First Congress

The first Continental Congress is held in Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia on Sept. 5, 1774. The congress met to define American rights and to organize a plan of resistance against the Coercive Acts, which were imposed by the British Parliament as punishment for the Boston Tea Party.

MPI/Getty Images

Consequences of the Boston Tea Party

The Boston Tea Party was, until that time, one of the most dramatic protests against British colonial rule. Tensions were already high because of many tax laws passed and repealed by the British government and the protests against them. Three years earlier, on March 5, 1770, British soldiers shot and killed five colonists in what became known as the Boston Massacre. The massacre was still a source of outrage for the colonists, and men such as Samuel Adams delivered speeches protesting it in the Old South Meeting House.

Because of slow transport times, England didn't receive news of the Boston Tea Party until January 1774. The British government made their official announcement two months later and embarked on an effort to crack down on the unruly colonists. On April 1, 1774, the authorities closed the port of Boston. Four new regiments of British soldiers arrived in Boston. General Thomas Gage replaced Thomas Hutchinson as governor, and Benjamin Franklin, who at the time represented Massachusetts, was criticized in Parliament for spreading material that showed outgoing governor Hutchinson in a poor light.

The Intolerable Acts, passed in 1774 and also known as the Coercive Acts, represented another attempt by the British government to make an example of Massachusetts. The Intolerable Acts were actually composed of several laws that gave British authorities more control over the colonists and limited the colonists' ability to obtain more power. The Quebec Act set aside a large chunk of land west of the colonies and handed it to the province of Quebec. The Massachusetts Government Act revoked the colony's charter and made it a crown colony with fewer rights (such as outlawing impromptu gatherings). This same act also installed General Gage as the military governor. The Boston Port Bill closed the Boston Harbor. The Administration of Justice Act allowed British officials charged with serious crimes to have their trials take place in Britain or a different colony. Finally, Parliament passed a revision of the Quartering Act, which authorized British soldiers to stay in colonists' homes.

The Boston Tea Party was not the official beginning of the American Revolution, but it was an early, important defining event. The rebellion against colonial rule and subsequent crackdown by the British government galvanized the colonies in their opposition to the Crown, as evident by protests against tea in places outside Massachusetts. Other tea shipments intended for the colonies were forced to return to Britain. In Charleston, British-imported tea made it off the boats but not out of the warehouses where it was stored.

Ten months after the Boston Tea Party, the First Continental Congress met in September 1774. The Declaration of Independence came less than two years after that. The colonies were on their way to outright rebellion and eventual independence, and the Boston Tea Party remains a seminal moment in the development of the nation.