the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views

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Sons of Liberty

Who were the Sons of Liberty?

Sons of Liberty broadside Transcript: "Tuesday-Morning, December 17, 1765. The True-born Sons of Liberty, are desired to meet under LIBERTY-TREE, at XII o'Clock, THIS DAY, to hear the public Resignation, under Oath, of Andrew Oliver, Esq; Distributor of Stamps for the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay. A Resignation? Yes."  Massachusetts Historical SocietyThe Sons of Liberty was a secret political organization in the American Colonies that protested against British taxes and laws before the American Revolution. By the time the revolution began, there were chapters of the Sons of Liberty in all thirteen colonies.

How were they first formed?

The Sons of Liberty formed out of a number of smaller protest groups in 1765 in response to the Stamp Act. The first group was likely formed out of the "Loyal Nine" in Boston with other groups soon forming in New York and Connecticut.

How did they get their name?

The name comes from a speech made in the British Parliament by Irishman Isaac Barre. He referred to the American colonists as "sons of liberty" when arguing against the passage of the Stamp Act. Where did they meet? The Sons of Liberty had to arrange secret meetings or they might get arrested by British soldiers. They had informal gatherings at local taverns such as the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston. More formal meetings were held at night. In Boston, they met under an elm tree in Hanover Square that was called the "Liberty Tree." In New York, they would signal the location by building a tall pole called a "Liberty Pole."

Protesting the Stamp Act

Source:W.D. Cooper. "Boston Tea Party.", The History of North America. London: E. Newberry, 1789.Engraving. Plate opposite p. 58. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

The first major action of the Sons of Liberty was to protest the Stamp Act. They took direct action by harassing the stamp tax distributors who worked for the British government. The distributors became so scared of the Sons of Liberty that many of them quit their jobs. They also gathered in large groups and protested in the streets. Their protests worked and the tax was soon repealed by the British government.

The Boston Tea Party

The most famous action of the Sons of Liberty was the Boston Tea Party. In protest to a tax on tea, several members boarded trade ships in Boston Harbor and tossed their tea into the water. This act was a major event leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Who joined the Sons of Liberty?

The Sons of Liberty attracted members from all walks of colonial life such as lawyers, dockworkers, farmers, doctors, tavern owners, traders, and publishers. Some of the more famous members include Samuel Adams (who is often considered the founding member of the Sons of Liberty), John Adams, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Joseph Warren, and Paul Revere.

Interesting Facts about the Sons of Liberty

Sons of Liberty Flag
    • They had their own flag which had five red and four white vertical stripes.
    • In 1772, members of the Sons of Liberty set fire to the British ship the HMS Gaspee.
    • They had the motto of "No taxation without representation.
    • A constant battle was waged in New York City over Liberty Poles. The Sons of the Liberty would put them up and British soldiers would tear them down. As a result, the Liberty Pole became a symbol of the colonists' freedom.
    • The British sometimes referred to them as the "Sons of Violence" in hopes of giving them a bad reputation.
    • By the time the revolution began, the Sons of Liberty were fairly well organized with groups from different colonies communicating and planning protests together.

Descendants of Liberty

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