The Charleston Tea Parties: The Dumber Cousins To Boston's Tea Party
The year is 1773, and tensions are escalating between the American colonists and the British. Actions like the Boston Massacre of 1770 had increased tensions, and while full-blown war would not start until 1775, aggressions and acts of defiance had become commonplace. In protest of the Tea Act, which monopolized the American tea trade, American Patriots would take on the British team imports.
This is, of course, referring to the famous Charleston Tea Party.
Oh, you were thinking of something else? Yes, the Boston Tea Party was the most famous attack on British tea in the American Revolution, but it was not the only one. Charleston, South Carolina, was home to two “Tea Parties,” and the first one occurred before Boston’s assault on tea.
The First Charleston Tea Party took place on December 3, 1773, two weeks before the Boston Tea Party. Tea from the British East India Company, the only company that could sell tea in the colonies, arrived in South Carolina. More than 200 chests full of tea were involved, and rather than dramatically throw the chests into the harbor, the people of Charleston simply confiscated the tea and stored it away without paying for it.
This is why the Charleston Tea Party does not have the historical staying power that the more famous Boston counterpart has. The Boston Tea Party was this almost legendary event where American rebels disguised themselves and tossed tea into the harbor. It was the sort of action that made effective propaganda and inspired others to join the revolutionary cause. Charleston’s act of tea-related rebellion was a bit too tame to serve that purpose.
Charleston had a second chance, though, in November of 1774. With the Boston Tea Party as the precedent for how British tea imports should be treated, the Second Charleston Tea Party did end with tea in the harbor.
During the Second Charleston Tea Party, a ship from the British East India Company arrived at Charleston. Apparently, no one from the company had learned anything in the past year, and they were still trying to import tea to the American colonies. The knowledge that the ship arrived angered the South Carolinians, and a committee met to decide what should be done. Samuel Bell Jr., the ship’s captain, admitted to having seven chests of the “mischievous Drug” on the ship, but it was added to the cargo without his knowledge. In the end, it was decided that the tea would be tossed into the water. It was done peacefully as an offering to Neptune. Spoiler: This, too, did not leave an impact similar to the Boston Tea Party.
Top Image: Nathaniel Currier