Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Real Tea Party

On December 16, 1773, a group of colonists participated in one of the most significant protests in American history. They dressed up like Indians and dumped 342 crates of tea belonging to the British East India Co. into Boston harbor. Contrary to what many believe (including those who have co-opted the name of this event to label their political philosophy), this was not a protest over taxes. It was protesting a British Law, the Tea Act, which allowed the British East India Company to sell tea for less than the colonial smugglers. This would help save the company from ruin because few colonists were buying tea from this company when they could buy it cheaper from colonial merchants. The company's investors were not happy with all the unsold tea piling up in warehouses. This is the aspect of the revolution that is rarely discussed. The real issue was not the taxes. Most of the the taxes, such as the tax on sugar, were significantly reduced after the French & Indian War. The issue was freedom of trade and the restrictions placed on the colonies under the mercantile system. For decades the British had turned a blind eye to enforcing their laws but the debt from the war with France ended this period of salutary neglect. This Tea Party movement was protesting a law that gave tax cuts to the wealthy and big businesses and hurt the average working-class family by raising the prices on the goods they needed. Hmmm....

Back to the Boston Tea party...fearing punishment, many of the participants fled to avoid arrest and their families tried to keep their involvement a secret. According to this web site, 116 have been identified. The first name on the list is that of my 6th great-grandfather, Francis Ackley. He was captured and imprisoned but at some point he escaped and found his way back to Boston. He fought and died in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 19, 1775. That's quite a story. I'm still trying to find more details and to track down any connections I have to other names on the list of participants.

Francis Ackley & Tabitha Bull
Samuel Ackley & Elizabeth Moody
William Ackley & Deborah Capen
Sarah Ackley & John Abbott
Mary Jane Abbott & Edward Abbott Capen
Fannie May Capen & Edward Mellen Carter
Thomas Richard Carter - my grandfather

1 comment:

  1. Super interesting post! Tea parties are just so enjoyable. At some local garden venues in Chicago I recently threw a fun 50s themed bridal shower tea party for my cousin. I had found ideas online and it turned out to be an outstanding bash.