You’ve heard about them in history class, but who were the Sons of Liberty, really? The Sons of Liberty was founded by many men you probably haven't heard of, born out of the growing discontent in the American colonies over how the British ruled. Eventually, some of the most famous Founding Fathers also joined the Sons of Liberty, and together, they would go on to create a nation based on lofty ideals.
After their inception following the passing of the Stamp Act, propaganda, intimidation, destruction of property, and violence were not above the members of the Sons of Liberty. By the time the Boston Tea Party occurred, they had quite a notorious reputation. So, if you’re curious about the gang-like group of men who stirred up enough public discontent to pave the road for a revolution, check out the list below!
In the 1760s, tensions were running high in the American colonies. In order to pay for their military assets abroad after the Seven Years’ War, the British government imposed a series of taxes and laws aimed specifically at the American colonists. The first was the 1764 Currency Act, which did not allow the colonies to issue paper currency – a fact that made paying debts and taxes extremely difficult for them.
Not long after, the Stamp Act was passed, which required the colonists to purchase only government-issued stamps and paper goods. The Sons of Liberty was formed just hours after the passing of the act, and Samuel Adams published an article in the Boston Gazette with the following passage:
“The Sons of Liberty, on the 14th of August 1765, a Day which ought to be for ever remembered in America, animated with a zeal for their country then upon the brink of destruction, and resolved, at once to save her...”
The very first thing the Sons of Liberty did was hang an effigy of a Massachusetts stamp distributor named Andrew Oliver on the Liberty Tree. Slowly, a mob gathered and became angry, eventually sacking Oliver's house. They destroyed furniture, looted his things, and broke windows. Then they went back to the effigy, decapitating it and burning it.
The next day, the Sons of Liberty went to the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, and demanded the Stamp Act be nullified and denounced in public. When he refused, they destroyed and looted his house.
Contrary to what the cartoons tell you, being tarred and feathered isn’t funny. It involves being covered with very hot tar, which can do significant damage to your skin and even potentially kill you. Knowing full well the damages of the act, the Sons of Liberty forced British loyalists to either sign away their support of England or be subject to hot tar and feathers. Ouch.
In 1768, the Townshend Revenue Act put a tax on goods such as lead, paint, and tea. Already angry from the Stamp Act, the colonists were not downright enraged. The Sons of Liberty held public meetings to help spread resistance across the colonies, which included the boycotting of British goods. Two years later, the tea tax was repealed so the British could sell tea from the East India Company in the colonies and bolster their profits.
However, the colonists refused to let the three ships carrying the tea dock in Boston harbor. When Governor Hutchinson refused to order the boats back to England, the Sons of Liberty disguised themselves as Native American Indians and stormed the ships, throwing all 90,000 pounds of tea into the harbor.