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Stories of New Jersey
A Jersey Tea Party
The Burning of the Tea at Cohansey. (Period, 1774.)

By Frank R. Stockton

Originally published in 1896
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

AT the time when the American colonists began to be restless under the rule of Great Britain, the people of New Jersey showed as strong a desire for independence as those of any other Colony, and they were by no means backward in submitting to any privations which might be necessary in order to assert their principles. As has been said before, the people were prosperous, and accustomed to good living, and it was not likely that there was any part of America in which a cup of well-flavored tea was better appreciated than in New Jersey.

But when the other colonists determined to resist unjust taxation, and resolved that they would not use tea, on which a heavy tax was laid without allowing the American people to have anything to say about it, the patriotic people of New Jersey resolved that they too would use no tea so long as this unjust tax was placed upon it. When the tea was destroyed in Boston Harbor, the Jersey patriots applauded the act, and would have been glad to show in the same way what they thought upon the subject.

But when tea was shipped from England, it was sent to the great ports of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston; and what was used in New Jersey came from these places after the consignees had paid the tax. However, to show their sympathy with the efforts which were being made at the seaports to prevent the landing of tea, the New Jersey people, that is, those who belonged to the Whig party, – which was the patriotic party, and opposed to the Tories, who favored England, – formed an association, the members of which bound themselves to buy or use no tea until the tax should be removed.

There is a story told of Hugh Drum of Somerset County, who was so thoroughly in earnest on this subject, and who probably supposed that the weak little Colonies would always have to submit to the power of Great Britain, that he took an oath that never again during the rest of his life would he take a cup of tea; and although he lived a great many years afterward, during which the Americans imported their own tea without regard to what any other country thought about it, Mr. Drum never again drank tea.

But at last an opportunity came for patriotic Jerseymen to show that they were not behind the other colonists in resisting the attempt of Great Britain to force upon them this taxed tea.

Nearly a year after the tea had been thrown overboard with tea, and bound to Philadelphia – put into Cohansey Creek, a small stream which runs into Delaware Bay, and anchored at the little town of Greenwich. in Boston Harbor, a vessel from England – loaded This vessel, called the "Greyhound," was afraid to go up to Philadelphia, because from that port tea ships were sent back to England as soon as they arrived, as was also the case in New York. So the captain of the "Greyhound" thought it would be a good plan to land his tea at Greenwich, from which place it could be taken inland to its destination. Here the cargo was unloaded, and stored in the cellar of a house opposite the open market place.

This business of forcing tea upon the American colonists had become a very serious matter to England ; for the East India Company had now in their warehouses at London seventeen million pounds of tea, and, if there should be no sale for any of this in the American market, the loss would be very severe. Consequently every possible method was resorted to, in order to have the tea landed on American soil; it being believed, that, if the tea once got into the hands of the dealers, the people would overcome their prejudices to its importation, and begin to use it again.

Therefore the captain of the "Greyhound" thought he was doing a very sharp thing when he sailed up Cohansey Creek and unloaded his tea. That cargo was landed, and in those days an English captain of a tea ship might well be proud of having performed such a feat.

But it is not likely that the captain of the "Greyhound" had ever before sailed into a port of New Jersey, large or small, or had anything to do with Jerseymen ; for if he had, he would not have been so well satisfied with the result of the voyage.

The people of Greenwich could not prevent the landing of the tea, for there was no organized force at the place, nor could they order the "Greyhound" to turn round and go back to England; but they would not allow their town to be made use of as a port of entry for this obnoxious merchandise, simply because it was a little town, and could not keep English ships out of its waters. A meeting of the patriotic citizens was held, and it was resolved that no tea should go out of Greenwich to comfort the bodies and contaminate the principles of people in any part of the Colonies; and they would show their British tyrants that it was just as unsafe to send tea into Cohansey Creek as it was to send it into the harbor of Boston.

Having come to this determination, they went immediately to work. A party' of young men, about forty in number, was organized; and in order to disguise themselves, or strike terror into anybody who might be inclined to oppose their undertaking, they were all dressed as Indians. They assembled in the market place, and. then, making a rush to the house in which the tea was stored, they broke open the doors, carried out the tea, split open the boxes in which it was contained, and made a great pile of it in an open space near by.

When tea is dry and in good condition, it will burn very well, and it was not many minutes before there was a magnificent bonfire near the market place in Greenwich; and in all that town there was not one man who dared to attempt to put it out. Thus the cargo of the "Greyhound" went up in smoke to the sky. It must have been a very hard thing for the good ladies of the town to sit in their houses and sniff the delightful odor, which recalled to their minds the cherished beverage, of which, perhaps, they might never again partake. But they were Jerseywomen, of stout hearts and firm principles, and there is no record that any one of them uttered a word of complaint.

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