Greed: the Build up of the Boston Tea Party

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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It’s fascinating to know that 340 chests of British East India Company tea that weighed over 92,000 pounds were tossed over into the Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773. For anyone who does not know history, such as me, begs the question, “why?” Which is a fair enough question, in a very short answer, colonists did not want to pay taxes on the British Tea, colonists believed that the tea would also put them out of business, and there was a fear of Britain taking over America.

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All that was plausible since EIC was known for conquering other countries by any means, such as Bengal, India. The book “Defiance of the Patriots”, gives Thomas Gage’s in-depth position of history of what led up to the Boston Tea Party.

According to Thomas Gage, in May of 1750, the Town Meeting in Boston had expressed concern that a tax on tea and coffee would “bring on the displeasure of those two great and powerful Corporations the East India & Turkey companys in our mother Country.” A little over two decades later, ships came carrying the tea to the shores of Boston, the people who had the town meeting 23 years prior were fuming with anger at the East India Company. Gage said that the people of the town meeting said it was “a violent attack upon the liberties of America.” Prior to all The Boston Tea Party mess, the East India Company, Queen Elizabeth I created it at the beginning of the 17th century not to mention one of the first American Colonies as well. (Carp 2010). What is interesting is that at that time England was too weak to send its military forces across the world to conquer, so they sent chartered companies like EIC to do the work for them by establish rapport with trade and settlement. (Carp 2010). Fast forwarding to the 18th century, EIC had become one of the backbones of the national finances alongside with the Bank of England. The EIC became a great and powerful company, but the cause of their downfall was their record of “irresponsible greed and corruption in the 1760s.” (Carp 2010). A prime example of that greed, was in Bengal, India. EIC had employees who had become Nabobs, which are people considered of high status. When Bengal had become susceptible to droughts and flooding, the employees of EIC blamed the rulers of as “untrustworthy, vice-ridden, and despotic.” Instead, of taking a step back and trying to figure out why Bengal could not provide and realize that East India Company was part of bleeding Bengal dry. When Bengal was sucked dry from natural disasters and starvation, EIC did little to help, providing only a few “scraps of charitable relief” and “did little to ease its taxation.” (Carp 2010). They kept food enough for their own people. Bengal got even worse, the country was dying out from the natural disasters and despite all that, they still had to keep paying to EIC somehow.

There is a saying, “History is written by the victors.” And that, there are always two sides to a story, if the two sides of the stories are the truth, and everyone else’s stories. The Boston Tea Party is a staple in American History, and it is thought of as tipping point that led the colonies to revolt against their British Monarchs. While most scholars agree that the rejection of the Tea act of 1773 and the increase of prices and taxes on tea was what lead the citizens of Boston to stage the destruction of approximately 46 tons of tea, author, Benjamin L. Carp suggests that Dutch smugglers were the ones that provoked the event. While the British and British Americans dominated the Atlantic Ocean along with the Spanish and the French, the Dutch had their own stake in the trading market (Carp, 2012). Among the various goods that the Dutch smuggled across the seas, tea was the highest commodity due solely to the fact that it was lightweight and valuable (Carp, 2012). It is well known now that the East India Company had a monopoly over many commercial goods, and they were the ones that brought most of the goods across the sea, it never stopped the citizens of the British Empire from acquiring it in illegitimate ways. Illegal goods have always been around and will continue to to do so in this world, like implied before, greed will always manifest and evolve. So, it comes as no surprise that the colonists of the eighteenth century contributed in this practice. Historians believe that as much as five-sixth of the tea that was consumed in Boston, was smuggled in by the Dutch and that number was even higher reaching as much as ninety percent (Carp, 2012, 348).

This came when the colonies had come to a nonimportation agreement of tea and other goods from Britain to gain independence from the Crown. This smuggling created tension throughout the colonies, and most believe that if the East India Company had sold its tea at lower costs like the Dutch, colonists would not have been angry of prices after the Tea Act of the 1773, the Tea Party may have never happened. But EIC out of desperation to get out of their enormous debt caused its own downfall because of the success and the greed born of it. However, it wasn’t just the EIC that was in a considerable amount of debt, after the victory of the Seven Year’s war, Britain faced a large postwar debt. The high taxation that they placed on the colonies simply to help pay back what they had spent during the war and was to be used for colonies administration and defense at the time (Historical Society, 2008). Every revenue bill that was proposed to the colonies was met with grand opposition and was ultimately repelled causing a tension between Britain and the colonies that Britain did not believe was cause for concern. They simply wanted to return to financial stability that would help the colonies in the long run, but as we all know now, that would never come to pass.

From all sides, the story is honestly about survival of livelihood, in the end it’s all about who benefits the most, EIC is not innocent by any means, but it goes to show that anyone does what needs to be done for their benefit, like destroying 92,000 pounds of tea to prove a point from the colonists view, whereas the EIC is doing what it takes to keep afloat and not drown. In short, the answer to why the Boston Tea Party happened. It was greed, plain and simple.

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Greed: The Build Up of The Boston Tea Party. (2021, Mar 16). Retrieved from