Primary Source Audio Podcast: The Boston Tea Party
December 16, 2009 by Ben Edwards
The Boston Tea Party took place on this very day, December 16, two hundred and thirty six years ago. Today I’ll be wrapping up my series on the tea tax and the Tea Party by providing grade school teachers with a few valuable tools: a sampling of local press coverage in the days following the “destruction of the tea”; and an opportunity for your students to “listen to” the news as it was presented in the London papers. This chance to “listen to” the news is possible through the first in a series of primary source audio podcasts – something that will be a regular feature of this blog in the year ahead. This initial audio podcast (see link below) is a reading of an article that appeared in London’s Gentleman’s Magazine in January 1774 with coverage of the events that took place in Boston on December 16, 1773. When your students listen to this, have them imagine how the people in London would have reacted to the news of the destruction of the East India Company tea. How do they think King George III might have reacted personally! With regard to local press coverage – most of the newspapers in Boston were printed weekly, either on Mondays or Thursdays, and since the Tea Party occurred on a Thursday evening, the papers printed on a Monday would be first to carry the news. These were the Boston Gazette, printed by Benjamin Edes and John Gill; and the Boston Evening Post, printed by Thomas and John Fleet. Both featured extensive coverage. A copy of the Boston Gazette was apparently taken by sailing ship to London, as one of the articles in it is exactly the same as the piece that appeared in the January 1774 issue of London’s Gentleman’s Magazine – the audio podcast you can listen to.
The Boston Evening Post issue for Monday, December 20 contains more coverage than the Gazette, including all the details of the meeting at Old South Meeting House (see PDF files below). The Boston Gazette issue for December 20 did not contain this, with the printers noting the reason – “The particular account of the proceedings of the people at their meeting on Tuesday and Thursday last, are omitted this week for want of room.” The Thursday, December 23 issue of the Massachusetts Spy, printed by Isaiah Thomas, did contain all the details of the meeting at Old South but nothing about the destruction of the tea. Of all the accounts I have been able to research, perhaps my favorite appeared in the December 23, 1773 issue of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly Newsletter. All the other papers mentioned above were produced by patriot printers but this one was printed by Richard Draper, a Loyalist. The fact that he sided with the King does not affect the coverage. I like it because it includes details not found in other press accounts. The complete article appears below:
Just before the dissolution of the meeting, a number of brave and resolute men, dressed in the Indian manner, approached near the door of the Assembly, gave the war whoop, which rang through the house and was answered by some in the galleries, but silence being commanded, and a peaceable deportment was again enjoined til the dissolution. The Indians, as they were then called, repaired to the wharf where the ships lay that had the tea on board, and were followed by hundreds of people to see the event of the transactions of those who made so grotesque an appearance.
They, the Indians, immediately repaired on board Captain Hall’s ship, where they hoisted out the chests of tea, and when upon deck stove the chests and emptied the tea overboard; having cleared this ship they proceeded to Captain Bruce’s and then to Captain Coffin’s brig. They applied themselves so dexterously to the destruction of this commodity that in the space of three hours they broke up 342 chests, which was the whole number in those vessels, and discharged the contents into the dock. When the tide rose it floated the broken chests and the tea isomuch that the surface of the water was filled therewith a considerable way from the south part of the town to Dorchester Neck, and lodged on the shores. There was the greatest care taken to prevent the tea from being purloined by the populace. One or two, being detected in endeavoring to pocket a small quantity, were stripped of their acquisitions and very roughly handled.
It is worthy of remark that although a considerable quantity of goods were still remaining on board the vessels, no injury was sustained. Such attention to private property was observed that a small padlock belonging to the captain of one of the ships being broke, another was procured and sent to him. The town was very quiet during the whole evening and night following. Those persons who were from the country returned with a merry heart; and the next day joy appeared in almost every countenance, some on occasion of the destruction of the tea, others on the account of the quietness with which it was effected. One of the Monday’s papers says that the masters and owners are well pleased that their ships are thus cleared.
Press Coverage from the December 20, 1773 issue from the Boston Evening Post appears below:
The original article from London’s Gentleman’s Magazine – January 1774
Audio Podcast of the article in London’s Gentleman’s Magazine from January 1774
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