The Grievances of the Colonists

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What are nine grievances the colonists had against the 1773 Tea Act?

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The Tea Act of 1773 was a decisive event. It helped cause the American Revolution (1775–1783). Colonists opposed it for many reasons.

The colonists viewed the Tea Act as another of Lord North's machinations. Lord North, the British prime minister, was an aristocrat who did not understand the colonists. North made a number of errors in his handling of the colonists, and this was one of his worst.

The Tea Act was designed, at least in part, to help friends in the struggling East India Company sell their surplus tea. The East India Company was given a bailout through the Tea Act. The colonists were not interested in the company's financial difficulties, though.

The Tea Act was an unpleasant reminder of the Townshend Acts (1767). Almost all of the duties imposed by the Townshend Acts were repealed—except for the one on tea. The colonists insisted that all parts of the Townshend Acts had to be repealed.

Colonists were still angry about the Boston Massacre (1770). In their view, the British soldiers had not been punished sufficiently. They feared the British might resort to force again.

Colonists had grown accustomed to buying their tea from smugglers. They resented London's blatant attempt to force them to buy its cheap tea. The British, on the other hand, detested colonial smuggling, and they wanted to stop it.

Buying cheap tea from the British would violate the colonists' policy of "no taxation without representation." The Tea Act was a ruse. The colonists also realized that the East India Company was under no obligation to keep tea prices low in the future.

The Sons of Liberty, a radical anti-British group, had financial reasons to oppose the Tea Act. It was not acting solely out of principle. Many of its members were merchants who smuggled tea.

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The Tea Act of 1773 was unpopular in the American Colonies for a number of reasons. First of all, it was intended to bail out the British East India Company, it owed the British government nearly a half million pounds annually, and it was having trouble paying its debt. The colonists reasoned that they should not have to support this corporate bailout.

Another reason that the Tea Act was not liked was because the aforementioned British East India Company had a monopoly on tea and had already been taxing it in the colonies since 1767. The monopoly had the British government's approval and gave the colonies no choice from whom they could buy tea.

Moreover, the monopoly meant that legitimate colonial tea merchants were cut off from profiting in what should have been a free market.

The taxation of tea (and other items) was resented by the American Colonies because they had no voice in Parliament. They believed that only their colonial legislators had the right to establish taxes in the colonies.

In 1770, the Townshend Act duties were repealed, but the tax on tea remained. It was an overt message to the colonies that Parliament retained power over them, and it was seen by the American Colonies as a provocation.

Americans had developed a taste for tea, and boycotting it on principle was a hardship. Many people grudgingly paid the tax, others drank smuggled Dutch tea, and still others stopped drinking tea altogether.

An increasing number of American colonists considered themselves Americans and did not identify as British subjects, hence they didn't feel compelled to abide by British laws or tax schemes.

Those who were selling smuggled Dutch tea stood to lose their business as tea sales became more strictly regulated so that the tax could be collected.

With a tax added to the purchase price, tea became more expensive. Higher prices are generally disliked by consumers.

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Just to give some additional context for answering this question, it's useful to ask what the Tea Act actually entailed. In 1773, with the British East India Company in financial difficulties, the British government gave it a monopoly for selling tea to the Colonists. In the process, it actually would have lowered the cost of tea in the colonies.

The problem, however, was that the Tea Act, in handing this monopoly over to the East India Company, undercut the interests of Colonial merchants, who were suddenly banned from the trade of tea. Furthermore, this act emerged within a much larger context, by which, for generations, the British government had remained largely non-interventionist in the colonies. After the French and Indian War, however, that policy was suddenly changed, and the British government became far more insistent about imposing its own taxation policies and enforcing mercantilist laws upon the colonists than they had ever been before. This created a lot of strife between colonists and the British government. When answering this question, you should keep that larger picture in mind.

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There were many reasons why the colonists were upset with Tea Act of 1773. I will list nine reasons below.

(1) The colonists were upset because the tax on tea continued. Tea was a popular drink, and they didn’t like having to pay a tax on it.

(2)   The colonists believed any tax violated their rights as British citizens. They didn’t have representatives in Parliament that could vote on the proposed taxes. British citizens are supposed to have representatives in Parliament that could vote on proposed taxes.

(3)   The colonists believed this was another example of the British government trying to control them.

(4)   The colonists felt their voices weren’t being heard. The colonists had complained about the tax laws yet the tax on tea continued.

(5)   The colonists believed this law gave a monopoly on the trading of tea to the British East India Tea Company.

(6)   The colonists believed their freedom of choice was being limited by allowing only one company to handle the trading of tea.

(7)   The colonists believed this was another example of the British government favoring British businesses and the British people. The colonists felt their concerns were always secondary to the concerns of the British.

(8)   The colonists felt this law would hurt colonial businesses.

(9)   The colonists believed the British were continuing to send a message that the British could tax the colonists at any time.

With the colonists having so many reasons to oppose this law, it is no surprise that an event like the Boston Tea Party occurred. The colonists were angry, and they were determined to do something about it. That response came on December 16, 1773.

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