Featuring 1776

The birth of a blistering pen of a youth named Alexander Hamilton.

Why the revolution? Part 6 or 8

1776 May Episode

Perhaps colonials were judging England too harshly. As the Reverend Samuel Seabury Jr., a large and pompous Tory, wrote in his Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress in 1774: “A person diseased with jaundice sees no color but yellow.” Colonists actually tarred and feathered copies of Seabury’s writings and the Tory’s pamphlets gave birth to the blistering pen of a youth named Alexander Hamilton.

But Parliament was not through. A series of bills that became known as the Coercive Acts passed whereby the Crown appointed the Massachusetts Assembly instead of being locally elected. Sheriffs would control juries, trials could be held in England where juries were friendlier, and only one town meeting a year was permissible. What Parliament was doing, perhaps unwittingly, was making Boston a martyr. Virginia’s Burgesses proclaimed June 1, 1774 a day of fasting throughout the colonies. The governor, the Earl of Dunmore, sent the Burgesses packing. The Burgesses adjourned to the Raleigh Tavern and sent Boston a letter calling for a Continental Congress. They also sent money and 9,000 barrels of flour. Charleston sent rice, and Rhode Island started work on a new meeting house in Providence to give employment to Boston carpenters. Boston created a kind of welfare state, requiring townspeople to help repair wharves before they could receive the food that had been sent in from the other colonies and from the Massachusetts countryside. “Hillsborough paint,” named for Lord Hillsborough, a former secretary for the colonies, was a mixture of urine and feces applied to the homes of suspected informers.

General Gage arrived with four regiments, swelling the British garrison to 5,000 men. Hugh Lord Percy, a Colonel of the Fifth Regiment, tented his men on Boston’s famous Common and dropped in for meals with John Hancock at his estate nearby. But Gage, in Boston, was becoming aware of what Lord North, in London, was not. “I find they [the Bostonians] have some warm friends in New York and Philadelphia … that the people of Charleston are as mad as they are … This province is supported and abetted by others beyond the conception of most people, and foreseen by none.” British intransigence was forming what Americans could not: unity.

Britain had not yet expended all good will. Down in New York gentlemen at a dinner raised their glasses in a toast: “May Great Britain see her error before America ceases in affection.” But the next toast was: “May the enemies of America be turned into salt petre and go off in hot blasts.”

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