But My Tea! A Letter from the Frontlines of Colonial Boston
“Here’s a Black man who says, ‘I don’t know how to get this message across. If I march in the streets people say I’m a thug. If I go out and protest, people say it’s a riot. If I go down on one knee, it’s wrong.’ What is the right way, I’ve always wanted to know, what is the right way for a Black person to get attention in America?”
Trevor Noah to Tomi Lahren, 11/30/2016
I must imagine you have already received word of our misfortunes as yesterday the mutineers broke out in fiercest riot upon our lovely Boston. Now you know that I of all people am sensitive to the colonists’ plight, but there is a right way to air one’s grievances and a wrong way. And fisticuffs over tea is simply the wrong way.
Yesterday the armed rascals known as the Sons of Liberty marched on Griffin’s Wharf. While they claim it was a non-violent protestation, these miscreants appeared quite upset — and a disturbance is, to those of us unaccustomed to disturbance, a sort of violence, is it not? I heard beastly phrases unfit for a chamberpot and chants of “No taxation without representation!” and “Don’t tread on me!” They even poked merry fun at the delicate nature of our beloved King George!
Then, as I am sure you now well know, they threw 342 chests of tea into the harbor. Well, I am beside myself. Whatever are the idle wealthy to do? I now have no choice but to cancel my tea garden stroll, where I was to show off my command of etiquette, rose husbandry, and other worldly pleasures. Lydia, the prospect of pending war is horrid enough as it is; must we bear such troubles without a strong cup of East India’s finest?
These were the foulest men (Samuel Adams in particular is a known propagandist and agitator who may have been under the influence of beer). And our British officers — such fine young public servants — kept order at great risk to themselves. Why, my own husband James, while reloading his musket, took a tear to his coat! Do not loyalists’ lives matter as well?
I confess it confounds me, Lydia. What purpose does it serve to destroy one’s own tea? Whatever did those tea manufacturers do to them? If the rebels want to be taken seriously, they need to protest peacefully, rather than destroying my last hope of a proper lapsang souchong on this god-forsaken continent.
I have sought most closely and diligently, deeply in my breast, for a wrong motive in my fury at this travesty. Alas, I have no improper feelings toward the poor cowards. I am, truly, the farthest thing from anti-colonist.
Still, these so-called “patriots” tell me I should sit down and listen for a time, as I am “married to a man who is armed to the teeth and is permitted to kill them while we both benefit financially from a corrupt system that taxes them into poverty and refuses to see them as autonomous beings.” But then when does my voice get heard? How could whatever I have to say be so wrong, when I feel so often as though I mostly mean well?
Indeed, this week no fewer than four colonists’ wives have told me my rage is off-balanced, that I should perhaps instead direct my anger at the structural injustices perpetrated by the British monarchy. However, such nonsense will not return a hot cup of tea to my hands. What is the benefit of becoming a better woman, my dear Lydia, if you cannot celebrate your newfound goodness with a warm Twining’s by the hearth?
And while I am a fierce loyalist, I do have colonist friends. Three years we’ve been stationed in this town, and we never once had to force the property owner at gunpoint to give us lodging, even though it was always an option. It escapes me how, after all this time, they still refuse to see the good in us. We are trying, Lydia, as you well know, to be wholesome, respectable authorities to the wretched masses. I wish they could understand how much harder they make it for us when they come for something as precious as our afternoon refreshment!
Amidst the fracas, I heard one delinquent shout, “Liberty or death!” If this is a choice between their liberty and my tea, well Lydia, you know where I stand.
December 17, 1773