ByThe Byline, Boston Globe
December 17, 1773
The Old South Meeting House on the corner of Milk and Washington street, here in Boston, was the venue for a meeting that preceded a historic event in Boston.
I arrived at the congested Meeting House as the meeting was taking place and asked an elderly gentleman in the back of the room what was happening and why a meeting was being held at this time of night. He replied to me: “The bloody Governor, Hutchinson, won't issue a pass so the British ships can safely go back to London.”
I asked the gentleman why, at which he said:“Those blundering, confounding rebels are protesting the Stamp Act. Did you know they've virtually stripped the countryside of tea and burned it? They'll find out what it means to protest, Griffin's Wharf is surrounded by armed ships of war at this moment.
To be clear that I had heard him correctly in the now increasing loudness in the room, I replied to him, "You don't say?"
The gentlemen looked at me with utter disdain, his voice rising: “I do say. Mark me, there will be consequences, this is not going to end well. You should have been here right before sundown. The British officers disguised themselves and called a fire alarm hoping to break up the assembly, as they well should have. Then Mr. Cooper, town clerk, that's him over there, yelled out that there was no fire and everyone should stay put.” He pointed an accusing finger toward Mr. Cooper.
The gentleman wandered off and I made my way to the front of the room to see if I might have a word with Mr. Cooper at which point I introduced myself, stating I was a reporter from The Boston Globe and would like a word with him.
Mr. Cooper was very gentlemanly and took my hand stating that he was, indeed, Samuel Cooper, town clerk and a member of the Sons of Liberty.
I asked him if the ships were going to be released and allowed to go back to London. I could tell this statement distressed him and he said to me: “'Tis a very sinful thing the British have done to our citizens, forcing them to pay tax. We've had enough! We will not be held to taxation without representation."
Then I asked Samuel Cooper if he knew what was going to happen and he said, "See for yourself," as he pointed to the open door where about twenty Indians, tomahawks raised, and shouting war calls, passed by.
Mr Cooper pointed out a fellow in the front of the room to me saying. "That is Samuel Adams, when he stands up and says, 'This meeting can do nothing more,' then you should follow me, historic things will begin to happen."
Samuel Adams stood up and made the foregoing statement at which a rebel cry went up, “Let every man do his duty, and be true to his country.” A movement began to exit the building and I was swept along with it.
I grabbed Mr. Cooper's arm and asked, “Where are we going, what are the Indians going to do?”
He told me that we were going down to Gray's and Tiletson's wharves where the tea ships were and that the Indians were going to dispose of the tea.”
I was shocked and asked, “All of the tea?”
He replied to me: “Aye, son, all of the tea. If that doesn't send a signal to the British, I don't know what will.”
I stood by Mr. Cooper's side and watched as the Indians formed three lines, each line boarding a ship and then proceeding to empty all of the cargo into the harbor. There was no confrontation, the only sound being that of destroying the boxes; the ships remained unharmed. The water was swarming with tea.
I saw a commotion near one of the ships and hurried over to see what was going on.
I asked a young, poorly dressed man what was happening.
The Irish lad replied: “Fellow o'er there filled his knickers with tea. He got caught and the crowd is gonna tar and feather the blarmy fool.”
I stopped a sailor walking by and asked if he knew why the Indians were involved in dumping the tea, and who they were working for.”
The sailor laughed: “Ho, ho, matey, you got it wrong, the Indians didn't do this.” I contradicted him stating that I had seen the Indians and followed them down here.
The sailor revealed a very interesting fact to me when he said: “That was jest rebels dressed in the costumes of Indians. They all painted their faces down at the blacksmith shop. I seen 'em do it.”
I watched citizens running away from the wharf after obviously having stuffed tea into their jackets or trousers. One elderly man was taken and thrown into the water, others were kicked and beaten as they ran through the crowd.
It seemed approximately three hours had passed and I watched as the Indian rebels left the ships and mingled into the crowd. One came past me and I reached out and touched his arm asking if he could give me his account of what had just happened.
The man looked at me and shook his head. “Better to let it lie, son,” he said, and then went on his way. I saw that his face had indeed been blackened with coal.
A young man, dressed in ragged clothing with his face also blacked like an Indian, poked me in the arm. He whispered to me: “Meet me in the alley behind the blacksmith shop and I will give you your story.”
I nodded my head in agreement. Holding tightly to my journal, I made my way to the blacksmith shop where I found the young man. This is what he told me about the events.
“We were only given a few hours notice to appear dressed as Indians so as to prevent discovery; even my closest friends did not know what was going to happen. We met by the wharf and took possession of the ships, there were three leaders, one for each of the ships. We ordered the captain and crew to open the hatches, promising not to harm anyone. We noticed that a crowd was gathering to watch and as quietly as we could, each of us slipped away when the job was done. We all took a vow to stand by each other if we were apprehended and any one of us who did not, would be knocked on the head and thrown overboard.”
I wished the young man luck and he went on his way. I felt that tonight's Boston Tea Party was just the beginning of America's independence from British tyranny. God bless us all.