Sons of Liberty
On December 16th, 1773, “radicals” from Boston, Massachusetts, members of a secret organization of American Patriots called Sons of Liberty, boarded three East India Company ships and threw into Boston Harbor 342 chests of tea. This iconic event, in protest of oppressive British taxation and tyrannical rule, became known as The Boston Tea Party.
Resistance to the Crown had been mounting over enforcement of the 1764 Sugar Act, 1765 Stamp Act and 1767 Townshend Acts, which led to the Boston Massacre, and gave rise to the slogan "No taxation without representation." The 1773 Tea Act and resulting Tea Party protest galvanized the Colonial movement opposing British parliamentary acts, which violated the natural, charter, and constitutional rights of colonists.
In response to the rebellion, the British enacted additional punitive measures, labeled the “Intolerable Acts,” in hopes of suppressing the insurrection. Far from accomplishing that outcome, the Crown's countermeasures led Colonists to convene the First Continental Congress on September 5th, 1774 in Philadelphia.
Representatives from 12 of the 13 colonies (Georgia did not send delegates) drafted a list of rights and grievances with a request for redress from King George, and they agreed to an economic boycott of England to compel the Crown to concede. Congress also agreed to convene a Second Continental Congress if their grievances were not resolved.
Though the boycott reduced British imports by more than 90 percent, Royalists countered with vigorous enforcement of the Intolerable Acts.
On April 19th, 1775, Paul Revere departed Charlestown (near Boston) for Lexington and Concord in order to warn John Hancock, Samuel Adams and other Sons of Liberty that the British army was marching to arrest them and seize their weapons caches. While Revere was captured after reaching Lexington, his friend, Samuel Prescott, took word to the militiamen at Concord.
In the early dawn of that first Patriots' Day, Captain John Parker, commander of the Lexington militia, ordered, “Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they want a war let it begin here.” And it did – American Minutemen fired the “shot heard round the world,” as immortalized by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, confronting British Regulars on Lexington Green and at Concord's Old North Bridge.
Thus, by the time the Second Continental Congress was convened on May 10th, 1775, the young nation was in open war.
On May 15th, Congress adopted a resolution calling on the states to prepare for rebellion. In its preamble, John Adams advised his countrymen to sever all oaths of allegiance to the Crown.
Most notably, on July 6th, Congress approved the “Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking up Arms,” drafted by Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson, which noted: “With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live as slaves.”
Samuel Adams proclaimed, “[T]he people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government and to reform, alter, or totally change the same when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.”