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The Boston Tea Party and George Robert Twelve Hewes

In: Historical Events

Submitted By SarahSmithMC
Words 810
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The name George Robert Twelve Hewes probably isn’t one that would be recognized by many people. Most people that start life poor and eventually orphaned and work a dead end job don’t get much more recognition than a passing nod on their way to work. Yet famous figure Andy Warhol seems to have a valid statement in saying, “…everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” Because in George Hewes’ situation, that is the case.
George R. T. Hewes, although a lowly Boston shoemaker, participated in many key events of the Revolutionary crisis. Growing up as a strong willed boy in a broken home, he seemed to have a lot of pent up anger that was released after witnessing the five deaths in 1770. After the Boston Massacre, he continued to get into altercations with Loyalists and British soldiers. However, he was all but forgotten by history until over half a century later when he described his experiences to Benjamin Bussey Thatcher and James Hawkes, who wrote detailed biographies on him. Hewes' life was no more extraordinary than anyone else’s at that time in history. His story is a common one of many lower class citizens at the time. Not until the writing of the biography “A Retrospect of the Boston Tea Party”, was there any spark in Hewes' popularity. Even then as he toured Boston like a celebrity, it was short lived. Hewes’ popularity wasn’t due to the fact that he had been involved in such a historic event, as much as it was due to the exclusiveness of him being one of the last known accomplices of the Tea Party.
According to historian Alfred Young, the term "Boston Tea Party" did not officially appear in any sort of print until 1834. Up until 1834 the event was usually referred to as the ‘Destruction of the Tea in Boston’, which it was originally called by John Adams. Most American writers were scared to write in celebration about the destruction of property. This began to change in the 1830s, however, especially with the publishing of the biographies of George Hewes, who had a somewhat significant role in the “Tea Party” as it later became known.
The Boston Tea Party was a dramatic event that was seared into the personal and private lives of everyone who participated or witnessed it happen. Although it is now very prominent in history, it was down played in the American republic’s memory at the time. When compared to rising upper class’ fear of violence, the Tea Party struck some as relatively safe compared to the Boston Massacre, the Stamp Act, and the tarring and feathering of people. The upper class historians crafted the events of the Tea Party so that it would not become prominent in history. With commemorative events for the Boston Massacre and the Battles of Lexington and Concord, it is very easy to see why The Boston Tea party lost the lime light. Most cultural authorities at that time did not want to promote an event that was a highlight of the Revolution’s heritage. During the 1830’s the Tea Party had gained a somewhat iconic place in the nations memory. The Tea Party was eventually used to benefit of certain individuals like Seth Luther, who used it as an example of legitimate collective action against propertied interests by ordinary citizens.
The Boston Tea Party practically upended the social and political order. Tea was for higher class citizens and lower class people couldn’t afford the tax on tea. The destruction of the tea not only threw their anger of the tax back in the face of England, it also sent an open invitation to surrounding people in America to challenge their decision to do so. The day that Hewes and 98 other men went to dump chests of tea into the ocean was the day that no one’s class mattered. Everyone was disguised in indian array; unrecognizable to authorities or even each other. Hewes recounts his part in the story in what seems a boyish excitement as he is given the title ‘Captian Hewes’ with orders to personally get keys to unlock the tea from the crates. The leveling of the classes that day was recognized all too late and a political meeting known as “The Body of the People”, brought in a massive crowd from surrounding towns. Boston had never had a political meeting with such a diverse array of social classes. These meetings were unprecedented, but it was a start to revolution, which would later aid in the independence of America.
George Hewes was a lowly shoemaker and a poverty stricken commoner likely with no more significance than any of the others who participated in the Boston Tea Party. Yet, he is a reminder that America’s independence was won by the collective efforts of all the colonists, both great and small.

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