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Boston Tea Party
December 16, 2011 8:24 PM   Subscribe

238 years ago this evening… in response to the Townshend Act, and the East India Company… a few colonists had a Tea (link) Party (link).
posted by jabo (50 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
You've forgotten the Koch Great-great-grandparents. Damn that DNA.
posted by Mblue at 8:36 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah yes. The night when a bunch of caffeine-addicted white people dressed up as aboriginals and performed destruction of property as a form of protest.

Just over two centuries later, a bunch of people who have only vague recollections of their elementary school history education will co-opt the concept and find themselves as unwitting stooges for astroturf campaigning on behalf of hugely powerful monied interests disguising themselves as average people and hoping to perform destruction of governmental regulation as a form of seizing power.
posted by hippybear at 8:38 PM on December 16, 2011 [36 favorites]


Though one has to enjoy any act which angered the East India Company - history's greatest villains until 1938!
posted by Navelgazer at 8:45 PM on December 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Having lived through the spanking Carter received, hippybear has my sympathy.
posted by Mblue at 8:47 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


> The night when a bunch of caffeine-addicted white people dressed up as aboriginals and performed destruction of property as a form of protest.

I've wondered about the dressing as natives thing. There's not a lot of consensus on exactly why, or how many of the perpetrators actually disguised themselves. It seems it was an easy concealment and a kind of statement that they were not English but American. I think that facet of the Tea Party has become obscured over time, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:47 PM on December 16, 2011


Having lived through the spanking Carter received, hippybear has my sympathy.

I'm not even sure what this means, but if it's a reference to the 1980 election, I assure you I was alive and politically aware at that point in time.
posted by hippybear at 8:52 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those clowns in the last link don't even drink tea!
posted by IvoShandor at 8:56 PM on December 16, 2011


hippybear, it simply means that the next occupant of the White House will be Republican.
It is what it is, so don't be shocked when it happens.
posted by Mblue at 9:02 PM on December 16, 2011


Arguably, the Occupy Wall Street Protests Embody Values of the Real Boston Tea Party.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:05 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mblue: I'm completely unsure why you're picking on me, or what in my comment led you to the conclusion that I need somehow to be schooled on the ways of the world, but I hope you stop now. Because it's unnecessary.
posted by hippybear at 9:08 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, that got out of hand pretty quickly.
posted by ashbury at 9:17 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


hippybear, it was just a comment, or observation of my thoughts, not bullying. If you're offended, I apologize.
posted by Mblue at 9:18 PM on December 16, 2011


The Tea Party is on Ning? Who the hell's on Ning?
posted by box at 9:27 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like to refer to the Townshend Act as 'The Who'.

I'll see myself out.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:33 PM on December 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


I've been reading the Federalist Papers, written by some hack named Publius, and never before I have I read a more radical and seditious document. The authors of this possibly socialist tract advocate the formation of some kind of perfect union where ultimately all men are created equal.

Avoid this document! Set your content blockers to stun!
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:41 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


For every ream of paper called Super Royal Fine, nine shillings.

For every ream of paper called Royal Fine, six shillings.

For every ream of paper called Fine Holland Royal, two shillings and five pence farthing.

For every ream of paper called Fine Holland Second, one shilling and six pence.


Thanks jabo for putting this up. I did not know that the list of taxed items was so long and specific. A tax on "Fine Holland Royal" paper exported from America would, of course, have the effect of a trade subsidy to European manufacturers...which is very convenient. I wonder how much the English and Dutch paper companies paid in kick-backs to His Majesty for these commercial advantages?

So the "Boston Tea Party" wasn't just a "taxation without representation" thing. There were also obviously some very specific (and supposedly very large) commercial interests at stake.
posted by three blind mice at 10:23 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


You guys. Tomorrow there is going to be the thing, at noon.

The ReOccupy thing, with Lou reed and patti smith and a few thousand of your new best friends.

The date is kind of important.
posted by The Whelk at 10:43 PM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


The date is kind of important

the one-year anniversary of the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:04 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ah, the Tea Party. That's when George W. Washington told the Communist French Muslims that we weren't going to drink tea, and that we were going to forge our own health care with second amendment guns.

THE GUN IS GOOD! THE PENIS IS EVIL!
posted by dirigibleman at 11:26 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


[Hi, yeah – please post that sort of info and related discussion in one of the active OWS threads.]
posted by taz at 11:37 PM on December 16, 2011


The night when a bunch of caffeine-addicted white people dressed up as aboriginals and performed destruction of property as a form of protest.

Apropos of nothing, this anniversary of the Boston tea party coincides with my graduation with a B.A. in public administration. My degree program stressed the importance of diversity in the workplace and the connection between government employees and perceived value of services received by the public.

Based on what I learned in the program, not much has changed.
posted by Graygorey at 12:16 AM on December 17, 2011


hippybear, it simply means that the next occupant of the White House will be Republican.

I'll make you a 10,000 dollar bet that won't come to pass.

Neither New Gingrich nor Mitt Romney can beat Barack Obama. The GOP has done gone and shot itself right in its own ever-loving, tea-bagging mouth. Romney might have been able to pull it off had this primary season not been so damaging to him that, even if he wins, there's enough videotape of him saying crazy shit (and enough people on the right who fundamentally despise him) that I give him 10 to 1 odds at best. (Hey, I'm looking for a $100K payoff here.)

Newt? Are you kidding? Please, let it be Newt. It will be over by June.
posted by spitbull at 4:50 AM on December 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've wondered about the dressing as natives thing.

The most likely explanation is they were drunk. Seriously. If you've ever read any social history of the 18th century, people drank all the time. In many cases, ale and hard cider were safer than a possibly contaminated water supply, and port and Madeira wines were markers of status. Rum punches might be served at political meetings or public celebrations. There's a citation somewhere with the amount of alcohol consumed per day while the constitution was being drafted, and it's pretty staggering. So probably one of Sam Adams' buddies suggested dressing up like "wild Indians" and wouldn't shut up about it, so they did it. The Sons of Liberty were basically a somewhat more politically active frat house anyway.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:52 AM on December 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


> the amount of alcohol consumed per day while the constitution was being drafted, and it's pretty staggering

Explains a lot, really. DUI.
posted by scruss at 5:21 AM on December 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


So the "Boston Tea Party" wasn't just a "taxation without representation" thing. There were also obviously some very specific (and supposedly very large) commercial interests at stake.

I was just listening to a CBC podcast on salt and they mentioned that Gandhi started getting rid of the British by protesting the restriction on Indian's collecting their own salt. It is always commercial interests at the bottom of everything.
posted by srboisvert at 5:53 AM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


The most likely explanation is they were drunk.

It is my strong impression that, although not to be taken as history per se, the musical 1776 is fairly accurate in it's portrayal of Stephen Hopkins, ex-governor of Rhode Island in that he was drunk pretty much every waking hour. And his behavior was only moderately notable....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:00 AM on December 17, 2011


Thanks to.an enthusiastic 7th grade social studies teacher who spiun a good yarn, the Boston Tea Party was when I started to get excited about American History. By my teacher's telling, they got "good and drunk" and "raised some hell".
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:59 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, just to give you some guys some perspective, before the temperance movement started up in the 1830s, the average American drank the alcoholic equivalent of like 5-7 gallons of pure alcohol per year.

May I recommend The Alcoholic Republic?
posted by absalom at 7:00 AM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Arguably, the Occupy Wall Street Protests Embody Values of the Real Boston Tea Party.

That would be protesting tax cuts for large corporations, right?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:16 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Romney might have been able to pull it off had this primary season not been so damaging to him that, even if he wins, there's enough videotape of him saying crazy shit

Like what? I've watched every debate, and he seems to be playing it very safe. He clearly has a strategy of sticking to moderate statements that will give him flexibility to shift to the center in the general election. Romney isn't going around making crazy statements. (By the way, I've voted for a Democrat for president every time since I've been eligible to vote, so it's not like I'm predisposed to agree with Romney.)
posted by John Cohen at 7:26 AM on December 17, 2011


hippybear: "Having lived through the spanking Carter received, hippybear has my sympathy.

I'm not even sure what this means, but if it's a reference to the 1980 election, I assure you I was alive and politically aware at that point in time.
"

And I assure you that my concept of politics was "How do I get them to get me a cup of milk? OCCUPY KITCHEN"
posted by symbioid at 7:46 AM on December 17, 2011


the East India Company - history's greatest villains until 1938!

King Leopold stirs from his eternal torture to disagree.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:07 AM on December 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


before the temperance movement started up in the 1830s, the average American drank the alcoholic equivalent of like 5-7 gallons of pure alcohol per year.

I'm not sure how much perspective this provides. Averages of facts about heterogenous populations are usually pretty useless for describing behaviour. If everyone drank, then 5 to 7 gallons of alcohol is about 3 to 5 medium bottles of 5% beer a day, spread over the year, which is probably not good for you, but not likely to induce raging drunkenness either. Of course, that's not what really happens or happened, but without information on patterns of drinkers and their drinking behaviour, average levels of consumption are fairly meaningless.
posted by howfar at 8:22 AM on December 17, 2011


about 3 to 5 medium bottles of 5% beer a day

Hey! I'm living in the 1700s, and didn't even know it!

(I keed, I keed)
posted by hippybear at 8:26 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't they teach American history any more?

As three blind mice suggests, follow the money and who do you find but the richest man in America?
posted by IndigoJones at 8:38 AM on December 17, 2011


howfar: Ok, MORE perspective.

That's the total amount of PURE ALCOHOL those dudes drank in a year, not merely the amount of ALCOHOLIC DRINKS. So that gallon of beer you cited would count towards .05 gallons.

Today, the number in america is about 2 gallons per person per year.
posted by absalom at 8:49 AM on December 17, 2011


IndigoJones beat me to it.

At root was the fact that many wealthy colonists were making boatloads (hey!) of money by way of smuggling goods into the country.
"Since the beginning of the 18th century, tea had been regularly imported to the American colonies. By the time of the Boston Tea Party, it has been estimated American colonists drank approximately 1.2 million pounds of tea each year. Britain realized it could make even more money off of the lucrative tea trade by imposing taxes onto the American colonies. In effect, the cost of British tea became high, and, in response, American colonists began a very lucrative industry of smuggling tea from the Dutch and other European markets. These smuggling operations violated the Navigation Acts which had been in place since the middle of the 17th century. The smuggling of tea was undercutting the lucrative British tea trade. In response to the smuggling, in 1767 Parliament passed the Indemnity Act, which repealed the tax on tea and made British tea the same price as the Dutch. The Indemnity Act greatly cut down on American tea smuggling, but later in 1767 a new tax on tea was put in place by the Townshend Revenue Act. The act also taxed glass, lead, oil, paint, and paper. Due to boycotts and protests, the Townshend Revenue Act taxes on all commodities except tea were repealed in 1770. In 1773, the Tea Act was passed and granted the British East India Company a monopoly on tea sales in the American colonies. The smuggling of tea grew rampant and was a lucrative business venture for American colonists, such as John Hancock and Samuel Adams. The Townshend Revenue Act tea tax remained in place despite proposals to have it waived. American colonists were outraged over the tea tax. They believed the Tea Act was a tactic to gain colonial support for the tax already enforced. The direct sale of tea by agents of the British East India Company to the American colonies undercut the business of colonial merchants. The smuggled tea became more expensive than the British East India Company tea. Smugglers like John Hancock and Samuel Adams were trying to protect their economic interests by opposing the Tea Act, and Samuel Adams sold the opposition of British tea to the Patriots on the pretext of the abolishment of human rights by being taxed without representation."
Read more at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.
posted by ericb at 9:13 AM on December 17, 2011


Further on Burhanistan's comment above ...

The Symbolism of the “Indian Dress”
Reports from the time describe the participants as dressed as Mohawks or Narragansett Indians. The disguise was more symbolic in nature; they knew they would be recognized as non-Indians. The act of wearing “Indian dress” was to express through symbolism to the world that the American colonists identified themselves as “Americans” and no longer considered themselves British subjects. They were not dressed as Indians in the classic sense with headdresses and full authentic regalia; rather they wore wool blankets matchcoat style, painted their faces with soot, and employed other modes of dress commonly known at the time as “Indian dress” which had been adopted by soldiers during the French and Indian War. Boston Tea Party participant George Hewes dictated his account of the Boston Tea Party many years after the event and described his “Indian dress” as the following: “It was now evening, and I immediately dressed myself in the costume of an Indian, equipped with a small hatchet, which I and my associates denominated the tomahawk, with which, and a club, after having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired to Griffin’s wharf, where the ships lay that contained the tea. When I first appeared in the street after being thus disguised, I fell in with many who were dressed, equipped and painted as I was, and who fell in with me and marched in order to the place of our destination.”
posted by ericb at 9:19 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's the total amount of PURE ALCOHOL those dudes drank in a year, not merely the amount of ALCOHOLIC DRINKS. So that gallon of beer you cited would count towards .05 gallons.

Um. I'd accounted for that. A 330ml bottle of Budweiser (say) is 16.5ml of pure alcohol. Multiply that by 3, multiply that by 365 = about 18 litres. 5 US gallons is nearly 19 litres.

19 to 27 litres of alcohol a year is not nearly enough to support a universal culture of constant intoxication. It's enough to souse some of the people all of the time, or souse all of the people some of the time, but it won't souse all of the people all of the time.
posted by howfar at 9:28 AM on December 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


BTW -- The Boston Tea Party replica ships and museum burned down in a fire caused by lightning 10-years ago. A new $28 million replacement, currently under construction, is slated to be open next year.
posted by ericb at 9:32 AM on December 17, 2011


For those interested, as the museum is being built, they are posting weekly webisodes of the construction of the ships. The first 31 videos are available here?
posted by ericb at 9:39 AM on December 17, 2011


is not nearly enough to support a universal culture of constant intoxication

Well you've done an excellent job refuting a claim I didn't see anyone make.

It's enough to souse some of the people all of the time

A lot of the people a lot of the time, yeah.
posted by absalom at 10:58 AM on December 17, 2011


Fine. I'm sure you've proved whatever you think you've proved. Carry on.
posted by howfar at 11:07 AM on December 17, 2011


A Man Can't Be Too Careful What He Signs These Days
Jefferson: Come on and put your name on the dotted line

Franklin: I got to be particular what I sign

J: It's just a piece of paper

F: Just a piece of paper, that's what you say

J: Come on and put your signature on the list

F: It looks to have a very subversive twist

J: How silly to assume it
Won't you nom de plume it today
You're so skittish
Who possibly could care if you do

F: The Un-British Activities Committee, that's who

J: Let's have a little drink-o and fill the quill

F: It sounds a little pink-o to me but still

J: Knock off the timid manner
If you want a banner to raise
Banner to raise
You must take a stand
For this brave new land
For who wants to live
So conservative?

F: I don't disagree, but a man can't be
Too careful what he signs these days
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:57 AM on December 17, 2011


in response to the Townshend Act

More directly in response to the Tea Act of May 1773, which let the East India Company to ship tea directly to the colonies, bypassing colonial middlemen. The tea would have been taxed without the colonists' assent and reinforced the principle of British sovereignty over the colonies.

Though one has to enjoy any act which angered the East India Company

Even stealing their flag?
posted by kirkaracha at 12:39 PM on December 17, 2011


Colonial smuggling.
posted by ericb at 1:31 PM on December 17, 2011


I've heard, somewhere, that the original Tea Party bunch dressed as Indians as a symbol of their belief in egalitarian democracy. The Indians of the New England area used a democratic structure for their tribal governments which served as an inspiration and model for the Founders. When he was a kid, John Adams loved to play with his Indian buddies. He often hung out in their village, and their egalitarianism rubbed off on him.
posted by tommyD at 1:40 PM on December 17, 2011


Ah, Now I remember where I saw this...in Charles Mann's excellent "1491, New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus," in Chapter 11, The Great Law of Peace.

"Indians who visited France (16th century essayist Montaigne wrote) noticed among us some men gorged to the full with things of every sort while their other halves were beggars at their doors, emaciated with hunger and poverty. They found it strange that these poverty stricken halves should (tolerate) such injustice, and they did not take the others by the throat or set fire to their houses.'"
posted by tommyD at 2:01 PM on December 17, 2011


And did the colonists end up paying less tax?
posted by PaddyJames at 2:20 PM on December 17, 2011


Stick it, Boston. Philly did this four years before you did, and we did it with beer. Before The Dartmouth, there was The Charming Polly.
posted by sixpack at 7:11 AM on December 18, 2011


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