The Tea Act

The Tea Act was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain. Its principal overt objective was to reduce the massive surplus of tea held by the financially troubled British East India Company in its London warehouses and to help the struggling company survive. A related objective was to undercut the price of tea smuggled into Britain's North American colonies. This was supposed to convince the colonists to purchase Company tea on which the Townshend duties were paid, thus implicitly agreeing to accept Parliament's right of taxation. The Act granted the Company the right to directly ship its tea to North America and the right to the duty-free export of tea from Britain, although the tax imposed by the Townshend Acts and collected in the colonies remained in force. It received the royal assent on May 10, 1773.

Colonists in the Thirteen Colonies recognized the implications of the Act's provisions, and a coalition of merchants and artisans similar to that which had opposed the Stamp

Act 1765 mobilized opposition to delivery and distribution of the tea. The company's authorised consignees were harassed, and in many colonies successful efforts were made to prevent the tea from being landed. In Boston, this resistance culminated in the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773, when colonists (some disguised as Native Americans) boarded tea ships anchored in the harbour and dumped their tea cargo overboard. Parliamentary reaction to this event included passage of the Coercive Acts, designed to punish Massachusetts for its resistance, and the appointment of General Thomas Gage as Royal Governor of Massachusetts. These actions further raised tensions that broke out into the American War of Independence in April 1775.

Parliament passed the Taxation of Colonies Act 1778, which repealed a number of taxes (including the tea tax that underlay this act) as one of a number conciliatory proposals presented to the Second Continental Congress by the Carlisle Peace Commission. The commission's proposals were rejected. The Act effectively became a "dead letter", but was not formally removed from the books until passage of the Statute Law Revision Act 1861.

Provisions of Tea ACT

The Act, which received the royal assent on May 10, 1773, contained the following provisions. The Company was eligible to be granted licence to export tea to North America The Company was no longer required to sell its tea at auction in London. Duties on tea (charged in Britain) destined for North America “ Foreign Parts" would either be refunded on export or not imposed.

Consignees receiving the Company's tea were required to pay a deposit upon receipt of tea Proposals were made that the Townshend tax also be waived, but North opposed this idea, citing the fact that those revenues were used to pay the salaries of crown officials in the colonies.