Featuring 1776

“Let us separate, they are unworthy to be our Breathren.”

Why the revolution? Part 8 of 8

1776 May Episode

This time the embargo was really working, even at the household level where Abigail Adams and her sister Mary Cranch brewed their Liberty “tea” from purple loosestrife and refused to purchase English calico and chintz. Exports to Britain from the Chesapeake area fell from 528,738 pounds in 1774 to 1,921 pounds in 1775.

William Pitt, no longer in power but still a fan of the colonies, arose unsteadily and ill in the House of Lords to move that the troops be withdrawn from Boston, and Parliament agree to not tax the colonies without their consent. His plea fell on deaf ears in a nation where there was much taxation but little representation as at that time only one Englishman in 400 had the vote.

Orders went out to Gage to move against hidden supplies of armaments in the countryside beyond Boston. On April 5, 1775 Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith set out with Private John Howe to map the route to Concord. Disguised as workingmen, they stopped at Watertown for breakfast and asked a black serving girl if she knew where “we two could find employment.” The girl, who had recently been in Boston and knew the British commanders on sight, said: “Smith, you will find employment enough for you and all Gage’s men in a few months.”

“This conversation about wound up our breakfast,” Private Howe reported.

A few days later the serving girl’s prophecy came true as Smith led his fateful column to Lexington and Concord. News of the skirmish reached London on May 29, 1775. The city took it well. Stocks only dropped one-and-a-half per cent, which, said Joseph Reed, a Pennsylvania lawyer, “they often do at the slightest alarm. A minister never dreads a fall till it gets to 8%.” John Lovell knew better. He was Master of the Boston Latin School from 1738 until April 19, 1775. When he heard of the fighting at Lexington and Concord, he dismissed his class at once saying, “War’s begun-school’s done.”

On September 11, 1775, before the Americans had scarcely found which Philadelphia tavern served the best Madeira, an exasperated George III wrote Lord North: “The dye [sic] is now cast. The Colonies must either submit or triumph; I do not wish to come to severer measures, but we must not retreat.” Two months later he told North: ” … blows must decide whether they are to be subject to this country or independent.” The string of misunderstandings and muddlings, sometimes accidental, conspired to blow up the parent-child relationship. Abigail Adams, never afraid to voice her opinion, wrote in November or ‘75, “Let us separate, they are unworthy to be our Breathren.”

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