The Revolutionary War. The Declaration of Independence. The Boston Massacre. All of these events are significantly important to 18th Century America.For they all were part of Americas greatest victory. As citizens were fighting for their freedom with guns and battles, there were those that sat back watching and waiting to make the next succesful move with their favorite warm beverage at the time wrapped in their hands: Tea. A good that was more than a simple common beverage. A good that helped ignite a flame to America’s path to independence.
The Word Tea
Commonly seen and heard in stories about eighteenth-century America is the word ‘tea’. Most of the time it’s a simple sentence mentioning how an important person or how a recent ship had been imported with tea. That’s a prevalent mistake. Tea has proven to be more than just a common beverage in the 1700s of America. It’s an economic idea. It’s a symbol of status and it’s a good that united the people of America together to win their independence from the great and powerful Britain. Tea is a drink that still exists in today’s society and since then has created an entire culture based around its aid to human health and economy
The Boston Tea Party
This leaf-grinded drink aided with the famous American Revolution. It may have not been a physical weapon or even a weapon at all but it gave strength to humanity’s deadliest weapon: The Brain. The pinnacle of our Nation’s battle plans and strategies.
One strategy was the Boston Tea Party, which wasn’t much of a party at all. This was in fact, a rebellious gathering of Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. The members all dressed up as Mohawk Indians and boarded three ships, throwing crates of tea over the ships. Commonly misinterpretted is the idea that the ships were British. The ships were built in America and owned by Americans. The cargo they were carrying was owned by the British East India Company. (Bruce Richardson, Boston Tea Party Facts) Dressing up as Mohawk Indians was supposed to be symbolic towards the Sons of Liberty and the public because they would be seen as non-indians due to their skintone. Wearing the Indian dresses told everyone that they labeleed themselves as ‘Americans’ and not subjects of the British. The men did not dress up in the stereotyped headresses and common Indian wear.
Instead they wore wool coats, soot painted faces and dressed themselves in Indian dresses. ( Bruce Richardson, Boston Tea Party) It was a statement against the many Acts that parliament had passed on the colonies. All tipped 342 crates of tea into the Boston harbor. The crates of Chinese Tea were packed. That was about over 92,000 pounds of tea that had been released out onto the ocean water of Boston harbor. (Bruce Richardson, Destrcution of Boston Tea Party)
John Andrews, an observer of the Boston Tea Party, wrote: “They say the actors were Indians…whether they were or not to a transient observer they appear’d as such being cloth’d in blankets with the heads muffled and copper color’d countenances, each being arm’d with a hatchet or ax, and pair of pistols, nor was their dialect different from what I conceive these geniuses to to speak, as their jargon was unintelligible to all but themselves.” ( Bruce Richardson, Boston Tea Party Facts). It seems as if the Sons did seem to fool most by just being the way they were on board of those ships.
The Boston Tea Party costed 9,659 euros worth of damage in 1773 currency. That’s roughly around 10923.82 of U.S dollars today. Benjeman Franklin, a wealthy and generous man, offered to pay for the damage under one condition: The British would reopen the harbor. The British disagreed and they never came to terms. ( Bruce Richardson, Destruction of Boston Tea Party) Later, Franklin wrote to Samuel Adams telling how he was concerned what was to happen to those that participated in this act of treason. He goes on to tell how despite The British East India Comapny is not in charge of them, they are associated with the British who ar at the moment, in charge of their actions and who they currently trade with.( Bruce Richardson, Benejeman Franklins views of Boston Tea Party) They could have done this with any other imported goods but tea was a symbol to the people. It becomes an even stronger symbol of independence after that. Tea can also always be seen in the hands of America’s most significant contributors to America’s Independence. It’s proven to calm emotions and clear stressed minds.
The Stress Reliver for our Best Believers
That’s what Washington, Adams, Franklin and many more people needed in this bloody and treacherous period. If they have both calm emotions and cleared heads, then they could be more successful with their ideas and giving a better chance of coming out on top in America’s greatest war. Washington was known to drink a big deal of tea during the 1700s. Most could assume it was because of the stress he was under during this time.
Being one of Americas top generals and a rolemodel for many soldiers, the tea became similar to a depressant for him. He was quite elegant in the in the topic of tea, serving Chinese tea imported from London. He once requested six pounds of hyson tea and green tea each. Other order included: Bohea, Congou and Young Hyson. All of those orders ended up in in the harbor during the Boston Tea Party. ( Bruce Richardson, Washingron and Tea)
The only way America could receive tea was through Britain and their grueling tax. In an act of rebelliousness, Americans smuggled tea from the Netherlands to avoid paying that nasty tax that was imposed on tea imports by London’s government. Americans just weren’t fans of taxes and still aren’t today.
The Tea Act
What led to the Boston Tea Party though? One of the main causes was the Tea Act of 1773. The Tea Act passed no new taxes on the colonists. The Tea Tax had already been passed by the Townshend Revenue Act in 1767. This act repealed all goods except tea. Tea was kept in order for Parliament to still be able to tax the colonists. Britain had quickly learned that tea was the colonists’ favorite drink and had used that knowledge to their advantage. So it gave the tea distributors themselves, rights to American colonies. The British East India Company now had a monopoly on American Colonists.
They would still sell tea to the colonists but their ships and merchants would all be apart of the process. Easily they could pay off their debt from contracts and payments they had to the British government. It totaled up to about 4 million U.S dollars a year. It seems a bit odd that Britain would do this. The company had already lost a great deal of money, thanks to colonists smuggling tea. They were letting another countries organization, make money off of their land to pay to Britain themselves. In the end, Britain makes money correct? And the colonists are left with not much once again.
One Virginia woman wrote a letter to her friends in 1769 saying “… I have given up the article of tea, but some are not so tractable; however if we can convince the good folks on your side the Water of their error, wee may hope to see happier times.” This was the final straw for the colonists and where they began to rebel with the Boston Tea Party. Still, many colonists indulged themselves in drinking the now taxed nectar. ( Bruce Richardson, The Tea Act)
Tea: Heaven and…Hell?
Americans constantly praised tea in the 1700s. Some even believed it was their Lords blessed drink. It was to a point where some might be concerned today, Colley Cibber, a poet, said it was “Thou soft, Thou sober, sage and venerable liquid,” Some compared it to a non-alcoholic version of wine which was common around the same period. Dumcan Campbell, another poet, in his Poem about Tea gave praise to and advised that it was much better than liquor, especially for ladies:
Tea is the Liquor of the Fair and Wise;
It chears the Mind without the least Disguise:
But Wine intoxicates, and wrongs each Sense;
Sweet innocent, mild Tea, gives no Offence:
It makes the Blood run sporting in the Veins,
Refines each Sense, and rectifies the Brains.
There was of course, the few who had a deep desire to extiguish tea from the mouths of the colonists. These people could commonly be found in the relegious field. John Wesley, a relegious leader wrote to a friend in 1748, crying out how tea impaired digestion, unstrung the nerves, was expensive and reated symptoms of paralysis. Yet he was a tea drinker himself. He stated that it made his hands shake. In 1746, he called a intervention among the London Society of Methodists to advise them to quit drinking tea. In the end, they followed his advice. A friend of his called Josiah Wedgewood actually made Wesley a teapot. It was to symbolize where they first met in Burselem in 1760. On the teapot read:
Represent at our Table Lord
Be here and everywhere ador’d
These creatures bless & grant that we
May feast in Paradise with thee
It seemed odd for a friend to gift him something he would dislike but it is said that Wedgewood probably didn’t understand Wesleys hatred of the idea of tea. Later on though, tea would be the focus point of the temperance movement in the next century. Wesley and his followers would be the leaders. ( Bruce Richardson, Tea and Liquor)
The Drink with Class
As commonly referred to in this paper, tea was (and still is in some foreign countries), a symbol of someone’s place in society. When tea was first imported to America’s harbors, tea could only be afforded by the rich. If you were seen constantly sipping tea, then people could assume that you came from a wealthy background. It was a privilege to be able to attain. When Joseph Bennett, an Englishman, visited Boston in 1740, he found similarities between the colonists and Britain with Tea.
“The ladies here visit, drink tea and indulge every little piece of gentility to the height of the mode and neglect the affairs of their families with as good grace as the finest ladies in London,” He proclaimed when he observed the ways of the colonists. By 1773, tea slowly began to climb down the social ladder and received the title of an affordable pleasure. Colonists with stable incomes could finally take a sip of the strong, earth-friendly, drink. One Philidelphian Merchant said that the general public “can afford to come at this piece of luxury” while one-third of the population was able to “drink tea twice a day, at a moderate consumption.” This is where tea became part of daily rituals. They weren’t religious rituals but more like social gatherings.
Tea parties were created from small celebrations to large reunions between people. The citizens of the colonies indulged themselves in the caffeine that was paired with the tea. They enjoyed the lift it brought them. It was a drug and still is today. Americans are the most commonly known to supply themselves with caffeine. Sometimes people would eat bread and tea together, as Peter Kalm, observed one day. “With the tea was eaten bread and butter or buttered bread toasted over coals so that the butter penetrated the whole slice of bread.
In the afternoon about three o’clock tea was drunk again in the same fashion, except the bread and butter was not served with it,” Kalm quoted. Any time people could make up an excuse to drink the delightful liquid, they would take it. People throughout the colonies would drink a lot of tea in the mornings. In fact, Kalm, noted in his trip to North America in 1749, that tea was a breakfast beverage in both New York and Pennsylvania. It was commonly without milk. Colonists would eat dinner at two o’clock and then drink more tea around five ‘o’clock in the afternoon. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though. People could be at ease with one another as they talked about recent events with a warm cup of their favorite flavor of the tea. ( Bruce Richardson)
Tea contributed to the social class and community. If people had time to relax with the beverage in their hand, then others could also assume they had a high status. Southern Plantation owners are always recorded with a glass of fresh brewed tea in their hand as they sit on their patio, watching their slaves work in the heat. You can clearly see who is better off in that picture. That’s what everyone in the Southern states, specifically wanted to be. The person with the tea and the privilege to enjoy life as it was.
Tea. Teapots and Teacups!
The idea of Tea contributed to America’s growing economy with the essentials that came with brewing the delicacy. Tea leaves, tea bags, teapots, and teacups are all parts in drinking tea. They don’t come out of thin air though. While Britain imported the tea leaves and tea bags, America crafted the teapots and teacups for themselves. This opened up a new way of creating revenue for many citizens. Silversmiths, which made the weapons for the American Revolution, also participated in shaping teapots and teacups for many to drink out of. The idea of these essentials came from China as well.
China had been brewing tea and crafting tea bags and teapots for centuries. They were professionals in this specific field and were a successful country. So of course, America, which was not even a country yet, would take in the consideration of their ideas and try to craft their own tea necessities. The silversmith could make easy money, especially since tea was popular in the high class. They could also make a variety of designs, as requested by the people buying the items. They could be easily paid with the work they made. When tea could be more easily attained, teapots and teacups demand would skyrocket. People would want their own personalized teapots and teacups. Now all they needed was their own flavor of tea!
The people that paid and were paid with would add fuel to an everlasting economy that could fund the American Revolution with the money it was constantly cycling through society at a much quicker pace. Americas economy also grew because of Britain itself. More specifically because of our trading relationship with them. The relationship relied not on trust and respect but on tea and expectations. Those expectations were defintely a bit unfair as someone can agree if they have read the previous paragraphs. Despite the tax America had to pay, tea was the main part of our trading relationship. Britain brought in the tea that would add revenue to our nation and we would pay the tax in return. Britain, in a way, was helping set up its own loss to its furious American colonies that had their own secret plan up their red, blue and white-striped sleeves.
Tea was one of the symbols that united the people of America. To them, it was a symbol of rebellion, mainly because of the notorious Boston Tea Party. America included a variety of people with many differences. Even with those differences though, there was one common goal among the patriots: Gain independence from Britain. Tea helped Americans in realizing that. With the drink all across the nation, it was a call of strength.It can be proven that humans and animals are more likely to get along and come together if they have a common ground. That common ground for Americans was tea. No longer can tea be seen as common ground unfortunately. It may not be a used as it was before but it is part of Americas culture.
In recent times. Tea has still proved to be a common, popular drink. It can be found in many different types of forms across the world. In America, the drink can be found brewed, iced, sweetened and more. It can be found to hidden among paintings, woven into books and stated in ideas. It is so little to actually see but yet so important to one of the greatest nations hsitory. People see tea now as just another sweetened liquid to quench their thirst. From this paper, it can now be seen what it really is: A symbol and a soldier that aided Americans in their fight for Independence.
- Pettigrew, Jane, and Bruce Richardson. “A Social History of Tea.”Tea Time Magazine, Benjamin Press, 11 Sept. 2011.
- Richardson, Bruce. “The Tea Things of George Washington.”Www.bostonteapartyship.com, MCCA, 20 Aug. 2016.
- Roth, Rodris. “Tea Drinking in 18th Century America: It’s Etiquette and Equipage.”Gutenberg.org, Abe.books, 8 Mar. 2014.
- Standage, Tom.A History of the World in Six Glasses. Atlantic, 2007.
- Richardson, Bruce. “Tea Customs of Colonial Boston.” Www.bostonteaprty.com, MCCA, 20 Aug. 2016.
- Richardson, Bruce. “Boston Tea Party Facts.” Www.bostonteaparty.com, MCCA, 1 Apr. 2011.
- Richardson, Bruce. “Benjamin Franklins Views on the Boston Tea Party.” Www.bostonteaprty.com, MCCA, 25 June 2013.
- Richardson, Bruce. “Tea and Liquor.” Www.bostonteaparty.com, MCCA, 14 May 2014.
- Richardson, Bruce. “Boston Replicated London’s Taste for the Tea Ritual.” Www.bostonteaparty.com, MCCA, 23 July 2013.