Is this assessment of the Boston Tea Party more or less correct?

I recently read this somewhere . . . a couple of the details could be failings on the part of my memory, rather than on what I read:

England was having some tiff with someone, somewhere (France?), so they raised (created?) the tax on tea. A bunch of guys who called themselves patriots started selling bootlegged (stolen?) tea out from underneath them (sounds like Goodfellas with the cigarettes.) Since England wasn’t able to sell any of their highly taxed tea, due to the bootleggers, they dropped the price drastically and shipped a bunch to Boston. The [del]gangsters[/del] patriots didn’t like the competition, so they dumped it in the harbour.

Not what I learned in elementary school. Is it true? Close?

IIRC, there was a tax on tea (on everything) that went into and out of most major european countries. Tea used to go to England and then on to the colonies.

When it became feasible to ship directly from China to the colonies, bypassing the English ports and duties, the British government insisted on charging the same duty as if it went through Britain. The locals objected that the British govenment had no right to add duties to the colonies that they hadn’t asked for.

That’s the version I heard.

I don’t think either of you has it quite right. Here’s a good place to start: Tea Act - Wikipedia. There’s a link to the article on the Boston Tea Party.

The tax was, in part, to help pay for the French and Indian War, the theory being that since England spent money defending the colonists, the colonists should help pay for it.

The Boston Tea Party was not a protest of the tax per se. It was a protest about the way the tax had been imposed on the colonies without their consent. The amount of the tax was not even all that much, but the colonists were afraid that if England was able to impose it, then they would impose other, higher taxes that they would have no voice in determining.

If Parliament went to the colonial legislatures and asked for them to raise the money, they probably would have agreed to raise the taxes (they understood that defending them from the French was worth paying for). If the Massachusetts colonial legislature imposed the same tax – or even a greater one – there would have been no tea party.

Kinda, sorta, not really.

England did get in a tiff with France (Seven Years War/French and Indian War), and as a result of that, the price of administrating the colonies went up, so Parliament passed a bunch of duties and taxes to be paid by the colonists (the Stamp Act, and the so called “Townsend Acts”). This upset the colonies, because the colonial assemblies took the position that only they were allowed to tax the colonies, and that parliamentary taxes on the colonies was a violation of their rights as Englishmen. It’s a little more complicated than that, but that works, basically.

Anyway, the protests against the Stamp Act and then the Townsend Acts led Parliament to respond by getting rid of most of the taxes, except for the tax on tea, which Parliament kept to show they could. It also didn’t help, when it came to the price of tea, that one company, the East India Company, had a monopoly on the sale of tea. By law, the East India Company could only sell the tea in London. So, the East India Company would bring the tea to London, pay the taxes there, and then sell it to other dealers, who would then take it to America, pay the taxes there, and sell it there, which raised the price of tea in America more. So, between these two factors, there was a lot of “patriotic smuggling”, where people were selling black market tea, and not paying the tax on it.

Jump ahead a few years, and the East India Company is in trouble. There are riots in India, Europe is in the middle of war, and the markets for tea are disrupted, and it looks like the East India Company won’t be able to pay the annuity they have to pay to the government to maintain their monopoly.

So, Parliament passes the Tea Act, which says that the East India Company doesn’t have to sell in London anymore. They can sell anywhere they want, and the only tax they’d have to pay if they sold in the colonies is the Townsend duty…no more double taxation, no more having to deal with local shippers. The East India Company is thrilled, hires people in the various American ports as their agents, and starts loading boats up to go to America.

The American smugglers are less than thrilled, and neither are the colonial assemblies. The smugglers aren’t thrilled for obvious reasons, and the colonial assemblies aren’t thrilled because with the lower price of tea, people would be more likely to just pay the tax, and since the position of the colonial assemblies is that the tax is illegitimate, the whole patriotic boycott thing falls apart.

So, the East India company agents in America are told “you better resign”, and when the ships get to the ports, they’re told “Hey, you better turn around”. In Philadelphia, Charleston, and New York, the agents are pressured by the mob to resign. The Philadelphia boats just turn around and go back to England with the tea still in their holds. The New York boats are delayed by storm. The Charleston boat unloads its tea, but because the agents have resigned, there’s no one to accept the tea, and its seized by custom officials.

In Boston, though, Governor Hutchinson is made of sterner stuff, and he tells the East India agents in Boston (who happen to be his sons, so hurrah for nepotism), not to resign, and that the whole thing will be over soon. So, the ships get to Boston. They can’t unload, because the mob won’t let them, and they can’t leave, because the Hutchinsons won’t let them. So, the ships just stay in harbor. The standoff lasts for 20 days, which by law, is the longest a ship has to unload its cargo before it becomes lost property and is confiscated. So, that night, a mob, calling itself “The Sons of Liberty”, dress up like Indians, board the ships, and throw the tea in the harbor

If tea had never been imported at all, the Revolution would have started over something else. Like if Fort Sumter had never been built, the war would have started over something else…

Captain Amazing has the facts about right, although I’d disagree with his pro-Treason spin. His use of the anonymous term “mob” is somewhat misleading. They were not a mob in the sense of a group of the usual people, they were a mob in the sense of a vicious gang of organised criminal, starting a long tradition of working with the American government by teaming up with traitorous revolutionaries to subvert state revenues and line their own pockets, thereby establishing a corruption of the market and denying consumer choice.

The King poured tacks into the colonists’ tea, and the colonists didn’t like it.

“Your majesty, those are carpet tacks!”

“Well, they’re TEA tacks now! Hoho, Hoho, Hoho!” (dances out)

Mercantilism was a major factor in the dispute.

The various tax acts were an important part of the above-described “wide array of regulations…put in place to encourage exports and discourage imports.”

Barbara Tuchman’s book The March Of Folly has a lengthy section detailing the entire series of foolish assumptions, bad decisions, and unfortunate circumstances that drove the British government to alienate the Colonies in this manner. I highly recommend it.