Since the beginning of the 18th century, tea had been regularly imported to the American colonies. It has been estimated American colonists drank approximately 1.2 million pounds of tea each year. Britain realized it could make even more money off of the lucrative tea trade by imposing taxes onto the American colonies. In effect, the cost of British tea became high, and, in response, American colonists began a very lucrative industry of smuggling tea from the Dutch and other European markets. In 1773, the Tea Act was passed and granted the British East India Company a monopoly on tea sales in the American colonies. American colonists were outraged over the tea tax. They believed the Tea Act was a tactic to gain colonial support for the tax already enforced. The direct sale of tea by agents of the British East India Company to the American colonies undercut the business of colonial merchants. The smuggled tea became more expensive than the British East India Company tea. Smugglers like John Hancock and Samuel Adams were trying to protect their economic interests by opposing the Tea Act, and Samuel Adams sold the opposition of British tea to the Patriots on the pretext of the abolishment of human rights by being taxed without representation.
In cities as New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, tea agents resigned or canceled orders, and merchants refused consignments. In Boston, however, the royal governor Thomas Hutchinson determined to uphold the law and maintained that three arriving ships should be allowed to deposit their cargoes and that appropriate duties should be honoured. On the night of December 16, 1773, a group of about 60 men comprising of Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty encouraged by a large crowd of Bostonians, donned blankets and Indian headdresses, marched to Griffin’s wharf, boarded the ships, and dumped the 342 tea chests, valued at £18,000 (about $1m today), into the water.
In retaliation, Parliament passed the series of punitive measures known in the colonies as the Intolerable Acts, including the Boston Port Bill, which shut off the city’s sea trade pending payment for the destroyed tea. The British government’s efforts to single out Massachusetts for punishment served only to unite the colonies and impel the drift toward war.
William Thomas Green Morton, American dental surgeon, in 1846 gave the first successful public demonstration of ether anesthesia during surgery. He is credited with gaining the medical world’s acceptance of surgical anesthesia.
Morton began dental practice in Boston in 1844. In January 1845 he was present at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, when Horace Wells, his former dental partner, attempted unsuccessfully to demonstrate the anodyne properties of nitrous oxide gas. Determined to find a more reliable pain-killing chemical, Morton consulted his former teacher, Boston chemist Charles Jackson, with whom he had previously done work on pain relief. The two discussed the use of ether, and Morton first used it in extraction of a tooth on September 30, 1846.
On October 16th, he successfully demonstrated its use, administering ether to a patient undergoing a tumour operation in the same theatre where Wells had failed nearly two years earlier. Morton named his “creation” Letheon, after the Lethe River of Greek mythology. Drinking its waters, the ancients contended, erased painful memories. Unfortunately, Morton attempted to obtain exclusive rights to the use of ether anesthesia. He spent the remainder of his life engaged in a costly contention with Jackson, who claimed priority in the discovery, despite official recognition accorded to Wells and the rural Georgia physician Crawford Long.
While many toyed with anesthetic agents, it was Morton who first developed a novel delivery instrument to enable ether inhalation during an operation. The device consisted of a glass flask with a wooden mouthpiece that could be opened and closed depending on the patient’s state of consciousness. This was critical because other experimenters, including Wells and Long, could not ensure rapid reversibility of the anesthetic state and often overdosed their patients. Morton’s genius resided not only in his observations of the power of ether but also in his development of a crude but scientific method of regulating its inhalation, thus creating the field of anesthesiology.