A reenactment of one of history's most unsuccessful business deals -- the East India Company's attempt to avert bankruptcy by selling large quantities of tea at bargain prices to the American colonists. The account of the negotiations between the Sons of Freedom and the consignees (who were resented by rival wholesalers as well as patriotic abstainers from the taxed commodity) shows how the merchants made confrontation inevitable by refusing to return the tea shipments as did their counterparts in Philadelphia, New York and Charleston. Griswold has a definite flair for creating dramatic portraits of individuals from the sketchy historical evidence -- John Singleton Copley unsuccessful as an apolitical go-between, John Adams enjoying his smuggled tea in private, merchant Richard Clarke holding his ground with the same bland arrogance which is revealed in Copley's later painting of him. As viewed through the amused accounts of contemporaries, the Tea Party itself was a most orderly riot: ""They say the actors were Indians from Narragansett. . .to a transient observer they appeared as such,"" wrote one diplomatic witness. Griswold's roster of ""Purported Participants,"" presented for the ""first time"" according to the jacket copy, is actually based on the 19th century researches of Thatcher and Drake, hut the publisher's offer of a $100 reward to any reader who can add a name to the list reflects the spirit of acventure which Griswold brings to this exercise in historical detection.