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Sons of Liberty


The Sons of Liberty was an organization of Patriots that was founded by Samuel Adams in response to the growing tyranny of the British Empire. While the movement eventually spread throughout all of the thirteen colonies the group was officially started in August of 1765 in city of Boston in the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The Sons of Liberty was a formal underground secret society whose goal was to protect the colonists from unjust taxation by the Crown and they became famous for the phrase "no taxation without representation". They are also famous for the Boston Tea Party one of the instigating acts of the Revolutionary War.

They are best known[1][2] for undertaking the Boston Tea Party in 1773 in reaction to new taxes. Britain responded with the Intolerable Acts, leading to a counter-mobilization by the Patriots.[3] In the popular imagination, the Sons of Liberty was a formal underground organization with recognized members and leaders. More likely, the name was an underground term for any men resisting new Crown taxes and laws.[4] The well-known label allowed organizers to issue anonymous summons to a Liberty Tree, "Liberty Pole", or other public meeting-place. Furthermore, a unifying name helped to promote inter-Colonial efforts against Parliament and the Crown's actions. Their motto became, "No taxation without representation."[5]

Sons of Liberty Broadside (1765) - Massachusetts Historical Society

After defeating France in the French and Indian War in North America, the British government needed money to afford the 10,000 officers and soldiers in the colonies, and intended that the colonists living there should contribute.[6] The British passed a series of taxes aimed at the colonists, and many of the colonists refused to pay certain taxes; they argued that they should not be held accountable for taxes which were decided upon without any form of their consent through a representative. Parliament insisted on its right to rule the colonies despite the fact that the colonists had no representative in Parliament.[7] The most incendiary tax was the Stamp Act of 1765, which caused a firestorm of opposition through legislative resolutions (starting in the colony of Virginia), public demonstrations,[8] threats, and occasional hurtful losses.[9] By November 6, a committee was set up in New York to correspond with other colonies. In December, an alliance was formed between groups in New York and Connecticut. January bore witness to a correspondence link between Boston and New York City, and by March, Providence had initiated connections with New York, New Hampshire, and Newport, Rhode Island. March also marked the emergence of Sons of Liberty organizations in New Jersey, Maryland, and In Boston, another example of the violence they committed could be found in their treatment of a local stamp distributor, Andrew Oliver. They burned his effigy in the streets. When he did not resign, they escalated to burning down his office building. Even after he resigned, they almost destroyed the whole house of his close associate, Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson. It is believed that the Sons of Liberty did this to excite the lower classes and get them actively involved in rebelling against the authorities. Their violent actions made many of the stamp distributors resign in fear.

Sons of Liberty Flag

The Sons of Liberty adopted a unique flag in 1767 known as the Sons of Liberty Flag. It had five vertical red stripes and four vertical white stripes. There was also another flag flown by the earliest American merchants that had thirteen horizontal red and black stripes that was associated with the group as well. There were many combinations of colors used to create the stripes on the flag and it was not just limited to red and white.

Sons of Liberty Flag

Association of the Sons of Liberty in New York

In December 1773, the Sons of Liberty issued and distributed a declaration in New York City called the Association of the Sons of Liberty in New York, which formally stated their opposition to the Tea Act and that anyone who assisted in the execution of the act was "an enemy to the liberties of America" and that "whoever shall transgress any of these resolutions, we will not deal with, or employ, or have any connection with him".

Boston Tea Party

The Sons of Liberty took direct action to enforce their opposition to the Tea Act at the Boston Tea Party. Members of the group, wearing disguises meant to evoke the appearance of Native American Indians, poured several tons of tea into the Boston Harbor in protest of the Tea Act. The Sons of Liberty sat in the long room above member Benjamin Edes's print shop and planned the famous tea party. During the planning, the Sons of Liberty drank from a punch bowl later donated to the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.

Gaspee Affair

The Sons of Liberty were also responsible for the burning of the Gaspee in 1772.

Intolerable Acts

Committees of Safety

Early in American Revolutionary War, the Sons of Liberty generally evolved into or were superseded by more formal groups such as the Committee of Safety.

Sons of Liberty Members

There were 22 original members of the Sons of Liberty and they were essentially a secret society. Many joined later as their organization grew and they became very famous during the war as well.


After the end of the fighting in the Revolutionary War and the signing of the Treaty of Paris the Sons of Liberty was still around and fought to remove all trace of the loyalists from the fledgling America. In March of 1784 previous members Isaac Sears, Marinus Willett and John Lamb all brought back the group and rallied in New York City to get rid of any remaining people loyal to the British Empire and impose punitive laws against them.

They ran for seats in the New York Assembly in December of 1784 in order to do just so and were successful. Following this they even tried to confiscate the property of the loyalists but this had gone too far. This was in violation of the Treaty of Paris that had been signed the year before and Alexander Hamilton defended against this unjust seizure.

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