On the evening of December 16th, thousands of Bostonians and farmers from the surrounding countryside packed into the Old South Meeting house to hear Samuel Adams. Adams denounced the Governor for denying clearance for vessels wishing to leave with tea still on board. After his speech the crowd headed for the waterfront. From the crowd, 50 individuals emerged dressed as Indians. They boarded three vessels docked in the harbor and threw 90,000 pounds of tea overboard.
Relations between the Colonists and the British had barely recovered from the Gaspee incident, when the British severely miscalculated, once again. They forced the Americans to accept a monopoly on the importation of tea. The sole source for tea was to be the British East India Company. Furthermore, they gave merchants in Boston, who were supporters of the British government, the exclusive contract to be the representatives of that tea company. Adding insult to injury, tea was the one item from which the British had not removed tariffs when they repealed the Townshend Act.
The Colonists were united in their opposition to the importation of tea. Thomas Hutchison wrote to Lord Dartmouth: â€œThe people of Boston, and all the neighboring towns, are raised to the highest degree of opposition to the duty on tea."
On November 3rd, members of the Sons of Liberty met at the liberty tree in Boston and marched to the offices of the merchants that represented the East India Company. They demanded that the firm refuse to import the tea when it arrived. When the merchants refused, a mob threatened them.
Throughout the colonies, tea agents under pressure from local patriots, resigned their commissions to sell tea. In most parts of the colonies the ships carrying tea turned around before arriving in America. In Boston, however, the governor was committed to forcing the issue and landing the tea.
Four ships were due to arrive in Boston with tea. The first was the Dartmouth. One of the ships was lost in a storm on the way. Governor Hutchison ordered the British Naval Commander to block the entrance to the harbor to stop the ships from departing. Large crowds met at Faneuil Hall, at a meeting called by Samuel Adams, on November 29, 1773. The colonists demanded that the tea be returned. The ship's captain finally agreed. However, the governor would not hear of it. On December 16th, the last day the tea could be downloaded and tax paid or the cargo forfeited, 7,000 people gathered at another meeting held Old South Meeting House. Once again, this meeting was called by Samuel Adams. It was clear the governor would not budge. Samuel Adams announced at the meeting they could do nothing more to save the country.
As the meeting ended, a group of men made their way to the harbor dressed as Mohawk Indians. In small boats, they rowed out to the ships holding the tea. The men demanded access to the tea, which they promptly dumped into Boston Harbor. The tea would not be landed and the tax was not paid.