In 1773, the British East India Company was seeing declining profits and had large stocks of tea from China that it could not sell. The British Government passed the Tea Act, which allowed the East India Company to sell tea to the colonies without the usual colonial tax, thereby allowing them to undercut the prices of colonial merchants.
This incensed passions regarding British taxation of the colonies with no corresponding representation ("no taxation without representation"). The American population boycotted the tea and ships carrying tea were prevented from landing. American women played a large part in the boycott and it is one of the first times women collectively attempted to influence public policy in the Colonies. Many ports turned the tea away; at Boston, however, the East India Company had the assistance of the governor - preparations were made to forcibly land the tea under the protection afforded by British armed vessels.
On December 16, 1773, the night before the tea was due to be landed, the Sons of Liberty, a group of about 60 local Boston residents organized by Samuel Adams, burst from the South Meeting House and boarded the Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver all dressed as Native Americans. All three ships were carrying tea and lying off Griffin's Wharf. Dressed as Mohawks, by 9 PM, with only one incident, they had smashed 342 crates of tea and had thrown them into Boston Harbor. They took off their shoes, swept the decks, and made each ship's first mate attest that they had destroyed only the tea. The whole event was remarkably quiet and peaceful.
This act drew criticism from colonial and British figures. For instance, Benjamin Franklin stated that the destroyed tea must be repaid and offered to repay with his own resources. The British Government responded by closing the port of Boston (see Intolerable Acts).
The Boston Tea Party was one event which led up to the American Revolutionary War. The British East India Company eventually resolved the balance of payments problem caused by tea by selling opium to China, an act which led to the Opium War.