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Coming of the American Revolution: Document Viewer
Massachusetts Historical Society
America's oldest historical society, founded 1791.

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Letter from Thomas Robie to Richard Clarke & Sons, 13 January 1770

Letter from Thomas Robie to Richard Clarke & Sons, 13 January 1770

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"any trifling package"
Although the importation and consumption of British goods, especially tea, slows between 1768 and 1770 it does not stop altogether. Thomas Robie is a merchant in Marblehead, a town on the northern coast of Massachusetts, who buys tea wholesale through Boston merchants firm Richard Clarke & Sons. He seems to have little trouble disposing of his merchandise, despite the fact that Marblehead citizens enthusiastically endorsed the non-consumption movement when it was first proposed in 1768. In this letter to the Clarkes, Robie makes clear his thoughts on the patriotic merchants and their attempts to rid the colonies of British tea.

Questions to Consider

1. According to Robie why is he having trouble selling his tea?

2. What does Robie think of the patriots and their non-importation and non-consumption campaigns? Identify words or phrases from the document to support your answer.

3. Colonists can also acquire tea through the ports in Halifax or Rhode Island, which do not subscribe to non-importation. How would this affect patriots' ability to uphold the non-importation agreement?

Further Exploration

4. Imagine that you are a merchant in Boston with a warehouse full of British goods. Patriotic merchants are asking you to keep your goods stashed in a warehouse until the Townshend duties are repealed, which could be several months from now--if ever. You will lose money if you do not sell your goods. Do you subscribe to the non-importation agreement? If so, do you stick to it, or will you violate the agreement and sell goods on the side? Support your decision with documents provided on this website.