Unhappy BOSTON! see thy Sons deplore, Thy hallowe'd Walks besmear'd with guiltless Gore.
Text from engraving by Paul Revere after the Boston Massacre
Bostonians blame rising unemployment on the new British taxes and in March 1770 an angry mob faces off against eight redcoats. They're under orders not to fire. But a barber's apprentice, Edward Garrick, provokes a redcoat to shoot. The first man to die for the American cause is a black man, Crispus Attucks. Four others are killed.
A prominent middle class self made man, Paul Revere, captures the moment on an engraving, entitled, 'The Bloody Massacre'. The 40 newspapers of the colonies carry the image as the news spreads rapidly along the new postal delivery system, developed by the new Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin. Nightriders cut delivery times in half meaning that before the news reaches England, most of America knows about the Boston massacre.
The British Parliament repeals the antagonising Townshend Acts the next month. However, a duty on tea is maintained. Most Americans simply buy smuggled tea instead. So Parliament passes the 1773 Tea Act. The news is broken in the Boston Gazette. Americans can now only buy tea from East India Company ships and sold through their agents.
This monopolistic approach angers even loyalists. Tea agents resign and consignments are refused. In December, the royal governor, Thomas Hutchinson, orders three East India ships to unload their tea cargo. On the night of 16 December American patriots, disguised as Mohawk Indians, storm onto the ships in Boston Harbour. They throw 342 chests of tea, worth in today's terms one million dollars, into the sea. This becomes known as the Boston Tea Party.
Again, Britain retaliates. The Boston Port Bill closes the city's sea trade awaiting payment for the destroyed tea. Hundreds lose their jobs.
In September 1774, 56 incensed American delegates gather at the first Continental congress in Philadelphia. Among them are radicals like John Adams and Patrick Henry. And a gentleman land owner from Virginia, George Washington. He states;
At a time when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be satisfied with nothing less than the deprivation of American freedom, it seems highly necessary that something should be done to...maintain liberty.
Across New England, people prepare to protect themselves, arms are smuggled. The first congress resolves that an attack on any one colony will be considered an attack on all of them. Patrick Henry sums up their position;
The distinctions, between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian. But an American.
Did you know?
Some historians now believe that up to a third of Americans were still loyal to the Crown, before, during and after the American Revolution. And many blacks decided to go with the British because at least there, they were free., Americans had rebelled before Boston. Nathaniel Bacon's rebellion in 1676 took control of Virginia from the royal Governor.
'Bacon and his following were true revolutionaries, planning to overturn the political and social structure of the colony, abolish the poll tax, and enlist poor freeman, indentured servants and African slaves in their forces. They burned Jamestown to the ground but Bacon died of dysentery. The Governor reasserted royal authority placed firmly on the side of rich settlers.'
Hugh Brogan: The Penguin History of the United States