Charles M. Andrews was wrong to associate the “blind unreason of revolt” with the actions of the American revolutionaries.[1] The revolutionaries were able political organizers who persuaded the people in Massachusetts to defend their life, liberty and towns against the Crown.[2] In Massachusetts, the American revolutionaries coupled effective military strategy with political solidarity to defend themselves from the British Regulars.[3]

 

            The Crown did not tolerate colonial activity that challenged the mother country’s constitutional authority over the colonies. The colonies were not supposed to interrupt the course of trade with Great Britain.[4] During the second half of the eighteenth century, British Parliament placed burdensome and restrictive economic and political policies on the colonies, such as the Sugar Act of 1764, the Declaratory Act of 1766, and the Tea Act of 1773.[5] “Between 1764 and 1774, Great Britain imposed on her American colonies a series of measures that plunged the empire into periodic and ever more serious crises until the armed confrontation of April 19, 1775.”[6]

            During 1764, Parliament imposed the Sugar Act on the American colonies. The Sugar Act, revised from the Molasses Act of 1733, initiated a series of aggressive policies placed on the colonies; followed by the Stamp Act of 1765, the Declaratory Act of 1766, the Townsend Acts of 1767, and then the Tea Act of 1773. The Sugar Act was enacted to curtail illegal sugar and molasses smuggling from the French West Indies to the Northern colonies in America.[7] The colonists had a long history of smuggling sugar, rum and molasses from the French, as well as from other foreign colonies in the West Indies, as a way to increase their own individual prosperity. The colonists were not opposed to alternative business markets that could aid with their financial prosperity, even if such relationships did not benefit the Crown. However, the Crown viewed the colonists as British subjects and further maintained that all benefits of trade, originally, belonged to Great Britain.[8] The Crown aimed to keep the colonists from profiting off of foreign markets, as well as from hurting British trade. Moreover, the Crown also needed to raise money to support its imperial agenda.

            During 1764, Great Britain viewed the profits rendered from colonial trade as insignificant and attempted a direct tax, or fee, on the colonists.[9] The Stamp Act of 1765 burdened colonists to pay a direct tax for paper from the Crown, or imprint with a rubber stamp all newspapers, pamphlets, marriage certificates, wills, diplomas and all other paper documents that circulated throughout the colonies. Depending on the type of transaction, a paper transaction could range from half a penny to ten pounds. The Crown demanded payment in hard money, which was scarce, and this further threatened to drain finances.[10] Many colonists felt they had to give their money to Great Britain “as oft and in what quantity they please to demand it.”[11]Although the colonist repealed the Stamp Act in Parliament, shortly after it was enacted, the colonists still felt their prosperity was threatened and they grew resentful and fearful of worse things to come.[12]

            Shortly after the repeal of the Stamp Act, Parliament enacted the Declaratory Act of 1766, and the Townshend Acts of 1767. The Townshend Acts replaced the Stamp Act of 1765, and further imposed a customs duty on all items shipped from Great Britain to the American colonies. Items such as glass, paper, silk, tea, and paint were affixed with an import duty and imposed on the colonists as a way for the Crown to raise revenue.[13] Great Britain interfered with colonial trade and became a “menace to colonial prosperity.”[14] Moreover, the colonists were losing their legislative capabilities. The colonists grew accustomed to conducting town meetings and regulating their own affairs through self government[15]; however, the Declaratory Act of 1766 extended the power of Parliament to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.”[16] According to the Boston Committee of Correspondence during 1772, speaking on behalf of the Boston colonists, in a letter to the town of Concord, the aggressive policies of the Crown were the “constant, unremitted, uniform Aim to inslave us.”[17] The colonists were not just infuriated with the sugar tariffs and import duties; they also knew the revenue was used to “strengthen British influence over provincial governments.”[18]

     In Concord, Massachusetts, the livelihoods of the colonists were grim. The surrounding farm lands, once used to support the family and community, suffered due to overuse. As a result, land and food were scarce.[19] During the mid-1760’s, the West Indies market that supplied most of the livestock, lumber, fish and rum to New England, had declined and Concordians, along with the rest of Massachusetts, were involved in an economic downturn.[20] By the early 1770’s, some artisans had closed their store doors to the public, and property values had decreased throughout the town of Concord.[21] The people in New England did not want to send money across the Atlantic Ocean to a government that did not understand, nor consider, their best interest when concocting policy over their livelihood.[22] British policy, to Concordians, threatened their community and their homes.[23]

     Although Charles Andrews mentioned the efforts of Samuel Adams and his first Boston committee of correspondence, he disregarded the paramount efforts of the inter-colonial network of communication.[24] Such communication transformed the politics in Concord, Massachusetts. Political committees were created to assert and document colonial rights.[25]   Beginning in December 1772, the Boston correspondence committee rallied town people and politically unified them against the policies of the Crown.[26] The widespread system of communication alerted towns in Massachusetts that “Only immediate and united opposition by the towns could save the province.”[27] The town of Concord responded by creating a committee of their own.[28] The committee in Concord united community consensus and addressed town grievances. “Concord wanted to speak to the world with a single voice.”[29] The people of Concord pursued a course of “well ordered resistance” to tyranny.[30]

     On November 31, 1973, the Boston Committee of Correspondence sent out another circular, but this time the letter was drafted in cooperation with several other neighboring towns that decided to create a correspondence committee of their own.[31] The letter warned that the Tea Act was a “further step in the plot to make American slaves.”[32]    

     The East India Company was also struggling financially during 1773; the company was going bankrupt due to poor management. Eighteen million pounds of tea, valued at two million pounds and “represented a three-year supply for the British market” was sitting in London warehouses accumulating expensive storage costs.[33]The East India Company had a powerful lobby in Parliament, as well as with the City of London bankers and investors, and “these backers wanted a government bailout.”[34] In February 1773, the East India Company asked Parliament to consider “that leave be given to export tea duty free to America.”[35] The company paid two duties on its tea; one duty when the tea landed in England, the second duty, “the Townshend tax, when it landed in America.”[36] Eliminating either duty lowered the price of tea from the East India Company to prices that were “equal to or less than that of tea being smuggled into America from Holland.”[37]

     England’s King George III approved of the tea duty, and firmly stated that the three pence a pound duty “must be kept” on the American colonies.[38] However, on May 10, 1773, the bill to eliminate the English tax passed without a recorded vote.[39] The Tea Act of 1773 was imposed on the colonies, by Parliament, and granted the East India Company a potential monopoly on the tea trade in the American colonies.[40] The colonies developed concern that surpassed the Tea Act; they believed their liberty and livelihood were at risk. The radicals and merchants in the Northern colonies were not only confronted with a loss of profit on their tea, but they were further faced with the possibility that the same company, or other companies, would be granted monopolies on such essential commodities as silk, drugs and spices. All were necessary commodities in the colonies.[41] The colonists had to react against a “rapid erosion of their traditional social world.”[42] They feared, “America would be prostate before a monster that may be able to destroy every branch of our commerce, drain us of all our property, and wantonly leave us perish by thousands.”[43]

     The colonists heeded the call of the correspondence committees and took a stand for their livelihood and liberty. During December 1773, a group of men stealthily boarded the British tea ship, the Dartmouth, as it sat in Boston Harbor. The men, disguised as Mohawk Indians, dumped “342 chests of tea into the bay.”[44] This was the equivalent of £10,000 worth of the East India Company’s property.[45] The incident, referred to as the Boston Tea Party, was retaliation for the Tea Act. Parliament immediately responded to the incident and closed the port of Boston, placed harsh economic sanctions on the Bostonians, and demanded payment for the tea. Parliament further destroyed the Massachusetts Provincial Charter of 1691, which “the inhabitants treasured as a sacred guarantee of their liberties.”[46] Town government was at risk and under attack.[47] During August 1774, town delegates gathered in Concord to discuss a plan to defend their communities against the Crown. They all agreed to initially practice rational resistance against the Crown, and to avoid slipping into “rage, passion and confusion.”[48]

     The Crown took an aggressive approach, and wanted complete control over the colonies. General Thomas Gage, governor of Massachusetts and commander in chief of the British Army in North America, knew he had to enforce the law of Parliament on the colonies. General Gage planned to arrest the political leaders in Massachusetts and “force the citizenry to accept the new regime.”[49] In fact, on information provided by an English civilian spy, John Howe, a Tory planted in the American colonies, General Gage decided to storm into Concord, with his military on foot, to destroy all of the stores and to seek out and pilfer the ammunitions in Concord.[50]

     When the British Regulars advanced on the countryside, during April 1775, with artillery, the people in Concord noticed. At first, the Regulars didn’t attack. Instead, the Regulars spent weeks training in the countryside, but their military presence cast suspense and tension around Concord.[51] In an effort to defend themselves against the looming threat of hostility, the Concord militiamen remained on guard for any type of attack from the Regulars. The Concord pastor, William Emerson, urged his parishioners to act on the defensive in the presence of the Regulars, so as not to receive blame for starting a civil war.[52]

     The tension finally broke on the morning of April 19, 1775. Local silversmith, Paul Revere, announced “The Regulars are coming out!” The alarm bells sounded and the minutemen of Concord grabbed their weapons and rushed to Lexington common.[53]The Regulars had their guns loaded as they entered the village. The British Regulars demanded the provincials surrender their weapons. The minutemen, in turn, refused to surrender their guns.[54] By the end, aggressive confrontation ended in bloodshed. The Regulars had killed eight provincials, most of them shot in the back, and nine other provincials were wounded. The British Regulars left the bloody scene as victors. The Regulars continued onward in pursuit of prisoners to take back to London. The news of the Lexington massacre traveled to every town and farm in the Middlesex countries, as well as throughout New Hampshire and into Maine.[55]

     As the British entered Concord, the provincials retreated for higher ground and the British encountered a nearly empty town.[56] The Regulars continued on to the North Bridge, which was close to where the provincials were gathered. The tension between the two sides grew, but the provincials, under the leadership of Colonel Barrett, were instructed “not to fire till they fired first”, then to fire relentlessly. As the provincials advanced towards the North Bridge, the British fired the first few warning shots, then a “direct volley.”[57] The Concord fight, “the shot heard around the world”, had started, but this time the provincials forced the Regulars to defensively scatter and retreat.[58] The provincials followed the Regulars, hid behind houses and barns, and continued to fire their guns on the British until many of the Redcoats laid dead in the road.[59] The Concord minutemen defended their liberty and won the battle at Concord. By July 4, 1776, the Massachusetts provincials were incorporated into the Continental Army under the command of General George Washington. As the American Revolution ensued, the Continental Army continued to defend the colonial rights of liberty and financial freedom from the Crown.[60]

 



[1] Andrews, Charles M., The Colonial Background of the American Revolution: Four Essays in Colonial History (Connecticut: Yale Press,   1958) pg. 151.

[2] Gross, Robert A., The Minutemen and Their World (New York: Hill and Wang, 1976) pgs. 42-45

[3] “Ibid.” pgs. 49, 112, 118

[4] Andrews, Charles M., pg. 116

[5] Gross, Robert A. pgs. 30-31

[6] “Ibid.” pg. 30

[7] “Ibid.”

[8] Andrews, Charles M, pgs. 91-92

[9] “Ibid.” pgs. 133-134

[10] “Ibid.” pg 134

[11] “Ibid.” pg. 137

[12] “Ibid.” pg. 136

[13] “Ibid.” pgs. 134-135

[14] “Ibid.” pg. 135

[15] “Ibid.” pg. 34

[16] Gross, Robert A., pg. 31

[17] ‘Ibid.” pg. 42

[18] “Ibid.” pg. 31

[19] “Ibid.” pg. 87

[20] “Ibid.” pg. 93

[21] “Ibid.”

[22] “Ibid.” pg. 42

[23] “Ibid.” pg. 104

[24] Charles, Andrews M., pg. 153

[25] Gross, Robert A. pgs 42-44.

[26] Gross, Robert A., pg. 43

[27] “Ibid.” pg. 42

[28] “Ibid.” pg. 43

[29] “Ibid.” pg. 44

[30] “Ibid.” pg. 57

[31] “Ibid.” pg. 46

[32] “Ibid.”

[33] Cook, Don, The Long Fuse: How England Lost the American Colonies, 1760-1785(New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995) pg. 166

[34] “Ibid.”

[35] “Ibid.”

[36] ‘Ibid.”

[37] “Ibid.”

[38] “Ibid.” pg. 167

[39] “Ibid.” pg. 168

[40] Charles, Andrews M. pgs. 156-157

[41] “Ibid.” pg. 158

[42] Gross, Robert A., pg. 107

[43] Charles, Andrews M. pg. 158

[44] Gross, Robert A., pg. 47

[45] Charles, Andrews M. pg. 159

[46] Gross, Robert A., pg. 49

[47] “Ibid.” pg. 52

[48] “Ibid.” pg. 53

[49] “Ibid.” pg. 109

[50] “Ibid.” pg. 112

[51] “Ibid.” pgs. 112-113

[52] “Ibid.” pg. 108

[53] “Ibid.” pg. 116

[54] “Ibid.” pg. 117

[55] “Ibid.” pg. 118

[56] “Ibid.” pg. 120

[57] “Ibid.” pg. 125

[58] “Ibid.” pg. 126

[59] “Ibid.” pg. 129

[60] “Ibid.” pg. 135