Friday, December 18, 2009

Tea overboard!

In November 1773, three British ships arrived in Boston harbor. They carried, among other items, 342 chests of tea. Though Bostonians loved their tea just about as much as any Brit, they refused to allow the cargo to be unloaded in an effort to protest the king's tax on imported tea (and there wasn't, and still really isn't, any other kind here in the States).

The resulting "Boston Tea Party" is now a well-known pivot point in the American revolution. Since it took place 236 years ago tonight, here's a different report on the events from John Andrews, a selectman of Boston, who wrote this account to a relative (from Eyewitness to America). He reports that he heard "such prodigious shouts' while he was "drinking tea at home," and went to investigate ...

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, each with 114 chests of the ill-fated article on board; the two fomier with only that article, but ye latter arriv'd at ye wharf only ye day before, 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 ye evening every chest from on board the three vessels was knocked to pieces and flung over ye sides.

They say the actors were Indians from Narragansett. Whether they were or not, to a transient observer they appear'd as such, being clothed in Blankets with the heads muffled and copper color'd countenances, being each arm'd with a hatchet or axe and pair pistols; nor was their dialect different from what I conceived these genuises to speak, as their Jargon was unintellible to all but themselves.

Not the least insult was offered to any persons, save one Captain Conner, a letter of horses in this place, not many years since remov'd from dear Ireland, who had ript up the lining of his coat and waist coat under the arms, and watching his opportunity had nearly fill'd 'em with tea, but being detected was handled pretty roughly. They not only stripp'd 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 make any disturbance prevented his being tar'd and feather'd.

One day, when my mother and I resume our genealogical research, I hope to look into whether we are in any way related to this Captain Conner. I can't help but feel pity for the man. Here he was, dragged down to the wharf for all this rabble rousing, and he thought, "Geez, what a waste of good tea!" So he stuffed some in his pockets. They caught him and beat the hell out of him. Hey, he was cheating the king out of his taxes, too!

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