American Heritage: Tea tax didn’t break boycott against BritishPublished 10:07pm Wednesday, May 23, 2012
“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” — (George Washington, 1789 inaugural address)
When we left off in our last article, we were looking at the things that led up to the Declaration of Independence and ultimately, the Revolutionary War. We ended the article with the withdrawal of Townshend Acts.
The colonies were constantly under the prying eyes of the Royal Navy of England. Smuggling within the colonies, according to the English government, had to be stopped. So constant patroling by the Royal fleet was necessary. The colonists resented this and became extremely angry.
On June 9, 1772, a revenue schooner by the name of HMS Gaspee ran aground. The ship was chasing a colonist boat by the name of Hannah at the time. This took place near Warwick, R.I. Early the next morning, June 10, a group of members of the Providence Sons of Liberty decided to take action. Abraham Whipple led the group. They decided to row out to where the Gaspee was disabled. They attacked the ship, wounding the commanding officer and the ship was burned.
After the incident, a Royal Commission of Inquiry was formed to investigate and report on what happened. The board identified those who were responsible for the attack and the individuals had charges of treason leveled against them. Due to a concern that Americans would be tried in England, groups within the colonies began sending letters to the English government in protest and concern. Finally, the charges were dropped. The commission was said to not have enough evidence to try the individuals.
By this time, the colonists were greatly unified. Their leaders were beginning to make their decisions on what was necessary to stop the oppression that was being formulated against the colonists. Something had to be done.
As the leaders within the colonies worked on their plans for their people, something happened that lit yet another fuse that would lead to another explosion.
Parliament was not yet finished with these rebellious colonists. On May 30, 1773, Parliament decided on another tax. This time they would level a tax on tea. The British East India Co. was having a difficult time making a go of it. Up to this time, the company would have to sell its tea through London. Taxes and duties were assessed on the tea, which made profits for the company very small.
So, in order to help the company, the new tax bill would allow the company to sell tea directly to the colonies, but without any additional cost. Even though this would lower the price of tea to the colonists, the leaders realized that this was an attempt by Parliament to break the boycott within the colonies against British products.
Once again, the Sons of Liberty decided that action was necessary. They began to express their protests. Tea was boycotted and the people tried to produce their own tea within the colonies.
Other action was on the horizon.