In 1767, the British government passed the Townshend Acts, imposing taxes on several products imported to British colonies. The colonists refused to pay, angered not only by the financial burden, but also that they were expected to pay taxes imposed by a parliament that didn’t represent them. The British repealed the taxes, except for the tax on tea.
Although tea was a staple of colonial life, paying the tax implicitly meant acknowledging the British government’s right to tax the colonists. In 1773, when tea arrived in New York and Philadelphia, the East India Company ships were not allowed to dock.
In Boston, three ships successfully entered the harbor, infuriating locals. Thousands of people filled the wharf, and during a mass meeting it was decided the ships should leave without collecting any taxes. They were informed that the ships would not leave without payment, so later that evening a group of between 50 and 200 men, some dressed up as Mohawk Indians, boarded the ships. It took three hours, but the colonists threw 342 barrels of Darjeeling tea – nearly 42 tons – into the sea.
In retaliation, London soon passed a series of strict measures of control over colonists, which they called the Intolerable Acts. This included closing the port of Boston, and was a direct impetus to the American Revolution.