No Affiliation Alliance

Sons of Liberty

SOLbannerIn a furious debate before Parliament, British patriot Isaac Barre` spoke in protest against Parliament’s latest proposed bill (The Stamp Act of 1765) which would be imposed against the British American Colonies. Although his argument against the Act ultimately failed, it was from this defense, in reverence to and in favor of the American colonists, that the name “Sons of Liberty” was derived. The Act proposed by Lord Charles Townshend before the British Parliament would render this tax against the American colonies as a means to rectify the deficit caused by a reduction in the English land tax, which developed as a result of the rivalry among parties within Parliament. During his introduction of the Stamp Act resolution, Townshend pronounced that the colonies should “contribute to the mother country which had planted, nurtured, and indulged them…” and it was in response to this flawed reasoning that Barre’s fiery defense of the American colonists came forth:

“They planted by your care! No, your oppressions planted them in America. They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated, inhospitable country, where they exposed themselves to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable, 514px-Col_Barreand among others to the cruelties of a savage foe and actuated by principles of true English liberties, they met all hardships with pleasure compared with those they suffered in their own country from the hands of those who should be their friends.” Isaac Barre’, 1765

When the Stamp Act was repealed it was replaced that same day on March 17, 1766 by the Declaratory Act, which was a declaration of Parliament sovereignty over the American colonies with “unlimited and unable to be limited” powers to make law and policy in “all cases whatsoever”. This phrase remains inscribed in grievances charged against the crown, and listed in the Declaration of Independence as follows

“For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever“

If the seed for independence had been planted by any event, then let it be acknowledged that its inspiration did not occur from the malice of dishonorable acts by the colonials, but from the greed and indifference of British leaders far removed by distance and in lowest disregard toward the colonists. The English colonies were not conquered territories, but were settlements chartered by the English monarchy since the 1600’s, and therefore deserved the respect of full rights endowed to all Englishmen.

Shopkeepers and artisans formed community groups such as the Loyal Nine, the Union Club and the Caucus club, which joined with two of the most notorious groups: “The North End Caucus” and the Long-room Club. These groups organized a variety of boycotts and protest throughout the colonies, eventually developing into the Sons of Liberty, which served as a liaison link between messenger riders that delivered communications between the various committees of correspondence.

The Sons of Liberty were sanctioned by merchant organizations to stage protests and public demonstrations, to include sabotaging the British authorities, and serving as a shadow government which issued warrants for the arrest of suspected loyalist informants and merchants who continued to trade with England during the boycott. Their activities included secret committees arranging for the predetermined results of elections, and arranging for public celebrations to commemorate favorable results in these events.

In the City Arms Tavern on Broadway, a meeting of merchants assembled to resolve the issue over the Stamp Act imposed by British Parliament. The conclusion of this meeting ended with nearly two hundred signatures to unite in protest against these acts;

“We the underwritten, Retailers of Goods, do hereby – promise and oblige ourselves not to buy any Goods, Wares, or Merchandise, of any Person or Persons whatsoever, that shall be shipped from Great Britain after the first day of January next, unless the Stamp Act shall be repealed. As Witness our Hands, October 31, 1765.” It was further sanctioned by these same merchants that: “ an inter-colonial Committee of Correspondence of five Sons of Liberty — Isaac Sears, John Lamb, Gershom Mott, William Wiley, and Thomas Robinson — was appointed to secure the co-operation of the merchants, in other parts of the country” (Sons of Liberty in New York -1859 P 86)

The media played an important role as well, as two influential printer/publishers—Benjamin Edes and John Gill of the Boston Gazette—wrote inspiring columns in favor of the Sons of Liberty. This proved to be instrumental in increasing their membership, and under the leadership of men such as Ebenezer McIntosh, a South Boston shoemaker, John Lamb, along with Isaac Sears in New York, and John Durkee in Connecticut, events were planned that intensified the opposition to British rule. For example, the customs agents who enforced the Writs of Assistance warrants became the target of retribution by these affiliated groups, and one such event linked to the Sons of Liberty was the burning of the home of the Massachusetts lieutenant governor, Thomas Hutchinson.

On August 14, 1765, an effigy of Andrew Oliver was found hanging in a tree on Newbury Street, depicted with a large boot with a devil climbing out of it in protest of the acts. Earlier that day, a mob had burned Oliver’s property on Kilby Street, and later the mob arrived at the “commissioner of customs’” home and beheaded the effigy, while they stoned the house as Oliver and his family hid inside, fearing for their lives. The crowd then moved onto Fort Hill, where they burned what was left of the effigy.

The royal government had become displaced in nearly every colony and was unable to enforce action against the group, because most of the sheriffs and militia were members of the Sons of Liberty organization. But this duplicity also exposed the organization to impostors, who began to terrorize townships by coercing money from merchants for protection under the name of the Sons of Liberty. However, these imposters were often met with vigilant reprisals by actual members known as “True Sons,” and “True-born Sons” of Liberty.

Eventually, in response to these threats and harassment’s, the Governor of the province of Massachusetts Bay, Francis Bernard, made a request to the Parliament for protection, and in October, 1768 the occupation of the city of Boston by British Regulars began. One day prior to the Boston Tea Party, on December 15, 1773, the Sons of Liberty declared by decree to be in full opposition of taxes imposed without representation. (Document can be viewed in full at:

“All America is in a flame on account of the tea exportation,” wrote a British officer at New York to a friend in London. “The New Yorkers, as well as the Bostonians and Philadelphians, it seems, are determined that no tea shall be landed. They have published a paper in numbers called the ‘Alarm.’ It begins, ‘Dear countrymen,’ and goes on exhorting them to open their eyes, and then, like sons of liberty, throw off all connection with the tyrant-the mother country.’ They have on this occasion raised a company of artillery, and every day almost, are practicing at a target. Their independent companies are out, and exercise every day. The minds of the townspeople are influenced by the example of some of their principals. They swear that they will burn every tea-ship that comes in; but I believe that our six and twelve pounders, with the Royal Welch Fusiliers, will prevent anything of that kind.”

From September 5 until October 26, 1774, the First Continental Congress convened in an attempt to mend the breaches in trust that developed between the British American colonies and the crown of England. Though tensions were high over the new taxes and the attempts of Parliament to take control over the colonies, there were many attempts by the American colonists to maintain loyalty to the crown.

The revolutionary war began within the civilian population with independent organizations motivated by individual action. These groups are paralleled by the “taxed enough already” (TEA) party of today, revealing no singular authority, but which exist as a loose affiliation of many groups and many leaders in common bond against government tyranny. Not everyone supported the protest against the crown, forcing these groups to secrecy of membership. Today we have constitutional protections to assemble in protest against policies that challenge our economic stability, national security, and sovereign right to self-rule.

At about 10:00 p.m. on April 18, 1775, the caretaker of the Old North Church in Boston climbed in pitch darkness to the top of the fourteen story steeple, and from the “King’s own Church”, he would hang two lanterns in a prearranged code to signal riders on the opposing bay shore that the British Regulars were coming by sea. On this cool spring night, the caretaker of this church watched in the dark, nervously waiting for the British to make a move, and worrying that the signal he would send would likely also be seen by the Regulars. With trembling hands, Robert Newman lit the lanterns and held them up in plain view for all to see. For the few minutes which he held the lanterns, hoping his signal was seen by the riders; he posed great risk to himself, but nevertheless waited to the very last moment before descending from the steeple as quick as his feet would carry him. By the time he reached the church level, soldiers were breaking in the doors. Newman, looking for an escape, found an open window next to the altar and disappeared into the night. He managed his way home, avoiding the soldiers searching for him, and slipped inside his home and bolted shut the door behind him. Nervously throughout the night, this meek man and his wife feared for the moment when the door would burst in with British soldiers, intent to haul them off to prison for treason.

Riders of the Sons of Liberty watched with anticipation for the signal from across the bay at Charlestown. Signal of the arrival of the British Commander, General Thomas Gage (whose previous efforts to confiscate the store of weapons at Salem had failed several months earlier) was one of many prior contributions made by Paul Revere, a forty year old local silver smith who remained in the city gathering information about strength of the force. He would cross the harbor bay alone in a small row boat, nearly being run over in the darkness by the transports carrying the regulars. Finding his way to the home of Richard Devens in Charlestown who gave Revere a horse-William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, both already in route to spread the alarm—Revere looked back across the bay with concern for his friend and hope for his escape.

As the alarm spread, other riders picked up the alarm and rode through the night, reaching every possible town and farm as far as New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island with the warning “the regulars are coming.” Revere rode straight for Concord, first alerting Captain Parker in Medford, and then riding on to the home of Reverend Jonas Clark in Lexington where Samuel Adams and John Hancock were staying—both of whom General Gage had orders to arrest as leaders of the rebellion—while also delivering his assessment of the enemy forces.

At sunrise the next morning, Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, along with three companies of English regulars amounting to approximately 800 men, arrived at Lexington Green to find seventy militiamen formed into ranks, led by Captain John Parker. British_Army_in_Concord_DetailThe British commander attempted to out flank and surround the rebels, but Parker, realizing his situation, dispersed his ranks in retreat rather than be captured. A shot was fired, more than likely from a weapon dropped by one of the fleeing farmers making for the trees at Parker’s order, but that was enough: the British opened fire upon the retreating militia, killing eight men and wounding ten more.

After the successful routing of the outnumbered militiamen at Lexington, the regulars pushed on to Concord, but were met in force at the Old Bridge crossing the Concord River. The British regulars were not prepared for such resistance, and they began to march back to Boston—but not before receiving heavy casualties from the militia of the surrounding townships, who had converged on Concord and flanked the unsuspecting British troops. These troops were ultimately saved only by the arrival of a second column, led by Lieutenant-General Hugh Percy.

Within the next few days, several thousand militia-men had accumulated from Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Under the command of Artemas Ward, the civilian militia fortified and surrounded Boston, beginning the siege that would last nearly a year. However, without a colonial navy, the British regulars were still able to receive supplies from sea. Still, the regulars raided small farms which inhabited the islands of Boston Harbor for fresh meat. This caused the colonial militia to relocate their livestock deeper within their controlled territory.

On May 27, 1775, Colonel John Stark led his First New Hampshire regiment of 300 men across the Mystic River just after midnight. Heading far north through Malden, he managed to evade the force of Marine regulars by crossing the Belle Isle Creek to Hogs Island during low tide. He then ordered his men to round up the livestock and herd them back to the main land, while Stark led thirty of his men up Crooked Creek to Noddles Island to burn the hay stores and kill any remaining livestock.

At about two p.m., Vice-Admiral Graves spotted smoke emitting from fires, and proceeded to land his Marines on Noddles Island, where they confronted Starks’ small group as they escaped. Vice-Admiral Graves also ordered the schooner Diana up Chelsea Creek in an attempt to cut off the escaping colonials. Colonel Stark ordered his men to fall back to Crooked Creek, where they turned and fought from fortified positions created by the natural rut in the marsh. There an intense battle ensued, until the British Regulars retreated. This event concluded Stark led his men back to Hog Island to rejoin the main body of his regiment.

Meanwhile, the schooner Diana had sailed into shallow waters, and with the colonials noticing her trouble called in reinforcements under General Israel Putnam, where he waded out into the water, waist-high, offering the sailors aboard the stranded Diana the opportunity to surrender. They refused, and he returned to the shore, where two artillery pieces fired upon the ship. After an exchange of cannon fire, the smaller barges which had attempted all evening to pull the Diana from the marsh mud, were forced to give up, after receiving many casualties and much damage themselves.

The American colonials boarded the abandoned Diana, stripping her of anything of value, including cannons, powder, money, oil, and other supplies. They built a bed of hay beneath her hull, and at approximately three in the morning on the 28th of May, the militia lit the Diana on fire. The Diana burned through the night, with occasional small explosions as missed or nonredeemable munitions were caught by flame. Lieutenant Thomas Graves, the Admiral’s nephew, watched from a safe distance away, aboard the ship Britannia. He was taunted by the cheers of the rebels, while his ship burned bright in the darkness.

May 10, 1775, Fort Ticonderoga was defeated by the American militia, led by Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys regiment. The cannons captured from this battle ultimately made a huge difference, as they were used against the regulars trapped in Boston. On this same day, the Second Continental Congress convened to debate the organization of a naval fleet and the appointment of Commander to a newly-formed Continental Army.

News is received that reinforcements will arrive from England at the port of Boston to re-enforce General Gage, arriving on May 25. On June 12, General Thomas Gage declares Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. He offers amnesty for colonials who will lay down their arms, and calls for the immediate incarceration of rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock.

Then, on June 15, George Washington is appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. On June 17, the Battle of Bunker Hill is lost by the colonial militia, with more than 1,500 British Regulars killed and approximately 450 militia killed in defense of the position. On July 3, Washington assumes command of the rag-tag militia, assembled by several independent colonies, and on July 4, 1775, Washington issues general orders to the army, announcing that they and those who enlist “are now Troops of the United Provinces of North America,” and expressing hope “that all Distinctions of Colonies will be laid aside; so that one and the same Spirit may animate the whole, and the only Contest be, who shall render, on this great and trying occasion, the most essential service to the Great and common cause in which we are all engaged.” On this day, a year prior to the Declaration of Independence, the colonial militia officially becomes the Continental Army.

On July 12, Howe’s brother, Admiral Richard Howe, arrives with a large fleet of warships, and by August, General George Washington establishes a naval force to challenge British Naval superiority off the coast of New England.

On August 23, 1775 the Articles of Association—consummating the establishment of The Thirteen United Colonies of North America—was ratified by all thirteen assemblies. The Second Continental Congress acted as the central government from May 10, 1775, until March 2, 1789, when the First Congress of the United States of America convened. The primary objective of the Confederation Congress after the declaration for independence was to finance the war and issue currency called “Continentals”. Each of the separate state countries of the new union began to construct independent state constitutions, which would become the foundation of the first federalist republic ever established. The responsibility of delivering communications between colonial legislatures fell to the dependable Sons of Liberty, including the delivery of the final broadside prints of the Declaration of Independence.

These civilian volunteers carried the correspondences, reporting both triumph and failures when communication was primitive and the dangers of environment involved the risk of capture and death. No other group of men, other than those who fought on the front line, has contributed more for less fame than the Sons of Liberty, for no other gratitude other than it was their civic duty. In recognition to the members of these groups, the notable events that follow should become the inspiration in resistance to oppressive government, with the foundation of a republic being the virtue of its people.

“… opposition to the indignities heaped upon the people by the crown was kept alive by secret organizations…Sons of Liberty met in clubs and caucuses, the group which gathered at the Green Dragon Tavern being the most famous. They were composed chiefly of young artisans and mechanics from ranks of people, who, in rapid succession of events, were becoming more and more restive under the British yoke.” Charles Gettemy, author of The True Story of Paul Revere Published in 1859.

Samuel Adams, John Hancock and John Adams, as young men in their 20’s, had attended many of the meetings, and found in the diary of John Adams after his death are these entries:
“Feb. 1, 1763— This day learned that the Caucus Club meets at certain times in the garret of Tom Dawes, the adjutant of the Boston regiment. He has a large house, and he has a movable partition in his garret, which he takes down, and the whole club meets in one room. There they smoked tobacco till you cannot see from one end of the garret to the other. Then they drink flip, I suppose, and there they choose a moderator, who puts questions to the vote regularly; and selectmen, assessors, collectors, wardens, fire wards, and representatives, are regularly chosen before they are chosen in the town.”

“Jan. 15, 1766— Spent the evening with the Sons of Liberty at their own apartment in Hanover-Square near the Tree of Liberty. It is a counting-room, in “Chase and Speakman’s” distillery; a very small room it is. There were present John Avery, a distiller of liberal education; John Smith, the brazier; Thomas Chase, distiller; Joseph Fields, master of a vessel; Henry Bass; George Trott, jeweler; and Henry Welles. I was very cordially and respectfully treated by all present. We had punch, wine, pipes and tobacco, biscuit and cheese, etc. They chose a committee to make preparations for grand rejoicings upon the arrival of the news of a repeal of the stamp act.”

The success in rebellion against English oppression depended upon an independent bond of resistance by every facet of society. Groups such as the “Daughters of Liberty” organized their own boycott of tea and purchase against British commodities. As in all conflicts, many of the most heroic acts go without recognition, because no one else is present, or no one survives to be a living witness and is inspiration to future articles by this writer, especially Mary Ludwig Hays, nicknamed “Molly Pitcher” and Margaret Corbin, who replaced their wounded husbands on artillery gun crews during the Battle of Mammoth New Jersey.

The revolution was not begun in committee or by congress, but in the streets, taverns, distilleries and town halls across the colonies. The war was fought by the civilian volunteers and financed by public collections, often organized by clergymen, with the primary financier of the war being a private citizen named Robert Morris. It is for this reason our preamble declares the people of the United States of America as the sovereign authority over government. American history is not the fact of dates and events, but the inspiration and recognition of those who participated in the ideal of freewill to self-rule.


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