Although Britain had been victorious in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), that victory had come at the expense (literally) of a huge national debt. Having taxed local Britons to the point of economic peril, Parliament looked to the American colonies for revenue. Parliament instituted taxes on the colonies including a tea tax. Colonists argued that only their representatives in the colonies should have the power to tax them, and that “taxation without representation” was unjust.
When three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea not be delivered and taxed in Massachusetts but rather returned to England. After Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about 60 members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British tea dumped in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was valued at some $18,000.
Parliament, outraged by the blatant destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, in 1774. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America, and required colonists to quarter British troops. Continued resistance to these acts lead to the establishment of military rule and occupation in Boston and eventually the onset the first hostilities of the American Revolution.