We elevate the events of the American Revolution to near-mythical status all too often and forget that the real revolutionaries were people just like you and me. Caught up in the drama of Red Coats marching, muskets exploding and flags waving in the night, we lose sight of the enduring significance of the Revolution and what makes it relevant to our world today.
Those revolutionaries, by and large, were neither agitators nor hotheads. They were not looking for trouble or trying to start a fight. Like many today, they were simply trying to make it from one day to another, a task that was increasingly difficult as Britain’s rule became more and more oppressive.
The American Revolution did not so much start with a bang as with a whimper—a literal cry for relief from people groaning under the weight of Britain’s demands. The seeds of discontent had been sown early on. By the time the Stamp Act went into effect on November 1, 1765, the rumbling had become a roar.
The Stamp Act, passed by the British Parliament with no representation from the colonies (thus raising the battle cry of “no taxation without representation”), required that revenue stamps be affixed to all printed materials. It was an onerous tax that affected every colonist who engaged in any type of business. Outraged at the imposition, the colonists responded with a flood of pamphlets, speeches and resolutions. They staged a boycott of British goods and organized public protests, mass meetings, parades, bonfires and other demonstrations.
Mercy Otis Warren was an active propagandist against the British and a prime example of the critical, and often overlooked, role that women played in the Revolution. Historian Nina Baym writes, “With the exception of Abigail Adams, no woman in New England was more embroiled in revolutionary political talk than Mercy Otis Warren.” Warren penned several plays as a form of protest, including The Group in 1775. As Baym writes: “The Group is a brilliant defense of the revolutionary cause, a political play without a patriot in it. In letting the opposition drop their masks of decency, Warren exposes them as creatures of expediency and selfishness, men who are domestic as well as political tyrants.”
Although Parliament repealed the Stamp Tax in 1766, it boldly moved to pass the Townshend Acts a year later. The Townshend Acts addressed several issues. First, any laws passed by the New York legislature were suspended until the colony complied with the Quartering Act, which required that beds and supplies be provided for the king’s soldiers. And duties (or taxes) were imposed on American imports of glass, lead, paint, paper and tea.
Americans responded in outrage through printed materials and boycotts. In Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer, which appeared in newspapers and pamphlets, attorney John Dickinson argued that Parliament had no right to levy taxes for revenue. He also cautioned that the cause of liberty be advanced with moderation. But as historians George Brown Tindall and David Emory Shi write, “Such conciliatory language led John Adams to dismiss Dickinson as a ‘piddling genius.’” Samuel Adams responded by organizing protests in Boston
Read the rest via Everyday People and the American Revolution | Tenth Amendment Center.