Anne Arundel History

October 23, 2005


On Oct. 19, 1774, Anthony Stewart of Annapolis burned his own ship, sending the British a strong signal that Marylanders could have their own version of the Boston Tea Party.

The Peggy Stewart, named for Anthony Stewart's daughter, was loaded with 2,000 pounds of tea when it arrived at Annapolis harbor. Anthony Stewart thought he would pay the tax on the tea and have it quietly moved ashore, but soon the word of his intentions got out. Citizens became angry and gathered at the harbor.

As tempers grew hotter, a group of angry citizens went to Stewart's house and confronted him. They admonished him that he should be loyal to the non-importation agreement, although he had refused to sign it. The crowd gave him a stark choice: burn the ship or be hanged at his front door.

Stewart agreed to burn the tea and offer a public apology but pleaded with the crowd to be allowed to unload the rest of his valuable cargo. Although some people agreed, the mob continued to shout louder. Fearing for his family's safety, Stewart ran his ship aground and applied the torch himself.

Some people thought the punishment was too harsh. But many experts agree his actions demonstrated the determination Marylanders felt against England and the taxes imposed.

[Sources: historian John T. Marck, Jean Packard/Sun library research.]

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