By: Barnali Bose, Editor-ICN Group
The Boston Tea Party was a symbol of defiance against the tyrannical colonialism of the British. This event draws its parallel with The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 which was triggered by what the Muslim and Hindu soldiers in the British army considered an insult to their religious beliefs.
BOSTON: Last summer, I visited Boston, the capital city of Massachusetts in the United States of America. As I stood at the Boston Harbour and glanced at the ships anchored there, I could almost visualize the scene of the group of ‘Sons of Liberty’ dressed as native Americans stealthily creeping up on the decks of Dartmouth, the Beaver and the Eleanor, the three ships of colonial era loaded with crates of tea.
I remember, years back as a student of History, I was spellbound when our History teacher had actually taken a piece of chalk to draw stick figures of a band of American colonists aboard the ships, pouring the tea into the sea.
‘The Sons of Liberty’, as they called themselves was a secret society formed to protect the rights of the American colonists. We were told that although they were rebels in the eyes of their Colonial lords, to the colonists they were no less than heroes.
What actually left an indelible mark on my impressionable mind was the nomenclature accorded to the historic event. Boston Tea Party! Indeed, what a party it was!
Imagine you are seated in a time machine travelling way back to the 1770s and allow the events leading to the Boston Tea Party gradually unfold before your eyes. In order to get a clearer vision, it is important to paint a picture of the socio-economic scenario persisting at the time.
Tea was supposed to be new and exotic a commodity and greatly in demand, at that time in the Western world. However, by 1773, decreased demand led to a surplus of 17 million pounds of tea left rotting in warehouses in England. The British East India Company desperately needed to tide over the financial crisis.
The Company normally sold tea to influential Massachusetts’ merchants .Thereby, it decided to dismiss the middlemen and establish monopoly over tea by passing The Tea Act of 1773.This act actually made tea cheaper but the colonists viewed the act as a Trojan horse designed to seduce them into accepting Parliament’s right to impose taxes on them.
From sugar to playing cards, the British had been imposing taxes on everything.The fact that the agents commissioned by the company to sell its tea included a number of pro-Parliament men only added fuel to the fire.
The discontented Bostonians boycotted British tea and demanded that the ships carrying tea return to England. Not only did the British refuse to do so, but the British Governor also passed an order for the Bostonians to buy British tea. So the colonists decided to take matters into their own hands. They wanted to make a point ‘ No taxation without Representation’.
On the cold, freezing, winter night of December 16, 1773,the Sons of Liberty boarded the British trading ships and emptied 342 crates of tea into the sea at Boston Harbour. They did not indulge in ransacking the ships,. They simply made a silent protest. The Company retaliated by closing the harbour to trade and imposing a few harsh measures intended to stifle colonial resistance. Sixteen months later, in the year 1775, this culminated into the American Revolution.
The Boston Tea Party was a symbol of defiance against the tyrannical colonialism of the British. This event draws its parallel with The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 which was triggered by what the Muslim and Hindu soldiers in the British army considered an insult to their religious beliefs. This Rebellion has been called ‘The First War of Indian Independence’ by some Indian historians as it was the first organised uprising against the British.
Every year, on the anniversary of the famous Boston Tea Party, a re-enactment party is thrown in Boston. Visitors can tour replicas of the three ships that were silent witnesses to the historic event. I have not had the privilege of doing so, not having visited the place in winter, but I do look forward to this experience on my next visit there.