In 1770 the British Parliament repealed the Townshend Acts (1767), removing the duties imposed on various products imported into the British colonies. The tax on tea however was preserved. To circumvent the act, merchants in Boston smuggled tea from Dutch traders.

In response, Parliament passed a Tea Act (1773) setting a monopoly on the product, which was to be traded only through British East India Company ships and agents, bypassing the independent colonial merchants.

Despite fierce resistance in regards to the Act in several cities, the royal governor of Boston was a firm supporter of the law, welcoming and honoring the duties of the East India Company cargo ships.

Thus, on the night of December 16, 1773, a group of about 60 men donned blankets and Indian headdresses, boarded the ships, and dumped £18,000 worth of tea chests into the water.