The Chestertown Tea Party

May 23, 1774

During the mid-1700’s, tensions were running high between the British and Americans. In London, Parliament had issued a whole new set of taxes (called the The Townshend Acts) on goods that were bound for American shores. Things like molasses, paper, paint, glass, and tea could not be unloaded from the ships without a significant amount of money in return.

As you can imagine, this did not go over so well in the thirteen colonies. In fact, Americans created such a stir that Parliament ended up repealing the majority of the taxes within just a few years of imposing them. By 1770, the only tax left was a hefty duty on tea. In retaliation for not lifting the tea tax, Americans decided that instead of purchasing tea from England, we would purchase it from other countries (or better yet, just smuggle it in).

The British East India Company was in dire straits at that point, and the British government decided to bail them out. In order to reduce the huge amount of tea in London warehouses while at the same time undercut the price of smuggled tea in America, Parliament passed the Tea Act. As a result of this legislation, the British East India Company would be able to directly ship tea to America with no export tax charged to them.

Still imposed upon Americans, however, was a large import tax that would need to be paid by the colonists in order to receive shipments from the British East India Company. Sons of Liberty in Boston staged a political protest in December of that year (1773), disguising themselves as American Indians, boarding the ships in Boston Harbor, and tossing the tea overboard. The Boston Tea Party, as it is referred to in history books, inspired colonists across the eastern seaboard to follow suit.

Other cities staged “tea parties” as a way to illustrate for Britain that colonists would no longer accept “taxation without representation.” Annapolis, Charleston (South Carolina), and Chestertown, Maryland were among those cities, with Chestertown’s Tea Party taking place on May 23, 1774. Although some historians argue the authenticity of the tea party in Chestertown, locals celebrate events that took place on the Geddes in the harbor every year at the Chestertown Tea Party Festival.

The festival takes place every Memorial Day weekend and includes Tea Party re-enactments (tossing the tea shipments into the Chester River), 5K and 10K runs, and local cuisine for sale in the streets. Among the most famous on Maryland’s menu are mouth-watering crab cakes…here is one of the best recipes out there:

Maryland Crab Cakes

1 pound of jumbo crab meat
1 pound of sweet crab claw meat
30 butter style crackers crushed into crumbs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
2 teaspoons parsley
1 cup mayonnaise
juice from ½ of one lemon
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon melted, salted butter

Clean crabmeat and set aside. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in the order listed and mix thoroughly. Add crab meat and gently fold in so as not to break the lumps. Portion out into 8 crab cakes of equal proportion.

Can be cooked either of two ways:

Broil in a heated broiler in a shallow baking dish wih a small amount of water for about 10 minutes, careful not to burn.

OR: Sautee in vegetable oil until golden brown on all sides.

Recipe from: Pierpoint Restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland

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