Freedom: A History of US

Webisode 1. Segment 3
Rebellion in the Colonies

Most historians agree that England's King George was a stubborn man. And his pride made him do things that really angered the American colonists. King George thought Americans had to be under his and Parliament's authority. He didn't understand that the colonists had sailed to America to take charge of their own lives. On top of this the king needed money. England had huge war debts and since much of the debt had come fighting the French and Indian War in America, George III thought the colonists should pay their share. Besides, England was sending an army to America to protect the colonists from the Native Americans. Who was going to pay for that? Not us, said the colonists. We can protect ourselves. So when Great Britain levied taxes See It Now - Stamp Act Crisis of 1765 on sugar and stamps, the colonists wouldn't pay them. Worse than that, they attacked the tax collectors. Since they didn't have representatives in Parliament, they complained that they were being taxed without being represented See It Now - The Bostonians In Distress. They said "no taxation without representation." They wanted to vote on their own taxes in their own assemblies, as they had been doing. George III was outraged. His former minister, William Pitt, issued an ultimatum in the House of Lords : Hear It Now - William Pitt "I maintain that the Parliament has the right to restrain America. Our power over the colonies is sovereign and supreme. This is the mother country, they are the children. They must obey Check The Source - "They Must Obey"."

In many ways the problem between England and the colonies was like a problem between a parent and a growing child Check The Source - "Letters From A Farmer". In Philadelphia one of America's most famous citizens—a great writer, thinker, and inventor named Benjamin Franklin—wrote a funny poem about "Mother England." It went like this:

"We have an old mother that peevish is grown,
She snubs us like children that scarce walk alone;
She forgets we're grown-up and have sense of our own."

To teach the rebellious colonists a lesson and to show them who was boss, George III sent soldiers to America and imposed new taxes, including a tax on tea See It Now - The Tea Tax. So in 1773, in Boston, Massachusetts, some people decided to show King George what they thought of that tax. They disguised themselves as Indians, climbed on a ship in Boston harbor, and threw a whole load of good English tea into the ocean See It Now - The Boston Tea Party. An American named George Hewes recalled that fateful day: Hear It Now - George Hewes "Having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired to Griffin's Wharf where the ships lay that contained the tea.... We then were ordered by our commander to open the hatches and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard, and we immediately proceeded to execute his orders, first cutting and splitting the chests with our tomahawks, so as to thoroughly expose the tea to the effects of the water Check The Source - The Boston Tea Party Check The Source - "The Detested Tea"."

Americans called it the Boston Tea Party, but the British called it an outrage. King George was furious. So, in what became known as the "Intolerable Acts," he and Parliament closed down the Massachusetts legislature and shut the port of Boston See It Now - Boston Harbor, throwing half the citizens out of work. Unable to fish, people worried that they might starve. But now the other colonies, which had never paid much attention to one another, started to feel sorry for Boston and angry with the king. A Virginian named Theodorick Bland wrote, Hear It Now - Theodore Bland "The question is, whether the rights and liberties of America shall be contended for, or given up to arbitrary powers." It was no longer enough just wanting to be treated like grownups. Now the colonists were thinking seriously about breaking away—about being free. And in Boston, a fiery patriot helped spark them into action. He was Samuel Adams, a pudgy, rumpled-looking man who was a real troublemaker. Adams got prominent citizens to write back and forth between colonies and help each other with problems. He called them "committees of correspondence." The colonists hadn't known each other well before; now Massachusetts was writing to South Carolina; they were sharing thoughts and concerns See It Now - Join, or Die. Sam Adams also started groups called Sons of Liberty, that met to talk about freedom. In Boston they met under an old elm that Adams named The Liberty Tree. The English called Sam Adams an outlaw; they wanted to hang him. But Sam Adams was different from rebels in other times. He wanted more than just separation from England. He was inspired by a grander idea: that America could be a special nation where people would be free of kings and princes. A nation where, for the first time in all of history, people could truly rule themselves. A free nation. "We cannot make events," Sam once wrote. "Our business is wisely to improve them Check The Source - "On The Rights of the Colonists"."

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