230 years later
Welcome to the United States. A country whose leading elite of the time (many of them liberal intellectuals) decided to protest against the puppet government installed by Great Britain and who led their fellow patriots in acts of terrorism against British troops and loyalists prior to the declaration of hostilities and the formation of the Continental Army.
By Richard Holmes
The War of Independence plays such an important part in American popular ideology that references to it are especially prone to exaggeration and oversimplification. And two uncomfortable truths about it – the fact that it was a civil war (perhaps 100,000 loyalists fled abroad at its end), and that it was also a world war (the Americans could scarcely have won without French help) – are often forgotten.
The descent into armed conflict between patriot (anti-British) and loyalist (pro-British) sympathisers was gradual. Events like the Boston ‘Massacre’ of 1770, when British troops fired on a mob that had attacked a British sentry outside Boston’s State House, and the Boston ‘tea-party’ of 1773, when British-taxed tea was thrown into the harbour, marked the downward steps. Less obvious was the take-over of the colonial militias – which had initially been formed to provide local defence against the French and the Native Americans – by officers in sympathy the the American patrios/rebels, rather than by those in sympathy with pro-British loyalists/Tories.
From The American Revolution:
The war was on in earnest. Some delegates had come to the Congress already committed to declaring the colonies independent of Great Britain, but even many stalwart upholders of the colonial cause were not ready to take such a step. The lines were being more clearly drawn between the pro-British Loyalists and colonial revolutionists. The time was one of indecision, and the division of the people was symbolized by the split between Benjamin Franklin and his Loyalist son, William Franklin.
Loyalists were numerous and included small farmers as well as large landowners, royal officeholders, and members of the professions; they were to be found in varying strength in every colony. A large part of the population was more or less neutral, swaying to this side or that or else remaining inert in the struggle, which was to some extent a civil war. So it was to remain to the end.
Civil government and administration had fallen apart and had to be patched together locally. In some places the result was bloody strife, as in the partisan raids in the Carolinas and Georgia and the Mohawk valley massacre in New York. Elsewhere hostility did not produce open struggles .
The [Boston] Massacre and its fallout, however, did not significantly influence British policy. In 1773, the British Parliament legislated a tax on tea imports by the East India Company. This legislation, surprisingly, also lowered the cost of tea so that the Americans actually were paying less for the imports. Nonetheless, on December 16, 1773, a shipment of Bohea tea was tossed into Boston Harbor by a gang of colonists dressed as Indians. This event, known as the Boston Tea Party, was really only one among many acts of sabotage that colonists, Bostonians in particular, had been engaging in since 1770. It was this event, however, which inspired the British government to take action.
Oh, the irony….