History provides us with a valuable gauge to know how much tyranny has beset a nation and just how comfortable people are in their servitude. Are Americans immune to such maladies today? History proves the answer to that question to be a resounding “No.” Let us take a snapshot from history, however, and you can make the decision on your own.
The Boston Tea Party sparked a chain of events that would alter the face of the world forever. The British government had to act quickly and decisively to put an end to the uprisings in Boston. Parliament passed a series of acts, one which closed the port of Boston on 1 June 1774. Two additional acts, what we know as the Intolerable Acts, would be next. These three acts, together with the Quebec Act and the Quartering Act, are all together known as the “Coercive Acts.”
The driving force for the Coercive Acts, was another piece of legislation called the “Declaratory Act,” passed March 18 1766 which stated that Parliament “had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.” The British government had declared itself to be all powerful, and outside any criticism, punishable by a charge of treason and death. To put that in perspective, the government declared itself the power to make and enforce any law, and then wrote laws that gave the government the authority to enforce laws with armed force. This did not go well with the colonists.
In May of 1774 General Thomas Gage was appointed military Royal Governor over Massachusetts. Gage would become very aggressive in the efforts to control the colonist and subdue their “seditious” behavior. He was going to enforce the “Coercive Acts” upon the colonists whether they liked it or not.
Gage passed laws that forbade any town meetings without his approval and would only legally allow one town meeting a year. At one point he sent troops to disband and eliminate a crowd that had gathered in Salem, Massachusetts. The people, outraged at the display of force, responded by gathering over 3,000 armed colonists, causing Gage’s men to retreat. This would not be the end of Gage’s tyranny.
Gage was told by the King to get the colonists under control. But Gage did not have the force necessary to control the colonists, because the colonists outnumbered Gage’s troops and out-armed them, as well. Gage had the solution to his problem; take control of the gun powder and ammunition.
Early morning on September 1, 1774, Gage’s troops would seize hundreds of barrels of gun powder from the Charleston powder house. The colonists did not take this show of force lightly. By the end of the day over 20,000 armed colonists, aged 16 to 60, began to march their way to Boston. The colonists were sending a message, if the government was going to use the force of government to take their arms and powder, the colonist would take that to be an act of war! The colonists were now going to “ready themselves”.
Just five days after Gage’s act of war against the colonists, the militia of Worchester County took over their government from the rule of the King. Replacing all leaders appointed by the king with those selected by the people.
The same day in Suffolk County, the people gathered together, issued a list of nineteen grievances against the government, and then promptly took all control of the militia away from the Governor and vowed to have open arms training every single day. The First Continental Congress unanimously endorsed the Suffolk grievances and encouraged all other colonies to send aid to those in Boston.
Remember, only five days have passed since Governor Gage took the gun powder from one city in Massachusetts.
In response to the colonists stand against the government, Governor Gage ordered his men to conduct warrantless searches on the colonists seizing their arms and ammunition.
Lord Dartmouth, the Royal Secretary of State for America ordered Gage to disarm the people. Gage told Dartmouth that it would not be possible to control the colonists without force. Dartmouth then sent a letter to George III asking to have all import of weapons and ammunition to the colonies stopped. George fulfilled this request by requiring a permit for all exports of arms and ammunition from Great Britain and then refused to issue those permits.
The Boston Committee of Correspondence received information that the government was getting ready to seize all the ammunition, arms, and cannons from fort William and Mary, and the militia was able to take possession of these items before the government.
Parliament was getting really concerned. The reports they were receiving relayed that there were three million colonists, all armed and ready to defend themselves. They were certain that they did not have sufficient government force to subdue such numbers.
On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech. Following that speech a committee was formed that issued the Resolutions of the Provincial Congress of Virginia. The Resolution read:
“Resolved, that a well-regulated militia composed of gentlemen and yeomen is the natural strength and only security of a free government, that such a militia in this colony would forever render it unnecessary for the mother country to keep among us, for the purpose of our defence, any standing army of mercenary forces, always subversive of the quiet, and dangerous to the liberties of the people, and would obviate the pretext of taxing us for their support.…
…Resolved therefore, that this colony be immediately put into a posture of defence: and that Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Robert Carter Nicholas, Benjamin Harrison, Lemuel Riddick, George Washington, Adam Stephen, Andrew Lewis, William Christian, Edmund Pendleton, Thomas Jefferson and Isaac Zane, Esquires, be a committee to prepare a plan for the embodying arming and disciplining such a number of men as may be sufficient for that purpose.”
General Gage had another plan, however. In the early morning of April 19, 1775, he would send out regiments of British soldiers to Lexington to capture Sam Adams and John Hancock, then on to Concord to seize gunpowder. But spies and friends of the colonists leaked word of Gage’s plan and the colonists were waiting. The rest, as we say, is history.
Although the people of Boston would not “win” this battle, the die was cast, the seed of Liberty had been sown and there was no turning back.
February 14, 1776 Thomas Paine would publish “Common Sense”. In this pivotal pamphlet, Paine references that day in April:
“No man was a warmer wisher for reconciliation than myself, before the fatal nineteenth of April 1775, but the moment the event of that day was made known, I rejected the hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh of England for ever; and disdain the wretch, that with the pretended title of FATHER OF HIS PEOPLE, can unfeelingly hear of their slaughter, and composedly sleep with their blood upon his soul.”
Reconciliation with the king was no longer an option. Independence was their only solution. The people KNEW that the right to keep and bear arms was essential to the preservation of Liberty. They KNEW that if the government could disarm them, they would be like every other nation in Europe, subjects and slaves. They KNEW that independence from this tyranny was the ONLY way to ensure Liberty.
And what sparked this whole course of events?
One Governor took the arms and ammunition from one city in Massachusetts!
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