Author: John Adams
Date: February 14, 1771
“Dined at Mr. Hancocks with the Members, [Dr. Joseph] Warren, [Dr. Benjamin] Church, [Reverend Dr. Samuel or William] Cooper, &c. and Mr. Harrison and spent the whole Afternoon and drank Green Tea, from Holland I hope, but don’t know.”
Source: Diary of John Adams, The Adams Papers, Series I, Volume II, Page 5, entry for Thursday, February 14, 1771. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA. See original document here on the MHS website.
Commentary: Surviving documentation of Joseph Warren attending social events remains rare. In this one John Adams notes his presence among Boston Sons of Liberty, meeting in the afternoon at John Hancock’s mansion on Beacon Hill.
Warren’s contributions to the conversation are unrecorded. As Warren’s biographer I have found no evidence of a social gathering at Joseph Warren’s rented house on Hanover Street prior to his spouse Elizabeth Hooton Warren’s untimely demise in May of 1773. This may be attributable to gaps in surviving documentation, or that Warren’s household was simply too busy and small to host such gatherings. At this time Joseph’s household consisted of himself, Elizabeth, children, up to two medical apprentices, one or more servants, and patients coming and going. Male company was plentiful and in the immediate vicinity at meetings of St. Andrew’s Lodge of Masons and at the Green Dragon Tavern.
John Adams’ aside is telling. During a period when some Patriots wavered in their zeal, and non-importation and non-consumption of British goods were observed as much in the breach as in fact, attendees at Hancock’s soiree where unwilling to offend their host by asking him the obvious question: “John, where the heck did this tea come from?”
Dutch tea would have been smuggled and therefore did not involve payment of the onerous British import duty. Hence the smuggled variety was the politically correct choice for Patriotic Sons of Liberty.
But at the retail and consumption level of loose tea leaves, there was no way to tell whether the tea had arrived in America by passing Royal Customs and paying import duties, or whether it came via Holland or otherwise evaded the hated taxes. This lesson was not lost on Sons of Liberty in all the Colonies not quite three years later. By November and December of 1773 – in the face of the Tory Ministry’s renewed enforcement of the tax on tea, declaration of a monopoly on its importation by the British East India Tea Company, and wholesale distribution mandated only via designated consignees – Patriots determined that East India monopoly tea should never land on American shores. They would preclude any chance that it could slip into retail channels and pass for Dutch tea.
I Hope this Tea is from Holland
Author: John Adams