Saturday, January 26, 2013
294. Why Benjamin Franklin Stopped Drinking Chinese Tea
Realizing that it would be a great source for its national revenue, in the 1760s, the British government began to impose a tax on tea, first through the Stamp Act of 1765 and later with the Townshend Act of 1767. Given the monopoly of the tea business, the British East Indian Company profited greatly. Benjamin Franklin reported that “in the five Years which have run on since the Act passed, would have paid 2,500,000 Guineas, for Tea alone, into the Coffers of the Company.”
The acts created serious dissatisfaction of colonists. They tried to boycott the acts by not drinking tea and drinking herbal infusions Benjamin Franklin tried to find some alternatives to Chinese tea. Peter Kalm had an interesting conversation with Franklin. According to him, “Benjamin Franklin, a man now famous in the political world, told me that at different times he had drunk tea cooked from the leaves of the hickory with the bitter nuts. The leaves are collected early in the spring when they have just come out but have not yet had time to become large. They are then dried and used as tea. Mr. Franklin said that of all the species used for tea in North America, next to the real tea from China, he had in his estimation not found any as palatable and agreeable as this.”
Two weeks before the event in Boston Harbor, Benjamin Franklin, then the representative from North American colonies, found that the colonist’s “steady refusal to take tea from hence for several years past has made its impressions” in the British parliament. Franklin worked hard to make the parliament to issue “a temporary licence from the treasury to export tea to America free of duty.” They could gain nothing through peaceful negotiation. Smuggling tea couldn’t meet the demand of the consumers. Outraged colonists, including merchants, shippers and general masses started demonstrations, culminating in the famous Boston Tea Party of December 1773.
Just a year and a half after the colonial patriots dumped the tea in Boston Harbor, Paul Revere's ride and the first shots fired at Lexington. The conflict caused by the justified right to drink tea without extra economic burden led to political hostilities, which were in due course led to the American war for independence.