Vicki here, writing about a crime that happened on this day two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, a notorious event in which the participants (at least three of whom were known to be from Maine) committed vandalism, theft, breaking and entering, destruction of property, misrepresentation, littering, and environmental degradation.
I’m referring to The Boston Tea Party, or, as it was known in these parts back in December of 1773, “the destruction of the tea.” Every New England child learns the story of the Mohawk-costumed colonists, numbering anywhere from 30 to 130, who clambered aboard three ships in Boston harbor and, under cover of darkness, dumped the cargo of 342 chests of tea overboard.
It was a crime, to be sure, and not just because the stuff was steeped in seawater and served without sugar. The demolition of some 90,000 pounds of the East India Company’s property horrified British politicians, even those sympathetic to the colonies. Prudent Benjamin Franklin stated that all the destroyed tea must be repaid, and at least one colonial merchant offered to do just that.
But nearly everyone else on these shores celebrated the brazen misdeed. After all, discontent had been brewing from Charleston to the Charles against the new Tea Act, a three-pence duty on the beverage, and the principle of taxation without representation. Maine historian Pat Higgins says that residents of Falmouth, Gorham, Kittery, York, North Yarmouth and Brunswick rejoiced when they heard the news.
Today we remember the crimes committed in the name of liberty on December 16, 1773., acts that helped pave the way for revolution. Sipping a cup of Twinings Christmas tea as I write this, I wonder: would I have donned a costume and climbed aboard those boats? Would I become a criminal for something I believed in? Would you?