In 1773 Samuel Adams, John's cousin and a revolutionary leader, got his hands on letters written by Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchinson. They showed the governor's support for Britain's harsh treatment of the colonists. When the letters were made public, the colonists felt outraged. In his Diary, John Adams called Hutchinson a "vile serpent" who supported "a System of Corruption and all Tyranny."
The British Parliament then passed the Tea Act, which granted the British East India Company a monopoly to sell tea in the American colonies. Protests throughout Boston were swift and intense. When three tea ships arrived in Boston Harbor, angry locals decided to block the cargo from being unloaded and sold. On the night of December 16, a group of men dressed as Indians boarded the ships and dumped the tea into the water. This destructive act became known as the Boston Tea Party.
Adams had never approved of mob action. Yet Parliament's actions convinced him that England was determined to trample the rights of the colonies. Adams again had to decide. Should he:
support the Tea Party protesters or condemn them because they had illegally destroyed the tea?