The revolution in America gained momentum as Britain continued to pass new taxes and send more soldiers to the continent. The American people, along with their anger over the Appalachian Mountain boundary, did not enjoy these new taxes. Their protests and demonstrations were initially only in defiance to the new laws, but as their patience was continually tested, their thoughts turned towards independence. Although the idea of independence came about slowly, it is inaccurate to say that the colonists were “reluctant” in their efforts. George Robert Twelves Hewes is a perfect example of a colonist who was “excited with an inextinguishable desire to aid in chastising [the British]”(Young 55).
The colonists were political activists waiting to happen. Politics had been relatively quite in the New World since its boom. In the Puritan societies, citizens took turns serving political offices; it was part of their duty to the community. As cities grew, they elected their own councils or other forms of government. Not until the grumbling began did Britain feel the need to place its own officials over the colonies. The colonists, especially those in Boston, were only waiting for the spark they needed to ignite a political, and later a military, war. For some, this spark may have been the tarring and feathering of John Malcolm, a hated customs informer.
According to Alfred Young in his book The Shoemaker and the Tea Party, this particular event “was part of the upsurge of spontaneous action in the wake of the Tea Party that prompted the Whig leaders to promote a “Committee for Tarring and Feathering” as an instrument of crowd control”(50). The crowds seemed to zealous even for the rich opposition leaders who believed they needed to inhibit many mob uprisings. Hewes’ political life started years earlier than this last event. For Hewes, “the Massacre had stirred [him] to political action”(Young 39). Notice that he was “stirred” to action, not reluctantly pushed or forced. “Stirred” symbolizes a sense of excitement and eagerness.
The Tea Party can be used as another example of Boston’s willing commitment to the cause. According to Hewes, he did not know who or how many would be accompanying him onto the ships. Despite this uncertainty, Hewes was not concerned because “from the significant allusion of some persons in whom I had confidence, together with the knowledge I had of the spirit of those times, I had no doubt but that a sufficient number of associates would accompany me in that enterprise” (Young from Hawkes 42-43). Hewes confidence in his fellow citizens was well spent, many showed up in the late hours of the night to work for three hours throwing tea into the harbor. Thousands more watched from the shore, there seemed to be no lack of support for the colonists’ cause.
The boarding parties did not consist of the famous political leaders of the time, rather “it was proposed that young men, not much known in the town and not liable to be recognized should lead in the business”(Young 43). This only reiterates the large numbers of normal citizens willing to volunteer for such a job in “the spirit of those times.” Hewes commitment exceeded that which was expected of him, “as the Tea Party ended, [he] was stirred to further action on his own initiative, just as he had been in the hours after the Massacre”(Young 45). Again, Hewes was “stirred” to action not at all required of him. This incident refers to a man whom Hewes saw stuffing his pockets with tea while on the ship. The man was publically humiliated for his actions in the town were the people truly believed in their cause.
It is fair to say that Hewes’ feelings probably resembled those of many others who were “stirred to action” by the acts of the British Crown. Hewes describes the cause of his excitement to Young by saying, “I was continually reflecting upon the unwarrantable sufferings inflicted on the citizens of Boston by the usurpation and tyranny of Great Britain, and my mind was excited with an inextinguishable desire to aid in chastising them….and securing our independence”(Young 55). He was “excited” to punish the British and help American become an independent nation. Young goes on to say, “This was not an afterthought; it probably reflected the way many others moved toward the goal of independence…”(Young 55). The American people were ready to punish the British for the tyranny they felt they had suffered.
Boston led the way for a group of colonies less than 200 years old to declare war on a centuries old super-power. There were certainly loyalists who maintained that the colonies should stay under British rule and even fought for the British in the Revolutionary War. But by 1776 and in the years following, a majority of the people were eager to fight what they considered a war for liberty. They were excited and willing to battle for their freedom from the British Crown and to earn the right to set up their own government.
Courtney from Study Moose
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