American History Told by Contemporaries

Author: John Andrews  | Date: 1866

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U.S. History

The Boston Tea-Party (1773)


NOVEMBER 29th [1773]. Hall and Bruce arriv’d Saturday evening with each an hundred and odd chests of the detested Tea. What will be done with it, can’t say: but I tremble for ye consequences should ye consignees still persist in their obstinacy and not consent to reship it. They have softened down so far as to offer it to the care of Council or the town, till such times as they hear from their friends in England, but am perswaded, from the present dispositions of ye people, that no other alternative will do, than to have it immediately sent back to London again. . . . ye bells are ringing for a general muster, and a third vessel is now arriv’d in Nantasket road. Handbills are stuck up, calling upon Friends! Citizens! and Countrymen!

December 1st. Having just return’d from Fire Club, and am now, in company with the two Miss Masons and Mr. Williams of your place, at Sam. Eliot’s, who has been dining with him at Col. Hancock’s, and acquaints me that Mr. Palfrey sets off Express for New York and Philadelphia at five o’clock tomorrow morning, to communicate ye transactions of this town respecting the tea. . . . I acquainted you that Bruce and Hall had arrived, which was a mistake, as only Hall has arriv’d; which has caus’d ye most spirited and firm conduct to be observ’d that ever was known: the regularity and particulars of which proceedings Mr. Palfrey will be able to tell you. The consignees have all taken their residence at the Castle, as they still persist in their refusal to take the tea back. Its not only ye town, but the country are unanimous against the landing it, and at the Monday and Tuesday Meetings, they attended to the number of some hundreds from all the neighboring towns within a dozen miles:—’twould puzzle any person to purchase a pair of p——ls in town, as they are all bought up, with a full determination to repell force by force.

December 18th. However precarious our situation may be, yet such is the present calm composure of the people that a stranger would hardly think that ten thousand pounds sterling of the East India Company’s tea was destroy’d the night, or rather evening before last, yet its a serious truth; and if your’s, together with ye other Southern provinces, should rest satisfied with their quota being stor’d, poor Boston will feel the whole weight of ministerial vengeance. However, its the opinion of most people that we stand an equal chance now, whether troops are sent in consequence of it or not; whereas, had it been stor’d, we should inevitably have had ’em, to enforce the sale of it.—The affair was transacted with the greatest regularity and despatch. Mr. Rotch finding he exposed himself not only to the loss of his ship but for ye value of the tea in case he sent her back with it, without a clearance from the custom house, as ye Admiral kept a ship in readiness to make a seizure of it whenever it should sail under those circumstances; therefore declin’d complying with his former promises, and absolutely declar’d his vessel should not carry it, without a proper clear-once could be procur’d or he to be indemnified for the value of her:—when a general muster was assembled, from this and all ye neighbouring towns, to the number of five or six thousand, at 10 o’clock Thursday morning in the Old South Meeting house, where they pass’d a unanimous vote that the Tea should go out of the harbour that afternoon, and sent a committee with Mr. Rotch to ye Custom house to demand a clearance, which the collector told ’em was not in his power to give, without the duties being first paid. They then sent Mr. Rotch to Milton, to ask a pass from ye Governor, who sent for answer, that "consistent with the rules of gover nment and his duty to the King he could not grant one without they produc’d a previous clearance from the office."—By the time he return’d with this message the candles were light in [the] house, and upon reading it, such prodigious shouts were made, that induc’d me, while drinking tea at home, to go out and know the cause of it. The house was so crouded I could get no farther than ye porch, when I found the moderator was just declaring the meeting to be dissolv’d, which caused another general shout, out doors and in, and three cheers. What with that, and the consequent noise of breaking up the meeting, you’d thought that the inhabitants of the infernal regions had broke loose. For my part, I went contentedly home and finish’d my tea, but was soon inform’d what was going forward: but still not crediting it without ocular demonstration, I went and was satisfied. They muster’d, I’m told, upon Fort Hill, to the number of about two hundred, and proceeded, two by two, to Griffin’s wharf, where Hall, Bruce, and Coffin lay, each with 114 chests of the ill fated article on board; the two former with only that article, but ye latter arriv’d at ye wharf only ye day before, was freighted with a large quantity of other goods, which they took the greatest care not to injure in the least, and before nine o’clock in ye evening, every chest from on board the three vessels was knock’d to pieces and flung over ye sides. They say the actors were Indians from Narragansett. Whether they were or not, to a transient observer they appear’d as such, being cloath’d in Blankets with the heads muffled, and copper color’d countenances, being each arm’d with a hatchet or axe, and pair pistols, nor was their dialect different from what I conceive these geniusses to speak, as their jargon was unintelligible to all but themselves. Not the least insult was offer’d to any person, save one Captain Conner, a letter of horses in this place, not many years since remov’d from dear Ireland, who had ript up the lining of his coat and waistcoat under the arms, and watching his opportunity had nearly fill’d ’em with tea, but being detected, was handled pretty roughly. They not only stripp’d him of his cloaths, but gave him a coat of mud, with a severe bruising into the bargain; and nothing but their utter aversion to make any disturbance prevented his being tar’d and feather’d.

Should not have troubled you with this, by this Post, hadn’t I thought you would be glad of a more particular account of so important a transaction, than you could have obtain’d by common report; and if it affords my brother but a temporary amusement, I shall be more than repaid for the trouble of writing it.

Letters of John Andrews, Esq., of Boston. 1772–1776; edited by Winthrop Sargent, in Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, 1864–1865, (Boston, 1866), 324–326.


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Chicago: John Andrews, "The Boston Tea-Party (1773)," American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Massachusetts Historical Society in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902), 431–433. Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2022,

MLA: Andrews, John. "The Boston Tea-Party (1773)." American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Massachusetts Historical Society, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 3, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1902, pp. 431–433. Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2022.

Harvard: Andrews, J, 'The Boston Tea-Party (1773)' in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. . cited in 1902, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.431–433. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2022, from