April 19th, 2010

It’s Patriots’ Day

It’s Patriots’ Day—the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, regarded as the official start of the American Revolution, although Massachusetts and Maine (once part of Massachusetts) are the only states that officially celebrate the occasion.

Boston does so mainly by the running of the Boston Marathon, which has nothing to do with the history but is still a good show, if you like that sort of thing (I’m not a keen fan, although it’s fun to watch in person). But here on this blog let’s just think a moment of the repercussions of that day back in 1775, when they fired the shot heard round the world .

No one really knows who fired that first shot; eyewitness reports varied, as they often do. But it was considered the true beginning of the military conflict that ended with the establishment of our country, and was fought by militias composed of ordinary citizens who were defending (among other things) their right to their munitions. You might say they were clinging to their guns, although not bitterly.

There was no internet, and no cellphones then. Nevertheless, the militias had developed an efficient way of communicating, and not just through the illustrious horseman Paul Revere:

The ride of Revere, Dawes, and Prescott triggered a flexible system of “alarm and muster” that had been carefully developed months before, in reaction to the colonists’ impotent response to the Powder Alarm. This system was an improved version of an old network of widespread notification and fast deployment of local militia forces in times of emergency. The colonists had periodically used this system all the way back to the early years of Indian wars in the colony, before it fell into disuse in the French and Indian War. In addition to other express riders delivering messages, bells, drums, alarm guns, bonfires and a trumpet were used for rapid communication from town to town, notifying the rebels in dozens of eastern Massachusetts villages that they should muster their militias because the regulars in numbers greater than 500 were leaving Boston, with possible hostile intentions. This system was so effective that people in towns 25 miles (40 km) from Boston were aware of the army’s movements while they were still unloading boats in Cambridge.

The original Boston Tea Party had already occurred, and Britain had passed what were known here as the Intolerable Acts to punish the rebellious colonists, the most intolerable being:

The Boston Port Act…[which] closed the port of Boston until the East India Company had been repaid for the destroyed tea and until the king was satisfied that order had been restored…

The Massachusetts Government Act…Under the terms of the Government Act, almost all positions in the colonial government were to be appointed by the governor or the king. The act also severely limited the activities of town meetings in Massachusetts. Colonists outside Massachusetts feared that their governments could now also be changed by the legislative fiat of Parliament…

The Administration of Justice Act allowed the governor to move trials of accused royal officials to another colony or even to Great Britain if he believed the official could not get a fair trial in Massachusetts…George Washington called this the “Murder Act” because he believed that it allowed British officials to harass Americans and then escape justice…

The Quartering Act…allowed a governor to house soldiers in other buildings if suitable quarters were not provided…

The Acts were meant to punish Massachusetts. But like many acts of tyranny, they only caused a backlash. The outrage spread to other nearby colonies, and were seen as a threat to the liberty of all:

The acts unintentionally promoted sympathy for Massachusetts and encouraged colonists from the otherwise diverse colonies to form the First Continental Congress. The Continental Congress created the Continental Association, an agreement to boycott British goods and, if that did not get the Coercive Acts reversed after a year, to stop exporting goods to Great Britain as well. The Congress also pledged to support Massachusetts in case of attack, which meant that all of the colonies would become involved when the American Revolutionary War began at Lexington and Concord.

Which brings us back to today, Patriots’ Day.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps…

[ADDENDUM: This is not entirely unrelated.]

55 Responses to “It’s Patriots’ Day”

  1. Tatyana Says:

    Please forgive my [almost] complete innocence of early American-British relations, but maybe you’ll be able to clarify few questions that has interested me for some time.

    Isn’t the purpose of establishing a colony, in the first place, to get as much goods and money pumped from there to metropoly? Weren’t Americans, colonists, farmers and all, subjects to British King? And as subjects, weren’t they obligated to follow colonial arrangements – as in, sending big chunks of the fruit of their labor to the Kingdom? Also, America being not the only English-speaking colony, I’d presume that similar expectations were raised by the Royal representatives in Australia and Canada – why the colonists there did not consider themselves slighted, and consequently, revolted?

    Apologies, again, for my simplistic questions.

  2. Terry Hoover Says:


  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Terry Hoover: boy, I’m full of typos today. Haste makes waste. Will correct.

  4. Scott Says:

    Here’s Art Cashin’s take (ancient NYSE floor trader for UBS), via Zero Hedge:

    On this day (-1) in 1775, there occurred one of the best known yet most misunderstood events in American history. Thanks to Longfellow’s famous poem, popularly but mistakenly called, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” nearly every schoolchild has heard of “that famous day and year.”

    But many of the images in the poem, while stirring, are not correct. Revere was not a volunteer. He didn’t ride alone. He never finished the ride and he didn’t hang any lanterns in the Old North Church.

    Revere was a patriot, of course. He was one of the “Indians” at the Boston Tea Party. He had been active in many pre-revolutionary groups. But that night he was serving as a paid messenger, a role he had often before served. (He actually submitted a bill for his famous ride.) Historians believe the ride started at a time earlier than midnight.

    The lanterns signaling “one if by land and two if by sea” were actually set by church sexton, Robert Newman. The signal meant the British regulars were setting to out arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams (two higher profile patriots) at Lexington and then to seize a stash of revolutionary arms and gunpowder at Concord.

    Revere and a co-rider William Dawes rented horses and set out on their ride. They made it to Lexington, warning Adams and Hancock. They were joined by Dr. Samuel Prescott. On the way to Concord, Dawes and Revere were arrested. (Speeding?)
    Prescott, however got through and so the patriots were ready the next day to fire “the shot heard round the world.”

    And sources say that Revere didn’t shout, “The British are coming!” Rather it is believed he called out – “Awake! The Regulars are out!” (How riveting.) And, finally despite thousands of barroom bets no one knows the name of the horse. (Not even the Boston Historical Society. – Don’t bother to write in – it was not Brown Betty! Recall, it was a rental.)

  5. Michael Adams Says:

    Everyone needs to read Systems of Survival by the late Jane Jacobs. She describes two ways of getting a living, the Commercial and the Guardian.

    From at least the Peasants Revolt of 1381 to the TEA parties last week, the motivating idea has been, “We don’t need no steenken ruling class. ” Let the Guardians protect us from fraud and violence, and we’ll handle the rest. Experience has shown, repeatedly, that people get along pretty well, prosper enough to need no more than a minimal elymosynary effort, if you just leave us alone.

    The growth of the idea that the Commercial Syndrome ought to dominate, i.e., the Liberal idea, was what was going on in the American Revolution. The Commercial enterprises that established the Colonies made a profit, or didn’t, on management decisions and other circumstances. The Colonists objected mightily to the attempt to extract tribute from them, which would have turned us from Commercial colonies to Tributary ones, something we were never intended to be.

    Neo, I hope that you make it to Austin one day, and meet a few hundred of your close friends here, but do not ask me to read “The Midnight Ride” aloud. I can never get through it without choking up.

    A very happy Patriots’ Day to all of you.

  6. Perfected democrat Says:

    “You might say they were clinging to their guns, although not bitterly.”


  7. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    It is properly spelled, eleemosynary. Never having seen the word before, I looked it up.

    Merrian-Webster’s defines it as an adjective meaning; of, or relating to, or supported by charity.

  8. Tatyana Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: I did the same thing! how gratifying.

  9. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Following up on Michael’s premise that a eleemosynary effort is sufficient, while attractive, that concept presupposes a greater degree of social cohesiveness than presently exists within our society.

    Until the premises and consequent ‘solutions’ of the left are finally and thoroughly discredited, a return to the sufficiency of that charitable effort is unlikely to be satisfactory.

    Freedom shall win in the end, as it cannot be otherwise and may even win through the present difficulties we currently face but the internal and external cultural battles confronting us are and shall be formidable.

    Freedom is however a non-negotiable right and worth the effort regardless of outcome. Better to die in freedom than live in slavery, be it economic or otherwise.

  10. Gringo Says:

    Tatyana: And as subjects, weren’t they obligated to follow colonial arrangements – as in, sending big chunks of the fruit of their labor to the Kingdom?

    For the most part, no- if you are talking about the government. The settling was nearly al done done by private entities, be they for religious purposes, as in Massachusetts, or for money making, as in Virginia. There was an obligation to pay off the passage, and in the case of money making enterprises, to send money back to the mother company. But for the most part the British government didn’t get money from the colonists.

    While there may have been Royal governors, to a big degree the colonies were self-governing. The “taxation without representation” conflict occurred when the British government, in an attempt to recuperate some of its expenses in fighting the 1755-1763 war against the French in North America and other places, imposed some taxes in North America. The British government considered itself justified in doing so because it had incurred considerable expense in fighting that war in North America. Many of the colonists did not agree.

    There was a family in my hometown with a famous ancestor who had fought at Bunker Hill. The family had been in the town for hundreds of years, including the famous ancestor. As Faulkner said, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” Very unpretentious, down to earth people, who never bragged about their famous ancestor.

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    Its this history that prevents us from going into space. for if the US was not so far away, the outcome would not have been so sure…

    same with space…
    [not to mention that in this case, the new republic would have the highest ground]

  12. Tatyana Says:

    Thank you, Gringo, now it’s clearer.
    So the settlement premise was commercial, rather that government-instigated. Wasn’t Canadian colonies (those that were British) operating on the same principle? Why, then, they did not object to taxation?
    I guess, Australians are whole different story, as they were mostly a depository for criminal overflow (or that’s what I remember from adventure novels).

  13. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    I’ll offer my humble understanding in answer to your questions.

    The early American colonists were subjects of the English King, though not all, many individual colonists were citizens of and emigrated from other countries.

    The colonies were not primarily financed by the English Government’s money, it was mostly privately financed and private, individual citizens developed the colonies. Thus, the colonies relationship with England was as English subjects engaged in trade with England, and secondarily, other European and Caribbean nations.

    As colonial English subjects, they owed allegiance to the English King but as freeborn men, which entitled them to certain rights, most notably first originating with and developing out of the Magna Carta, then further developing out of Cromwell’s elevation of Parliament over the King.

    “Taxation without Representation” was not a mere slogan but expressed a key point, for without representation onerous taxation made clear that England considered the colonials as little more than indentured servants, despite there being no such contracts.

    As freeborn colonial Englishmen, this amounted to tyranny and was not an acceptable obligation for them to have to endure.

    The American revolution developed as a result of the long term denial of those rights by both England’s King and Parliament, leaving the American colonists with no recourse as to their just grievances.

    After long and continued usurpation of those divinely ordained, fundamental human rights, the colonies revolted, asserting a new premise; that God granted the right for one people to dissolve the bonds that had united them with another, after all and many efforts at remonstration had been rejected.

    Having demonstrated beyond doubt that to continue the relationship would reduce the American colonies to economic slavery and a state of physical indenture to England, the American colonies declared their independence, echoing Patrick Henry’s declaration, “Give me liberty or give me death!”.

    The rest is history, though we are in the process of once again affirming whether this nation shall endure as a nation of freedom or be reduced to regulative tyranny.

    Australia was originally a penal colony, from early on England took a hands off policy of essentially, ‘let God decide who lives and prospers’. By the time that a functioning society had evolved, England, perhaps partially as a result of the American revolution was evolving into a ‘Commonwealth’ of semi-autonomous nations.

    Canada, for whatever the reason always was a stronghold of the Tories, a condition further strengthened by many former American colonists, who at the outbreak of hostilities and especially after the success of the American revolution, moved to Canada.

    Those more knowledgeable than I may want to modify some details but that’s the gist of it.

  14. Michael Says:

    Oops, meant to look it up, then forgot. Sorry. I do love the way it feels on the tongue, like pusillanimous, and avocados, the fruit, not the word.

  15. expat Says:


    Have you read Daniel Boorstin’s The Americans? I liked the first volume, The Colonial Experience, best. You mind find it helpful in trying to figure out why we are like we are.

  16. Scottie Says:

    Thank you Neo! A great piece of work as always!

    Those simple farmers definitely had it much harder than we do now, in regards to throwing off the first strands of tyranny.

    All we have to do is make sure we – and all other similarly minded citizens – vote!

    As long as we can speak out and vote the rascals out of office that would take away our ability to chose for ourselves, we’ll never have to resort to the bullet box.

    It’s also interesting to consider that, had the colonists given in they would have probably had closer relations to the monarchy and hence greater safety and security.

    They gave up such advantages knowingly. Too bad their descendents (well, at least some of them anyway) aren’t as independent minded….

  17. Bob from Virginia Says:

    A few factoids about colonial America: It wasn’t until around 1741 that the British had regular troops stationed in the colonies. Until then the local were on their own. (according to my memory of Almost A Miracle)

    King George III was sort of an anomaly. The fashion in Europe at the time was enlightened monarchy. As a result King George was given more power than he should have been considering the limits the British placed on monarchical power. Remember they beheaded Charles I and kicked out James II.

    Before the revolution America was effectively independent in almost everything but name. When the British tried to undo what was already American tradition the inevitably happened.

    Of course King George did not have a teleprompter.

  18. Bob from Virginia Says:

    Here’s another factoid, maybe. No one knows for sure how the colonists knew that the British were coming by land or sea, but there is some speculation. The British commander’s wife, Mrs. Gage, was an American. There were supposedly only three people who know the British were coming by sea, General Gage, an executive officer and Ms. Gage. He apparently accused her of giving the information to the colonist, thereby leading to the lights in the church tower. It ruined their marriage.

    I strongly recommend tow outstanding books about the revolution by David Hackett Fischer; The Crossing and Paul’s Revere’s Ride. Both provide surprising details of those times and both were hard to put down.

  19. Tatyana Says:

    Expat, thanks for the book rec. However, I must have expressed myself poorly: I am merely curious in a diagram of historical forces and don’t attempt as formidable task as figuring out why “we are like we are”.

    Geoffrey Britain, thank you for this extended and comprehensive outline.
    So, it looks like the British Monarchy and Parliament have only themselves to blame for the loss of American colonies: if they were more inclined to respect colonists as equal to residents of Britain, and have granted them the right to be represented (in Parliament, if I understand correctly – right?), this country might have been resembling Canada now… ouch.

    Have a happy Patriot’s Day, everyone!

  20. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    I won’t muddy the good historical synopses for Tatyana, except to make them shorter. The colonists already had freedoms which were being taken away. One might argue that as sovereign, George III (and Parliament) had the right to take them away, but such things are always unpopular. Additionally, the huge group of recent immigrants to America were Scots-Irish, antipathetic to the crown for good reason.

    As for Revere, David Hackett Fischer’s book is the best.

  21. Tatyana Says:

    Thank you, Bob and AVI.

  22. Hammer Says:


    The French colonists did revolt, although much later in 1837, partly inspired by the American Revolution. I wonder what Quebec would be like today if Les Patriotes had won.

    You can read about it

  23. Hammer Says:

    Sorry. The link was missing. Here it is:


  24. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    Yes, had Parliament and the Crown been even a bit more reasonable and extended simple dignity and respect to the colonists, it is highly likely that the Revolution would never have occurred.

    John Adams and many others only reluctantly came to the conclusion that there was no other option than to declare their independence and then fight for it.

    Fully one-third of the American colonists were sympathetic to the Crown even after the start of the revolution. Opinion was not unanimous.

  25. Tatyana Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: I guess, that 1/3 of colonists who were loyal to the Crown might be called conservatives and traditionalists, and the rest, advocating liberty – liberals or progressives…Funny thing, history.
    Hammer: i never knew that, about Quebec! Thank you. The only indication of independence from culture of former metropoly that residents of Quebec demonstrate now is their insistence on their own equally viable, variant of French language. Otherwise they prefer to be in opposition to the rest of Canada, rather than to France – or that was my impression upon visiting, 4 or 5 times.

  26. Gringo Says:

    Tatyana: Until 1760 or thereabouts, Canada was a French colony. Perhaps as a consequences of numerous border wars with the English colonies, they felt more affinity with the British Crown than with Americans. The British Crown had at least guaranteed continuation of the French language. And the British Crown was more distant than the Americans.

    French-inspired Indian raids on English settlements had been a part of frontier life for well over 50 years. As a result, the English colonials did not have fond feelings towards the French Canadians, and the French Canadians were well aware it that.

    Perhaps the Canadians feared that were they to become part of the US, that they would be overwhelmed by English speakers.
    Better the devil they knew: the British Crown.

    Here is a link on the 1704 Raid on Deerfield Massachusetts. French and Indian forces took prisoners. My 8th grade English teacher read us a book about a child caught in that raid. I don’t remember the title.

  27. Gringo Says:

    The book was The Boy Captive of Old Deerfield, by Mary P. Wells Smith. I saw only a synopsis, but I note that I recalled the name of the captive as Stephen- and that was his name.

  28. Alex Bensky Says:

    I won’t try to improve on the historical discussions above, Tatanya, but I will toss in an exchange in the movie “The Last of the Mohicans” between a British officer and Hawkeye, the hero.

    “You call yourself a patriot and a loyal subject of the Crown?” demands the officer. Hawkeye, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, laconically replies, summoning up a lot of the American frontier experience, “I do not call myself subject to much at all.”

    Meanwhile, for Patriot’s Day, I offer Grantland Rice’s take on Longfellow, “The Midnight Slide of Paul Revere:”


  29. Artfldgr Says:


    unlike russia, they didnt take everything they wanted that was not nailed down, and they let the colonies around the world work, and then have trade, which causes wealth circulation.

    I can see why this would confuse.

    the russian revolutions destruction of such wealth circulation mean very different things when they entered a state than when the brits, or evne the germans after the war (ergo many afrikaans thinking it was better when they were there).

    in india, the brits had to send troops not to engage the people, but to reign in their companies…

    ever buy food at A&P Markets?

    its a VERY old company…

    “Atlantic and Pacific” ring a bell?

    how about “tea company?”


  30. rickl Says:

    This whole thread has been a great history lesson. I read some things I didn’t know before and others I used to know but had forgotten.

    Tatyana: For a long time the term ‘liberal’ meant one who supported individual liberty, and also economic liberty (free market capitalism). But during the 20th century, the leftist progressives twisted the definition to mean one who supports state control of the economy (socialism).

  31. Oblio Says:

    Not as good a history lesson as one might wish. The case was by no means so clear cut that the British were behaving tyrannically in Boston or anywhere else, and certainly not by the standards of the time. The constitutional and legal issues are complex, and revolved around London’s assertion of supremacy for the Parliament in London at the expense of other assemblies and local laws. From a British perspective, this represented the height of Parliamentary, and thus liberal as opposed to Royal, supremacy. The taxes at issue were largely customs and excise taxes. The people most affected were actually smugglers, whom the British Navy hunted down to try in Admiralty court in Halifax after the Boston mob took to jury nullification. The Boston Tea Party was caused by a cut in taxes, which in the way of things, cut into the price of smuggled cargo and thus into profits. The British closed the frontier and reserved the West (beyond the crest of the Appalachians) to the Indians, threatening ruin to land speculators in New York and Virginia. As opposed to being oppressed, America probably had the greatest degree of social equality and the highest per capita income in the world in 1775.

    Many of the best people remained loyal, including people like Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts, and Benjamin Franklin’s son.

    It is tempting to think that we would have been true blue Patriots if we had been in Boston in 1775. I know myself well enough to suspect that I might not have been, that I might have been one of the 1/3 of Americans who stayed loyal, or the 1/3 who were basically neutral to opportunistic–though I hope I wouldn’t have fallen into the latter category.

    Among the Patriots there were great men like Washington, John Adams, Hamilton, and Greene. There were scoundrels like Sam Adams and John Hancock. And there were some, like Benedict Arnold and perhaps Thomas Jefferson, who were a bit of both. And many loyal Britons, such as Jeffrey Amherst and Edmund Burke, were nevertheless sympathetic to the Americans.

    I will celebrate Patriots’ Day with the rest; but I don’t think that history is so neat and clear-cut when you are in the middle of it. That clarity only comes with hindsight and by editing out the inconvenient parts of the historical record.

  32. jon baker Says:

    Great history lessons every one, but you are dancing around the obvious. The Founders laid out their reasons for revolt, 1,2,3 in that Great document, “The Declaration of Indepence.”

    As the Founders said “…a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

    Then they laid it out for their temporal peers and for posterity to see:


  33. jon baker Says:


  34. jon baker Says:

    granted, the Declaration of Independence was not written till well after Lexington and Concord….I believe their were in the early days of the Revolution, those who thought of themselves as Englishmen fighting for their rights as Englishmen-a sort of second English Civil war.

  35. rickl Says:


    Many of the best people remained loyal, including people like Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts, and Benjamin Franklin’s son.

    Benjamin Franklin disowned his son over that, and never spoke to him again. Surely you’re not saying that Franklin’s son was ‘better’ than Franklin?

  36. njartist49 Says:

    in India, the brits had to send troops not to engage the people, but to reign in their companies…

    One of Edmund Burke’s finest essays was regarding the East India Company: Burke argued that the moral law does not change simply because of geography or that “people do things differently over there.” In other words: the objective moral code is universal, nor does human nature change.

  37. rickl Says:

    I do agree with you, Oblio, in that the tyranny of the British pales in comparison to the tyranny we are experiencing right now, today. (Not to mention the level of taxation, which would have given the Founders mass strokes.)

    18th Century monarchs couldn’t hold a candle to the suffocating embrace of a modern totalitarian nanny state, with its tens of thousands of pages of laws, regulations, speech codes, security checkpoints, spy cameras, taxes, and fees designed to micromanage every single aspect of our lives, and control our behavior as if we were lab rats. The Founders literally couldn’t have conceived of such a thing.

    So…what are we going to do about it?

  38. jon baker Says:


  39. Tom Says:

    The flight of the Tories to Canada, a kind of psychosocial ethnic cleansing of their own choosing, had social and political effects that live on today in both countries. Canadians seem to take better to orders from above. They queu up more readily, wait their turn, and on the whole are better (more docile) subjects. A very large majority make the grade as sheeple.

  40. Promethea Says:

    Oblio . . .

    Revisionism is always fun.

    But then you surely must know that the colonies had ALWAYS governed themselves. So when the British tried to enforce control, at first in order to raise money and then in order to assert their authority, they were already fighting a free people.

    What is a smuggler but someone who doesn’t want to pay taxes. Why should they have paid those taxes?

    Hmmmm. Good question.

  41. Bob From Virginia Says:

    I just finished watching the HBO special “John Adams” on DVD. I strongly recommend it although the camera work made me seasick, and there are abundant historical shortcomings. The protagonist, Adams, states that the true history of the American revolution will never be written.

    I suspect that may be correct. I came across a book once that I wish I had read. Around 1860 a journalist tracked down the few surviving revolutionary war veterans and recorded their memories of the revolution. What would have made it interesting is that the journalist would have conducted interviews using modern methodology. We have memoirs from the revolution but no interviews from the overwhelming number of inarticulate and disinterested who did not write their memoirs, the very same who felt the obligation for some reason to risk their lives. They almost certainly did not fight to remove taxes. People upset about taxes do not risk their lives, they find ways of cheating. Perhaps someone knows the name of the book and can advise me. I do recall that the journalist was surprised that these veterans cared less about such things as the Stamp Act than the fact they just wanted the British out.

    I also recommend Gordon Wood’s The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin.

    I wonder how much it would take now to push the public to violence, or is the slavery of complacency our destiny? The answer should be clear in 2012.

  42. Thomass Says:

    Tatyana Says:

    “Isn’t the purpose of establishing a colony, in the first place, to get as much goods and money pumped from there to metropoly? Weren’t Americans, colonists, farmers and all, subjects to British King? And as subjects, weren’t they obligated to follow colonial arrangements – as in, sending big chunks of the fruit of their labor to the Kingdom?”

    The English king, by this period, was not an absolute monarch. There were rules (which included a parliament that controlled taxation) and the American colonists believed the king was violating them; ergo it was their right to revolt. Some historians have described the American Revolution as an extension or and/or the last battles of the English Civil War. You can see from this timeline, the people in England proper executed their king at the time over his overstepping his bounds.

  43. Thomass Says:

    Tatyana Says:

    “Geoffrey Britain: I guess, that 1/3 of colonists who were loyal to the Crown might be called conservatives and traditionalists, and the rest, advocating liberty – liberals or progressives…Funny thing, history.”

    Those terms have been intentionally made murky (i.e., it’s no accident). Throughout most of the world (including Australia) us ‘conservatives’ (as the ‘progressives’ labeled us) would be called liberals.

    In the US, all the terms were picked by the progressives.

  44. NeoConScum Says:

    Very, VERY BEST thing about this Patriots Day was our Tampa Bay Rays sweep of the BoSox: 4th of 4.

  45. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    As I have ancestors who set out for Nova Scotia as well as American Revolutionaries, I have some positive feelings toward both sides. Remaining with the British, we know in retrospect, would have ended slavery sooner in this country, though that could not be seen then. And the imposition of tarriffs was indeed within the right of the Crown and Parliament. As to Oblio’s smugglers, that was indeed part of the picture, but not as dominant as gets reported these days.

    Basic history tends to get taught with events in isolation, but as in any era, the run-up to the Revolution was part of a complicated series of moves and counter-moves. The changing view of freedom and self-governance can be seen in writings back into the early 1700’s. The idea that they were “free-born Englishmen,” and thus entitled to rule themselves gathered momentum throughout the century. The colonists were, ironically, mad at the Crown for not recognising their Englishness, not their American-ness. Land-owning was of enormous importance back in the mother-country in terms of who had power and rights. As the colonists owned land, they quite naturally thought of themselves as possessing not only the rights of Englishmen in general, but of landholding Englishmen. They saw themselves as being more equivalent to a far borough in England. This may seem strange to us, but it was really just an extension of the idea of rights to folks in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Land ownership was huge.

    Yet it was an extension of the idea, and represented wishful thinking on the colonists’ part.

    Those who had been in Scotland and Ireland or immediately descended from same were particularly sensitive to this, as who owned the land had resulted in a great deal of displacement and hunger for them.

    Most of the tarriffs and taxes imposed were indeed fairly small and reasonable. But they came in a context of high symbolism of Parliament insisting on their right to impose them regardless of whether the people affected wanted them or not. This rankled. And blockading to enforce British will on the Americans was a clear signal.

    We might, in retrospect, wish that something could have been worked out and many lives saved. How the enormous self-governance of the American colonies would have later influenced the development of Australia, New Zealand, India, and even South Africa is interesting to contemplate.

  46. Bob From Virginia Says:

    Two other excellent books by William H. Hallahan, The Day the Revolution Started and The Day the Revolution Ended.

  47. Artfldgr Says:

    I would like to take a second to thank Tatyana for her questions, they are the reasons there is such good answers here! without her questions, we would have putzed out and moved to someplace else. instead we got lessons of the details of why Americans (even those who came late to the party) have the feelings of freedom, economy, brotherhood, and all that such (which goes a long way to explaining her success, something that cheating really doesn’t)

  48. Scottie Says:

    I unfortunately was not able to devote much time yesterday to this conversation other than a short compliment to neo (I was dealing with a sick child), but I did want to point out something that most seem to have missed.

    The obsolete method the colonists used to inform each other that the British army was on the move – as well as the response that notification created in the civilian population – had been set up previously as a specific response anticipating just such a move on the part of the British army.

    This denotes anticipatory planning on the part of the colonists and speaks volumes as to where their heads were at the time, as it’s clear they were already figuring they were probably going to have to fight the British army.

    The Battles of Concord and Lexington were not something that came full blown out of a series of misunderstandings on that day, or even the previous weeks or months, but were rather the culmination of a series of actions and reactions between the British monarchy, British Parliament, and the American Colonists regarding the concept of liberty and self-rule.

    I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who noted that the American Revolution had actually begun years earlier in the hearts and minds of the people – the shots being fired were simply the culmination of that thought process in the minds of the American Colonists when push came to shove.

    As for your questions Tatyana, I’m heartened you are taking such an interest in this subject – the more people who do, the better!

    I would suggest a thorough reading of the Declaration of Independence, as well as researching the background information related to the individuals involved in the writing of that document.

    While it was written after the first blood had been shed, it was also the single most important document at the time that clearly laid out the reasons and justifications for severing ties to Britain and it’s monarchy, and provided rational reasons for the actions undertaken.

  49. Bob from Virginia Says:

    Scottie wrote “This denotes anticipatory planning on the part of the colonists and speaks volumes as to where their heads were at the time, as it’s clear they were already figuring they were probably going to have to fight the British army.”

    Not only that but the actual tactics of a moving ambush, the type that was used on the British column returning from Concord, were worked out in advance by colonial military theorists.

  50. Gringo Says:

    NeoConScum: those of us with citizenship in Red Sox Nation will agree to disagree with you. We will not convince each other. We cannot force exile to Nova Scotia these days. :)

    I grew up a Red Sox fan, with corresponding antipathy to that team in the Bronx. Under his high school yearbook picture, one friend listed his pet peeve: “watching those Red Sox lose.” Back then, that’s what they did. Ironically, the only contact I had with a major league ballplayer was with a former Yankee, who was a student teacher at my high school.

  51. Conrad Says:

    The comment about how the Americans “just wanted the British out” rings true. However benignly the Crown may have behaved toward the colonies (by historical standards), of what real use to America was the British government? The colonies were both prosperous and largely self-governing. Save for the remote possibility of a foreign invasion (wherein the British Navy would serve as a strong deterrent), the colonists derived little perceived benefit from their continuing political ties to the faraway British government. George Washington saw nothing good in the arrangement from his own economic perspective and must have wondered why in the world the colonists would put up with even the pretense of subjugation to the Crown.

    All in all, the Americans had figured out by the 1770s that they didn’t really need the British around anymore. Some people in Britain eventually realized this as well, but by then it was too late to unruffle the colonists’ feathers. Once the independence sentiment got hitched to the Locke-Rousseau philosophical wagon, it was all over for the British except for the shooting. As is often the case (see Civil War), the war itself served to galvanize popular support among those who were previously uncommitted.

  52. anna Says:


    check it. forgot where I first heard about this, probably american thinker.

    Also, I don’t know if anyone is much into colonial williamsburg, and it is kind of hokey, but last time I went there the tour guide of the old capital building taught me more about the Rev. War than I learned in my 218 years of public school. cool stuff.

  53. Tatyana Says:

    Thank you all so much for instructive and well-rounded opinions; I got most of my questions answered and much stimulus to investigate further. And so many books to read!

    Special thanks – to Oblio and AVI; I, too, think the history is never clear-cut. Amazing amount of randomness, luck, sentiment and ideology play as important role as vector of economical and political forces. And it is never clear, “in” the historical moment, what direction is the most beneficial and just, let alone what course of actions is the right one.

  54. Promethea Says:

    In the next few years, a lot more Americans are going to find themselves interested in the causes of the American Revolution.

    The origins of the individual colonies is fascinating, as is the story of how they developed over time and became more and more alike, despite their various origins.

  55. ELC Says:

    If anybody cares, I wrote about these anniversaries the past couple of days.

    The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

    (Including a reading of the famous poem by yours truly.)

    The Shot Heard Round the World

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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