Sons of Liberty
In the summer of 1765, a group of nine men in Boston, called the Loyal Nine, gathered to begin to protest the Stamp Act tax placed upon the American colonies by the King of England. England needed more income. The tax was placed on any paper document in the colonies in America. It was passed early in 1765 and would take effect in the fall of that year.
During the debate in Parliament in England over the Stamp Act, before its passage, Isaac Barre called those Americans opposed to the Act the 'Sons of Liberty.' This name was adopted by a small group in Boston. The Sons of Liberty was made up of tradesmen and shopkeepers. In the beginning, they saw themselves as protesters against specific pieces of British law, not as agents of rebellion against the British. High profile men didn't want to be associated with violence. However, two men who helped them were Benjamin Edes, a printer, and John Gill who owned a newspaper called the Boston Gazette. These two passed a lot of information around. Soon two thousand men were a part of the Sons of Liberty led by Ebenezer McIntosh, a shoemaker.
Samuel Adams and Paul Revere led the Sons of Liberty in Massachusetts. On August 14, 1765, the Sons of Liberty hung an effigy (a stuffed body) of Andrew Oliver from a tree in Boston. Oliver was about to be the Stamp Commissioner. The local sheriff was afraid to break up the mob which had gathered. The Sons of Liberty then burned a property belonging to Oliver. Next, they stoned his house. They moved on to Fort Hill where they burned the effigy. McIntosh and others went back and destroyed Oliver's home. The British in Boston could not control the violence and feared to try.
By the end of 1765, a Sons of Liberty group was set up in every colony. Their main goal was to force the stamp distributors to resign. Also, the groups put pressure on any merchant who tried to import paper goods. In each colony, the group was either led in secret or openly by leading men of the community. Some other groups committed acts of violence and revenge and blamed their crimes on the Sons of Liberty. The 'true' Sons had to defend against these troublemakers.
The real work in defying the Stamp Act was done in the published word. Many of the Sons of Liberty were printers and newspapermen. Naturally, the Stamp Act would hurt them a lot. Almost every newspaper in the colonies printed daily reports about what the Sons of Liberty were doing. Even when the Stamp Act was official in November 1765, the newspapers kept on printing and didn't pay the tax.
Many of the British governors went into hiding in 1766. They feared for their lives. The sheriff and militiamen couldn't help them because many were now members of the Sons of Liberty. The governors had keys to the British stock of weapons but were afraid to open the storehouses. Too few British troops were available to combat the colonists. The British government in each colony tried to correspond with the governments of other colonies. They didn't believe that Britain would help them although they sent continual letters to England. They did believe that sooner or later Britain would send troops.
The first efforts to join the colonies together against Britain were not carried out by the legislatures of each colony but by radical protest groups. The independent Sons of Liberty groups began to join and communicate with each other. When the Stamp Act was repealed by the British government in 1766, the power of the Sons of Liberty diminished. However, they were revived to protest the Townshend Acts of 1767 and remained strong up through America's decision to become independent from England. They also helped to set up the First Continental Congress in 1774 where delegates from twelve colonies met in Philadelphia to discuss how to protest the acts of the British.
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