Popular name for an act of uprising by Boston residents against the British government.
In 1773 Britain's East India Company was seeing declining profits and had large stocks of tea that it could not sell. The British Government passed the Tea Act 1773 that allowed East India Company to sell tea to the colonies without the usual colonial tax thereby allowing them to undercut the prices of colonial merchants.
Instead of being appeased by lower consumer tea prices 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. Many ports turned the tea away; at Boston however 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, a group of local Boston residents boarded the three tea carrying ships lying off Griffin's Wharf dressed as Native Americans, smashed the tea chests and threw them into the water. The whole event was remarkably quiet and peaceful.
The British Government responded by closing the port of Boston.