Through out history men have gathered in protest against those that govern them. If one where were to sum up all of these American “Sons” in the fewest words, perhaps angry and frustrated might be the lowest common denominator between them all. Our look at the history of the “Sons” in the United States begins in the colonial days with the Sons of Liberty.
The Sons of Liberty were American propagandists, antagonist, protesters, political agitators and activists. Their beginnings were shrouded in then necessary secrecy however it is evident that chapters of the Sons of Liberty existed in Boston and New York City in early 1765 most likely organized very close to the same time if not simultaneously. Their main complaint was the Stamp Act of March 1765. The British levied this tax to help pay the huge debt incurred by the British during the Seven Years War, known in America as the French and Indian War.
On February 6, 1765, Colonel Issac Barre in his protest to parliament against the Stamp Act, railed against the behavior of British officials “… planted by your care? NO! Oppressions planted them in America … they fled from your tyanny … (which) has caused the Blood of those Sons of Liberty to recoil within them…” . At that point, thanks to Barre, the movement had it’s name.
On August 14, 1765 Samuel Adams and the “Loyal Nine” gathered under the “Liberty Tree” in Hanover Square, Boston to hang effigies of Andrew Oliver, town auditor and administrator of the Stamp Act. This was opening act for what became the Sons of Liberty. Many other acts of rebellion followed including the storming and ransacking of Lt. Governor Thomas Hutchinson’s residence and the burning of the governor’s coach in New York.
Activities of the Sons of Liberty slowed in 1766 with the repeal of the Stamp Act, but were renewed within a year with the passing of the Townshend Acts. Instantly the colonies were at the flash point and the Sons of Liberty supplied the fire.
To celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act, on May 21 1766 the Sons of Liberty set up the first of many Liberty poles around the city of New York. In December 1769, Alexander McDougall, American patriot, future Major General in the Continental Army and member of the Sons of Liberty, issued an anonymous broadside protesting New York Assembly’s compliance with the Quartering Act. The British retaliated by sawing down a Liberty Pole and posting handbills around the city condemning the acts of the Sons of Liberty.
On January 19, 1770 the Sons of Liberty clashed with British in New York City in what was called the Battle of Golden Hill. On February 7, 1770 McDougall was thrown into prison by the British on libel charges. His wife Hannah lead protesters down Broadway to the jail. The Sons of Liberty flooded the prison protesters and so many visitors that the British guards had to schedule appointments for McDougall’s supporters.
A few weeks later on March 5, 1770 a protest turned into a riot whose end result lead to the deaths of several citizens of Boston and fueled the rapidly escalating tensions. This riot later became known, thanks in part to Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and the Sons of Liberty, as the infamous Boston Massacre. Among the many Bostonians on the scene that evening was a 19-year-old book seller, Henry Knox who would later become a friend of George Washington rising to the rank of Major General in the Continental Army.
On December 16, 1773, disguised in a way to resemble Mohawk Indians, the Sons dumped 35,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor and was known there after as the Boston Tea Party. Labeled as the “Sons of Violence” by the British, the Sons of Liberty helped stir up support and keep alive the fight for American Independence.
a link for the Massachusetts Historical Society > Sons of Liberty