Defiance of the Patriots

Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Defiance of the Patriots
    Book Description:

    This thrilling book tells the full story of the an iconic episode in American history, the Boston Tea Party-exploding myths, exploring the unique city life of eighteenth-century Boston, and setting this audacious prelude to the American Revolution in a global context for the first time. Bringing vividly to life the diverse array of people and places that the Tea Party brought together-from Chinese tea-pickers to English businessmen, Native American tribes, sugar plantation slaves, and Boston's ladies of leisure-Benjamin L. Carp illuminates how a determined group of New Englanders shook the foundations of the British Empire, and what this has meant for Americans since. As he reveals many little-known historical facts and considers the Tea Party's uncertain legacy, he presents a compelling and expansive history of an iconic event in America's tempestuous past.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16845-7
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Maps
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction: Teapot in a Tempest
    (pp. 1-6)

    On December 16, 1773, at a crowded meeting in the largest church in Boston, the leather-dresser Adam Collson supposedly shouted, “Boston Harbor a tea-pot this night!” Collson then marched down to the water’s edge at Griffin’s Wharf to make his metaphor come true. If “a tempest in a teapot” describes a big disturbance about a small matter, Boston—in the midst of a turbulent political crisis over the authority of the British Empire—was in this moment a “teapot in a tempest.” Collson and his companions staged an act of rebellion that would have worldwide significance.²

    About a hundred men...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Empire’s Corporation
    (pp. 7-24)

    In May 1750, the Boston Town Meeting expressed concern that a provincial 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.” Twenty-three years later, as ships bearing tea made their way to Boston, the same town meeting fumed that the “East India company” had launched “a violent attack upon the liberties of America.” Although Bostonians had previously admired the East India Company from a distance and enjoyed its tea, in 1773 they cast the Company as a monster—as a danger to...

  7. CHAPTER 2 “The Ringleader of All Violence”
    (pp. 25-48)

    In 1770, Thomas Hutchinson was in many ways the first man of Boston. He had come from a wealthy family, and had ranked third in social prominence among his classmates at Harvard College. He was proud, honorable to a fault, and extremely protective of his personal reputation. He had risen through the ranks of local and provincial office to serve as magistrate, representative, Speaker of the House, councilor, chief justice of the highest court, lieutenant governor, and governor. His attention to detail had made him successful as a merchant, a stickler for legal rectitude, and a thorough scholar—he had...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Tea and Scandal
    (pp. 49-69)

    Standing just over four feet tall and bent under a curved spine, the Quaker gadfly Benjamin Lay stepped onto a box amid the Philadelphia market stalls in 1742. His wife had died just over six years before, and Lay rather curiously brought out her large collection of valuable china. Once a sufficient crowd of shoppers had gathered, Lay hefted a hammer and began smashing the porcelain to pieces, as “a publick Testimony against the Vanity of Tea-Drinking.” The onlookers reacted in a panic. Some offered to buy the china instead, but Lay wouldn’t sell for any price. Then the crowd...

  9. CHAPTER 4 “Enemies to Their Country”
    (pp. 70-94)

    The storm, a real storm, hit Boston in advance of the news. Coasting ships had to clear the decks, and after the storm had blown away, people spotted shingles and clapboards floating in Massachusetts Bay. On October 18, 1773, theBoston Gazetteprinted “the current Talk of the Town that Richard Clarke, Benjamin Faneuil, Esqrs; and the two young Mess-rs Hutchinsons, are appointed to receive the Teas.” The newspaper warned readers that “This new Scheme of Administration” threatened Boston’s commerce and was “well calculated to establish & encrease the detested Tribute,” meaning a tax to support the province’s civil officials....

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Detestable Tea Arrives
    (pp. 95-116)

    Francis Rotch was standing in a church filled with five or six thousand Bostonians. A resolution was read, on behalf of this huge meeting, which threatened him and his ship’s captain with “Peril” if he allowed his cargo of tea to land in Boston. One could forgive Rotch if his mind flashed, at that moment, to the Boston martyrs. Back in the years 1659–61, these four convicts had swung from the gallows on Boston Common, only a couple of blocks from where Rotch was standing. Their crime was preaching Quakerism back in the days when Massachusetts Puritans brooked no...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Destroyers at Griffin’s Wharf
    (pp. 117-140)

    We can imagine the men’s excitement and anxiety filling the room as their arteries pulsed with anticipation. According to later tales, they were gathered at various locations across town: above the offices of theBoston Gazette, under the boughs of Liberty Tree, in a carpenter’s living room, in a cabinet-maker’s shop, atop Fort Hill overlooking the harbor, and in a dozen other places across the city. Painted and cloaked, they waited for a signal, hefted their tools and weapons, and looked at one another. Perhaps some were nervous. Perhaps others were grimly resolute. Perhaps the nervous ones took courage from...

  12. CHAPTER 7 “Resolute Men (Dressed as Mohawks)”
    (pp. 141-160)

    The disguises worn by the tea destroyers—which gave them the appearance of Native Americans—remain an indelible part of our memory of the Boston Tea Party. Hasty and rough as these costumes were, the act of concealment was iconic and important. These Bostonians were “playing Indian,” yet they had serious reasons for wearing their disguises. Indian costumesmeantsomething to the Tea Party participants and their audience.

    The decision to look and sound like Indians was made in advance by the core group of Tea Party organizers. Most of the disguises were crude, but they are noted in almost...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Boycotting the Accursed Leaf
    (pp. 161-181)

    When the schoolteacher William Russell returned to his Temple Street home after helping to destroy the tea, he took off his shoes and carefully dusted them over the fire, “being careful that none of the tea should remain.” He then went to the family’s closet, took out the tea canister, and emptied it into the fire. The next morning, he printed “Coffee” on one side of the canister and “No Tea” on the other.³

    The men who had boarded theDartmouth, theEleanor, and theBeaverwere almost fuzzy with tea. Priscilla Cotton, who was then a thirteen-year-old girl boarding...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Boston Bears the Blame
    (pp. 182-203)

    “After the Destruction of the Tea,” wrote the Loyalist Peter Oliver, “theMassachusettsFaction found they had past theRubicon; it was now, Neck or Nothing.”² On the morning after the Tea Party, Admiral Montagu had asked “who was to pay the fidler,” and the town of Boston would soon have an answer.

    At first, people reacted to news of the Tea Party with shock. Many immediately began looking for someone to blame.

    The Boston radicals were firm in their conviction: the consignees, the customs officials, Admiral Montagu, and the governor were the ones at fault— but certainly not the...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Sugar, Slaves, and the Shadow of the Tea Party
    (pp. 204-217)

    The Boston Tea Party and the Coercive Acts helped to bring about the Revolutionary War and American independence. These events ushered in a political climate where white men from all ranks of society could make their voices heard. For this reason, Americans celebrate the Tea Party as a crucial step on the road to American liberty. Yet “liberty” was a contentious concept in the eighteenth century. To some it merely meant freedom from government abuses of power; others emphasized freedom from interference with personal property; for a small minority, “liberty” implied genuine individual freedom for all. People in Massachusetts were...

  16. Conclusion: Secrecy and Legacy
    (pp. 218-233)

    The Boston Tea Party had led to the War of American Independence, and that alone has been enough to ensure its fame. This was in some ways an accident of history. New York City and Philadelphia radicals were in fact further to the front of the fight against the Tea Act, but Boston was the earliest port to receive the tea ships, and the town faced a particularly scrupulous set of consignees and civil officials. The unknown planners of the Boston Tea Party probably did not intend that the consequence of their action would be a break from Great Britain...

  17. Appendix: Boston Tea Party Participants
    (pp. 234-239)
  18. Abbreviations
    (pp. 240-242)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 243-285)
  20. Manuscript Sources Cited
    (pp. 286-288)
  21. Further Reading
    (pp. 289-296)
  22. Index
    (pp. 297-311)