The Era of the American Revolution: Studies Inscribed to Evarts Boutell Greene

By Richard B. Morris | Go to book overview

The Sons of Liberty
In New York

HERBERT M. MORAIS

THE AMERICAN Revolution was due in no small measure to the effective revolutionary agitation carried on by the Sons of Liberty. Directed with consummate skill by a resolute and capable group of radical leaders and supported mainly by mechanics, artisans, and day laborers, this organization mobilized the popular discontent of the time. Abhorring all kinds of privilege, it stood and struggled for the transfer of power from the aristocratic minority to the democratic majority. In its fight against "inveterate Enemies" at home and abroad, it used every conceivable weapon at its command to galvanize the masses into action. It organized demonstrations, forced the resignation of recalcitrant officials, circulated petitions, and distributed handbills. At no time did it hesitate to use force to fight force; in fact, on more than one occasion, it translated into direct action the current Whig theory of the sovereignty of the people without, however, restricting the term people to the rich and the wellborn.

As an agency of revolutionary agitation, the Sons of Liberty made its appearance in the latter part of 1765. Though its origins are still obscure, it seems to have arisen in some colonies out of previously existing organizations which were composed largely of dissident elements. For example, as early as 1755 some "true Sons of righteous Liberty" formed a political club in Connecticut for the purpose of defending civil and religious freedom. In all probability, this body was later revived as the Connecticut associates of the Sons of Liberty.1 Similarly, a group of New Yorkers organized a Whig Club in 1752, which held regular weekly meetings and drank toasts to "the immortal memory" of Oliver Cromwell and

____________________
1
J. H. Trumbull, "Sons of Liberty in 1755," The New Englander, XXXV, 308, 311; W. C. Abbott, New York in the American Revolution ( New York, 1929), p. 41.

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