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An act of defiance toward the British government by American colonists; it took place in 1773, before the Revolutionary War. The government in London had given a British company the right to sell tea directly to the colonies, thereby undercutting American merchants. A group of colonists found a ship in the harbor of Boston that was loaded with the company's tea. They dressed as Native Americans, boarded the ship, and threw hundreds of chests of tea overboard. The British government then tried to punish the colonists by closing the port of Boston, but this move only intensified American resistance to the rule of the king.