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Instructions: The people’s voice in revolutionary America

On Monday morning, July 1, 1776, just as delegates to the Continental Congress were assembling in the East Wing of the Pennsylvania State House to resume debate on declaring independence, a currier handed John Adams a letter from Samuel Chase. The Maryland Convention had suddenly reversed its position, Chase informed Adams. Three weeks earlier, in response to Richard Henry Lee's momentous resolution in favor of independence, the Maryland delegation had stormed out. Then Chase and others sent the matter back to the county conventions, and at least four of these instructed their delegates to the Maryland Convention to instruct its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote in favor of Lee's resolution. In an emergency session on Friday evening, June 28, the Maryland Convention finally conceded to the dictates of the county conventions. "See the glorious effects of county instructions," Chase now boasted to Adams. "Our people have fire if not smothered."

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Boston and the Dawn of Independence

Boston and the Dawn of Independence "Required Reading" By Brian Deming BostonDawn Hardcover, 508 pages, Westholme Publishing The world of colonial Boston packed up and sailed away long ago, but it left quite a mark. That town of just eight…

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The British View: Independence by Propaganda

The rebel insurgency, in their quest for independence, resisted government control in many illegitimate ways and orchestrated the cruel, unfair treatment of America Loyalists. They were involved in the smuggling of goods and many other corrupt illegal acts. Groups such as the Sons of Liberty, intimidated government officials through vicious propaganda, performed cruel acts such tarring and feathering of Loyalists in many of the States and violently resisting any form of control.

Their propaganda said they were fighting for the inalienable rights of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness, but the colonists were living, King George had given them the freedom to live in America, to virtually self-govern, to own property, to set up businesses and allowed them to trade.

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The Men who lost America

All strategies were based on a serious misreading of sentiment in America. It was an axiom of British policy that most Americans were loyal to the Crown, and that the Revolution was led by “the intrigues of a few bold and criminal leaders.” Loyalists in the Colonies tended to confirm this biased view.
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John Hancock's role as treasurer left an uneasy Harvard

Hancock was elected Harvard treasurer in July 1773, taking into his possession 15,400 pounds sterling in securities, along with the College account books. By November 1774, Harvard President Samuel Langdon and others wrote the first in a two-year series of dunning letters to Hancock, calling for an accounting and for him to return the materials. The fifth such letter arrived at Hancock’s Concord, Mass., home in April 1775, a week before the opening battles of the Revolutionary War in Lexington and Concord. His response — the original resides at Harvard’s Houghton Library — was so chilly that he cast it in the third person, offering that “he very seriously resents” the letter’s implications.

On March 17, 1776, Langdon penned a more conciliatory letter, since by then he was fully aware of Hancock’s growing role in the unfolding Revolution.

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Loyalists at the Outbreak of the Revolution, 1775-1776

In the mid 1770s, especially after the Battle of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, any toleration for Loyalists vanished. Patriot committees of safety required citizens to pledge support for the cause of American independence or be deemed “inimical to the liberties of America.” Violence toward Loyalists increased, leading many to leave the country for Canada, Britain, or the West Indies. Presented here are selections by and about Loyalists that represent the tumultuous political atmosphere at the outbreak of the American Revolution, and the personal decisions required by Americans loyal to Britain and/or unwilling to abandon the goal of reconciliation and fight a war for independence.
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African Americans of Massachusetts in the Revolution

The first Provincial Congress of Massachusetts meeting in October 1774 reacted to the closing of Boston harbor and other coercive acts of Great Britain by choosing a Committee of Safety which was authorized to muster, arm, and supply a Army upon any consideration whatever.”6 Although that resolution was set aside for further consideration by the third Provincial Congress to whom it had been referred, it was made effective by an order of the Continental Army issued on July 10.7 The order issued at Cambridge by George Washington’s Adjutant, General Horatio Gates, read, You are not to enlist any deserter from the Ministerial Army, nor any stroller, negro, or vagabond, or person suspected of being an enemy to the liberty of America, nor any under eighteen years of age.8

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American Indians of Massachusetts in the Revolution

At the outbreak of the Revolution, there were approximately 1,700 Indians living in Massachusetts. While most Indians resided in the counties on or around Cape Cod, over 200 lived near Stockbridge in western Massachusetts. The Bay State had been seeking Indian support for the American cause even before the Lexington uprising.

The Indian company, which had been formed under the commands of Colonel Paterson, Captain Goodridge and an Indian 2nd Lieutenant, Jehoiakim Mtohksin, marched to the army’s headquarters at Cambridge after learning of the Alarm at Lexington. Their arrival was reported back to England by the British Commander-in-Chief, General Thomas Gage.

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The Intolerable Acts – On the Road to Revolution

The British government spent immense sums of money on troops and equipment in an attempt to subjugate Massachusetts. British merchants had lost huge sums of money on looted, spoiled, and destroyed goods shipped to the colonies. After the French and Indian War the British Government decided to reap greater benefits from the colonies. The colonies were pressed with greater taxes without any representation in Britain. This eventually lead to the Boston Tea Party. In retaliation the British passed several punative acts aimed at bringing the colonies back into submission of the King.
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