The Tea Act and the Boston Tea Party
In 1773, the British East India Company was in serious financial trouble, and almost bankrupt. Parliament decided to allow the company’s inventory of tea to be sold in the American Colonies at a discounted price and passed the Tea Act. The new law basically gave the company a monopoly on the sale of tea in the colonies and was also allowed to ship the tea without paying taxes on the tea. Further, the tea would be sold by specially selected agents, chosen by the company.
Colonists responded by boycotting the tea. In some cases, the ships carrying the tea were sent back to Britain. In Massachusetts, Governor Thomas Hutchinson allowed the ships to enter the Port of Boston, however, the Sons of Liberty blocked the ships from unloading the tea.
On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty organized a group of 60 to 90 men that went to Griffin’s Wharf around 7:00 in the evening. The men were armed with hatchets and axes, and they boarded the ships carrying the tea. Then they used their weapons to open the chests of tea. Once they were open, they threw the tea into the water. By the time it was over, they had around 340 chests of tea, weighing roughly 92,000 pounds, into the harbor.
Parliament responded to the Boston Tea Party by passing four acts, known as the Coercive Acts, that were aimed at punishing the town of Boston and the colony of Massachusetts, along with a fifth act that was meant to appease the French inhabitants of the Province of Quebec.
Primary Documents Related to the Coercive Acts
Boston Port Act
The Boston Port Act (full text) received Royal Assent on March 20, 1774, and became law on March 31, 1774. It went into effect on June 1, 1774. It was one of the Coercive Acts passed by Parliament to punish Massachusetts and Boston for the Boston Tea Party. It closed the port of Boston until the city reimbursed the British East India Company for the tea destroyed during the Boston Tea Party, and paid for damages caused to British customs offices during the incident.
Massachusetts Government Act
The Massachusetts Government Act (full text) received Royal Assent on May 20, 1774. It was one of the Coercive Acts passed by Parliament to punish Massachusetts and Boston for the Boston Tea Party. The act revised the structure of the government in Massachusetts and revoked the Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter, which had been granted by King Charles I on March 4, 1629.
Administration of Justice Act
The Administration of Justice Act (full text) became law on May 20, 1774. It was one of the Coercive Acts passed by Parliament to punish Massachusetts and Boston for the Boston Tea Party. The act was designed to protect British officials from being tried for crimes committed in the colonies. It gave the Royal Governors the authority to send officials to Britain, or other territories in the British Empire, to stand trial in the event the governor believed the accused would not receive a fair trial.
Quartering Act of 1774
The Quartering Act of 1774 (full text) was passed on June 2, 1774, and revived the provisions of the previous Quartering Act, which had expired in 1770. It was one of the Coercive Acts passed by Parliament to punish Massachusetts and Boston for the Boston Tea Party, although it applied to all colonies. The new version of the act gave Royal Governors the authority to billet troops uninhabited houses, out-houses, barns, or other buildings.
The Quebec Act (full text) received Royal Assent on June 22, 1774. It was passed in the same session of Parliament as the Coercive Acts and is typically included with them as laws that pushed the colonies closer to rebellion. The Quebec Act provided religious freedom to the French inhabitants of Canada, extended the southern border of the Province of Quebec to the Ohio River, and restored French civil law.