THE TEA ACT OF 1773
THE TEA ACT OF 1773
THE TEA ACT OF 1773
The Tea Act is among the most controversial decrees ever passed by the British during the colonialism of America. Due to the limiting effects it imposed on Americans, the Act received a negative response by the colonies. Instituted in 1773[i] by the respective Parliament, the Statute asserted that the exportation of tea would take place when the East India Company cruises straight to the colonies rather than heading initially to Britain. Even though this seemed cost effective for Americans due to the reduction of tea prices, the decree imposed negative implications on the colonies. For instance, the decree facilitated the monopolization of tea thereby coercing Americans to purchase tea only from the East India Company. Nonetheless, the Tea Act was not the only legislation that fuelled the quest for independence by the American colonies. Accordingly, the British passed a series of legislations, which gained definition as the Intolerable Acts before the attainment of autonomy in 1776. Even though other reasons also propagated the rise to independence in 1776, the Tea Act also played a significant role in fuelling the American Revolution.
The Tea Act of 1773
The Tea Act of 1773 was a statute of the British Parliament. Its main blatant aim was to decrease the considerable excess of tea preserved by the financially disturbed British East India Company within its warehouses in London[ii]. Additionally, the respective decree also focused on providing assistance to the organization in order to help it survive. In relation to the stated objective, the Tea Act also attempted to destabilize the value of tea illegally delivered into the North American colonies. Historically, the prices of tea were considerably exorbitant. Because of this predicament, smugglers availed tea at fairly cheaper costs to the colonies since they were able to sell the respective products without the restriction of tax. Based on this, the British East India Company was unable to preserve the monopoly it held over the colonies due to the involvement of tea smugglers.
Therefore, in order to sustain monopoly, the passage of the Tea Act was imperative since it focused on persuading the colonists to buy Company Tea upon which there was the reimbursement of the Townshend duties. Hence, after agreeing to this, the colonists became viable for taxation under the British Parliament. The Act also awarded the organization with the privilege to ship its products to North America directly. The decree also provided with the British East India Company with the privilege of exporting the products from Britain duty-free. This was possible even though the tax implemented by the 1767 Townshend Acts still applied in the colonies[iii]. Nonetheless, even though the Tea Act offered the East India Company with monopoly power over the production and selling of tea in the colonies, the taxes retained as an outcome of the Townshend Acts significantly influenced the collapse of the organization.
The reason for the near fall of the company was due to the decrease in demand for Company Tea. Accordingly, the retention of taxes on tea facilitated resistance against the organization’s tea products. Specifically, the opposition against the respective tax constituted the pressure to avert authorized imported tea. This, in turn, led to a sharp decrease in the demand for the tea products by the colonies. In addition to this predicament, resistance against taxes and the respective Company Tea led to a proliferating excess of tea within the company’s London warehouses. Because of these critical issues, the British East India Company nearly faced bankruptcy in relation to the contractual payments it was required to avail to the British government for each year. Consequently, other issues such as famine and armed struggles in India as well as economic instability within European markets also facilitated the suspected collapse of the organization in 1774.
The Boston Tea Party
However, even though the Tea Act seemed to act favorably for the American colonies, it actually functioned in the opposite. Accordingly, the monopolization of the Company’s Tea because of the legislation pitted the colonists against the decree since it impinged on their freedom to obtain tea at their own choice and at a non-taxable rate. As a retort to the effects of the decree, a certain group of colonists inaugurated the Boston Tea Party[iv]. Started by John Hancock in 1773, the group expressed their opposition against the Act based on the way it seemed to validate the Townshend taxes. In addition to this, the formation of the Boston Tea Party also received considerable influence based on the losses that the merchants and the unauthorized Dutch trade stood to lose due to the organization’s decreased prices on tea. Such interests as well as the Company’s monopoly and its validation of the Townshend tea taxes motivated increasing opposition against the Act.
Based on the effect of the Boston Tea Party, states planned to boycott the products from the British East India Company as a rejoinder to the 1773 Tea Act. Specifically, each state encountered the shipping docks with a range of different actions. For instance, in the states of Philadelphia and New York, resistance against the decree resulted in sending back the tea brought there to Britain. Colonists protested by allowing the tea within the docks to decompose in the state of Charleston. In Boston, vigilant colonists refused the tea to undergo landing even though the current governor, Hutchinson, desired to leave the ships within the port. Based on this conflicting between the governor and the colonists, the period for placing the tea and reimbursing the Townshend duties nearly expired. However, in 1773, colonists masquerading as Mohawk Indians swarmed a triad of tea-full ships and dumped the respective consignment in the harbor destroying the tea.
The Intolerable Acts
Even though similar acts occurred in other states, Boston faced considerable Imperial retaliation since it was the first colony to engage in the devastation of the tea. As a response to the resistance instituted by the Boston Tea Party regarding the Tea Act, the British government passed a series of statutes known specifically as the Coercive Acts or the Intolerable Acts in generic terminology. Accordingly, the actions of the Boston Tea Party and the statewide tea boycott implied considerable and negative financial consequences on the British, particularly, the East India Company. Based on such impacts, the colonial government instituted certain decrees in order to cater for the losses incurred by the company as an outcome of Boston’s actions against the 1773 Tea Act. Deemed as the Intolerable Acts by the colonies, the statutes constituted a sequence of punitive legislations that underwent passage in 1774 by the British Parliament in relation to Massachusetts.
After the actions of the Boston Tea Party, the laws focused on punishing the colonists by scraping Massachusetts of its autonomy as well as historic privileges. In total, the acts passed by the British government were five in number, even though one of them did not relate specifically to the actions instituted by Britain against Boston. The first of the Coercive Acts passed was the Boston Port Act[v]. Consequently, the destruction of tea by the Boston Tea Party led to considerable financial costs for the East India Company. For this reason, the Boston Port Act underwent legislation in order to raise the finances to reimburse the costs experienced by the British tea organization. Indeed, the Act was to enable the attainment of finances by sealing off the Boston Harbor. This action would ensure that the destroyed tea underwent sure reimbursement.
The second decree, as part of the Intolerable Acts, comprised the Massachusetts Government Act. The Massachusetts Government Act was far aggressive than the Boston Port Act and elicited negative reactions from the colonists. This is different from the Boston Port Act, which actually left the colonists divided. Indeed, colonists argued that the passage of the Boston Port Act punished every civilian in Boston instead of focusing on the culprits that destroyed the tea. Because of this impact, some asserted that it was they faced punishment without gaining the opportunity to bear witness in their particular defense. Nonetheless, the Massachusetts Government Act[vi] sparked a united sense of outrage since it authorized the unilateral modification of the Massachusetts government. The reason for this extensive alteration was to enable the governance of Massachusetts to be under the authority of the British government. Under the provision of the decree, every position within the respective government was to undergo appointment by parliament, the governor or king. The act also restricted the tasks of town meetings within the colony.
The third Act was the Administration of Justice Act[vii]. As part of the Coercive Acts, the legislation provided the governor with considerable authority over judicial trials especially those involving indicted royal officials. In elucidation, the decree granted the governor with the power to relocate the inquiries of charged royal officials from the respective colony to another one or to an extent, Great Britain. Indeed, the governor was able to do this if he was under the impression that the accused could not receive a just hearing in Massachusetts. Additionally, even though the decree provided that witnesses would receive payments for their travel expenditures, in actuality, a small number of colonists could afford to abscond their occupational obligations and traverse the ocean in order to testify in a judicial inquiry. Because of this, the British officials received the incentive to harass Americans since it was considerably difficult to indict them under the Act.
Following the passage of the Administration of Justice Act, the British Parliament also inaugurated the Quartering Act. The Quartering Act was the last decree passed in relation to the colony of Massachusetts. Undeniably, the respective decree was applicable in every colony. It focused on instituting a significantly effectual methodology of accommodating British troops within the American colonies. In a prior decree, the colonies were required to offer lodging to soldiers but this was impossible due to the lack of cooperation among colonial legislatures. Nevertheless, the novel Quartering Act permitted a governor to accommodate soldiers in certain buildings if there was insufficient provision of suitable quarters[viii]. In addition, the Act allowed the British soldiers to occupy vacant buildings in order to negate considerable resistance from radical colonists. Regardless of the limitations it imposed on the freedom of Americans regarding expression, the Quartering Act generated the least protest among the Intolerable Acts irrespective of it being wholly objectionable.
The last of the Intolerable Acts was the Quebec Act. This particular legislation did not relate in any way to the other legislations based on the association they possessed with Massachusetts. However, the Quebec Act experienced definition as a Coercive Act based on the impingement it imposed on American colonies[ix]. Specifically, the decree extended the borders of present Quebec. In addition to this, the Act also implemented reforms that were commonly favorable to the French Catholic settlers within the respective region. Even though the legislation seemed to imply positive effects, it imposed negative impacts on the Thirteen Colonies. For instance, the provisions evident within the Quebec Act gained the perception by colonists as a novel archetype for the colonial administration. Based on this, the Act possessed the ability to expunge the elected assemblies, which were present in every colony. In addition, the Act also voided the indictments of the colonies regarding land especially when it granted much of Ohio’s land to the prefecture of Quebec.
The First Continental Congress
The passage of the Intolerable Acts further increased tensions in American colonies. Apart from the Tea Act of 1773, the Coercive Acts also facilitated the need to engage in an armed struggle for autonomy and independence by the Thirteen Colonies against the oppressive rule of the British Government. Indeed, the Patriots perceived the legislations as an arbitrary violation of the privileges of Massachusetts. Because of this, the colonists organized the First Continental Congress in the month of September in 1774 in order to organize the protest. In general, the First Continental Congress comprised a convention of delegates from the twelve colonies. During this meeting, the colony of Georgia was absent. The reason for the colony’s absence was due to the assistance it sought from the British regarding the problems it faced on its frontier due to the involvement of the Indians.
The meeting, conducted in Philadelphia, was in retort to the implementation of the Intolerable Acts by the government of Great Britain. The individuals responsible for leading the convention comprised John Adams and Samuel Adams from the colony of Massachusetts as well as Patrick Henry and George Washington from the colony of Virginia[x]. Indeed, the convention sought to provide and implement actions that would negate the effects of the Coercive Acts. The main agenda, based on this response, was to eliminate colonial trade with the British government if the Parliament failed to abolish the Intolerable Acts. In order to prohibit trade, the Congress sought to establish a compact within the colonies in order to boycott British products commencing December 1 in the year 1774[xi]. In order to enhance this stance, the convention threatened to proscribe trade to the West Indies if they failed to agree to null importation of the respective commodities.
In addition to this, the colonies also threatened to stop exports to the British government if it failed to repeal the Coercive Acts. Irrespective of the threats, Britain did not waver forcing the trade embargo to commence. However, the potential of the sanction for changing British policies experienced elimination due to the onset of the American Revolutionary War. This is because the British soldiers coerced the Americans to feed them. Moreover, even though the potential to discard British policy in the American colonies was minimal, the Congress’ actions were considerable enough to affect Britain especially in terms of trade. Specifically, the trade embargos instituted by the colonies reduced the imports to the respective colonial government by 97 percent in the year of the American Revolution. However, the British still rejected the proposals by the colony representatives leading to a standoff that saw Massachusetts set the pace for the American Revolution in April 1775 during the Battles of Concord and Lexington.
In conclusion, the Tea Act of 1773 was among the main reasons that inspired the occurrence of the American Revolution. Even though there were other incentives such as the Stamp Act of 1765, the Tea Act facilitated a turn of events that fuelled the need for the colonies to renounce their dependence on the British. Accordingly, the legislation sparked a series of contentions with the most notable being the Boston Tea Party. In addition to this, the British government acted in retaliation by implementing the Intolerable Acts, which necessitated the origin of the First Continental Congress and the subsequent American Revolution.
[i] “Tea Act of 1773,” Teachingushistory.org, December 3, 2013, http://www.teachingushistory.org/pdfs/TeaActTranscription.pdf.
[ii] 2. Stacie B. Berman and Mark Epstein, “Causes of the American Revolution: 1650-1774,” in the Preparing for the AP United States History Examination, ed. Stacie B. Berman (Boston: Cengage Learning, 2013), 74.
[iii] Ibid., 75.
[iv] Eric Casler, “The Boston Tea Party: Covert Action, Intelligence Success,” (2011): 2-3.
[v] Michael McWeeney, “The Battle for Legitimacy and Sovereignty in Revolutionary Massachusetts: 1774-1775” (a senior honors’ thesis, Ohio State University, 2010), 8-9.
[vi] Ibid., 10-12.
[vii] “First Continental Congress, 1774: The Declaration of Rights and Grievances,” n.p., December 3, 2013, http://www.upa.pdx.edu/IMS/currentprojects/TAHv3/Content/PDFs/Declaration_First_Continental_Congress.pdf.,
[viii] “The Intolerable Acts: American Revolution, the Quartering Act,” n.p., December 3, 2013, http://www.upa.pdx.edu/IMS/currentprojects/TAHv3/Content/PDFs/Intolerable_Acts.pdf.
[ix] Pierre Beaudry, “The Tragic Consequences of the Quebec Act,” (n.d.): 1-2.
[x] Michael A. McDonnell and Woody Holton, “Patriot vs. Patriot: Social Conflict in Virginia and the Origins of the American Revolution,” Journal of American Studies 34, (2000): 239.
[xi] “First Continental Congress, 1774: The Declaration of Rights and Grievances,” n.p., December 3, 2013, http://www.upa.pdx.edu/IMS/currentprojects/TAHv3/Content/PDFs/Declaration_First_Continental_Congress.pdf.
“First Continental Congress, 1774: The Declaration of Rights and Grievances.” n.p. Last modified December 3, 2013. http://www.upa.pdx.edu/IMS/currentprojects/TAHv3/Content/PDFs/Declaration_First_Continental_Congress.pdf.
“Tea Act of 1773.” Teachingushistory.org. Last modified December 3, 2013. http://www.teachingushistory.org/pdfs/TeaActTranscription.pdf.
“The Intolerable Acts: American Revolution, the Quartering Act.” n.p. Last modified December 3, 2013. http://www.upa.pdx.edu/IMS/currentprojects/TAHv3/Content/PDFs/Intolerable_Acts.pdf
Beaudry, Pierre. “The Tragic Consequences of the Quebec Act.” (n.d.): 1-12.
Berman, B. Stacie, and Mark Epstein. “Causes of the American Revolution: 1650-1774.” in the Preparing for the AP United States History Examination, edited by Stacie B. Berman, 75-89. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2013.
Casler, Eric. “The Boston Tea Party: Covert Action, Intelligence Success.” (2011): 1-9.
McDonnell, A. Michael, and Woody Holton. “Patriot vs. Patriot: Social Conflict in Virginia and the Origins of the American Revolution.” Journal of American Studies 34 (2000): 231-256.
McWeeney, Michael. “The Battle for Legitimacy and Sovereignty in Revolutionary Massachusetts: 1774-1775.” A Senior Honors’ thesis, Ohio State University, 2010.
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