Samuel Adams (1722-1803) attended the meeting from which the plans for the Boston Tea Party were born.

After Alonzo Chappel/ The Bridgeman Art Library/Getty Images

The Final Meeting and the Tea Party

By Dec. 14, 1773, support for the boycott of British tea had reached neighboring towns, who had communicated messages of support. Signs were posted all over the city of Boston announcing another meeting in the Old South Meeting House. Some now legendary figures from early American history attended the meeting, including Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and John Hancock.

The attendees told Francis Rotch, owner of the Dartmouth, to ask Gov. Hutchinson for permission to sail out of Boston and back to England. But Gov. Hutchinson would not let the ships leave without unloading the tea.

The governor's decision was announced at a morning meeting of the Body of the People on Dec. 16. Between 5,000 to 7,000 people came to hear the verdict [source: The Old South Meeting House]. The patriots had named midnight of Dec. 16 their final hour to find a solution, so the atmosphere was tense already. Once they heard the verdict, frustrations mounted, and by that afternoon, the crowd could take no more. Someone let out a war cry. Others echoed the cry while some in attendance called for everyone to rush to Griffin's Wharf. A mob descended upon the harbor, divided into three groups -- one for each of the ships -- and began opening crates and dumping tea into the sea.

While a large mob attended the Boston Tea Party, little violence occurred. The ships' crews generally stood by impassively, and the surrounding British warships did not fire their weapons. Some local residents who tried to make off with tea found themselves shoved and kicked by protesters. One of the revelers reported that after the destruction of the tea "the stillest night ensued that Boston had enjoyed for many months" [source: The American Revolution]. Still, the lack of violence does not mean that the patriots weren't determined; the next day some of them returned to Griffin's Wharf and, seeing some tea still floating on top of the water, they approached it in small boats and destroyed what remained by hitting it with their oars.