On Feb. 6, 1788, Massachusetts became the sixth state to join the Union. The Bay State, as it’s known today, was the stage for both the beginning of the colonization of the New World and the fight for America’s independence from England. It is best known for the landing of the Mayflower, the Pilgrims, the Boston Massacre, and the Boston Tea Party.
Plymouth Rock and the Early Years
Eager to find a place to live where they could practice their religion without censorship or government involvement, the Puritans, also referred to as the Pilgrims, sailed on the Mayflower and landed near Plymouth Rock. A settlement was established in 1620.
More and more settlers came to the area, which began causing problems with the Native American tribes who had been living there for thousands of years. From 1675-1676, the Europeans and the Natives battled in what was termed King Philip’s War until the indigenous people were defeated.
The British Parliament was in debt and started imposing taxes on the colonists. In 1765, Britain enacted the Stamp Act, which taxed the settlers on virtually everything – from business licenses to playing cards and newspapers. It went further and enforced the Townshend Acts of 1767, which taxed pretty much everything else, including glass, paper, paint, lead, and tea.
Frustrated with all the heavy taxes, a group of settlers threw snowballs at a British sentry who was guarding the Boston Customs House on March 5, 1770. Reinforcement soldiers arrived on scene and opened fire on the group, killing five and wounding six of the colonists.
Anger towards the Crown grew exponentially after the Boston Massacre. Britain repealed all the taxes except on tea. The colonists boycotted any tea sold by the British East India Company and instead smuggled in Dutch tea.
Rather than pay the tax imposed on their favorite drink, the colonists took to smuggling, including such famous and well-respected persons as Samuel Adams and John Hancock. The May 1773 Tea Act allowed the East India Company, owned by the British, to sell tea duty-free to the colonies. This made it much cheaper than other brew companies; however, they still taxed the colonists.
Boston Tea Party
Frustrated with taxation without representation, a group called the Sons of Liberty was formed. Members included such prominent revolutionists as Paul Revere, Patrick Henry, Benedict Arnold, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock.
Adams was the leader of the organization, which held regular meetings to discuss the issue with Britain’s taxing. They protested the arrival of the Dartmouth ship carrying East India Company’s tea to Griffin’s Wharf in Boston. By Dec. 16, 1773, two other ships, Beaver and Eleanor, arrived, also loaded with tea from China. Thousands of colonists went to the wharf to protest the ships that morning while another large group gathered and voted to refuse to pay the taxes, or to even allow the tea to be unloaded, sold, used, or stored.
The Sons of Liberty dressed in Native American garb and boarded the ships. They dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The English King was furious over the actions and imposed what was later called the “Intolerable Acts” on the colonists. These series of laws further angered the settlers and, two years later in 1775, the American Revolution began after Paul Revere rode on his horse through Boston to warn the people that the British were coming. April 19, 1775 the Revolutionary War began with the Battles of Lexington and Concord.