While America was still part of the British Empire, its colonists were heavily taxed on goods such as sugar and stamps, but soon, the tax on tea, an extremely popular drink, rose as well. The colonists responded by purchasing tea from Dutch trading companies and British importing companies began to fail and the Empire began to treat the acts of legal trade as smuggling. The taxing increased and soon, a group of Patriots called the Sons of Liberty, led by Samuel Adams, called a meeting that led to what is traditionally held as the first American protest against the British Empire. In the early hours of 16 December 1773, colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three ships docked in Boston Harbor and proceeded to throw the cargo – 342 crates of English tea – overboard into the water. Contrary to popular belief, Adams was not the mastermind of the plan and actually opposed it, and the identities of the majority of the “tea partiers” remained a mystery for many years.