BOSTONIANS CALL FOR INDEPENDENCE
On May 23, 1776, the people of Boston called on their representatives to make preparations for independence. In this statement they describe why a political reconciliation with Great Britain was now impossible. Such statements at the local level paved the way for the Declaration of Independence.
...We have seen the humble petitions of these Colonies to the King of Great Britain repeatedly rejected with disdain. For the prayer of peace, he has tendered the sword; for liberty, chains; and for safety, death. He has licensed the instruments of his hostile oppressions to rob us of our property, to burn our houses, and to spill our blood. He has invited every barbarous nation whom he could hope to influence, to assist him in prosecuting these inhuman purposes. The Prince, therefore, in support of whose Crown and dignity, not many years since, we would most cheerfully have extended life and fortune, we are now constrained to consider as the worst of tyrants. Loyalty to him is now treason to our country. We have seen his venal Parliament so basely prostituted to his designs, that they have never hesitated to enforce his arbitrary requisitions with the most sanguinary laws.
We have seen the people of Great Britain so lost to every sense of virtue and honour, as to pass over the most pathetic and earnest appeals to their justice with an unfeeling indifference. The hopes we placed on their exertions have long since failed. In short, we are convinced that it is the fixed and settled determination of the King, Ministry, and Parliament of that Island, to conquer and subjugate the Colonies, and that the people there have no disposition to oppose them.
A reconciliation with them appears to us to be as dangerous as it is absurd. A spirit of resentment once raised, it is not easy to appease. The recollection of past injuries will perpetually keep alive the flame of jealousy, which will stimulate to new impositions on the one side, and consequent resistance on the other; and the whole body politick will be constantly subject to civil commotions. We therefore think it absolutely impracticable for these Colonies to be ever again subject to or dependant upon Great Britain, without endangering the very existence of the state. ...
Source: Stanley I. Kutler, Looking for America: The People's History Vol.I, (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1979), p. 110.
THE "BATTLE" OF CONCORD
The account below describes the first confrontation of American militia and British soldiers at Concord, Massachusetts Colony from the perspective of Charles Hudson, a patriot supporter.
April 19, 1776
Between the hours of twelve and one, on the morning of the nineteenth of April, we received intelligence by express, from the Honorable Joseph Warren, Esq., at Boston, "that a large body of the king's troops (supposed to be a brigade of about 12 or 1500) were embarked in boats from Boston, and gone over to ]and on Lechmere's Point (so called) in Cambridge; and that it was shrewdly suspected that they were ordered to seize and destroy the stores belonging to the colony, then deposited at Concord..."
Upon this intelligence, as also upon information of the conduct of the officers as above mentioned, the militia of this town were alarmed and ordered to meet on the usual place of parade; not with any design of commencing hostilities upon the king's troops, but to consult what might be done for our own and the people's safety; and also to be ready for whatever service providence might call us out to, upon this alarming occasion, in case overt acts of violence or open hostilities should be committed by this mercenary band of armed and blood thirsty oppressors...
Accordingly, about half an hour after four o'clock, alarm guns were fired, and the drums beat to arms, and the militia were collecting together. Some, to the number of about 50 or 60, or possibly more, were on the parade, others were coming towards it. In the mean time, the troops having thus stolen a march upon us and, to prevent any intelligence of their approach, having seized and held prisoners several persons whom they met unarmed upon die road, seemed to come determined for murder and bloodshed and that whether provoked to it or not! When within about half a quarter of a mile of the meetinghouse, they halted, and the command was given to prime and load, which being done, they marched on till they came up to the east end of said meeting house, in sight of our militia (collecting as aforesaid) who were about 12 or 13 rods distant.
Immediately upon their appearing so suddenly and so nigh, Capt. Parker, who commanded the militia company, ordered the men to disperse and take care of themselves, and not to fire, Upon this, our men dispersed but many of them not so speedily as they might have done, not having the most distant idea of such brutal barbarity and more than savage cruelty from the troops of a British king, as they immediately experienced! For, no sooner did they come in sight of our company, but one of them, supposed to be an officer of rank, was heard to say to the troops, "Damn them! We will have them!" Upon which the troops shouted aloud, huzza'd, and rushed furiously towards our men.
About the same time, three officers (supposed to be Col. Smith, Major Pitcairn and another officer) advanced on horse back to the front of the body, and coming within 5 or 6 rods of the militia, one of them cried out, "Ye villains, ye Rebels, disperse! Damn you, disperse!" or words to this effect. One of them (whether the same or not is not easily determined) said, "Lay down your arms! Damn you, why don't you lay down your arms?" The second of these officers, about this time, fired a pistol towards the militia as they were dispersing. The foremost, who was within a few yards of our men, brandishing his sword and then pointing towards them, with a loud voice said to the troops, "Fire! By God, fire!" which was instantly followed by a discharge of arms from the said troops, succeeded by a very heavy and close fire upon our party, dispersing, so long as any of them were within reach. Eight were left dead upon the ground! Ten were wounded. The rest of the company, through divine goodness, were (to a miracle) preserved unhurt in this murderous action!
Source: Charles Hudson, History of The Town of Lexington.... (Boston, 1913), 1: 526 530, reprinted Stanley I. Kutler, ed. Looking for America: The People’s History, vol. 1 (New York, 1979), p. 97-99.
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION: A LOYALIST VIEW
Loyalists deplored the American Revolution partly because they believed the political differences with Britain, though significant, did not warrant an independence movement, and partly because they feared the American political Revolution might evolve into a social revolution. In the following letter, Samuel Curwen, a New York loyalist describes his bitterness at being forced to leave North America and take refuge in England.
To Dr. Charles Russell, Antigua
London, June 10, 1776
I congratulate you on your retreat from the land of oppression and tyranny... I sincerely wish well to my native country, and am of opinion that the happiness of it depends on restraining the violences and outrages of profligate and unprincipled men, who run riot against all the laws of justice, truth and religion...
It is surprising what little seeming effect the loss of American orders has on the manufactories; they have been in full employ ever since the dispute arose; stocks are not one jot lessened, the people in general little moved by it; business and amusements so totally engross all ranks and orders here that Administration finds no difficulty on the score to pursue their plans. The general disapprobation of that folly of independence which America now evidently aims at makes it a difficult part for her friends to act.
Six vessels laden with refugees are arrived from Halifax, amongst whom are R. Lechmere, I. Vassal, Col. Oliver, Treasurer Gray, etc. Those who bring property here may do well enough, but for those who expect reimbursement for losses, or supply for present support, will find to their cost the hand of charity very cold; the latter may be kept from starving, and beyond that their hopes are vain. "Blessed is he (saith Pope) that expecteth nothing, for he shall never be disappointed"; nor a more interesting truth was ever uttered.
I find my finances so visibly lessening that I wish I could remove from this expensive country (being heartily tired of it) and, old as I am, would gladly enter into a business connection anywhere consistently with decency and integrity, which I would fain preserve. The use of the property I left behind me I fear I shall never be the better for; little did I expect from affluence to be reduced to such rigid economy as prudence now exacts. To beg is a meanness I wish never to be reduced to, and to starve is stupid; one comfort, as I am fast declining into the vale of life: my miseries cannot probably be of long continuance.
With great esteem; etc.
Source: Stanley I. Kutler, Looking For America: The People's History Vol.I, (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1979), pp. 115 116.
ABIGAIL TO JOHN ADAMS: REMEMBER THE LADIES
This remarkable exchange of letters between one of the most famous Revolutionary Era couples, Abigail and to John Adams, illustrates that the calls for political freedom from Great Britain prompted some women to consider the constraints on their freedom imposed by their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons.
Abigail to John Adams
Braintree, March 31 1776
I long to hear that you have declared an independancy—and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings placed by providence under your protection and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.
John to Abigail Adams:
Ap. 14. 1776
As to Declarations of Independency, be patient. Read our Privateering Laws, and our Commercial Laws. What signifies a Word.
As to your extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh. We have been told that our Struggle has loosened the bands of Government every where. That Children and Apprentices were disobedient—that schools and Colleges were grown turbulent—that Indians slighted their Guardians and Negroes grew insolent to their Masters. But your Letter was the first Intimation that another Tribe more numerous and powerful than all the rest were grown discontented. —This is rather too coarse a Compliment but you are so saucy, I wont blot it out.
Depend upon it, We know better than to repeal our Masculine systems. Altho they are in full Force, you know they are little more than Theory. We dare not exert our Power in its full Latitude. We are obliged to go fair, and softly, and in Practice you know We are the subjects. We have only the Name of Masters, and rather than give up this, which would compleatly subject Us to the Despotism of the Peticoat, I hope General Washington, and all our brave Heroes would fight. I am sure every good Politician would plot, as long as he would against Despotism, Empire, Monarchy, Aristocracy, Oligarchy, or Ochlocracy,—A fine Story indeed. I begin to think the Ministry as deep as they are wicked. After stirring up Tories, Landjobbers, Trimmers, Bigots, Canadians, Indians, Negroes, Hanoverians, Hessians, Russians, Irish Roman Catholicks, Scotch Renegades, at last they have stimulated the to demand new Privileges and threaten to rebell.
Abigail to John:
Braintree, May 7 1776
I can not say that I think you very generous to the Ladies, for whilst you are proclaiming peace and good will to Men, Emancipating all Nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over Wives. But you must remember that Arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken—and notwithstanding all your wise Laws and Maxims we have it in our power not only to free our selves but to subdue our Masters, and without violence throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet— "Charm by accepting, by submitting sway Yet have our Humour most when we obey."
Source: Abigail and John Adams, letters 1776, in L. H. Butterfield et al., eds., The Book of Abigail and John (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975), p. 120-22, 127 reprinted in Mary Beth Norton, Major Problems in American Women’s History (Lexington: D.C. Heath, 1989), p. 83-84.
CAPTAIN PIPE ADDRESSES THE BRITISH
This vignette includes part of a 1781 speech made by Captain Pipe, a leader of the Delaware Indians, when he responded to British calls to attack frontier settlers who supported the American Revolution. Although the Delaware refused to be brought into the war, Revolutionary soldiers attacked and killed over 200 members of the tribe during the infamous Harrisburg Massacre in 1782.
"Father!" he began; and he paused, turned round to the audience with a most sarcastic look, and then proceeded in a lower tone, as addressing them,--"I have said father, though indeed I do not know why I should call him so...I have considered the English only as brothers. But as this name is imposed upon us, I shall make use of it and say--
"Father"--fixing his eyes again on the Commandant--"Some time ago you put a war-hatchet into my hands, saying, 'take this weapon and try it on the heads of my enemies, the Long-Knives [Revolutionaries], and let me know afterwards if it was sharp and good.'
Father--At the time when you gave me this weapon, I had neither cause nor wish to go to war against a foe who had done me no injury. But...in obedience to you I received the hatchet. I knew that if I did not obey you, you would withhold from me the necessaries of life, which I could procure nowhere but here.
Father--You may perhaps think me a fool, for risking my life at your bidding--and that in a cause in which I have no prospect of gaining any thing. For it is your cause, and not mine--you have raised a quarrel among yourselves--and you ought to fight it out--It is your concern to fight the Long-Knives--You should not compel your children, the Indians, to expose themselves to danger for your sake.
Father--Many lives have already been lost on your account--The tribes have suffered, and been weakened--Children have lost parents and brothers--Wives have lost husbands--It is not known how many more may perish before your war will be at an end.
Father...although you now pretend to keep up a perpetual enmity to the Long-Knives, you may, before long, conclude a peace with them.
Father--You say you love your children, the Indians--This you have often told them; and indeed it is your interest to say so to them, that you may have them at your service. But, Father. Who of us can believe that you can love a people of a different colour from your own, better than those who have a white skin, like yourselves.
Father--Pay attention to what I am going to say. While you, Father, are setting me on your enemy, much in the same manner as a hunter sets his dog on the game; while I am in the act of rushing on that enemy of yours, with the bloody destructive weapon you gave me, I may, perchance, happen to look back to the place from whence you started me, and what shall I see? Perhaps I may see my father shaking hands with the Long-Knives; yes with the very people he now calls his enemies. I may then see him laugh at my folly for having obeyed his orders; and yet I am now risking my life at his command! Father, keep what I have said in remembrance...
You, Father, have the means of preserving that which would perish with us from want. The warrior is poor, and his cabin is always empty; but your house, Father, is always full.
Source: Wayne Moquin, ed., Great Documents in American Indian History (New York, 1973) pp. 127-128.
LORD DUNMORE'S PROCLAMATION
In November, 1775, after it became apparent that a reconciliation between the British and the rebellious colonists was impossible, Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, issued the following proclamation promising freedom to all slaves and servants who supported the Crown.
As I have ever entertained hopes that an accommodation might have taken place between Great Britain and this Colony, without being compelled by my duty to this most disagreeable, but now absolutely necessary step, rendered so by a body of armed men, unlawfully assembled, firing on His Majesty's Tenders; and the formation of an Army, and that Army now on the march to attack His Majesty's Troops, and destroy the well disposed subjects of this Colony: To defeat such treasonable purposes, and that all such traitors and their abettors may be brought to justice, and that the peace and good order of this Colony may be again restored, which the ordinary course of the civil law is unable to effect, I have thought fit to issue this my Proclamation, hereby declaring, that until the aforesaid good purposes can be obtained, I do, in virtue of the power and authority to me given by His Majesty, determine to execute martial law, and clause the same to be executed throughout this Colony. And to the end that peace and good order may the sooner be restored, I do require every person capable of bearing arms to resort to His Majesty's standard, or be looked upon as traitors to His Majesty's crown and Government, and thereby become liable to the penalty the law inflicts upon such offenses such as forfeiture of life, confiscation of lands, &c., &c; and I do hereby further declare all indented [sic] servants, Negroes, or others, (appertaining to Rebels,) free, that are able and willing to bear arms, they joining His Majesty's Troops, as son as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper sense of their duty to His Majesty's crown and dignity. I do further order and require all His Majesty's liege subjects to retain their quit rents, or any other taxes due, or that may become due, in their own custody, will such time as peace may be again restored to this, at present, most unhappy Country, or demanded of them for their former salutary purposes, by officers properly authorized to receive the same.
Given under my hand, on board the Ship William, off Norfolk, the 7th day of November, in the sixteenth year of His Majesty's reign.
GOD Save the King
Source: Peter Force, ed., American Archives, A Documentary History of the American Colonies, 94th ser., 6 vols.; Washington, 1837-1853), ser. 4, III, p. 1385.
COLONEL TYE: BLACK LOYALIST LEADER
Both the Loyalists and Patriot forces in New Jersey created guerrilla bands which included African Americans. The most famous of these bands was led by a Monmouth County slave known as Titus but who became "Colonel Tye" during the revolutionary struggle. The vignette below relates his activities.
The British concentrated their military efforts on small but effective raids into New Jersey from Staten Island...at the beginning of 1778. British strongholds protected raiders and offered safe refuse to escaping blacks... Fought near Freehold on June 28, 1778, the Battle of Monmouth proved indecisive militarily but pivotal for New Jersey's black Loyalists in that it marked the first known appearance of an African American who would become one of the war's most feared Loyalists, white or black--Colonel Tye, formerly known in Monmouth County as John Corlies's slave Titus. Colonel Tye comported himself gallantly in his first know military venture, capturing Elisha Shepard, a captain in the Monmouth militia, and removing him to imprisonment at the Sugar House in New York City. Tye's title is noteworthy. Although the British army did not formally commission black officers, it often granted such titles out of respect, particularly in Jamaica and other West Indian islands. The transformation of the servant Titus into the warrior Tye was evidently overseen by soldiers who had served in the Caribbean.
On July 15, 1779, accompanied by...Tory John Moody, Colonel Tye and "about fifty negroes and refugees landed at Shrewsbury and plundered the inhabitants of nearly 80 heard of cattle, about 20 horses and a quantity of wearing apparel and household furniture. They also took off William Brindley and Elisha Cook, two of the inhabitants.
This action established a pattern that was to be repeated over the next year. Combining banditry, reprisal, and commissioned assistance to the British Army, these raids served the aims of local black rebellion quite intentionally, often being aimed directly at former masters and their friends. In Monmouth County, where slavery was a family affair and owners were not distant patricians, enmities between slaves and masters could understandably become prolonged and intense... The effects of Tye's incursions upon the general population of Monmouth County were exacerbated by reports...that black were planning massacres of whites in Elizabethtown and in Somerset County.
In a typical raid Tye and his men, at times aided by white refugees known as "cow-boys," would surprise Patriots in their homes, kidnap soldiers and officers, and carry off sliver, clothing and badly needed cattle for British troops in Staten Island and New York City. For these accomplishments Tye and his men were paid handsomely, sometimes receiving five gold guineas. Tye's familiarity with Monmouth's swamps, rivers and inlets allowed him to move undetected until it was too late. After a raid, Tye and his interracial band, known to Patriots as a "motley crew," would disappear again into nearby swamps.
In a raid on March 30, 1780, Tye and his men captured a Captain Warner, who purchased his freed for "two half joes." Less lucky were Captain James Green and Ensign John Morris, whom Tye took to... New York City. In the same raid Tye and his men looted and burned the home of John Russell, a fierce Patriot associated with raids on Staten Island, before killing him and wounding his young son.
During the second week of June 1780, Colonel Tye...and his men murdered Private Joseph Murray of the Monmouth militia at his home in Colt's Neck. Murray, a foe detested by local Tories, had been personally responsible for several of their summary executions. Three days later Tye led a large band of self-emancipated blacks and refugee whites in a daring attack on the home of Barnes Smock, a leader of the Monmouth militia, while the main body of British troops was attacking Washington's forces. Using a six-pound cannon to warn residents of the raid, Smock summoned a number of men around his house to fight Tye. After a stiff battle Tye and his men captured Smock and twelve other Patriots... Tye himself spiked Smock's cannon--a symbolically disheartening action for the Patriots--before spiriting the prisoners back to [New York]
Tye's June incursions inspired great fear among New Jerseyans. In the space of one week he and his men carried off much of the officer corps of the Monmouth militia, destroyed their cannon, and flaunted their ability to strike at will against a weakened Patriot population. If before Tye had been seen in Monmouth County as a bandit in the service of the British, he now had to be reckoned an important military force. Local Patriots wrote anguished letters to Governor William Livingston, begging for help against the ravages of Colonel Tye and his raiders. In response the governor invoked martial law in the county. But a law is only as effective as its enforcement, and there were few able-bodied men to police... While the New Jersey Patriots were distracted by Tye and his men, other blacks were quick to take advantage. The New Jersey Journal noted that "twenty-nine Negroes of both sexes deserted from Bergen County in early June 1780."
There were more raids to come. On June 22, 1780, "Tye with thirty blacks, thirty-six Queen's Rangers and thirty refugees landed at Conascung, New Jersey" The invaders...captured James Mott, second major in the Monmouth militia's second regiment [and] Captain James Johnson of the Hunterdon militia as well as several privates... It was a stunning blow to the Patriots. In a singe day Tye had captured eight militiamen, plundered their homes and taken his captives to New York, moving in and out of Monmouth County with impunity despite martial law and the presence of several militias--all without any reported casualties....
On September 1, 1780, Tye attempted to capture Captain Josiah Huddy, famed for his leadership in raids on British positions in Staten Island...and despised by Loyalists for his quick executions of captured Tories... During the battle Colonel Tye received a bullet in the wrist... Within days lockjaw set in, and lacking proper medical attention, Tye died.
Source: Graham Russell Hodges, Slavery and Freedom in the Rural North: African Americans in Monmouth County, New Jersey, 1665-1865 (Madison, Wi.: Madison House Publishers, 1997), 96-104.