The Trash Blog

The Destruction of the Tea in Boston

This Destruction of the Tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid, and inflexible, and it must have so important Consequences, and so lasting, that I can but consider it as an Epocha in History. – John Adams

As much fame as the Tea Party has garnered, by today’s standards, dumping a bunch of tea leaves in the ocean certainly doesn’t seem to amount to an “Epocha” in history. The destruction of some merchandise, even for a legitimate political cause, wouldn’t amount to much more than a newspaper article, a few hours on TV, and a lawsuit.

We’ve become so used to the cliche of the Boston Tea Party that we don’t question the potency of the protest, but it doesn’t seem that tea constitutes a major political statement.

Here is a replica of the ship from which they tossed all that tea. In the foreground you can see a remote control pirate ship.

Here is a replica of the ship from which they tossed all that tea. In the foreground you can see a remote control pirate ship.

Something like the Boston Tea Party could not happen in our modern America where waste on a industrial scale has numbed us to the value of the physical world. It’s an ironic twist of materialism to diminish our ability to recognize the value of the material world in which we live.

Do you think there would be a revolution, or anything other than a lawsuit, if this Boston Tea Party brand tea was wasted?

Do you think there would be a revolution, or anything other than a lawsuit, if this Boston Tea Party brand tea was wasted?

The action was not particularly dangerous, nor was it violent. Although the issues surrounding this action were undoubtedly more important than tea or its waste, the simple boycott of tea (a way to avoid paying the unrepresented taxes that had been a general strategy for a while prior to the Tea Party) was not enough to bring on the Revolution.

But to this little thing of dumping tea into the water, the British Government responded with the Intolerable Acts, which sped the Revolution on its way. I find it curious that an act of conspicuous waste could be such a catalytic event in the American Revolution. What’s the big deal about waste?

If you are unfamiliar with the Intolerable Acts, I think this cartoon from the London Magazine demonstrates how intolerable they were.

If you are unfamiliar with the Intolerable Acts, I think this cartoon from the London Magazine demonstrates how intolerable they were.

To treat something valuable as having no value is what is shocking. Something precious was wasted: tea leaves, harvested on the other side of the globe, shipped by the whim of the wind thousands of miles, was vilely tossed into the all-consuming maw of the ocean.

Perhaps waste is not as serious in this current era because it feels like we can produce things with so much more ease. Or because the up-front cost of so many products is so low, we don’t value them with the proper weight.

Tea Room, Gift Shop, and Public Restrooms

Although I have my doubts about our responsiveness to waste nowdays, I have a feeling if Abigail’s Tea Room at the Boston Tea Party Museum were to charge a fee for the use of their restrooms, we’d have a second waste party on our hands.

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This entry was written by Philip and published on January 6, 2014 at 8:03 pm. It’s filed under History, Laws and Regulations and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “The Destruction of the Tea in Boston

  1. Uncle Chris on said:

    OK, somehow I missed your point here. HA!

    The Boston Tea Party wasn’t really about tea, correct? Wasn’t it about Britain imposing a tax without the consent of the governed?

    It wasn’t really about waste, pollution, materialism, or the cost/price/value of a commodity, correct? Wasn’t the point that the colonists objected to the tyranny of British rule?

    In fact, what I believe is true is that Britain subsidized the East India Company to the extent that the price of the tea whose delivery was attempted in Boston, and then subsequently rendered impossible after the Tea Party, was significantly less than untaxed tea from other sources that had arrived before. This prompts many who now accept the label of “Liberal” these days to ask why “Conservatives” would have destroyed something less expensive in an attempt to make a point that would seemingly make tea more expensive in the colonies.

    But, isn’t that the point of the Tea Party, both then and now?

    Does this, in turn, invoke the questions about how we solve waste and pollution without excessive government intervention, especially in the form of regulation, taxes, and fees?

  2. Pingback: Burning Ivory | The Trash Blog

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