On Thursday, December 16, 1773, an estimated seven dozen men, many amateurishly disguised as Indiansthen a symbol of freedomdumped about 10,000 worth of tea in the harbor. Whatever their motives at the time, they unleashed a social, political, and economic firestorm that would culminate in the Declaration of Independence two and a half years later. The Boston Tea Party provoked a reign of terror in Boston and other American cities, with Americans inflicting unimaginable barbarities on each other. Tea parties erupted in American cities up and down the colonies. The turmoil stripped tens of thousands of Americans of their dignity, their homes, their properties, and their birthrightsin the name of liberty and independence. Nearly 100,000 Americans left the land of their forefathers forever in what was historys largest exodus of Americans from America. Nonetheless, John Adams called the Boston Tea Party nothing short of magnificent. And he went on to say that the destruction of tea is so bold, so daring, so firmit must have important consequences. Ironically, few if any Americans todayeven those who call themselves Tea Party Patriotswould be able to name even one of the estimated eighty participants in the original Boston Tea Party. Nor are many Americans aware of the important consequences of the Tea Party. The acute shortage of tea that followed the Tea Party, of course, helped transform Americans into coffee drinkers, but its effects went far beyond culinary tastes.
The Tea Party would affect so many American minds, hearts, and souls that it helped spawn a new, independent nation whose citizens would govern themselves.