J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tea “not intended to be smuggled”

This “guest blogger” posting continues Chris Hurley’s story of Cyrus Baldwin and his surplus tea.

We left Cyrus Baldwin sitting on a stockpile of tea in January 1774, weeks after the Tea Party. Other Boston dealers in tea were likely in a similar situation.

Early that month, one tea dealer realized there was no future in selling Bohea tea in Boston and tried to move his supply out of town. As reported on page one of the 13 January issue of the Massachusetts Spy:
Last week a barrel of Bohea tea which was attempted to be smuggled into some of the country towns, was detected and stopped at Charlestown, soon after it crossed the ferry, and the whole contents emptied into the river.
And the Spy was late to the story; the Essex Gazette and the Boston Evening-Post had it before them. In fact, the same day as the Spy item, the Boston News-Letter published an update:
We hear that the Barrel of Tea which was emptied into the River at Charlestown last Week, was not intended to be smuggled, as reported; it being Part of some that had been imported here before the East India Company’s Tea arrived, and publickly advertised for Sale: The Tea it is said belonged to Persons who are esteemed Friends to Liberty, and was sent, with other Goods, to a Trader in the Country: But the Inhabitants of Charlestown having resolved against the Use of that Article. and burnt their own, some of them tho’t it an Insult to be sent through their Town, and destroyed it as reported.
Clearly some people knew the names of the “Persons who are esteemed Friends to Liberty” who owned that tea, but that secret did not appear in the newspapers.

There were dozens of tea dealers in Boston, and any of them might have wanted to move their supply out of town. The route across the ferry to Charlestown suggested that the intended destination was north of the Charles River; otherwise, that barrel would probably have been shipped out by the Neck. But otherwise those reports offer no information about who owned this tea.

It’s rare to read a news item like this and have a chance to flesh out the story. In this case, though, more details are available.

TOMORROW: Cyrus Baldwin tells his story.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I Love hearing stories about my local history. Thanks