It was the pursuit of a dream. A dream of living free in a land of freedom. This dream sustained them through the darkest days of the young nation and was the bond which held them together through many hardships. Their journey was more than a voyage across 3,000 miles of ocean. They saw it as a moral obligation to set before all mankind an example of how God would protect and exalt a nation built upon His principles.
One of their early leaders was a preacher named John Winthrop who would become the governor of Massachusetts. While still on board the Arbella he delivered a sermon to the small group of passengers. His sermon was taken in part from Matthew 5:14 which states, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” The part of his sermon which has endured for almost 400 years states:
“For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken…we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God…We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us til we be consumed out of the good land whether we are a-going.”
Life in the new world was hard, but for the first 150 years they were able to enjoy their freedom with very little interference from England. However, on October 25, 1760 George William Fredrick was anointed as King George III of England. Under his reign a number of restrictions and taxes were imposed on the America colonist. Their petitions for relief, sent to the King and Parliament fell on deaf ears. The freedom they held so dear was slowly being taken away and there was no way they were going to remain silent.
In 1765 Sir William Blackstone, who taught law at Oxford University, published his four-volume Commentaries on the Law of England. They won
instant acclaim in England. In the colonies they were not only a sensation, they became a weapon. Throughout the colonies people began citing Blackstone as an authority on law, rights, and liberties. In the ten years preceding the American Revolution more copies of Blackstone’s Commentaries were sold in the colonies than in England. Blackstone, who believed the purpose of government was the protection of the people, wrote:
“For the principal aim of society is to protect individuals in the enjoyment of those absolute rights, which were vested in them by the immutable laws of nature…Hence it follows, that the first and primary end of human law is to maintain and regulate these absolute rights of individuals. “Those rights, then, which God and nature have established, and are therefore called natural rights, such as are life and liberty, need not the aid of human laws to be more effectually invested in every man than they are; neither do they receive any additional strength when declared by the municipal laws to be inviolable. On the contrary, no human legislature has power to abridge or to destroy them”
These words, finding fertile ground in the hearts and minds of the American colonist, became the bedrock of thought upon which a nation would be built. The seeds of the American Revolution were planted and watered by the attempts of King George III to take these rights away from the colonist. What began as discontent on the part of individuals gradually grew into civil disobedience. The more the flame of liberty was threatened the deeper became their determination to defend it. King George dismissed these men and women taking a stand for liberty as insignificant rabble. The colonist had a different name for them – Patriots.
Until this time the individual colonies, now numbering 13, had pretty much remained independent of one another. Each was governed by its own legislature. However, when their liberties became threatened, they saw the need to unite and communicate with one another regarding what could, and should be done. “Committees of Correspondence” were established in each colony to keep them advised as to what was going on in the other twelve.
Various steps were taken by the British crown to subjugate the colonists and stamp out the growing rebellion. Ridged laws were passed and heavy taxes imposed. In response, “No taxation without representation,” became a rallying cry among the growing number of patriots. The more the British authorities moved to quell the activities of the growing movement, the more resolute the colonist became. The flame of liberty would not be quenched.
One of the most famous acts of civil disobedience, known as the Boston Tea Party, was carried out on the night of December 16, 1773. After officials in Boston refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain, a group of
colonists, dressed as Indians, boarded the ships and destroyed the tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor.
The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout colonial America against the Tea Act, which Parliament had passed in 1773. Protesters had successfully prevented the unloading of taxed tea in three other colonies, but in Boston, the Royal Governor, refused to allow the tea to be returned to Britain. It never occurred to him that the protestors would choose to destroy the tea before conceding to the authority of a Parliament in which they had no representation.
The Boston Tea Party was a key event in the American Revolution. Parliament responded in 1774 with the Coercive Acts, which, among other things, closed Boston’s harbor until the British East India Company had been repaid for the destroyed tea. Colonists responded to the Coercive Acts by convening the First Continental Congress.
The First Continental Congress was a convention of 56 delegates from twelve of the thirteen colonies that met on September 5, 1774, at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia. It was called in response to the passage of the Coercive Acts (called The Intolerable Acts by colonial Americans). The Congress met briefly to consider their options, which included an economic boycott of British trade, publication of a list of rights and grievances, and a petition to King George for redress of those grievances.
They planned for another Continental Congress in the event their petition was unsuccessful in halting enforcement of the Intolerable Acts. Their appeal to the Crown had no effect, so the Second Continental Congress was convened the following year to organize the defense of the colonies at the onset of the American Revolutionary War.
To be continued…
This is the second of several installments. It comes from a pamphlet entitled “Once Upon a Time There was A Land Called America.” The entire pamphlet can be read at www.alandcalledamerica.com.