Friday, July 04, 2008
The Liberty Tree
In 1646 Griffith Bowan, one of my distant relatives planted a elm tree in Boston. Today that spot is marked at the corner of Essex and Washington as the place where that tree once stood, until it was cut down in 1775 by the British Tories.... The tree of coarse was the Liberty Tree.
The Liberty Tree (1646–1775) was a famous elm tree that stood in Boston, near Boston Common, in the days before the American Revolution. The tree was a rallying point for the growing resistance to the rule of England over the American colonies. In the years that followed, almost every American town had its own Liberty Tree—a living symbol of popular support for individual liberty and resistance to tyranny.
In 1765 the British government imposed a Stamp Act on the American colonies. It required all legal documents, permits, commercial contracts, newspapers, pamphlets, and playing cards in the American colonies to carry a tax stamp. Because the Act applied to papers, newspapers, advertisements, and other publications and legal documents, it was viewed by the colonists as a means of censorship, or a "knowledge tax," on the rights of the colonists to write and read freely.
The summer of 1765 in Boston was marked by militant citizens demonstrating against the Stamp Act. On August 14, 1765, a group of men calling themselves the Sons of Liberty gathered in Boston under a large elm tree at the corner of Essex Street and Orange Street near Hanover Square to protest the hated Stamp Act. The Sons of Liberty concluded their protest by hanging two tax collectors in effigy from the tree. From that day forward, the tree became known as the "Liberty Tree." The tree was often decorated with banners and lanterns. Assemblies were regularly held to express views and vent emotions. A flagstaff or pole was raised within the Tree's branches and when an ensign (usually yellow) was raised, the Sons of Liberty were to meet.
When the news of the Liberty Tree spread throughout the colonies, local patriots in each of the 13 colonies formed a Sons of Liberty group and identified a large tree to be used as a meeting place. In those times, holding an unauthorized assembly was dangerous business that carried threats of imprisonment or death. The casual appearance of a group chatting beneath a tree was much safer.
The sons of liberty were made up of prominent leaders included Paul Revere, Thomas Young, Joseph Warren, Alexander McDougall, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, Isaac Sears, John Lamb, James Otis, Marinus Willett, John Adams, and his cousin, Samuel Adams, who was a leader of the New England resistance. Silas Downer, a so-called "Forgotten Patriot", spoke as a Sons of Liberty member at one of the famed Liberty Trees in 1766. Members were drawn from across class distinctions, although these borders were less well-defined in colonial America. In order to do this, the Sons of Liberty relied on large public demonstrations to expand their base. They learned early on that controlling such crowds was problematical, although they shrived to control "the possible violence of extra-legal gatherings." While the organization professed its loyalty to both local and British established government, possible military action as a defensive measure was always part of their considerations. Throughout the Stamp Act Crisis, the Sons of Liberty professed continued loyalty to the King because they maintained a "fundamental confidence" in the expectation that Parliament would do the right thing and repeal the tax.
When it was apparent that the British would not do the right thing John Adams then the president of the Town Council raise three companies of 40 men each... These 120 Minute Men included another relative, Jacob Nash who answered the Lexington Alarm on April 19th 1775, a prelude to the revolution. John Adams was one of the primary framers of the Declaration of Independence and went on to become the Second President of the United States after George Washington.
On this and every July 4th I like to think upon what it must have been like to be involved in the beginnings of my country, and I am proud that I had relatives who participated in the those heady times.
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Posted by EpiphanyNoir at 7/04/2008 10:18:00 PM