Tuesday, December 16, 2014

This Day in History

December 16, 1773
Tea Served in Boston Harbor
From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of America (Textbook)The following comes from our fifth-grade book, From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of AmericaFor ordering information on this text and our other books, please click here.
Despite of the Boston Massacre, most American colonists were not ready for revolutionary action. This frustrated radicals like the Sons of Liberty. They needed something to stir up the colonists. As it turned out, they did not have to wait long for that something and it was a tea party. It was not a pretty little tea party with china and cookies; it was a humorous name given to a violent act of defiance. The Boston Tea Party was the event that threw the colonials into war with England. This is how it came about.

Sons of Liberty depicted pouring tea 
into the mouth of excise man whom 
they have tarred and feathered
For years, the British East India Company had been allowed to sell its tea only to British merchants, who in turn sold it to the American colonies. This, plus the Townshend tax made the tea quite expensive. In fact, many Americans drank smuggled tea, which they could get for less money. This all changed in May 1773, when Parliament allowed the British East India Company to sell its tea directly to the colonies. Without having to use British merchants, the company was thus able to sell its tea for even less than smuggled tea. Moreover, the East India Company was allowed to sell its tea only to colonial merchants who had no ties with the Sons of Liberty, some of whom were smugglers or had ties to the smugglers.

The Sons of Liberty and other radical groups protested this new act of Parliament. By allowing only certain merchants to sell East India tea, they said, Parliament was playing favorites, and that was unjust. The tea issue so stirred up the colonists that in New York and Philadelphia, they kept the East India Company's tea ships from entering the harbor. But in Boston (the most radical city of all) the tea ships were allowed to enter the port.

Sam Adams
Sam Adams called a meeting at the Old South Meeting House in Boston (a "meeting house" was a Puritan church) on December 16, 1773, to protest the entry of the tea ships into Boston harbor. The Sons of Liberty and their leaders, who gathered that night, sent a message to Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson. The message demanded the governor to force the tea ships to leave the harbor. When Samuel Adams received the expected news that Governor Hutchinson had refused the demands, he ended the meeting with the words, "This meeting can do nothing further to save the country."

The meeting disbanded, and a sign was given. Immediately, a band of colonial men, disguised as Mohawk Indians, ran with whooping yells past the meeting house. They were soon joined by other men, some of whom were dressed like Indians; others had darkened their faces and masqueraded as black slaves. Gathering at the city wharf, these men, numbering about 150, rowed out to the tea ships in Boston harbor. Without opposition, they began emptying all the boxes of tea into the harbor. By the time they were done, 343 large boxes of tea lay floating in the salty brine.

A 1789 engraving of the Boston Tea Party
Early American Choral Music
William Billings (1746-1800) was an American composer of what is called the "primitive style," characterized by simple harmonies. A tanner by trade, and self-taught in music, he wrote mostly sacred music.

"Shiloh: Methinks I see an heav'nly host," 
by William Billings 

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