The Tea Party and Copycat Crimes

An old post on the Boston1775 blog (one of my absolute favorites) about a "tea burning" reenactment in Lexington, raised an old question that I have had for awhile now.  I had heard - or read somewhere - that there were other "tea parties" in other cities, but I hadn't been able to uncover any more about them. (I was thinking of using one such event in a novel, but I didn't want to set this particular story in Boston.)

The Boston Tea Party
I am pretty certain this same picture was in my 8th
grade history book - probably with a caption that
blamed the Sons of Liberty.
Here's J.L.' response to my question:
Americans didn't start using the term "tea party" for the destruction of the tea until the early 1800s, and then the romanticization of the Boston act made local historians attach that name to every destruction of tea. So there was nothing on the scale of what happened in Boston in December 1773, but over the following months there were stocks of tea destroyed in Boston (again); New York; Salem; Greenwich, New Jersey; Annapolis; and elsewhere.

Very interesting. I took the opportunity to ask him another question that I've had for a long time: Do we really know who did it? My kids' history books in elementary school all said The Sons of Liberty. But, do we really know that for certain? No one was ever prosecuted. (Although many were persecuted because if it by the subsequent Intolerable Acts.) I haven't received a response yet, but I will share J.L.'s input when I do.
Liberty Tree Memorial

An interesting side note: Click here for an old document showing a list of the members of the Sons of Liberty who "din'd" at Liberty Tree. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Two things stood out for me:

— First, there were a lot more of them than I thought. I always envisioned
the Sons of Liberty to be a couple 15 - 20 guys. There are dozens upon dozens on this list, and the year was only 1769. Plus, as difficult as it was to travel in those days, surely not all of them made it to the Liberty Tree that day.

— Second, would you look at that penmanship! I was thinking it might have been John Hancock's, but the J's aren't shaped like his.

Circa 1923 collage showing some of the members
of the Sons of Liberty. Obviously, they left out a few.
As for the "who dun it" aspect of this story, I can easily picture Sam Adams donning face paint and pitching bales of tea over the side, but I can't see him keeping quiet about it. On the other hand, I just can't imagine men like John Adams and John Hancock joining in on the "festivities." My guess is that it was probably the work of Sam Adams and those who followed him, and the prospect of being hanged kept him mum for once. Nor, for the sake of unity, were the others about to give up one of their own, whether they were complicit or not.

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