The Sons of Liberty was a faction within the 13 original colonies that pushed back against what they believed to be British oppression and unfair taxation. The group became most popular during the Stamp Act and disbanded into separate local factions after its repeal.
The British had fought France in the French and Indian War. Although the colonists played an important role in the war effort in America, the fact remained that the defense of the colonies and the worldwide war against France had cost them dearly. The British war chests were depleted, and they needed to replenish it. So, they devised a way to bring in more income.
British citizens had already been paying many taxes, and Parliament believed it was the colonies' turn to pay their fair share. They imposed a series of taxes on them, which culminated in the Stamp Act. With the passage of each tax, the colonists became angrier and began to push back. The Sons of Liberty were formed and had a warcry that said, "No Taxation Without Representation!" and it stuck.
The British citizens and Parliament had no tolerance for such insolence and ignored the problems. However, the tension in America continued.
In Boston, another example of violence could be found in their treatment of 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 actions made many of the stamp distributors resign in fear.
Tar and feathering became a popular form of humiliation used against King George's officers. They also participated in the Boston Tea Party.
While the group had much passion, there were times when they went too far.
One example of this was after the American Revolution, where the group revived and asked for all loyalists to be expelled from the colonies.
Notable Sons of Liberty
- Samuel Adams – political writer, tax collector, cousin of John Adams, fire warden. Founded the Sons Of Liberty, Boston
- Joseph Allicocke – One of the leaders of the Sons in New York, and possibly of African ancestry.
- Benedict Arnold – businessman, later General in the Continental Army and then the British Army
- Timothy Bigelow – blacksmith, Worcester
- John Brown – business leader of Providence, Rhode Island
- John Crane – carpenter, Colonel in command of the 3rd Continental Artillery Regiment, Braintree
- Benjamin Edes – journalist/publisher Boston Gazette, Boston
- Christopher Gadsden – merchant, Charleston, South Carolina
- John Hancock – merchant, smuggler, fire warden, Boston
- Patrick Henry – lawyer, Virginia
- John Lamb – trader, New York City
- Alexander McDougall – captain of privateers, New York City
- Hercules Mulligan – tailor, spy under George Washington for the Continental Army, friend of Alexander Hamilton
- James Otis – lawyer, Massachusetts
- Charles Willson Peale – portrait painter and saddle maker, Annapolis, Maryland
- Paul Revere – silversmith, fire warden, Boston
- Benjamin Rush – physician, Philadelphia
- Isaac Sears – captain of privateers, New York City
- Haym Salomon – financial broker, New York and Philadelphia
- James Swan – American patriot and financier, Boston
- Isaiah Thomas – printer, Boston, then Worcester, first to read the Declaration of Independence in Massachusetts
- Charles Thomson – tutor, secretary, Philadelphia
- Joseph Warren – doctor, soldier, Boston
- Thomas Young – doctor, Boston
- Marinus Willett – cabinetmaker, soldier, New York
- Oliver Wolcott – lawyer, Connecticut