Chapter 6. The Coming of the Revolution

Boston tea party

They invited no Indians but dressed up as Mohawks carrying hatchets for tomahawks. How was this any different than appearing in blackface to toss tea into Boston harbor? To protect their identities, I think they should have dressed as clowns. Fright wigs, red noses, and big flopping shoes would have been amusing.

John Adams complained

On his trip to join the first Continental Congress, John Adams complained about the lack of good breeding and real gentlemen in New York City. He complained that they would interrupt and talk fast, loud, and all together. It’s almost as though, for him, the purpose of government was to maintain good breeding and ensure that respectable gentlemen would not be hampered by the king of England.

Liberty or death

Patrick Henry argued for liberty; he said that acquiescence to Great Britian was a form of slavery, even though he owned slaves and relied on them to operated his estate, even though he bought land in the western Virginia that was controlled by Native Americans, and petitioned the government to recognize his ownership. Patrick did not seem to recognize that his disenfranchisements of Natives and Blacks had any bearing on his patriotism or on his political ambitions. His biographer failed to include in the reconstruction of his famous speech that Henry invoked fear of Indian and slave revolts in urging military action against the British.

George Washington, British loyalist

Colonel Washington was a loyalist who fought for the British, volunteered to serve the British as an aide de camp under General Braddock, and would have died for the British until they passed him over for promotion. George Washington owned slaves and supported laws to protect slavery. He came to regard British Coercive Acts after the Boston Tea Party as “an invasion of our rights and privileges,” and said that submitting to tyranny “shall make us as tame and abject slaves, as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway.”

Powder alarm

General Thomas Gage, the military governor of Massachusetts Bay and commander-in-chief of British forces in Boston, considered himself to be a friend of liberty, so he tried to avert war by secretly confiscating weapons of the militias. However, after taking gunpowder from the Power House near Winter Hill, the secret was out and patriots were alarmed. A rumor was added that people were killed. Although this rumor wasn’t true, militias gathered for war.

Shot heard round the world

War was inevitable but who fired the first shot? Was it Samuel Adams who argued against British taxation? Was it Patrick Henry who would rather die than placate the British? Was it George Washington who wouldn’t become a slave by submitting to tyranny? Was it a British redcoat despite orders to the contrary? Or was it a member of the militia at Lexington who was confused and frightened?

Declaration of independence

Thomas Jefferson’s full draft for the declaration of independence criticized the king of England for supporting the slave trade, even though Jefferson owned slaves, and for promising them freedom for enlisting in the British army to fight for the subjugation of the colonies, but the Continental Congress removed that paragraph. Even though some disapproved of the slave trade while continuing to approve of slavery, it would have been consistent with the preamble to have abolished slavery at the beginning. “We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness.”