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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Charleston Tea Party - November 3, 1774

Did you know that there were other "tea parties" besides the Boston Tea Party? Tea parties were also held in Annapolis, Philadelphia, Greenwich, Edenton (North Carolina) - and here in Charleston!

In 1773, several Charleston Tea Parties were held. Tea shipments arrived by ship, went unclaimed, and were seized. In each instance, the tea was not dumped as had happened in Boston, but instead stored in the cellar of the Old Exchange Building. Hundreds of chests of tea accumulated and remained stored there.

Exhibit at Charleston's Old Exchange Building

On November 3, 1774, the British ship Britannia landed in Charleston Harbor. Aboard the ship were several passengers, including two new Royal appointees who were no doubt eager to start swinging their weight around this most rebellious of colonies.

You have to admit, though - they are kinda cute

Also on the Britannia were seven chests of that "mischievous drug" - tea. Now this was very interesting because by this time Charlestonians (and all the other colonists) were strictly boycotting the drinking of "English tea". Why was the tea on board and to whom was it slated for delivery? After a bit of investigation, it was revealed that the tea was consigned to three local merchants.

Now, we don't really know what the deal was behind this token amount of tea. Did the two new King's officers (you know, the cute guys above) plan to use it themselves? Did they think they could sell the tea for profit on the black market? Or did they just want to see how far they could go in defying what the local newspaper called "the sense of the people here."

Whatever the reason, tensions were high and those three local merchants very wisely decided that they better decline delivery and dispose of the tea to avoid problems. The trio gallantly boarded the Britannia and personally emptied the contents of their seven chests of tea into the Cooper River.

Warning: Do not try this at home

But what happened to all that tea that had been stored in the Old Exchange Building? In 1776, it was brought out and sold for the benefit of the new State of South Carolina! It brought excellent prices.

So you see, Charleston had not only dumped her tea.
She drank it, too.


Hapi said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

Marilyn Miller said...

You always have the most fascinating tea information. Thanks!

Angela McRae said...

Fascinating post, Denise, and a story I've never heard before! Thanks!

Puerh Guy said...

That's a great morsel of history for me, even though I've never been to Charleston. I can just imagine the defiance of the two Brits who landed with that ship. I suspect there was such rebellion against the rebels even if there were other reasons for the tea. --Spirituality of Tea

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