Chamblee54

The Boston Tea Party Story

Posted in Uncategorized by chamblee54 on February 4, 2011








This is a double repost. For better or worse ( it’s ok to curse), the tea party is a part of the scene. The seminal event was the Boston Tea Party in 1775. The first post below is a look at what really happened in Boston harbor. It is tough to discern truth from fable at a distance of 236 years, but we will try. The tea party metaphor gets worked over this post, would you like a refill?
The second part is a look at the phrase “founding fathers”. This phrase is “liberally” sprinkled into rhetoric of all persuasions. This author sees a square peg being forced into round holes. Pictures this morning are from The Library of Congress.
In the first year of the Obama regime, America has seen the rise of the “Tea Party”. These affairs are usually right wing, and have lots of clever signs. The general idea is that taxes are too high, government is too big, and that the people need to do something.
The namesake event was the Boston Tea Party. On December 16, 1773, crowds of people ( some dressed as Mohawk indians) went on board the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver. The crowds threw overboard 342 chests, containing 90,000 pounds of tea. The crowds were unhappy because the East India Company was importing the tea into America, with a 3 pence per pound tax.

A website called listverse plays the contrarian. According to them :
“American colonists did not protest the Tea Tax with the Boston Tea Party because it raised the price of tea.
The American colonists preferred Dutch tea to English tea. The English Parliament placed an embargo on Dutch tea in the colonies, so a huge smuggling profession developed. To combat this, the English government LOWERED the tax on tea so that the English tea would be price competitive with Dutch teas. The colonists (actually some colonists led by the chief smugglers) protested by dumping the tea into Boston Harbor.”

According to Wikipedia, the Dutch tea had been smuggled into the colonies for some time. The Dutch government had given their companies a tax advantage, which allowed them to sell their product cheaper. Finally, the British government cut their taxes, but kept a tax in place. The “Townsend Tax” was to be used to pay governing colonial officials, and make them less dependent on the colonists.

In Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia, the tea boats were turned around, and returned to England with their merchandise. In Massachusetts, Governor Thomas Hutchinson insisted that the tea be unloaded. Two of the Governor’s sons were tea dealers, and stood to make a profit from the taxed tea. There are also reports that the smugglers were in the crowd dumping tea into the harbor.

The photogenic tea party movement seems to be destined to stay a while. The question remains, how much does it have to do with the namesake event?








People often try to justify their opinions by saying that the “founding fathers” agree with them. They often are guilty of selective use of history. A good place to start would be to define what we mean by the phrase founding fathers.

The FF word was not used before 1916. A senator from Ohio named Warren Harding used the phrase in the keynote address of the 1916 Republican convention. Mr. Harding was elected President in 1920, and is regarded as perhaps the most corrupt man to ever hold the office.

There are two groups of men who could be considered the founding fathers. ( The fathers part is correct. Both groups are 100% male.) The Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, which cut the ties to England. Eleven years later, the Constitutional Convention wrote the Constitution that governs America today. While the Continental Congress was braver than the Constitution writers ( We must hang together, or we will hang separately), the Constitution is the document that tells our government how to function. For the purposes of this feature, the men of the Constitutional Convention are the founding fathers.

Before moving on, we should remember eight men who signed the Declaration of Independence, and later attended the Constitutional Convention. Both documents were signed by George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, Roger Sherman, and James Wilson. George Wythe left the Convention without signing the new document. Elbridge Gerry ( the namesake of gerrymandering) refused to sign the Constitution because it did not have a Bill of Rights.

The original topic of this discussion was about whether the founding fathers owned slaves. Apparently, PG is not the only person to wonder about this. If you go to google, and type in “did the founding fathers”, the first four answers are owned slaves, believed in G-d, have a death wish, and smoke weed.

The answer, to the obvious question, is an obvious answer. Yes, many of the founding fathers owned slaves. A name by name rundown of the 39 signatories of the Constitution was not done for this blogpost. There is this revealing comment at wiki answers about the prevalence of slave ownership.
“John Adams, his second cousin Samuel Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Paine were the only men who are traditionally known as founding fathers who did not own slaves.
Benjamin Franklin was indeed a founder of the Abolitionist Society, but he owned two slaves, named King and George. Franklin’s newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette routinely ran ads for sale or purchase of slaves.
Patrick Henry is another founding father who owned slaves, although his speeches would make one think otherwise. Despite his “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech, he had up to 70 slaves at a time, apologizing a few times along the way, saying he knew it was wrong, that he was accountable to his God, and citing the “general inconvenience of living without them.”

Patrick Henry was a star of the Revolution, but not present at the Constitutional Convention. The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, was in Europe during the convention. Mr. Jefferson not only owned slaves, he took one to be his mistress and kidsmama.

One of the more controversial features of the Constitution is the 3/5 rule. Here are the original words
“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” In other words, a slave was only considered to be 60% of a person.
That seems rather harsh. The truth is, it was a compromise. The agricultural southern states did not want to give up their slaves. The northern states did not want to give up Congressional representation. This was the first of many compromises made about slavery, ending with the War between the States. This webpage goes into more detail about the nature of slavery at the start of the U.S.A.

The research for this feature turned up a rather cynical document called The myth of the “Founding Fathers” . It is written by Adolph Nixon. He asks :
“most rational persons realize that such political mythology is sheer nonsense, but it begs the question, who were the Founding Fathers and what makes them so great that they’re wiser than you are?”
Mr. Nixon reviews the 39 white men who signed the Constitution. He does not follow the rule, if you can’t say anything nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all. Of the 39, 12 were specified as slave owners, with many tagged as “slave breeders”.

The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, have served America well. However it was intended, it was written so that it could be amended, and to grow with the young republic. It has on occasion been ignored ( when was the last time Congress declared war?). However fine a document it is, it was created by men. These were men of their time, who could not have foreseen the changes that America has gone through. It can also be assumed that those who talk the most about the founding fathers know the least about them.

A big thank you goes to wikipedia Pictures are from The Library of Congress.





6 Responses

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  1. Morgan K Freeberg said, on February 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    A website called listverse plays the contrarian. According to them : “American colonists did not protest the Tea Tax with the Boston Tea Party because it raised the price of tea. The American colonists preferred Dutch tea to English tea. The English Parliament placed an embargo on Dutch tea in the colonies, so a huge smuggling profession developed. To combat this, the English government LOWERED the tax on tea so that the English tea would be price competitive with Dutch teas. The colonists (actually some colonists led by the chief smugglers) protested by dumping the tea into Boston Harbor.”

    They have a point, but they’re committing two sins. The first is to get ahold of a nugget of obscure history and presume this debunks the belief that was prevailing previously. This does not, because — and this is the second sin — it is a mistake to think, because Parliament was making do with less, the colonists were seeing anything of it. Parliament was defraying the cost of shipping the tea to the colonies; with regard to the tax, what they were doing from the point of view of the colonists, was validating some of the taxes in the Townshend acts. This drags the whole business into the issue of “no taxation without representation,” just as people (who are interested) commonly understand. This debunking is a fail.

    The original topic of this discussion was about whether the founding fathers owned slaves. Apparently, PG is not the only person to wonder about this. If you go to google, and type in “did the founding fathers”, the first four answers are owned slaves, believed in G-d, have a death wish, and smoke weed.

    This is why I subscribe. Hilarious.

    It can also be assumed that those who talk the most about the founding fathers know the least about them.

    It’s probably more reasonable to assume if one sees a need to talk about what the founding fathers intended, that person is likely engaged in a discourse with someone else who has demonstrated some ignorance or apathy on this point…therefore, a little more curiosity with regard to this would be a healthy thing.

    …sometimes racist…

    That would be a good object of focus for your next piece of research. I predict you would run into some problems trying to back this up, at least beyond vestigial anecdotes that indicate nothing significant about the movement overall.

    • chamblee54 said, on February 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm

      Thank you for stopping by.
      I think we can agree that history can be confusing from a distance of 236 years. I was more interested in the role of the Massachusetts Governor in this affair. Were his sons tea merchants, who stood to profit from the sale of this tea? The ships were turned around, without incident, in Charleston, Philadelphia, and New York.
      I have deleted the comment about racism and the tea party. The R word has been overused to the point of being meaningless. While arguably some tea partiers are motivated by attitudes about race, to tag the entire movement as racist is a cheap shot.
      There is a link in the post to an article about the individual founding fathers. Many of them were characters, and not people you would want to use as examples.

  2. Morgan K Freeberg said, on February 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    You’re a fair man, PG.

    • chamblee54 said, on February 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      I need to write a foul blog, just to keep things even.

  3. Patrick Henry said, on February 5, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    […] Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington among them. Our task as Americans is to at leasPatrick Henry – I'm a Virginian, and my heroes have always been those who stood tall for liberty: Patrick Henry, […]

  4. The Boston Tea Party Story « Chamblee54 said, on February 16, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    […] are from “The Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library”. This repost was written like H. P. […]


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