and twenty-four, disguised as Indians, hastened on board the ships, twelve armed with muskets and bayonets, the rest with tomahawks and clubs. They expected to have a fight, not doubting that an effort would be made for their arrest, and agreed at the outset to stand by each other to the last. They also pledged themselves not to reveal the names of the party. Owing to the great age of Kinnison, when this relation was made to Mr. Lossing, it is possibly in some particulars erroneous, and is given only as a piece of original evidence, and simply for what it is worth.

With a British squadron and British troops so near at hand, it seems strange that the party was not interrupted. The probable reason is, that something far more serious was expected on any attempt to land the tea, and that the authorities, the owners of the ships, the consignees of the tea, and all others concerned, were glad to be thus extricated from a serious dilemma. They, however, could not be called upon to interfere, except by the civil authorities, in case of a riot.

Governor Hutchinson says "the tea could have been secured in the town in no other way than by landing marines from the men-of-war, or bringing to town the regiment which was at the castle, to remove the guards from the ships and to take their places." This would have brought on a greater convulsion than there was any danger of in 1770, and it would not have been possible, when two regiments were forced out of the town, for so small a body of troops to have kept possession of the place. He did not suppose such a measure would be approved of in England, nor was he sure of support from any one person in authority. There was not a justice of peace, sheriff, constable or peace officer in the province who would venture to take cognizance of any breach of law against the general bent of the people. So many of the actors were universally known that a proclamation, with a reward for discovery, would have been ridiculed. Hutchinson submitted the consideration of the affair to the council, and that body promised to give it attention, but nothing came of it. "Of the thousands concerned in the transaction," wrote General Gage to the historian Chalmers, "or who were spectators of it, only one witness could be procured to give testimony against them, and that one conditionally that the delinquents should be tried in England." So far as is known, only a single person was arrested,--a Mr. Eckley, and he was never brought to trial.

A fourth tea-ship, destined for Boston, was wrecked on Cape Cod. The few chests of tea saved from her cargo were, by the governor's order, placed in the castle. Twenty-eight chests, brought a little later by another vessel from London, on the joint account of Boston merchants, were destroyed by a disguised party, on March 7, 1774. The people of Charlestown destroyed, in the market place, all the tea they could find in the town, paying the owners its value. Other towns did the same.

An account of the transaction, drawn up by the Boston committee, was carried by Paul Revere, to New York and Philadelphia. When the news reached New York, vast numbers of the people collected. They were in high spirits, one and all declaring that the ships with tea on board, designed for that port, should on arrival be sent back, or the tea destroyed. They highly extolled the Bostonians for what the people had done, and immediately forwarded the news to Philadelphia. When Revere, on his return, brought word that Governor Tryon had engaged to send the New York tea-ships back, all the bells in Boston were rung next morning.

Extract from a letter to the Sons of Liberty, in New York, dated Boston, December 17, 1773:

    "The bearer is chosen by the committee from a number of gentlemen, who volunteered to carry you this intelligence. We are in a perfect jubilee. Not a Tory in the whole community can find the least fault with our proceedings.... The spirit of the people throughout the country is to be described by no terms in my power. Their conduct last night surprised the admiral and English gentlemen, who observed that these were not a mob of disorderly rabble, (as they have been reported,) but men of sense, coolness and intrepidity."

The tea shipped to South Carolina (two hundred and fifty-seven chests) arrived on the second of December. So strenuous was the opposition to its being landed, that the consignees were persuaded to resign. Though the collector, after the twentieth day, seized the dutiable article, as no one would sell it or pay the duty, it perished in the damp cellars where it was stored.

On December 25, news reached Philadelphia that its tea-ship was at Chester. The Delaware pilots had been warned, by printed handbills, not to conduct any tea-ships into the harbor, as they were only sent for the purpose of enslaving and poisoning the Americans. Four miles below the town it came to anchor. On the 27th, news of what had occurred in Boston having arrived, five thousand men collected in town meeting at an hour's notice. At their suggestion, the consignee, who came as passenger, resigned, and the captain agreed to take his ship and cargo back to London the very next day.

The ship "Nancy," Captain Lockyer, destined for New York, having been blown off the coast, refitted at Antigua, and proceeding thence to New York, arrived there April 18, 1774. Some of the committee went on board and prevented her coming up to the city, but the captain was allowed to procure some necessary stores, and then, by the advice of the consignees, returned to London without breaking bulk. A quantity of tea--private property--was imported from London, and an application from the consignee to have it returned to England was refused by the custom-house officers. A number of "Mohawks" then took charge of the business, and emptied the whole of it into the sea.

A few days later, Captain Chambers, master of the ship "London," trading to New York, who had on a former occasion received the thanks of her citizens for refusing to bring the East India Company's tea, was detected in introducing eighteen boxes of fine tea, curiously concealed between blankets, etc., which he intended to smuggle, but the people having discovered it, immediately threw it into the sea, and the captain, to escape the wrath of the people, took refuge in Captain Lockyer's vessel, and sailed for England.

Opposition to the obnoxious tea duty had by no means subsided, when, in October, 1774, the brigantine "Peggy Stewart" approached Annapolis, Maryland, with a cargo of tea on board. At once there was a great commotion. Terror seized the owners. They applied to Charles Carroll for advice. He told them there was but one way to save their persons and property from swift destruction, and that was to burn their vessel and cargo instantly, and in sight of the people. It was done, and the flames did for Annapolis what the "Mohawks" had done for Boston.


"This," said Hutchinson, referring to the action of Boston, "was the boldest stroke that had been struck in America." Writing to Sir Francis Bernard, he spoke of it as "an unfortunate event, and what every body supposed impossible after so many men of property had made part of the meetings, and were in danger of being liable for the value of it. It would have given me a much more painful reflection," he continued, "if I had saved it by any concession to a lawless and highly criminal assembly of men, to whose proceedings the loss must be consequently attributed, and the probability is that it was a part of their plan from the beginning."

"We do console ourselves," wrote John Scollay, chairman of the Selectmen of Boston, and prominent in the affair, "that we have acted constitutionally."

"The most magnificent movement of all," wrote John Adams in his diary. "There is a dignity, a majesty, a solemnity in this last effort of the patriots that I greatly admire. This destruction of the tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, so intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important consequences, and so lasting, that I cannot but consider it as an epoch in history. The question is whether the destruction of the tea was necessary? I apprehend it was absolutely and indispensably so.... To let it be landed would be giving up the principle of taxation by Parliamentary authority, against which the continent has struggled for ten years.... But, it will be said, it might have been left in the care of a committee of the town, or in Castle William. To this many objections may be urged."

The historian Ramsay says: "If the American position was right in relation to taxation, the destruction of the tea was warranted by the great law of self-preservation. For it was not possible for them by any other means within the compass of probability to discharge the duty they owed to their country."

"I cannot but express my admiration of the conduct of this people," writes an 'Impartial Observer' in the "Boston Evening Post" of December 20, 1773.... "I shall return home doubly fortified in my resolution to prevent that deprecated calamity, the landing the tea in Rhode Island, and console myself with the happier assurance that my brethren have not less resolution than their neighbors."

"It became," says Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, "a simple question, which should go under, British tea or American liberty? That volunteer band of Liberty Boys performed their work 'better than they knew,' averting contingencies which must have caused immediate bloodshed, and accomplishing results of the greatest importance to the American cause."

Wm. C. Rives, in his Life of James Madison, says: "This memorable occurrence was undoubtedly, in the immediate sequence of the events which it produced, the proximate cause of the American Revolution."

A Tory pamphleteer of the time gives us the Loyalist view of the affair. He says: "Now the crime of the Bostonians was a compound of the grossest injury and insult. It was an act of the highest insolence towards government, such as mildness itself cannot overlook or forgive. The injustice of the deed was also most atrocious, as it was the destruction of property to a vast amount, when it was known that the nation was obliged in honor to protect it."

We subjoin some of the comments of candid British writers respecting the affair. Mr. Massey says: "The question of taxation was virtually settled by this signal failure to enforce the law, or rather by the absence of any attempt to protect the property of merchants who had made their ventures by the express authority, if not at the instance of the British government."

While speaking of the destruction of the tea as the "crowning outrage," Lecky says, "It will probably strike the reader that every argument which shewed that the tea duty was not a grievance, was equally powerful to show that it was perfectly useless as a means of obtaining a revenue. It would be difficult indeed to find a more curious instance of legislative incapacity than the whole transaction displayed."

Hear Carlyle:

    "Thursday, December 16, 1773. What a contention is going on far over seas at Boston, New England. The case is well known and still memorable to mankind. British parliament, after nine years of the saddest haggling, and baffling to and fro under constitutional stress of weather, and such east winds and west winds of parliamentary eloquence as seldom were, has made up its mind that America shall pay duty on their teas before infusing them, and America, Boston more especially, is tacitly determined that it will not, and that to avoid mistakes the teas shall never be landed at all....

    "Rotch's report done, the chairman (an Adams 'American Cato,' subsequently so called,) dissolves the sorrowful seven thousand, with these words, 'The meeting declares it can do nothing more to save the country," we'll naturally go home then and weep. Hark however! almost on the instant, in front of the Old South Meeting House, a terrific war-whoop, and about fifty Mohawk Indians, with whom Adams seems to be acquainted, and speaks without interpreter: Aha!

    "And sure enough, before the stroke of seven these fifty painted Mohawks are forward without noise to Griffin's wharf, have put sentries all round them, and in a great silence of the neighborhood, are busy in three gangs upon the dormant tea ships, opening their chests and punctually shaking them out into the sea. Listening from the distance you could hear distinctly the ripping open of the chests and no other sound. About ten P.M. all was finished, ... the Mohawks gone like a dream, and Boston sleeping more silently even than usual."

In England, the news of the destruction of the tea at Boston was received with astonishment, not unmixed with anger. Men of all parties were swept into the hostile current. Coercive measures were at once brought forward in parliament. In the debates that ensued, a member said, "The town of Boston ought to be knocked about their ears and destroyed." Moderate and judicious men made a gallant stand against the bill shutting up the port of Boston, but the current was irresistible, and the measure, with others of like character, passed by overwhelming votes. Burke, on the question of the repeal of the tea tax, made one of his noblest efforts. Colonel Barré told the House that if they would keep their hands out of the pockets of the Americans they would be obedient subjects. Johnstone, formerly governor of Florida, who had before predicted to the East India Company, that exporting tea on their own account was absurd and would end in loss, now predicted that the Port Bill would, if passed, be productive of a general confederacy to resist the power of Britain, and end in a general revolt. His utterances were prophetic indeed. These measures did unite the colonies, and produced a general revolt ending in American independence.

Accounts vary greatly as to the number and appearance of the tea party. The original body which arrived so opportunely at the door of the "Old South," and which may have included Molineux, Revere, and the more prominent leaders, was probably not numerous. They, however, had passed the word, and trusty coadjutors were not long in following them. Colonel Tudor and Colonel Stevens say they were not disguised, but all other accounts state that they were in the Indian dress, or something resembling it.

The historian, Gordon, places their number at seventeen, "though judged to be many more as they ran across Fort Hill." "Our number was between twenty-eight and thirty," says Wyeth, one of the party. Hutchinson says about fifty, and many have since adopted his statement. Tudor, in his "Life of Otis," says seventy or eighty. Colonel Ebenezer Stevens agrees with him. "None put the number lower than sixty, nor higher than eighty," is the recollection of "a Bostonian," fifty years after the event. John Andrews was told that they mustered on Fort Hill to the number of about two hundred. "From one hundred to one hundred and fifty being more or less actively engaged" thought Hewes, one of the actors. "Two or three hundred dressed like Indians," wrote Dr. Cooper to Dr. Franklin.

These varying estimates may be accounted for in this way. Those who report the smaller number either repeated what they were told, or saw only one of the parties on its way to the ships, while the others speak of the entire body after its separate parts had united at the wharf. Some may mean only such of the party as were in Indian dress. If we place the number on board the ships at fifty or sixty, and estimate those at work by the sides of the vessels at sixty or seventy, we shall probably not be far out of the way, the whole number then aggregating from one hundred and ten to one hundred and thirty. The names of more than one hundred of these have been preserved.

Who were these men? "Depend upon it," said John Adams to Hezekiah Niles in 1819, "These were no ordinary Mohawks. The profound secrecy in which they have held their names, and the total abstinence of plunder, are proofs of the character of the men." But two of the recognized leaders of the people were there,--Dr. Young and Thomas Molineux. Most of them were mechanics and apprentices, but they were mechanics of the stamp of Revere, Howard, Wheeler, Crane and Peck, men who could restrain and keep in due subordination the more fiery and dangerous element, always present in popular demonstrations. That element was not wholly absent on this occasion, for Mackintosh, the leader in the Stamp Act riots, was present with "his chickens," as he called them, and active in destroying the tea. There were also professional men, like Dr. Young and Dr. Story, and merchants, such as Molineux, Proctor, Melvill, Palmer, May, Pitts and Davis, men of high character and standing, so that all classes were fairly represented. As might be expected, those appointed for the work, and who were in Indian dress, were largely men of family and position in Boston.

A writer in the American Magazine of History attempts to discredit the statement that the party were in Indian dress, intimating that it was an afterthought, intended to deceive the authorities, and lead them to the belief that the disguise was too complete to allow of identification for arrest or punishment. Cavils like this are superfluous in view of the abundant testimony to the contrary. The sworn protest of Captain Bruce, of the "Eleanor," one of the tea-ships, given on a subsequent page in this volume, is of itself sufficient evidence upon this point. The number of those who, prepared as they were, on the spur of the moment, really bore any very great resemblance to Indians, was no doubt small. A large number of the actors hastily assumed such disguises as were nearest at hand.

No doubt the principals in this transaction pledged one another to keep their connection with it a profound secret, and they did so, but the young apprentices and volunteers, who, without premeditation, joined the party on its way to the wharf, were under no such restraint, and we can only wonder that they made no revelation concerning an event of such importance. It was not until a very late period of their lives that any of them opened their lips publicly about it, and when more than half a century had elapsed since it occurred.

The names of fifty-eight of these men, given below, are taken from Thatcher's "Traits of the Tea Party," published in 1835, while nine or ten of them were yet living, the source whence all later lists have been derived. Possibly this list is identical with that mentioned as having once been in the possession of Peter, the son of Benjamin Edes, the printer. Of this list it is safe to say that, while far from being complete, it is correct as far as it goes. The names that follow the list of 1835, have been gleaned from a great variety of sources, principally family tradition.


"List of the tea party, furnished in 1835, by an aged Bostonian, well

acquainted with the subject, of the persons generally supposed, within

his knowledge, to have been more or less actively engaged." Those

starred were then living:

 

  *George R.T. Hewes.

  Joseph Shed.

  John Crane.

  Josiah Wheeler.

  Thomas Urann.

  Adam Collson.

  S. Coolidge.

  Joseph Payson.

  James Brewer.

  Thomas Bolter.

  Edward Proctor.

  Samuel Sloper.

  Thomas Gerrish.

  Nathaniel Green.

  *Benj. Simpson.

  Joseph Eayres.

  Joseph Lee.

  William Molineux.

  Paul Revere.

  John Spurr.

  Thomas Moore.

  Samuel Howard.

  Matthew Loring.

  Thomas Spear.

  Daniel Ingoldson.

  Richard Hunnewell.

  John Hooton.

  *Jonathan Hunnewell.

  Thomas Chase.

  Thomas Melvill.

  *Henry Purkitt.

  Edward C. Howe.

  Ebenezer Stevens.

  Nicholas Campbell.

  John Russell.

  Thomas Porter.

  William Hendley.

  Benjamin Rice.

  Samuel Gore.

  Nathaniel Frothingham.

  Moses Grant.

  *Peter Slater.

  James Starr.

  Abraham Tower.

  *William Pierce.

  William Russell.

  T. Gammell.

  ---- McIntosh.

  Dr. Thomas Young.

  Joshua Wyeth.

  Edward Dolbear.

  ---- Martin.

  Samuel Peck.

  Lendall Pitts.

  *Samuel Sprague.

  Benjamin Clarke.

  Richard Hunnewell, Jr.

  *John Prince.

 

Additional names of the tea party, derived principally from family

tradition:

 

  Nathaniel Barber.

  Samuel Barnard.

  Henry Bass.

  Edward Bates.

  Nathaniel Bradlee.

  David Bradlee.

  Josiah Bradlee.

  Thomas Bradlee.

  Seth Ingersoll Brown.

  Stephen Bruce.

  Benjamin Burton.

  George Carleton.

  Gilbert Colesworthy.

  John Cochran.

  Gershom Collier.

  James Foster Condy.

  Samuel Cooper.

  Thomas Dana, Jr.

  Robert Davis.

  Joseph Eaton.

  ---- Eckley.

  William Etheridge.

  Samuel Fenno.

  Samuel Foster.

  John Fulton.

  Samuel Hammond.

  John Hicks.

  Samuel Hobbs.

  Thomas Hunstable.

  Abraham Hunt.

  David Kinnison.

  Amos Lincoln.

  Thomas Machin.

  Archibald Macneil.

  John May.

  ---- Mead.

  Anthony Morse.

  Eliphalet Newell.

  Joseph Pearse Palmer.

  Jonathan Parker.

  John Peters.

  Samuel Pitts.

  Henry Prentiss.

  John Randall.

  Joseph Roby.

  Phineas Stearns.

  Robert Sessions.

  Elisha Story.

  James Swan.

  John Truman.

  Isaac Williams.

  David Williams.

  Jeremiah Williams.

  Thomas Williams.

  Nathaniel Willis.