The Massachusetts’ Revolutionary Outbreak and its Achievements
The American Revolution was indeed a battle of opinion that began in the early 1760’s. After the end of the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763), the British sought to consolidate their Empire by expanding Parliamentary control over the colonies, by revoking the old charters that virtually gave them home rule, and by the radical alterations in the British tax structure so as to impose unfamiliar burdens of taxes upon the colonists. All that constituted a badly needed program of administrative reform which failed to reach its main objects. Accordingly, it inspired colonial attention, and mobilized the colonists to resist the British imperial policy. This article analyzes how the colonists reacted severely to the British, how they moved to the armed resistance, and how the Revolutionary War started in Massachusetts colony.
After the Massachusetts’ colonists had undergone political resistance when they opposed the British policy, the English ministers succeeded to react against this opposition. They decided to suppress rebellion and resistance in Massachusetts so as to maintain law and order in there and the rest of the colonies. However, the Massachusetts’ colonists reacted against all different British measures during their political struggle, and their resistance would develop towards armed confrontation with the British troops in the colony.
Thus, Massachusetts’ colonists began to prepare for war. They had already formed their militia and collected arms and ammunition to fight the British Redcoats. What would take place in Massachusetts’ areas of Lexington and Concord was the revolutionary outbreak, or the beginning of the American Revolution in which the British Army engaged with Massachusetts’ militia. The battles of Lexington Common Green and Concord North Bridge Fight which were fought during this revolutionary outbreak would have great impacts on the colonists.
II. The Battle of Lexington Common Green (April, 19, 1775):
In 1769, George Washington (1732–1799), first U. S. President, wrote to his friend that the Americans would have to fight for their liberties with arms, at a last resort, if the British did not change their attitudes. The different historical trends that took place in Massachusetts had shown a great desire of Bostonians to react against the so- called unjust policies of Parliament (Bliven, 1958, p. 18).
After the revolution had already been achieved in the American colonists’ minds, now resistance would evolve into military aspect to include armed conflict against the British presence in the city; for Bostonians had concluded that they “... Shall be ready to sacrifice our estates and everything dear in life, yea and life itself, in support of the common cause” (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 46). Therefore, they decided to use the comfort of practical measures and strengthen their arms and militia.
In carrying out the aim of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress to create an armed force outside the jurisdiction of the British authorities, Lexington and other Massachusetts towns organized and divided their manpower into companies of the Minutemen and Alarm List. The Minutemen were asked to bear arms and to get ready at any minute’s notice, to march on orders of the Committee of Safety, or in cases of emergency, on those of their own officers. They represented a reserve force; meanwhile, the Alarm List kept watching the British troops’ movements and reported them to the militia’s columns. They often acted as guerilla fighters and took part in fighting wars (Tourtellot).
Since Massachusetts had been the birthplace of resistance against the British policy, it would be now the first area which would undergo the battle of Lexington Common Green, the first military engagement of the American Revolutionary War between the British Army and the Colonial Militia (Countryman, 1985, p. 105).
a) Colonial Militia vs. British Redcoats:
During the First Provincial Congress, Bostonians decided to form their own militia and take up arms, and to get ready for any possible attacks so as to defend themselves and their province. James Barrett, Colonel of Concord Militia, was assigned to collect and store military supplies for an army of 14.000 men. Concord was chosen to be the hidden place for these supplies because of its location and its safe distance– 20 miles from Boston which was occupied by the British Army (Sullivan, 1996, p. 70).
Parliament reacted against the Provincial Congress’ measures. On February 9, 1775, it declared Massachusetts to be in state of rebellion, and asked the King to take steps to suppress the rebellion there. Accordingly, Gen. Thomas Gage received a letter from the British Cabinet in which he was ordered to seize military stores collected in Concord, and to arrest revolutionary leaders in Lexington (J. Andrews, 2002, p. 15). Before the letter reached him, Gen. Gage had already taken the first initiative. He sent two expeditions on February 25 and March 30, 1775 to seize the military stores in Salem. After this first stand-off had taken place, Paul Revere set up the Committee of Observers. It consisted of 30 persons who were acting as spies on the British Regulars’ movements in Boston (Fischer, 1971, p. 296).
When Gen. Gage received the letter, he started to plan the march to Concord. His spies had already reported to him that two hundred barrels of gunpowder were hidden there. He decided to seize them, and to arrest rebel leaders, Samuel Adams and John Hancock (Alden, 1944, p. 446).
In order to know more information about what was going on in Concord, Gen. Thomas Gage sent Capt. Brown and Ensign Henry De Berniere with the following instructions expressed in his letter:
The 20 th of March Captain Brown and myself received orders to set out for Concord, and examine the road and situation of the town; and also to get information we could relative to what quantity of artillery and provisions... . Concord lies between hills that command it entirely; there is a river runs enough it, with two bridges over it.... We were informed that they had fourteen pieces cannons … and two cohorns... . They had also a store of flour, fish, salt, and rice, and a magazine of powder and cartridges... . (Tourtellot, 2000, pp. 88-9)
Gen. Gage intended to keep his expedition under secrecy. He ordered the Light Infantry and the Grenadiers to be ready for the march. Although he did not say anything about the purpose of issuing the order, it was obvious that he chose and prepared his best units for this mission. Lt– Col. Francis Smith led the expedition (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 90).
The order runs as follows:
Having received Intelligence, that a Quantity of Ammunition Provision, Artillery, Tents, and small arms, have been collected at Concord, for the Purpose of raising and supporting Rebellion against His Majesty, you will March with the Corps of Grenadiers and Light Infantry, put under your command, with the Utmost expedition and Secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy all Artillery, Ammunition, Provision, Tents, and Small Arms, and all Military stores whatever. But you will take care that the soldiers do not plunder the inhabitants, or hurt private property. You have a Draught of Concord, on which is marked, the Houses, Barns, &c., which contain the above military Stores. You will order a Trunion to be knocked off each Gun, but if it is found impracticable on any, they must be spiked, and the carriages destroyed ... . If you meet with any Brass Artillery, you will order their muzzles to be beat in so as to render them useless. You will observe by the Draught that it will be necessary to Secure the two bridges as soon as possible, you will therefore Order a party of the best Marches, to go on with the expedition for that purpose. (Galvin, 1996, pp. 99-100)
Since Gen. Gage intended to surprise the rebels in Concord, he organized his expedition in the best ways so as not to have trouble with the militia there. He decided to send a detachment of troops of 700 men. They consisted of the 23rd Regiment, led by Lt. Frederick Mackenzie, the 38th Regiment led by Lt. William Sutherland; and the 10th Regiment of Lt- Col. Francis Smith who commanded these troops with Maj. John Pitcairn (1722-1775) of the Second Marines Regiment (Galvin, 1996, p. 121).
After Gen. Thomas Gage had decided to use a water route, he ordered his men to assemble at the shore of the Back Bay, near the Boston Common where twenty long boats would carry his troops to Lexington on April 18, 1775 at 11: 00 p. m. The troops would cross the Charles River first, and then march from Menotomy and Lexington to reach Concord (Hallahan, 2001, p. 18).226 The British troops set out for Concord, and sailed for three hours. Afterwards, they landed on the Cambridge shore where they encountered some problems during their march. This situation is expressed by Lt. Barker as follows:
After getting over the march, where we were up to the knees, we were halted in a dirty road and stood there until 2 o’clock in the morning waiting for provisions to be brought from the boats and to be divided... . (Galvin)
Dr. Joseph Warren (1741-1775), a member of the Committee of Correspondence, had already been informed about these British movements by one of his informants who told him secretly: “Tonight, the march is tonight; the target is Concord” (Hallahan). But, how could the British get there? According to Dr. Joseph Warren, if Gen. Thomas Gage planned to march by land, the route would be longer. If they selected to arrive by water, it would be shorter. They would sail across Boston’s Back Bay and land on Phipp’s farm. This would make them closer to their destination– about five miles on route to both Lexington and Concord (Fischer, 1971, p. 298).
Dr. Joseph Warren then decided to send two messengers, Paul Revere (1735-1818) and William Dawes (1745-1799); for one of the riders might be captured, so that the second one would deliver the message successfully to Lexington so as to warn Samuel Adams (1722-1803) and John Hancock (1737-1793), and the Concord Minutemen (J. Andrews, 2002, p. 17).
If William Dawes decided to travel from Boston to Concord riding a horse, Paul Revere intended to take a water way. He would cross the Charles River, and then ride to Lexington and Concord. Before he started his departure, he had asked his friends to signal him with two lanterns if the British started their expedition by water. On the other hand, they would signal him with one lantern if they marched by land over the Boston Neck. Paul Revere’s boatmen noted two lights, and he immediately acted on the signal. They succeeded to cross the Charles River out of the British sight, and made it safely to Charlestown (Hackett, 1994, p. 93).
According to Revere’s account, he set out for Lexington at about 11: 00 p. m. He had ridden from Medford down through Menotomy in order to evade the British patrol that had been sent by General Thomas Gage to keep an eye on the exits of Boston (Hallahan, 2001, p. 17). When he reached Jonas Clarke’s house at midnight, Paul Revere met with John Hancock. He gave him a written statement from Dr. Joseph Warren in which he was informed that Gen. Thomas Gage had already planned to send troops to seize the military stores which had already been collected in Concord, and to capture patriots’ leaders, both of Samuel Adams (1722-1803) and John Hancock (1737-1793). After William Dawes had arrived, he and Paul Revere left Lexington for Concord so as to warn the militia there (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 107).
After the Lexington Militia had been alerted by Paul Revere and William Dawes, couriers were sent to see whether the British were marching on their way to Lexington or not. Meanwhile, Capt. John Parker (1725–1775), Commander of the Lexington Militia, assembled 130 of his men in the Common Green waiting for orders. But, he had no orders to pass on his men (Nolan, 1963, p. 95). The Provincial Congress, which adjourned in Massachusetts earlier, had announced its intention to raise the Minutemen to defend the province. Two months earlier, it had provided the Committee of Safety to “alarm, muster, and cause to be assembled with the utmost expedition, and completely armed, accounted and supplied with provisions sufficient for their support in their march to the place of Rendezvous, such and so many of the militia of this province, as they shall judge necessary... ” (J. Andrews, 2002, p. 12).
Accordingly, the Minutemen had no specific orders to act in case of the Regulars’ march, but in the meantime, they had to defend their town because it was their first duty. So, the lack of order made Capt. Parker calls his men in a war conference to consider the latest data, and decide what to do. He was obliged to work on the following agreement: to let the troops pass through the town (as long as they did not cause any damage), and then to wait for orders from the Committee of Safety (Hallahan, 2001, p. 29).
Because of the lack of instruction about the British march, Capt. John Parker dismissed his men of whom many retired to Buckman Tavern to have a drink. He also told them to stay within the hearing of the drum in case it became necessary to call them out again (Galvin, 1996, p. 124).
It was 4: 30 a. m. when a scout messenger arrived at the Common Green, and reported that the British were coming on the road in Lexington. He might have seen a large column of Redcoats who were marching fast in full equipment. Capt. Parker immediately ordered the drummer boy to beat the alarm so as to recall the Minutemen of whom 77 assembled on the Common Green in two ranks waiting for the British (Galvin).
At 5: 00 a. m., the Redcoats entered Lexington and reached the Common Green. Maj- Gen. John Pitcairn (1722-1775) led the first advancing column of the British troops composed of 200 Light Infantry, and was followed by the remaining troops, about 500 of the Lights and the Grenadiers, led by Lt- Col. Francis Smith (Hallahan, 2001, p. 30).
Since they outnumbered the militia, 700 of the Redcoats compared to 77 of the Minutemen, Capt. John Parker believed that it would be impossible to face them. He did not want to engage in an armed confrontation with the British for the following reasons:
If the British had decided to pass through Lexington on their way to Concord where they intended to destroy the military stores, and for the sake of capturing Samuel Adams and John Hancock; they missed this aim because both of the revolutionary leaders left the town an hour earlier after they had been warned. (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 132)
As the military supplies had been moved to safety places, Capt. John Parker would achieve nothing if they prevented the British from their march. He just wanted to fulfill certain orders with the militia; to discuss with the British leaders, and to keep them under observation (J. Andrews, 2002, p. 22).
When the British troops arrived at Lexington Common Green, Maj- Gen. Pitcairn shouted out at the militia: “Throw down your arms, Ye Villains, Ye Rebels!” (Sullivan, 1996, p. 78). He did not intend to engage with an army in Lexington because the action involved British subjects in rebellion and violation of the government’s laws. Pitcairn was ordered not to attack the inhabitants, and most importantly, the expedition was planned to seize and destroy the military stores at Concord, and then go back to Boston. So, he ordered his soldiers what they should do: “I instantly called the soldiers not to fire but to surround and disarm them” (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 32). Accordingly, Capt. John Parker ordered his men to disperse. He said: “I immediately ordered our troops to disperse and not to fire... . Let the troops pass by... . Don’t molest them, without they being first [to fire]” (Fischer, 1971, p. 302).
The militia obeyed their captain’s order and started to disperse. However, they did not disperse in a very orderly manner. They turned back walking from the Regulars, except two of them; Jonas Clarke and Robert Munroe who remained in their positions where they mustered. All Parker’s men dispersed taking their arms with them. They did not follow Maj- Gen. Pitcairn’s order to lay down arms. (Nolan, 1963, p. 110)
As the militia dispersed, a shot was fired out. Accordingly, the British lost control and started shooting fire a volley at the militia. The Regulars were firing without orders from their officers who were unable to control their men, and meanwhile some militiamen succeeded to return fire (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 179).
The British and the militia engagement in Lexington Common Green Battle was marked the sudden gun shots which were fired from somewhere. Until this day, no one is certain where the shots came from. They may have been from the British lines, or from the Lexington Militia. They may have been from a bystander, or they may have been an accidental misfire. It is very important to present, in this research paper, what the British believe about the first revolutionary shots, and to do likewise with the Lexington Militia. Moreover, some of the historical researches which were much concerned with the event will be presented in this research paper too.
b) Who Shot First in Lexington Common Green?
Although the Lexington skirmish had been recognized by Samuel Adams as the Glorious Day in the history of the American Revolution, it has been a vexed question for many years. The first revolutionary shots fired in Lexington Common Green have taken much interest of historians who tried to understand really what happened, and to know who shot first. But, who fired the first shots? There have been conflicting views and descriptions about these first revolutionary shots, from both the British soldiers and the Lexington Militia. In trying to poke about these first shots, it will be obvious to present what both the Americans and the British believe.
As far as the Lexington Minutemen are concerned, they believed that the first shots did not come from their own ranks, but from the British officers instead. Some of the colonial testimonies state what had been believed. For instance, Capt. John Parker, Commander of the Lexington Minutemen, emphasized on the role of the British officers in shooting fire first at Lexington Common Green action when he said in his letter:
I, John Parker ... Commander of the Militia in Lexington, do testify and declare that on the 19th Instant, in the Morning, about one of Clock, being informed that there were a Number of Officers riding up and down the Road in order to take the Province Stores at Concord, ordered our Militia to meet on the Common in said Lexington, to consult what to do, and concluded not to be discovered, nor meddle or make with said Regular Troops unless they should insult or molest us– and upon their Approach, I immediately ordered our militia to disperse and not to fire– immediately said Troops made their Appearance and rushed furiously, fired upon and killed eight of our Party, without receiving any Provocation therefore from us. (Nixon, Kuting, and Rhoads, 1970, p. 73)
Another belief was stated on April 19, 1775 by Elijah Sanderson, Lexington bystander, who said:
I heard one of the Regulars, whom I took to be an officer, say, “Damn them we will have them,’ and immediately the Regulars shouted . . . and fired on the Lexington Company, which did not fire a gun before the Regulars discharged them. (J. Andrews, 2002, p. 31)
Patriot rider Paul Revere made his belief about the first shots fired in Lexington Common Green when he was returning back to Lexington after being captured by the British patrol halfway of the road to Concord. So, he said:
While we were getting the trunk, we saw the regulars very near, upon a full march. We hurried towards Mr. Clarke’s house. In our way, we passed the through the militia. There were about fifty. When we had got about one hundred yards from the meeting- house. In their front was an officer on horseback. They made a short halt when I saw, and heard, a gun fired, which appeared to be a pistol. Then I could distinguish two guns and then continual roar of musketry; when we made off with the trunk. (J. Andrews, 2002, p. 32)
On the other hand, the British believed that the shooting of fire did not come from their own ranks, but from the Lexington Militia as well. Some of the British views and testimonies believe in the colonial role and blame them for shooting fire first in the Lexington Battle.
For example, Maj- Gen. John Pitcairn of the Royal Marines stated in his report that: “Some of the rebels, who jumped over the wall, fired four or five shott at the soldiers” (J. Andrews).
Lt. John Barker, of the Fourth Regiment, said in his diary “The British in Boston” that: “[O] n our coming near [the rebels] they fired one or two shots, upon which our Men without any orders rushed in upon them, fired and put ’em to flight” (J. Andrews).
Furthermore, Ensign De Berniere’s report to General Gage on April 19, 1775 stated that: “[W] hen one of the rebels fired a shot, our soldiers returned the fire and killed about fourteen of them” (Hallahan, 2001, p. 37).
In an attempt to analyze the Lexington Common Green’s shots of fire, Professor Fischer, a British Military Historian, believes that the first shots fired in Lexington Common Green came neither from the American side, nor from the British. He states that “Nearly everyone, British or American, agreed that the first shot did not come from the ranks of Captain Parker’s militia, or from the rank or file of the British infantry” (Hallahan, 2001, p. 32).
He also compares between what had been assumed by both the Minutemen and the British Regulars. On one hand, most of the militiamen believed that the first shots did not come from the British Infantry, but from the mounted officers. On the other hand, the British believed that the shots were fired from a hedge or a stone wall. Maj- Gen. Pitcairn was convinced that four or five shots were fired over a wall, and other British officers believed that these shots came from Buckman Tavern (Hallahan, 2001, p. 33).
Professor Fisher has concluded that probably several shots were fired “close together– one by a mounted British officer, and another by an American spectator.” Furthermore, he adds that one of the shots might have been fired deliberately “either from an emotion of the moment, or a cold- blooded intention to create the incident” (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 133) i.e. A spectator from Lexington is assumed to have caused this incident and fired deliberately. But, who exactly?
Professor Fisher and other historians believe that Samuel Adams would be the plausible man of this action. The British military historian Brendan Morrissey asserts that “The finger of suspicion points most strongly at someone acting on orders from Samuel Adams” (Hallahan, 2001, p. 37). According to him, Samuel Adams wanted to provoke a violent situation for the British troops in Lexington so as to irritate them; therefore, they could not respond to the Minutemen (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 134).
If the first shots fired in Lexington are still unknown, the reasons behind these shots are unknown too. There have been a number of ideas introduced to explain why these shots were fired out. Possibly a shot was fired by a militiaman as an additional alarm– a common practice during the days of Indian raids. Or, it was probably a shot fired by a British officer as an order to the Minutemen to lay down their arms; the order was given with a warning shot from his pistol (Tourtellot).
The Lexington skirmish must have taken ten minutes or more before Lt- Col. Francis Smith arrived. He ordered the Regulars to stop firing and assemble in their correct formations. At last, the British counted a single causality; one soldier wounded. The Minutemen had eight dead and nine wounded. After Lexington Common Green, the British were to face another military engagement with the colonial militia in Concord where they were expected to seize and destroy all the military stores which were hidden there (Tourtellot).
III. The Battle of Concord Fight Bridge (April, 19, 1775):
Since Massachusetts was the place of the crisis during the revolutionary period, it underwent the revolutionary outbreak of Lexington Common Green where the first shots were heard around. The battle of Lexington Green was not successful for the Lexington Militia; for they were outnumbered by the British Redcoats, and the town of Lexington was not already the target place where the British were asked to execute their mission.
Lexington was half point to Concord where major depots of military stores were being established. The British troops had to carry on marching to reach Concord, and they were now being informed by their Commander about the target of the march to Concord with the principal mission of destroying the military stores there. After the first revolutionary engagement had taken place in Lexington, another second military engagement awaited the British Redcoats in Concord. It was the Concord North Bridge Fight.
By the time Lt- Col. Francis Smith ordered his men to cease fire in Lexington, the British troops swarmed over the Common Green and the roads around it. All the militiamen had now dispersed except those lying dead or wounded. The British troops continued their march to Concord to destroy the military stores there, according to General Gage’s orders. In Concord, the British would face another column of the Minutemen. After Lexington Common Green Battle had taken place, the British engaged in a second battle with the Concord Militia (Galvin, 1996, p. 128).
a) The British Regulars at Concord:
The British Regulars carried on their march at 5: 30. a. m. However, some of the officers grew anxious, and wanted to stop the expedition and return to Boston; as one officer reported later:
Several of the officers advised Colonel Smith to give upon the idea of prosecuting his march, and return to Boston, as from what they had seen, and the certainty of the country being alarmed and assembling, they imagined it would be impracticable to advance to Concord and execute their orders. (Hallahan, 2001, p. 27)
However, Lt- Col. Francis Smith ordered his men that he had to continue the march to Concord– the target place of military stores. He sent his Lights off the road and up onto the bridge. The Grenadiers marched along the roadway to the northwest, up Concord Hill, down the other side, across a little valley, and up Friske Hill. After the troops had passed beyond the hill, they continued to march through a curved route to reach Brook’s Hill and across Concord town line. At about 8: 00 a. m., the British reached Concord (Hackett, 1994, p. 129).
In order to alert the Concord Militia about the British march, Paul Revere and William Dawes set out for Concord. These two riders were now accompanied by Dr. Samuel Prescott (1726–1795) from Concord (Nolan, 1963, p. 115). However; both of Paul Revere and William Dawes were captured half away by the British patrol (J. Andrews, 2002, p. 35). The third follower Samuel Prescott succeeded to evade the patrol, and reached Concord at 2: 00 a. m. to spread the alarm that the British were marching toward Concord to seize the military stores (Hallahan, 2001, p. 37).
Immediately, the Town House alerted, and the Minutemen assembled at Wright Tavern. After they had held a war conference, they decided to send several scouts down the road toward Lexington so as to have more information about the British advance (Galvin, 1996, p. 137).
The Reverend William Emerson urged the militia to: “... stand our ground. If we die, let us die here!” The Minutemen accordingly agreed to defend their province. Before the British arrival, the Minutemen had succeeded to move the bulk of arms to other towns such as Acton and Worcester. Concord had now received more military reinforcements from the following towns: Acton, Bedford, Carlisle, Westford, Littleton, Stow, Groton, and Chelmsford (J. Andrews, 2002, p. 34).
These Minutemen companies were commanded by Col. James Barrett. He used to be helped other captains who served under his command: Capt. George Minott, Nathan Barrett, Charles Miles, and David Brown. They descended from Punkatasset Hill to a farm field directly above the North Bridge, and formed two ranks– Minutemen to right and the militia to the left– facing the bridge (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 155).
Col. James Barrett held a war council with his militiamen to issue his orders. He intended to keep the militia out of easy reach of the British, and in positions where they should have the advantage of observation and striking power. A company of the militia held a position on a hill across from the meetinghouse. The remaining militia withdrew to the second ridge from which they could look down on the town and see the Concord River, the North Bridge, and Barrett’s farm, the place of some hidden supplies (Galvin, 1996, pp. 129- 30).
Before the British executed their mission, Lt- Col. Francis Smith had made a plan for searching the town, and organized his troops. He kept the Grenadiers in the town on the east side of the Concord River where they deployed all around searching for the stores. A second detachment of troops was sent to secure the South Bridge and to block its entrance. Lt- Col. Francis Smith also dispatched seven companies of the Lights under command of Capt. Parsons to the North Bridge, from which they would proceed to Barrett’s farm and destroy the military stores there (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 153).
The Regulars started looking for weapons and ammunition, but they found nothing. They continued searching the houses in the village centre, where they suspected weapons were being concealed, but, they did not cover the supply of ammunition (Galvin, 1996, pp. 140- 1).
However; Lt- Col. Francis Smith was informed that three cannon were secreted in Concord by Ephraim Jones, the innkeeper and the town jailer. When he was captured, he talked about the secret location of the military supplies (Hallahan, 2001, p. 38).
In addition to the cannon; Lt- Col. Francis Smith found five hundred pounds of lead musket balls, a few wooden carriages, and a few barrels of wooden spoons and trenchers. He decided to light fire on these supplies. The fire soon started to shoot its flames and sparks on the courthouse (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 158).
On the other hand, Concord Minutemen were two hundred yards from the British company guarding the North Bridge. They just watched and waited. The column of smoke rising from the town was noticed by the Minutemen who believed that the Redcoats attempted to destroy their village. They decided to fight (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 161).
While the Regulars were setting fire in the town, the Minutemen were holding another war conference. Joseph Homser, Lt. of Concord Militia, questioned his officers: “Will you let them burn the town down?” The militiamen replied: “No”, and they were quickly prepared to march back over the North Bridge to the town so as to stop the burning, and both of the Regulars and the Minutemen would engage in the Concord North Bridge Fight, which constituted the second battle of the American Revolutionary War. It was the second step of the armed resistance undergone by the Massachusetts’ colonists (Galvin, 1996, p. 150).
b) The Concord North Bridge Fight:
Col. James Barrett ordered his men to form a line and face the North Bridge. Maj- Gen. John Buttrick led the militiamen. Col. Barrett also gave his men “strict orders not to fire till they [the British soldiers guarding the Bridge] fired first, then to fire as fast as we could” (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 161).
The Minutemen were equipped with muskets, bayonets, and cartridge boxes, and Acton Minutemen, commanded by Capt. Isaac Davies, led the way (Nolan, 1963, p. 118).
On the other hand, the British Capt. Laurie was undetermined first. Although he was commanding one hundred and twenty men in the bridge, he was outnumbered by five hundred militiamen advancing toward him. Afterwards, he saw that it was better for him to withdraw to the other side to defend the bridge. When he began retreating; he planned to be in the right position to stop the Minutemen’s approach. Meanwhile, the militias’ approach prevented the British from sending reinforcements to secure the bridge (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 164).
The British were impressed by the militias’ formation. Lt. Sutherland stated that the militiamen “... began to march by divisions down upon us from their left in a very military manner”. Capt. Laurie also wrote that they: “... moved down upon me in a seeming regular manner”. This proves that the Regulars were facing a well organized body of Minutemen, unlike to the Lexington Militia they faced in the Common Green (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 180).
Furthermore, Capt. Laurie tried to get his troops in a defensive position, and ordered them to adopt a street- fighting technique. It required that the troops should be organized in ranks of four or more, and to the depth of eight ranks. After the first rank fired, it split to the rear where it would prime and reload its muskets; while the following ranks fired. However, he failed to use this method because the troops had not been trained for, and the Concord area did not provide him with this possibility (Nolan, 1963, p. 121).
When the British struggled to form up and the militias were approaching, the shooting of fire began. Once again, like in Lexington Common Green, no one knew who shot fire first. Capt. Laurie, who gave no order to fire, said: “I imagine myself that a man of my company... did first fire his piece”. Lt. Sutherland believed that it was the Minutemen who shot first, but the probability is that three or four shots were fired from the British, and fell into the river (Galvin, 1996, p. 151).
These first shots were followed by a volley fired towards the Minutemen who were now about fifty or sixty yards close to the bridge (Galvin, 1996, p. 152).
Meanwhile, the Minutemen started to exchange fire, and consequently, four British officers were wounded– Lts. Sutherland, Hull, Kelly, and Gould– and a sergeant and six other soldiers were dead (J. Andrews, 2002, p. 36).
Immediately, the British units broke down and ran back to Concord centre. Though they encountered Lt- Col. Francis Smith, who came to their assistance, they left the bridge to the Minutemen, as Lt. Lister expressed: “The weight of their fire was such that we was oblig’d to give way then run with the greatest precipitance” (Sullivan, 1996, p. 80).
The British marched back to Concord centre and sat in a tavern for eating, drinking, and helping their wounded. Although Lt- Col. Francis Smith reorganized his troops under his command; he was unable to control the bridge because the Minutemen were increasing, and had the advantage to run the fight. At this point, the militia had fielded 1.100 men north and south of the Boston Road and around Concord. Therefore, Lt- Col. Francis Smith found it difficult to resume fighting, and decided to organize the retreat to Boston, which would take four hours, starting from the noon of April 19, 1775 (Hallahan, 2001, p. 39).
The Regulars fought the militia when they began marching back through the way from Concord to Lexington. At Meriam’s Corner, a mile from Concord centre, they encountered both of the Billerica and the Reading Militia which consisted of five hundred men. The fight there caused the British two dead and several wounded. Another mile down the road, the British confronted with Framingham and Sudbury Minutemen at Hardy’s Hill. Fighting there caused the British more than twenty causalities. Following their retreat, the British Regulars were caught by surprise by Maj. Baldwin and his Woburn Militia at the Bloody Angle. The colonial soldiers who were shooting fire from behind cover of walls and trees succeeded to kill eight British officers (Thompson, 2004, p. 20).
At 2: 00 a. m. in the morning, the British resumed their march. Lt- Col. Francis Smith now reached Lexington, where he would encounter Capt. John Parker’s Militia. It was the best time of revenge for the Lexington Militia. So, when Capt. Parker ordered, the militia rose and started firing at the British. The Minutemen were fighting without discipline or organization. One of the participants stated that: “Each sought his own place and opportunity to attack and annoy the enemy from behind trees, rocks, fences, and buildings as seemed most convenient” (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 180).
On the other hand, the British could not return fire because they were run out of ammunition, and were exhausted. The British reaction towards the Lexington fight is expressed by Officer De Berniere as follows:
When we arrived within a mile of Lexington, our ammunition began to fail, and the light companies were so fatigued with flanking they were scarce able to act, and a great confusion ... we began to run rather retreat ... we [the officers] attempted to stop the men and form them two deep, but to no purpose. The confusion increased rather than lessened... . The officers got to the front and presented their bayonets, and told the men if they advanced, they should die. Upon this they began to form under a very heavy fire. (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 181)
Despite these difficulties which encountered the British, they were favoured by the reinforcements sent from Boston by Gen. Thomas Gage. They consisted of three companies of the Grenadiers led by Earl Percy (1742-1817), and they were instructed to provide the Regulars’ retreat to Boston safely. He said about the expedition that he “had the happiness of saving them from inevitable destruction” (Hallahan, 2001, p. 47).
At 5: 30 a. m. in the morning, the British continued their retreat. They reached now Menotomy where they were attacked by a Colonial Militia, and fighting there caused the British forty dead and eighty wounded (Galvin, 1996, p. 225).
Lord Percy afterwards decided to move to Charlestown rather than Cambridge; for he knew that the militiamen were waiting for them, and realized that he would be obliged to fight them in a poor position. Furthermore, the route through Cambridge was much longer than the one through Charlestown which was much more open and the town’s hills would provide him with a defensive position (Hallahan, 2001, p. 50).
After the British had passed four hours in Lexington, they succeeded to enter Charlestown at seven o’clock in the afternoon. The troops were protected under the guns of the HMS Somerset to help them reach Boston safely. The soldiers were tired and exhausted, as one soldier noted as follows: “I never broke my fast for forty- eight hours, or we carried no provisions. I had my hat shot off my head three times. Two balls went through my coat, and carried away my bayonet from my side” (Hallahan, 2001, p. 233).
The day of Lexington and Concord was costly for the British; seventy- three of the Regulars were killed, one hundred and seventy- four were wounded, and twenty- six were missing (captured). There were eighteen officers among the causalities, including two regimental commanders, Lt- Col. Francis Smith and Capt. Bernard. On the other hand, the militias’ causalities were less than the British; forty- nine were dead, thirty- nine were wounded, and four were missing (Hallahan, 2001, p. 51).
According to the British Officer Lt. Barker, the Concord expedition was ill- planned and not well organized. He describes it in the following words:
... this expedition, which from the beginning to end was as ill planned and ill executed as it was possible to be; had we not idled away three hours on the Cambridge March waiting for provisions that were not wanted, we should have no interruption at Lexington, but, the country people had got intelligence and time to assemble. We should have reached Concord after daybreak, before they could have heard of us, by which we would have destroyed more cannon and stores, which they had time enough to convey away before our arrival; we might also have got easier back and not been so much harassed, as they would not have had time to assemble. Thus, for a few trifling stores the Grenadiers and the Lights had a march of about fifty miles through the country of the enemy, and in all human probability must every man have been cut off if the brigade had not fortunately come to their assistance. (Tourtellot, 2000, pp. 215- 6)
Gen. Thomas Gage had to prepare his own report to the British authorities about the expedition, after he had received his commanders’ reports (Ketchum, 1999, pp. 61- 2). He emphasized on the British intention not to cause troubles with the people, and stated that the militia fired first to provoke fighting in Lexington and Concord. He concludes that “this unfortunate affair has happened through the rashness of a few people who began firing on the troops at Lexington.” As far as the British losses are concerned, he downplayed the number of causalities and reported that “above fifty were killed and many more wounded.” Moreover, he noted that Lt- Col. Smith had executed his orders when he destroyed the military stores in Concord town (Galvin, 1996, p. 239).
The battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. The American colonists not only succeeded to cause the retreat of the British Redcoats from Lexington and Concord to Boston, but they would also achieve some other important things from the revolutionary skirmish. Following the revolutionary outbreak, the colonists decided to create the Continental Army to engage in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) so as to fight the British enemy. They were also incited to declare their independence, and why they had taken up arms against the British authorities.
IV. The Achievements of the Revolutionary Outbreak in Lexington and Concord:
The news about Lexington and Concord skirmish began immediately to spread in Boston, Massachusetts, and the rest of the colonies; but most importantly was the work of propaganda which was done by Boston press and newspapers. The battles’ news were reported in the “Boston Gazette” and the “Massachusetts Spy” in which its publisher Thomas Isaiah decided to write and publish his own version about the events; for he wanted his readers to understand that time had come to a new understanding with England (Fischer, 1971, p. 309).
Since the American Revolutionary War had already been started through the military debacles of Lexington and Concord, the American colonists were obliged to get ready and meet the war well prepared. They needed to fight the British at two levels: the political and the military levels, and two main institutions were needed for this purpose.
In order to wage their war and fight the British Army, the Americans sought for unity at first. The colonists were in a great need for a government to speak for them. This role was successfully filled by the Continental Congress which acted as the colonists’ spokesman. Furthermore, the Americans had to create their own army and to start enlistments so as to take part in the military operations during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). So, for this reason, the colonists would create two more important institutions to direct the war; the Continental Army and the Continental Congress, and this was achieved after too many events that had taken place during the revolutionary period.
a) The Creation of the Continental Army:
After the Battle of Concord North Bridge had ended, Dr. Joseph Warren (1741-1775) wrote his own report expressing what happened exactly in Lexington Green and Concord; he insisted on the need of forming an army to defend not only Massachusetts, but also the rest of the colonies. Furthermore, he addressed to the Continental Congress with the following letter which was as follows:
Gentlemen,− The barbarous murders committed on our innocent brethren, on Wednesday, the 19 th instant, have made it absolutely necessary that we immediately raise an army to defend our wives and our children from the butchering hands of an inhuman soldiery... . We beg you and entreat, as you will answer to God himself, that you will hasten and encourage by all possible means the enlistment of men to form the army, and send them to headquarters, at Cambridge, with that expedition which the vast importance and instant urgency of the affair demand. (J. Andrews, 2002, p. 53)
This letter was a means of adversity done by the Massachusetts’ Committee of Safety in order to make colonial population believe that the colonists should encounter force only with force. Furthermore, what happened in Massachusetts today might take place in another colony. So, they had to get ready for unexpected situations (Galvin, 1996, pp. 239- 40).
Three days after the Lexington- Concord clashes, the Massachusetts’ Provincial Congress created an army of 14.600 men for the sake of forming the largest core of New England’s future army, and was commanded by Artemus Ward (1727-1800) who later set up his headquarters at Cambridge and positioned his forces at Charlestown Neck, Roxbury, and Dorchester Heights (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 247).
These militia companies which began to flow to Boston just after April 19, 1775 surrounded the Boston Peninsula and Gage’s military troops. They cut all possible land transportation, and kept watching the British there (Fischer, 1971, p. 302).
It was the Siege of Boston which started on the night of April 19, 1775 and lasted till March 17, 1776. It played an important role in the creation of the Continental Army, which was to engage in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) (Nevis and Commager, 1945, p. 84).
The battles of Lexington and Concord were only provincial affairs, a matter between the Massachusetts’ Militias and the British occupation forces in Boston. The army that surrounded Boston and New England represented only Boston, and not the rest of the colonies. To create an army to defend and fight for the American colonies was not the responsibility of Massachusetts. i.e. Massachusetts was not in charge of creating this Continental Army; however, it was the Continental Congress’ which would adjourn in Philadelphia. This would offer the Massachusetts’ delegation a greater opportunity to make from Massachusetts the cause of all the colonies. It was a step, since the Revolutionary War had begun; to get the colonies closely united so as to face the British enemy. They also intended to stop any conciliation with England and to prepare for the war by creating the Continental Army (Elson, 1904, p. 243).
The need to get an army was put into motion by colonial delegates who met in the Continental Congress, since the War of Independence had started after the Lexington and Concord skirmish and the Siege of Boston. So, all the events which took place in Massachusetts, and Boston in particular, from 1763 until the revolutionary outbreak had united the colonies at both the political and military levels. Due to what happened in Massachusetts, the Continental Congress came out to get the rest of the colonies work together into one union (Wright, 1983, p. 19).
The Second Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775, 20 days after the battles of Lexington and Concord. Massachusetts was represented by five delegates: Thomas Cushing, Robert Treat Paine (1731-1814), Samuel Adams (1722-1803), John Adams (1735-1826), and John Hancock (1737-1793). The Congress was presided over by John Hancock, and all the colonies were represented except Georgia (Tourtellot, 2000, pp. 260- 1).
In response to the resolution which was proposed by the Massachusetts’ delegation, Congress created the Continental Army, on June 7, 1775, and made George Washington (1732-1799) its Commander-in-chief. Furthermore, Congress appointed four Major- Generals to serve under Washington. These were: Artemus Ward (1727-1800), Charles Lee (1731-1782), Philip Schuyler (1733-1804), and Israel Putnam (1718-1790) (Ketchum, 1999, p. 66).
The command and administration of the army was based on departments. The basic field unit was the regiment. It included the infantry and cavalry units. Most of these units were identified by the number of officers, and the name of the colony which sponsored them. These regiments were grouped into brigades for operations. Each regiment in the army contained six to ten companies, and was led by colonels (Ketchum).
When the Revolutionary War started, the radicals succeeded to achieve two main objectives; the formation of the Continental Congress, and the creation of the Continental Army. These two institutions directed the Revolutionary War. The clash in Lexington and Concord made also the colonists think about independence. There was a strong relationship between the Lexington and Concord skirmish, and the rise of independent movement in the colonies. Following the battles of April 19, 1775, voices in the colonies were urging colonial delegates to issue a declaration of independence. It was another stormy debate which waited for Congress (Brogan, 1990, p. 187).
b) The Rise of the Independent Spirit:
After the Continental Congress had created the Continental Army, it faced now the task to declare to the world why they had taken up arms. During the Congress’ sessions, correspondence between Philadelphia, the host town of Congress, and Massachusetts, the birthplace of the American Revolution and the Provincial Congress, was carried on. Congress now received another letter from Dr. Joseph Warren in which he insisted on the following strategy:
The necessity of establishing a civil government here... such a government as shall be sufficient to control the military forces not only of this colony, but also as shall be sent to us from the other colonies. The continent must strengthen and support with all its weight the civil authority here; otherwise our soldiers will lose the ideas of right and wrong, and will plunder, instead of protecting, the inhabitants. (Ford, 1905, pp. 177- 8)
This letter was added to the different colonial voices which urged complete separation and independence from England, and to establish another form of government which could “give every man the greatest liberty to do what he pleases consistent with restraining him from doing injury to another” (Tourtellot, 2000, p. 258). The letter which favoured independence gave the Massachusetts’ delegation, led by John Adams, in the Congress another opportunity to incite the remaining representatives to work for issuing a declaration of independence. These delegates provided the following resolution:
That the proceedings of the American Continental Congress, held at Philadelphia . . . reported by the honourable delegates from this colony, have . . . been considered by us; and the American bill of rights, therein contained, appears to be formed on the immutable laws of nature and reason, the principles of the English constitution, respective charters and constitutions of the colonies and to be worthy of their most vigorous support, as essentially necessary to liberty; likewise the ruinous measures, which . . . at present threatens destruction to America, appear to be clearly pointed out, and judicious plans adopted for defeating them. (Ford, 1905, p. 182)
This resolution proved that the Massachusetts’ delegates had already determined not to seek reconciliation with England, and decided to take up arms to fight for their liberties and properties. Although they were in favour of independence, Congress sought reconciliation first on the motion of some conservative representatives such as John Dickinson (1732-1808) of Pennsylvania and Joseph Galloway (1731-1803) of Philadelphia (Elson, 1904, p. 244).
On June 5, 1775, Congress issued the “Olive Branch Petition”, which was drafted by John Dickinson. It was an appeal directed personally to King George III in which colonial delegates protested against the British policies carried on in the colonies. According to them, these laws were designed only to serve the British interests, and the King was asked to repeal the Coercive Acts, to halt the war, and bring about reconciliation. Again, colonial delegates declared their loyalty to King George III, and emphasized on the strong relationship between the colonies and the mother- country (Ford, 1905, p. 182).
Although the Olive Branch Petition was approved by most of the representatives, it did not south the Massachusetts’ delegates, who opposed what had been agreed on. They believed on “such further measures, as shall to them appear to be calculated for the recovery and establishment of American rights and liberties.” This belief was emphasized by John Adams who said: “... I and a number of us will break off from you in New England, and we will carry on the opposition ourselves in our own way” (Freidel, Henry, and Drewry, 1970, p. 72).
These members did not approve of reconciliation; for they had already knew that it would not work with the so- called tyranny and injustice of King George III and his Parliament who decided to use a particular legislation for the colonies so as to tighten their control, and take their liberties away from them (King, Marvin, Weitzman, and Dwiggins, 1986, p. 95).
On that basis again, Congress issued the “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms” on July 6, 1775. Since Massachusetts’ delegates did not agree with Congress about the Olive Branch Petition, John Adams threatened Congressmen to withdraw from Congress, and carry on the revolution by their own people and their own means. If this happened, Congress’ efforts would go with the wind because it tried to unite the colonies, and make from Massachusetts the cause of the thirteen colonies. So, along with New England’s withdrawal, Congress would face critical problems. That is why it issued the “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms” as a possible medium to get between the Conservatives and the Radicals. It neither favoured the former, nor opposed the latter (Bailyn, 1968, p. 271).
This declaration was necessarily drafted to inform about the reasons which led the colonists to take up arms. In their declaration, the colonial representatives held out the hope of reconciliation with the mother- country, but at the same time approved the use of armed resistance to obtain their rights (Carrington, 1974, p. 194). Although they did not mention independence, the colonial delegates insisted that the colonists would die free rather than to live as slaves. They also promised to lay down arms only when their liberties were secured. In addition, they indicated that they would obtain foreign aid against Great Britain and King George III (Fischer, 1971, p. 317).
The “Olive Branch Petition” and the “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms” were carried to England by Richard Penn, and were presented to the King as an ultimate chance to avoid out the war, and to heal the rift between Great Britain and the colonies. However, in response to the Congress’ addresses, King George III declared on August 23, 1775 that the colonists had rebelled against his rule in America, and were no longer under his protection. Furthermore, he decided that he would suppress rebellion in the colonies so as to restore law and order there. He emphasized on the belief that the American colonies should be ruled by the Metropolis, since they made it part of the British Empire, and he further declared that: “The die is now cost, the colonies must either submit or triumph; I do not wish to come to severe measures, but we must not retreat” (Ford, 1905, pp. 185- 6).
Moreover, King George III decided to hire foreign soldiers to supply the army with the needed troops. These better equipped soldiers were Hessians who came from the State of Hesse- Cassel in Germany. By doing so, King George III insisted to go on fighting to slow down rebellion. On the other hand, Congress lost all its efforts of reconciliation with the mother- country (Ford, 1905, p. 700).
When the colonists had started fighting, the idea of independence had been rising too. It was no longer being expected that the use of arms would secure people’s rights without complete independence from England (Kee, 1965, p. 48). As the American Revolutionary War was going on, hopes of reconciliation with England faded away, and most of the colonists suggested that independence would be appropriate for the Americans. George Washington, Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, believed that if the colonies wanted to win their struggle over the British, they would have to be independent. Independence had already been the dream of Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Hancock, and other radicals (Bliven, 1958, pp. 51- 2- 3).
The idea of independence was crystallized on January 10, 1776 when Thomas Paine (1737-1809), American essayist, published his pamphlet “Common Sense” in which he stated why independence might be good for the Americans rather than to be attached to a corrupted monarchy of England. He also argued that what happened recently in Lexington and Concord and the hostilities there had brought a new way of thinking to deal with the colonial relations with Great Britain. He proposed that the colonies should seek for independence rather than reconciliation with England.
Furthermore, he believed that ". . . the injuries and disadvantages which we sustain by that connection . . . because, any submission to, or dependence on Great Britain, tends directly to involve this Continent in European and wars quarrels . . . ” (Dickinson, 1975, pp. 78- 80).
So, if the colonies lived under political connection with the British Crown, more hostilities would continue, and there would be serious consequences. Thus, to avoid this dreadful situation, the best thing to do was to achieve independence, and make a new form of government where no monarch could rule over these colonists to destroy their rights and liberties. This belief is stated as follows “But the most powerful of all arguments is, that nothing but independence. i.e. a Continental form of government, can keep the peace and preserve it inviolate from civil wars” (Lemay, 1993, p. 696).
When this pamphlet was widely circulated, more than 100.000 copies were edited and sold, and the revolutionary spirit swept in the colonies, it paved the way for the radicals, led by John Adams and Samuel Adams, to support independence. Meanwhile, people in Massachusetts and Virginia, in particular, were urging colonial delegates to declare independence (Brogan, 1990, p. 178).
Congress also set to work, and took some important steps toward independence. In April, 1776, it announced that colonial ports were open to ships of all nations, except Great Britain. This act was regarded as defiance to the Coercive Acts which blockaded the Boston port since the summer of 1775. Moreover, Congress took another revolutionary step in May, 1776 when it recommended that colonies should form new governments; for the previous governments had collapsed, and most of the governors had fled when the Revolutionary War began. These new governments would have no relation with Great Britain (Dickinson, 1975, p. 80).
Another important step was taken by the Virginia House of Burgesses which instructed its delegates to Congress to ask for a declaration of independence. Thus, when Congress met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776, the notion of independence was made on June 7, 1776 by Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794) and John Adams after they had presented the following resolutions:
That these united colonies are, and of right to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from all alliance to the British Crown, and that political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, dissolved. (Bliven, 1958, p. 59)
After three weeks of debate, Congress finally adopted the “Lee- Adams Resolutions”, and appointed a committee of five members to draw up the formal declaration of independence. It was presented to Congress on July 2 for vote, and was adopted on July 4. The task of writing the document fell into the hands of Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) (Latham, 1965, p. 2).
In this document, Jefferson applied Locke’s theory of Social Contract in the preamble. He said that: “men are given certain natural rights by God, and to secure these rights, governments are set up to protect them. But when they fail, the governed have the right to rebel and form new governments” (Kee, 1965, p. 47).
Then, 27 misdeeds of King George III were mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. According to Thomas Jefferson, King George III insisted on establishing a despotic rule over the colonies. He also explained why the Americans had taken up arms. Lastly, Jefferson stated that the Americans had already tried to resume their relationships with the mother- country taking into consideration their rights, but unfortunately, they failed. So, accordingly, their contract with George III was dissolved (King, Marvin, Weitzman, and Dwiggins, 1986, p. 93).
The Declaration of Independence is regarded as an important step towards the Revolutionary War. The document was issued as a means to win the French help to fight against the British. Moreover, it told also about the birth of the United States, and describes the emergence of a new people, a new culture, and a new identity (Mousnier, Labrousse, and Bouloiseau, 1986, p. 368).
Since the Americans were free and independent within their own territory, they could govern themselves without an external interference from the mother- country. By doing so, they declared that they were able to change the monarchy and the ruling houses of the British system of government, and to replace them by introducing a Republican Government which the Radicals believed that it suited them (Countryman, 1985, p. 124).
The vast range of views about the origins of the American Revolution reflects the great divergences between the British and the American colonists in political and economic problems. However, the central conflict was over principles of government between Great Britain and its American colonies; the question of sovereignty over North America. This divergence was mainly manifested in practical politics in conflicts over taxation and representation, revenue and regulation, freedom and subordination. This belief was stated by Francis Bernard, Massachusetts Royal Governor from 1760 to 1769, when he wrote the following statement:
The question [is] whether America shall or shall not be subject to the legislature of Great Britain ... . All the political evils in America rise from the want of ascertaining the relation between Great Britain and America so very ... contradictory to each other. (Stanlis, 1976, p. 191)
All these conflicts about principles took place plainly in Massachusetts, in particular, and the rest of the colonies. After the history of the American Revolution in Massachusetts (1763-1775) has been studied in this research paper, it is obvious to draw up a common belief that the history of Massachusetts can be summarized into one main idea; Massachusetts, from a British Colony to an American State. This transition from an older status into another one is reflected in the period from 1763 to 1775 during which the revolutionary era took place.
Among the reasons and the factors which made Massachusetts lead the revolutionary movement is that it was the third oldest colony which had been established in North America, after Jamestown was set up in 1607 and Plymouth in 1620, and accordingly, the Puritans were able to develop an independent spirit; being self- reliant, and succeeded to set up their own system of government upon which they used to depend.
This principle of self- government reflected the political freedom which existed in the colony from the beginning years of its establishment. Furthermore, this principle was put into practise through the establishment of colonial governments and legislatures for the management of colonial affairs freely without British interference.
However, when the revolutionary era began, Massachusetts’ colonists believed that they were obliged to resist and oppose the British Government; for they would lose their inherited political tradition of self- government. Their struggle emphasizes Massachusetts’ people denial of submission to the English Crown, Government, and Parliament which relied on taxes to raise money and revenue because of the French and Indian War’s expenses.
All the different events that characterized the American Revolution in Massachusetts took place in Boston, the centre of radical behaviour against the British Authority because it suffered from the British economic policies which were put into practise after 1763; for it was a flourishing commercial city. Particularly, from Boston emerged a group of radicals that led resistance against Great Britain. Men like Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and John Adams, succeeded to promote revolutionary ideas among the colonists so as to make them join their opposition to the English policies.
Moreover, these revolutionary leaders were shrewd men who had achieved a great success in organizing the revolt against the British authority through the following steps:
- The first step in the revolution was the appearance of sporadic and unconnected rioting in resistance. The best example is shown in the reaction to the Stamp Act of 1765. It produced a strong colonial opposition and fierce riots occurred in Boston, in particular. This resistance which was led by the “Sons of Liberty” compelled stamp collectors to resign or flee, and even threatened the life of colonial governors like Thomas Hutchinson.
- The second step was the institution of economic boycotts by the Boston merchants. These measures were supported by the Boston Town Meeting. They emerged as a result of the Townshend Acts of 1767, and was adopted first in Boston in March 1768, and spread throughout the rest of the colonies. The main reason which made Bostonians use these boycotts was to make the British Parliament repeal the Townshend Acts, and other acts concerning taxes rose from the colonies.
- The third step was the formation of some local and intercolonial Committees of Correspondence so as to communicate with the other towns and the colonies. Since it was first set up in Boston by Samuel Adams, its main object was to organize and plan resistance to English colonial taxes with the rest of the colonies. One writer describes the role and the importance of the Committee of Correspondence during the revolutionary period as follows: “This was the source of the rebellion. I saw the small seed when it was planted. It was as a grain of mustard. I have watched the plant until it has become as a great tree” (Nevis & Commager, 1945, p. 72).
- The fourth step undergone in revolutionary Massachusetts was the creation of the Provincial Congress, or Revolutionary Legislature, as it was called. This newly created institution emerged as a result of the Intolerable Acts which were put into practise in 1774. It was responsible for the revolutionary outbreak in Lexington and Concord through the enactment of the following resolutions which:
1- Called militia troops and Minutemen companies to drill and get ready at any minute’s warning.
2- Set up the Committee of Safety to control and direct the Minutemen in case of war.
3- Established the Committee of Supplies for equipping the Minutemen with the necessary arms to fight with.
The revolution which was inspired in Massachusetts was not spontaneous, it was, however; better planned and this made the revolutionary leaders, or the patriots of the revolution, generate colonial people in the common cause. Moreover, Massachusetts succeeded to unite the rest of the colonies against the British enemy. This unity was best symbolized in creating the Continental Congress and the Continental Army which directed the Revolutionary War. Furthermore, Massachusetts played another important role in issuing and drafting the Declaration of Independence.
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