The Volcano Erupts
TO PRESERVE order in Boston after the uproarious Tea Party of 1773, the British government dispatched several regiments to the Puritan metropolis. These troops soon found themselves in the position of hostages to fortune, for two thousand British regulars could not rule a population of four hundred thousand unruly Yankees and enforce the laws of Parliament which stripped them of liberties they had enjoyed for generations.1 There were unmistakable signs that this handful of British soldiers was sitting on a volcano. All over the countryside, New Englanders were getting under arms and practising military exercises, including sharp- shooting, on their village commons; and although they spoke of resisting a French invasion, it was strongly suspected that the "Frenchmen" wore red coats. Even children began to play, not at hunting indians as had once been their pastime, but at mowing down British regulars. "Bang! And another redcoat bit the dust." Boston boasted a company of boys from ten to fourteen years of age who, in the opinion of the city fathers, could "go thro the whole military exercise much more dexterously than a very great part of the regulars" of the British army.
But the British were daunted by neither the embattled children nor the adults of New England: expeditions frequently sallied into the country from Boston to destroy stores of powder and arms and to overawe the patriots. Few British officers believed that the "peasants" would actually dare to fire upon the British uniform and thereby bring down upon their heads the wrath of the mother country. Knowing the temper of New Englanders, it might easily have been foreseen that sooner or later these____________________