Tea… Your Civic Duty

But events leading up to that momentous occasion involved tea!

Are you feeling patriotic? Tis the season! Let’s see. What does that look like? Hang a flag out front, purchase the smoke bombs and sparklers where legal, fire up the grill, find your red, white, and blue t-shirt and shorts, maybe sing a few bars of “The Star Spangled Banner” or “Yankee Doodle”, brew up the iced tea, and invite the friends over to enjoy the day off. This year, with athletes being chosen for the Olympics as we speak, we have even more to feel patriotic over. And the fanfares and symbols of our nation are played and displayed prominently – patriotism as marketing tool. What’s it all about? On Wednesday, we’ll celebrate the Fourth of July, which marks the day the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted by 12 of the original 13 colonies and church bells rang out over Philadelphia announcing this adoption (July 4, 1776). But events leading up to that momentous occasion involved tea!

For years, the British government had been taxing the American colonists, who consumed roughly 1.2 million pounds of tea per year, on their purchase of tea. In an effort to avoid these taxes, colonists including John Hancock and Samuel Adams began smuggling tea in from Dutch and other European markets. Frustrated by the loss of revenue, the British crown passed the Tea Act of 1773, which gave the British East India Company a full monopoly on tea sales in the American colonies. Seeing their economic interests jeopardized, Hancock and Adams began billing this tea act as an abolishment of human rights, the famous “taxation without representation” argument.

On the evening of Dec. 16, 1773, over 116 men (this is the number of documented participants but many more participated anonymously to avoid punishment) dressed in blankets with painted faces and hands and carrying tomahawks boarded three ships docked in Boston Harbor. Over the course of the next three hours, they dumped 240 chests of Bohea, 60 chests of Singlo, 15 chests of Congou, 15 chests of Hyson, and 10 chests of Souchong teas. These are all varieties of black and green tea from China. The teas belonged to the British East India Company and it is estimated that the damages from this tea party were approximately £9,659 in 1773 currency.

Reports from the time indicate that the 92,000 lbs. of tea dumped into Boston Harbor caused it to smell for weeks after the event. The British government closed the port of Boston until all 340 chests of tea had been paid for. This did little to settle relations between the colonists and the crown. (To read more about the role of tea in the American Revolution, visit www.bostonteapartyship.com.)

So, we better do our civic duty this Fourth of July! Toast our great nation with a great tea. And make it a Compassion Tea!

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