Tea, Duty on

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TEA, DUTY ON. Tea coming to colonial America was subject to British import and excise or inland duties. The import duties were practically fixed at 11.67 percent, and the inland duties varied from four shillings to one shilling plus 25 percent ad valorem. The Revenue Act of 1767, which levied a duty of three pence per pound, stirred resentment against Britain and became the center of political resistance. Despite an attempted boycott against its importation, Americans would have their tea; between 1767 and 1774, more than 2 million pounds were imported and the American duty was paid.

In 1773 the East India Company was permitted to export tea directly to America and set up wholesale markets in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. This created a de facto monopoly, precipitating agitation across the colonies not unlike that over the sale of stamps. There had been no change in the tax since 1767, but the tea ships with their loads of taxed freight became a symbol of taxation tyranny. Tories claimed the tea was coming in without any tax being paid. Whigs exposed the subterfuge. In the ensuing newspaper and pamphlet warfare, Alexander Hamilton won his first reputation as a political writer. Every tea ship was turned back or had its tea destroyed, unless its cargo was landed under an agreement that it would not be sold (see Boston Tea Party). After 1774 the Association enforced a boycott on most English imports. Some tea filtered through, was entered at the customshouses, and had the regular duty paid on it.


Brown, Richard D. Revolutionary Politics in Massachusetts: The Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Towns, 1772–1774. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970.

O. M.Dickerson/a. r.

See alsoSmuggling, Colonial ; Taxation ; Tea Trade, Prerevolutionary .