Wife of Boston Tea Party Participant Thomas Melville
Priscilla Scollay was born on August 15, 1755, in Boston, Massachusetts, daughter of John and Mercy Greenleaf Scollay. In 1761, along with about fifty other men, John Scollay signed a petition which was sent to King George III protesting the illegal actions of the British revenue officers. A strong supporter of colonial claims against the empire, John Scolly was chosen to Boston’s Board of Selectmen in 1764. The honor was repeated in 1773, and the following year he was made chairman, a title he held until 1790. Scollay Square in Boston is named for her family.
Thomas Melville was born in Boston, Massachusetts, January 27, 1752, the only son of Allan and Jean (Cargill) Melville. Losing his mother at the early age of eight, Thomas was raised and educated by his maternal grandmother, Mary (Abernethy) Cargill. At the age of fifteen, he entered the College of new Jersey (later Princeton University), where graduated in 1769 with a degree in theology.
Instead of becoming a minister, Melville went on a journey to Scotland, the home of his ancestors, as heir-at-law to his cousin, General Roland Melville. Thomas was welcomed there, and he received another degree from the St. Andrews College in Edinburgh. He would later receive an honorary Master of Arts degree from Harvard College in 1773.
Thomas Melville remained in Scotland and England two years, returning to Boston in 1773, where became a member of the Sons of Liberty organization led by Samuel Adams. From this period the cause of civil liberty engaged his attention. He took part in many of the important events preceding the revolution. He was one of the youthful disciples of Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and their friendships lasted for the rest of their lives.
The Boston Tea Party
In 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act, which required that the requisite tax be collected within 20 days of a ship’s arrival, making December 16 the deadline. This Act gave the English East India Company a chance to avert bankruptcy by granting a monopoly on the importation of tea into the colonies. The new regulations allowed the company to sell tea to the colonists at a low price, cheaper than the smuggled tea being sold by local merchants, even including the required duty. The British reasoned that the Americans would willingly pay the tax if they were able to pay a low price for the tea.