[I believe this historical account is mainly accurate, however, I do NOT necessarily agree with Peter Marshall's religious beliefs.
I have emailed Mr. Marshall about his use of the word "democracy" when, in fact, we were founded as a Republic, and here is his answer:
"I'm glad you're enjoying the book. It was published in 1975-76, and at that time I had not learned enough about the two words "democracy" and "republic" and their usage in American history (particularly in the minds of the Founding Fathers) to have made that clear distinction in our writing. My apologies. We are, of course, a constitutional republic. The word "democratic", used as an adjective, still has usefulness in describing America as a society where the people rule. But never as a noun! The Founding Father's referred to democracy as "mobocracy".
A portion of the history of the first Americans and their fight for Freedom,
From the book, The Light and the Glory
When does tyranny become tyranny? Is there a time when it is not only morally correct but the will of God for one to resist legally constituted authority? When does the "Lord's anointed" lose his anointing? When did it become God's will for America to throw off the yoke of Britain? Was it God's will at all?
Of all the questions we faced, this last was the one we dreaded the most. For a strong case could be made against America's ever having come out from under the mother country's authority. If God did intend this land to be a new Israel, then each major step in the implementation of this plan would have to conform with His righteousness. A holy end, no matter how sublime, could never justify unholy means.
The more we debated this, the more mired down we became. So we prayed to be shown the way out of this mental swamp. And that same morning in Florida in which we had been unable to discern the true nature of the Puritans' call, the Holy Spirit went on to show us why America had to resist—why, for them to do anything less would have been the gravest disobedience. This part of the revelation began with a verse of Scripture coming to Peter's mind, which, when we looked it up, was Galatians 5:1, and which proved to be the key to all that followed:
For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand fast, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
One nation under God—this was the political as well as spiritual legacy of the Great Awakening. All America had now in some measure experienced the Scriptural truth that, in Christ, all men are brothers. Highborn or commoner, great merchant or poor farmer, magistrate or soldier—all were equal at the foot of the Cross. Eternal heaven was open to all who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and it mattered not what their station in life was or how wealthy they were, or who their parents were.
The same things were true wherever His Kingdom was established on earth. Thus, as the equality of believers was emphasized more than ever in American churches, it was only natural that it would extend into civil government as well. Here then, was the seed of that democracy which would be embodied in the Constitution of the United States: of the political understanding that all men were equally entitled to the vote, and that, in the sight of God, a farmer was as good as King George. For God was no respecter of persons: His laws applied equally to all men.
It is difficult for us, with ten generations of democracy behind us, to appreciate just how radical were the words of the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal." Never before in history had the world actually believed in the equality of man. That is why, beginning with the Mayflower Compact, a century and a half earlier the American system of government under God had been so unique. Under God—that was the key. Democracy would be subsequently tried in many places through the next two centuries, but only in nations where the one true God was worshipped would it succeed. For the study of man's history shows that equality, without the unifying hand of Almighty God, inevitably breeds chaos and anarchy.
"The Brotherhood of Man" which takes the Brotherhood of Christ and tries to leave Christ out of it, is one of the most destructive lies which Satan has ever perpetrated. A decade after the American Revolution, the French, whose so-called Age of Reason philosophers are too often given the credit for first conceptualizing democracy, attempted to establish their version of the Brotherhood of Man. But it was without Christ. The resulting carnage horrified the world. Within a single generation, France was back under the yoke of tyranny, bowing to the Emperor Napoleon.
Liberty, equality, fraternity—these are qualities of spirit that are God's alone to give, and cannot be won by force, But once given, they are man's to preserve and protect, and to defend with his life's blood, if necessary. This was the concept, which began to form in America during the Great Awakening. This fruit had appeared on the vine before but it could not come into full maturity until the colonies—not just the separate entities of Massachusetts and Virginia, the Carolinas, and the others.
The first settlers who came to America had known that they were separated unto God and called out for a special purpose. We have seen how carefully they treasured every privilege of self-governing autonomy, and how liberally they interpreted the rights of self-regulation granted them by the Crown. They were careful not to provoke that Crown into any action which might in any way diminish their precarious autonomy. Although they claimed the rights of Englishmen whenever it was convenient to do so, and paid lip service to the Crown, from the very beginning they thought of themselves as Americans, not Englishmen.
Some contemporary historians dispute this, emphasizing how the colonies depended upon England for their very survival, especially in the beginning. But our research has not borne this out; in fact, in New England, quite the contrary was the case. In 1634, one visitor was positively incensed that he could not find the English flag flying anywhere in Boston! Reports were constantly coming back to England about how independent the Puritans were in deed, word, and attitude.
The reason for this independence was that their ultimate dependence was on God, not on England. And thus it was that the Pilgrims, who had nothing of their own, learned in their very first year that God would see them through anything. And the Puritans, who were a little better off, from the beginning trusted God to show them how to take care of themselves. He never failed them. Early Virginia, on the other hand, never did put her trust in God, with the result that she was totally dependent on England for almost forty years.
There was another factor contributing to an attitude of Yankee independence. Within thirty years of their founding, these colonies were being run by men who had been born in America. They had never experienced what it was like to live under a king, and had, indeed, never known anything but republican democracy, in it's purest, town-meeting form.
So the Colonies' tradition of independence was an established reality more than a century before England decided to put an end to it. Their resistance would only surface when England would apply pressure. Indeed, what made it so unique in man's long history of resistance and revolution was the among of wisdom mixed with it.
The colonists tried to do nothing to incite England, avoiding all antagonism, complying whenever possible. Yet they also did nothing to encourage the military presence of England on their side of the ocean. When King Philip'' War broke out and it appeared that the Indians might drive them back into the sea, even then, they did not do the obvious thing, and beseech the mother country for help. Though the war would take a fearful toll in lives and burden them with horrendous debts, they knew that they had to fight it out alone. For to invite British troops onto their soil might mean that they would never be rid of them.
Interestingly, in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, most of New England's ministers were solidly behind the discreet resistance of the colonies. For they firmly believed that acceptance of the Church of England's official doctrine of passive submission to monarchy would be nothing less than a repudiation of all that God had been building in America, ever since He had first called them to His new Canaan.
It is at this point that we had to face a nagging question: if Jesus Himself, and Saint Paul, both taught the importance of submission to civil authority, how could the American Revolution be justified? Romans, chapter 13, could hardly be more clear:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Romans 13:1,2)
Other minds two centuries ago must have been similarly troubled, because the ministers themselves (we found, as we read their sermons) had begun providing the answers. America was a new event in the history of man. Never before had God taken a body of Christians and planted them in a land where there was no immediate civil authority, where, byu the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they were to establish their own civil authority. This was why the Spirit-inspired pattern of the early Pilgrim church was so crucially important.
For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
That would be exactly what the new Americans would be guilty of, if, having been given their freedom by God, they voluntarily gave up their authority to govern themselves. It would be like the Israelites—after all God had done for them to bring them out of Egypt—turning around and inviting Pharaoh to bring his troops to Canaan and put them back under servitude.
Their resistance, however, did not go unnoticed. Nearly a century before the Revolution, Charles II's advisors warned him that "the ministers were preaching freedom," and urged him either to regulate them or to replace them with Episcopal priests. The matter came to a head in 1682: Charles II demanded that Massachusetts either swear allegiance to the Crown, administer justice in the King's name, repeal their restrictions on suffrage (only church members could vote), and allow Episcopal clergy to form churches—or relinquish its charter. The Bay colonists informed him, as tactfully as possible, that they would not do the former, and could not do the latter. (After all, they considered that to surrender their charter would be to "give up the ark of the Lord!).
Informed of this, Charles II demanded the return of the charter, decreeing in 1683 that Massachusetts "make a full submission and entire resignation of their charter to his pleasure."
Now they were really in trouble, for there was no way the Bay Colony alone could conceivably stand up to the greatest military power on earth. The Yankees faced the darkest crisis since the General Sickness had struck the Old Colony and the Bay Colony in their first winters. There seemed to be no alternative but to give up all that their fathers and grandfathers had lived and died for, all that they themselves had been taught to revere since they were old enough to understand.
At this crucial time, the leadership of Puritan New England gravitated, as it had eight years before during the Indian uprising, to one man: Increase Mather. And as he had previously, he turned directly to heaven for his guidance. Then he carefully prepared his decision.
To submit and resign their charter would be inconsistent with the main end of their fathers' coming to New England…[Although resistance would provoke] great sufferings, [it was] better to suffer than sin. (Hebrews 11:26, 27). Let them put their trust in the God of their fathers, which is better than to put confidence in princes. And if they suffer, because they dare not comply with the wills of men against the will of God, they suffer in a good cause and will be accounted martyrs in the next generation, and at the great day.
Early in January, 1684, Mather attended an emergency town meeting in Boston, convened to consider what Boston's response would be to the King's declaration. One can imagine the Old South Meetinghouse packed to the doors with freemen, the crowd standing shoulder to shoulder in the aisles, as the stern, upright Puritan ascended to the pulpit. He then outlined the Scriptural references supporting resistance, recalling the story of Jephthah and Naboth, who refused to give away the inheritance of their fathers, and of David, who wisely chose to fall "into the hands of God, rather than into the hands of men." If we refuse to submit, argued Mather, we keep ourselves in God's hands, and who knows what he may do for us? And he closed by declaring that giving up the Charter would be a sin against God, and who "would dare to be guilty of so great a sin"?
The entire assembly was in tears. The vote not to submit was unanimous, and that unequivocal stand strongly influenced the other towns in the colony to do likewise.
When word reached Charles II, he was in a rage. He determined to send Colonel Percy Kirk and five thousand troops to bring Massachusetts to heel once and for all, and his choice sent shudders through even the King's advisers. For "Bloody Kirk," the notorious governor of Tangier was known to stop at nothing to crush opposition. As this news preceded the dispatching of Kirk, New England was plunged into despair.
Increase Mather reports that when the news reached him in February of 1685, he shut himself in his study, and spent the day on his knees, in fasting and prayer about the colony's burdens. At length, the heaviness that he had felt in his heart left him, and was replaced by joy. Without any proof, except the inner conviction of his spirit, he knew that God was assuring him of Massachusetts' deliverance. Two months later, word arrived that Charles II had died of apoplexy. His brother James II had succeeded him, and Kirk would not be coming after all! The joyous news spread throughout the Colonies. As Mather worked back the date of Charles's death, and found it to be the very day that he had spent in prayer and fasting, his jubilant attitude changed to awe.
Though James II did not send Kirk, he did send Sir Edmund Andros, who sought to impose the authority of the Crown in no uncertain measures. His orders: strike at the heart of the resistance which had become ingrained in the New England colonists. And since even the Crown recognized that the resistance had begun with their religion, that was where it had to be broken. Accordingly, one of Andro's first official acts was to order that Episcopal services be held in the Old South Meetinghouse.
If there had ever been any doubt among the Puritans that "resistance to tyranny was obedience to God," that doubt was effectively removed. It was now clear to even the most undiscerning Puritan that passive, docile submission to English rule would mean the reimposition of the oppressive authority of the Church of England from which God had delivered their forefathers. The struggle was spiritual.
But political freedoms were also involved, for Andros peremptorily revoked the charters of all the Colonies. His agents arrived to collect Connecticut's charter at the Meetinghouse in Hartford, one evening after dark. In the candlelit room, the cherished document was laid out on a table. At the moment the King's men formally ordered that the charter be handed over to them, the candles were suddenly snuffed out. There was a great hubbub, and when light was restored, the charter had disappeared! It had been secreted away and hidden in the hollow trunk of an old oak tree. (Andros never did find the document, though he proceeded to carry out his order without it.)
His next measure was the strict enforcement of the Navigation Acts of 1651 and 1663, which required all colonial trade to be carried exclusively in British ships manned by British crews. In effect, this meant that the Colonies could trade only with England, and it was the first of a series of increasingly oppressive, greed-motivated measures which Britain would impose on the Colonies in the ensuing century.
When does tyranny become tyranny?
By Scripture, it happens when a ruler breaks the commandment of 2 Samuel 23:3 (KJV): He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
By Puritan interpretation, constructed before the first Pilgrims and Puritans embarked for America, it is when a ruler knowingly and deliberately contravenes the will of God, thus making it impossible for his subjects to follow that divine will.
By the Magna Carta, which established English common law, it is when a ruler ceases to act under that law and denies his subjects their rights, as guaranteed by that law.
By pronouncement of James I: "A king ceases to be a king, and degenerates to a tyrant, as soon as he leaves off to rule according to his laws."
By Parliamentary interpretation, it is when Englishmen have measures imposed upon them, such as taxation, without their consent or even representation.
By every one of these definitions, James II's attitude toward the Colonies was tyrannical. As the Puritans saw it, he was the rebel, for he was using the power of his office, not to serve the people but to oppress them. Therefore he was in direct disobedience to the will of God, as delineated in both Testaments of the Bible.
Yet the personal experience of living under God's discipline, as well as a thoughtful reading of history and the careful study of Scripture, teach the absolute necessity for submission, no matter what. But on the other hand, when should a person not submit?
Like so much of the Christian walk, there is no clear-cut, a priori answer; it is a matter of one's own heart attitude and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In the case of a people submitting to a ruler, this is how it finally seemed to us to settle out: Resistance is a matter of utmost gravity and should be entered into only after every other legal, political, and diplomatic recourse has been exhausted. Moreover, the vast majority of the Body of Christ involved should be convinced in their hearts that resistance is now the only remaining way in which it is possible to continue in God's will. And this heart attitude is the key: It should be entered into only with the greatest reluctance.
Two excellent biblical examples of this reluctance are the attitudes of David and Daniel. Saul, insanely jealous of David's good standing with God and His people, was pursuing him through the length and breadth of Israel. And David, of course, resisted Saul's desire to kill him by fleeing. Twice God allowed Saul to fall into David's hands. But on both occasions David refused to slay the man whom God had once raised up to be King of Israel, saying, "The Lord forbid that I should . .put forth my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord's anointed" (I Samuel 24:6)
When Darius became king of the Mede's and Persians, he made Daniel, who was obviously more capable and more submitted to him than was anyone else, the chief administrator of the land. All the other satraps and administrators were so jealous that they sought high and low to find something with which to discredit him to the King. But to no avail; Daniel's record of service was impeccable.
Nevertheless they were able to devise a scheme to destroy him. Knowing Daniel to be a devout believer in God, they tricked Darius into issuing an edict which stated that anyone praying to any god or man other than Darius himself, would be thrown into the lions' den.
When Daniel learned of the edict, he was faced with a difficult choice, for to resist it could cost him his life. But his life had been given to him by God in the first place, to be used as God saw fit. If God now required it of him as a pledge of his faith, so be it; in God he trusted. And so he disobeyed the command of his earthly authority, in order to keep the commandment of his Ultimate Authority. (It is interesting that here Darius was as reluctant as Daniel—and both were overjoyed and praised God, when He delivered Daniel.)
In 1689, word reached the Colonies that the mills of God were still grinding: James II had been overthrown by William and Mary in the "Glorious Revolution." Andros was apprehended, as he tried to escape capture disguised in women's clothes. And five weeks later, William and Mary's Declaration of Indulgence arrived. This did not reinstate New England's charters, but did return their rights as freeborn Englishmen—albeit under Crown-appointed governors, who were to accept the advice and counsel of the Colonies' elected representative. Peace of a sort returned, and lasted until well after the Great Awakening. England was largely preoccupied with its European wars, until the coming to power of George III in 1760.
Here was a monarch whose ego demanded total submission to the throne. For a long time he had been waiting for an opportunity to deal with the independent spirit of America. Scarcely had England concluded a peace treaty with France, than George decided that the time had come. His first step was to increase the size of the British force garrisoned in America (left there to discourage a fresh outbreak of the French and Indian War), from 3,100 men to 7,500. The Colonies saw no need for this increase, but then, the Colonies had no say in the matter.
The cost of garrisoning these troops was going to be approximately 200,000 pounds sterling per annum, a staggering sum. The Crown decided the Colonies would pay for this indirectly, by imposing various acts and duties. First came the Molasses Act of 1733: the Colonies could buy molasses for the making of sugar and rum only from British interests in the West Indies.
Then the old Navigation Acts were strictly enforced. To accomplish this, Customs Commissioners were sent to collect duties, but the commissioners turned out to be appallingly corrupt. Consequently, all the revenues raised went to pay the salaries of the commissioners themselves, and their large, self-appointed staffs of political cronies. The cost of garrisoning had not even begun to be met.
New tariffs were then imposed, the most galling of which was the Stamp Act of 1765: every legal document had to have a stamp of the British Government on it in order to be official. Infuriating as this was, it was nothing compared to the Townshend Acts of 1767, imposing duties on glass, lead, tea, paper, and so forth. There was no longer any pretense of paying the cost of the British garrison; this was for the purpose of raising revenues to pay for England's global adventures. The mood in America was ugly, and getting uglier. At the request of the commissioners, who began to fear for their physical safety, General Thomas Gage and two more regiments of troops were dispatched to Boston in 1768.
A year later, the hated Townshend Acts were repealed, all save the one on tea. But two years after that, the East India Tea Company, then on the verge of bankruptcy, was excluded from these duties. This meant the end of many American tea companies and precipitated the Boston Tea Party. The King demanded that the culprits be apprehended and prosecuted to the limit of the law—in England! And when no culprits could be found, he decided to punish the entire city of Boston by closing her port to all commerce in 1774. But what was meant to be a warning to all the Colonies of what would happen to those who resisted, soon had precisely the opposite effect.
As usual, American opinion on this mounting crisis was strongly shaped by the ministers. Those men of God who were American-born and not in Crown Colonies (such as Georgia and Virginia) were becoming nearly unanimous in their support of resistance. Thanks to the Great Awakening, there was now a new generation of committed clergymen salted throughout America, many of them men of considerable spiritual depth and maturity. As the list of "intolerable acts" mounted, so did their remonstrations. It was almost as if they had George III in the front row of their congregations, and were trying to make him see the error of his ways. But if the King saw any of their sermons, he took no notice: Like Pharaoh (unto whom many sermons likened him), his heart was hard and growing harder.
Americans were now being taxed for the mother country's own revenue, and at the same time denied the basic right of all Englishmen to representation in the government which was living the taxes. For the King to ignore this right which was guaranteed by the Magna Carta, meant that he was putting himself above the law. And that settled it.
Still, despite the exhortations of firebrand believers like Samuel Adams of Boston, and political opporunists like Patrick Henry of Virginia, Colonial resistance remained reluctant, and minimal. Men of wisdom on both sides of the Atlantic could foresee the inevitable fruit of the Crown's present policy, and were praying that this fruit would not come to pass.
Even among the hierarchy of the Anglican Church, which stood only to gain from the suppression of American resistance, there were men of conscience who were courageous enough to risk all, to speak out on behalf of the Americans. Jonathan Shipley, Bishop of Saint Asaph, had this to say to his colleagues in the House of Lords in 1774:
At present we force every North American to be our enemy, and the wise and moderate at home must soon begin to suffer by the madness of our rulers. . .is a strange idea we have taken up, to cure theiir resentments by increasing their provocation. . .w the spirit of the blindness and infatuation is gone forth. We are hurrying wildly on, without any fixed design, without any important object. We pursue a vain phantom of unlimited sovereignty which was not made for men, and reflect the solid advantages of a moderate, useful and intelligent authority. That just God whom we have all so deeply offended, can hardly inflict a severer national punishment than by committing us to the natural consequences of our own conduct. Indeed, in my opinion, a blacker cloud never hung over the island.
In America, as we have indicated, resistance to oppression had been a favorite topic in Yankee pulpits for more than a century. Indeed, a quarter of a century before Paul Revere's night ride, one of its most articulate (albeit increasingly liberal) proponents. Jonathan Mayhew of Boston, preached:
It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors God's ministers. . .When [magistrates] rob and ruin the public, instead of being guardians of its peace and welfare, they immediately cease to be the ordinance and ministers of God, and no more deserve that glorious character than common pirates and highwaymen.
Fifteen years later, the hated Stamp Act brought forth this response from Mayhew:
The king is as much bound by his oath not to infringe the legal rights of the people, as the people are bound to yield subjection to him. From whence it follows that as soon as the prince sets himself up above the law, he loses the king in the tyrant. He does, to all intents and purposes, un-king himself by acting out of and beyond that sphere which the constitution allows him to move in, and in such cases he has no more right to be obeyed than any inferior officer who acts beyond his commission. The subject's obligation to allegiance then ceases, of curse, and to resist him is no more rebellion than to resist any foreign invader. . .it is making use of the means, and the only means, which God has put into their power for mutual and self-defense.
And when the Stamp Act was repealed shortly thereafter, Mayhew had more to say:
God gave the Israelites a king in His anger, because they had not sense and virtue enough to like a free commonwealth, and to have Himself for their king. That the Son of God came down from heaven to make us 'free indeed," and that "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," this made me conclude that freedom was a great blessing. . .And who knows, our liberties being thus established, but that on some future occasion, when the kingdoms of earth are moved and roughly dashed one against another. . .we, or our posterity, may even have the great felicity and honor to "save much people alive," and keep Britain herself from ruin!
Nor was Mayhew the first to prophesy that one day Americans might be the salvation of the mother country that was seeking to oppress them. Cotton Mather put it in spiritual terms in his Magnalia: But behold, ye European churches, there are golden candlesticks in the midst of this outer darkness; unto the upright children of Abraham, here hath arisen light in darkness. And let us humbly speak it, it shall be profitable for you to consider the light which from the midst of this outer darkness is now to be darted over unto the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
As George III and his ministers relentlessly increased the pressure calculated to bring the Colonists to their knees, the rhetoric from American pulpits also increased. In 1767, Josiah Quincy's sermon was printed in the Boston Gazette.
In defense of our civil and religious rights, with the God of armies on our side, we fear not the hour of trial; though the hosts of our enemies should cover the field like locusts, yet the sword of the Lord and Gideon shall prevail.
The tempo was building. The whole world watched with rapt attention the mortal battle which was shaping up between Britain and the foremost jewel in her crown of Empire. As Du Chatelet, France's ambassador in England, wrote confidentially to his Minister of Foreign Affairs in March of 1768:
I please myself with the thought that [open conflict] is not so far off as some imagine. . .The ties that bind America to England are three-fourths broken. It must soon throw off the yoke. To make themselves independent, the inhabitants want nothing but arms, courage and a chief. . .Perhaps this man exists; perhaps nothing is wanting but happy circumstances to place him upon a great theatre.
Even as these words were being written, in Virginia a veteran colonel and gentleman farmer named George Washington quietly said at Mount Vernon, his beautiful home on the Potomac, "Whenever my country calls upon me, I am ready to take my musket on my shoulder."
And the following month, from New York, came this word from a well-known lawyer named William Livingston:
Courage, Americans. . .The finger of God points out a mighty empire to your sons. The savages of the wilderness were never expelled to make room for idolators and slaves. The land we possess is the gift of heaven to our fathers, and Divine Providence seems to have decreed it to our latest posterity. . .The day dawns in which the foundation of this mighty empire is to be laid, by the establishment of a regular American Constitution. . .before seven years roll over our heads, the first stone must be laid.
(This quote appeared in the New York Gazette in April, 1768; in April, 1775, "the shot that was heard round the world" was fired on Lexington green.)
In September of 1768, it was the Boston Gazette's turn: "If an army should be sent to reduce us to slavery, we will put our lives in our hands and cry to the Judge of all the earth. . .Behold—how they come to cast us out of this possession which Thou hast given us to inherit. Help us,, Lord, our God, for we rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go against this multitude."
At this juncture, the Townshend Acts were repealed, and for the next three years there was something akin to peace. The vast majority on both sides was still hoping that it would not come to war. Yet the peace was not a real peace, born of a desire for reconciliation, or the resolution of points of difference. It was as fleeting and deceptive as the calm before the storm.
In reality, nothing had changed. In 1772, a Rhode Islander, traveling in England, wrote to his friend Ezra Stiles, rector of Yale College: "You will often hear the following language, 'Damn those fellows! We shall never do anything with them till we root out that cursed Puritanic spirit!'"
And now town meetings all over New England were preparing and issuing declarations, in a veritable litany of protest. Nor did smallness of size mitigate against boldness of sentiment. Tiny Chatham, out on the "elbow" of Cape Cod, declared in December, 1772, that its townspeople held their "civil and religious principles to be the sweetest and essential part of their lives, without which the remainder was scarcely worth preserving."
In like spirit, the new year of 1773 was rung in by the men of Marlborough. "Death," they proclaimed unanimously on the first of January, "is more eligible than slavery. A free-born people are not required by the religion of Jesus Christ to submit to tyranny, but may make use of such power as God has given them to recover and support their laws and liberties. . .[we] implore the Ruler above the skies, that He would make bare His arm in defense of His Church and people, and let Israel go."
It is interesting to note that a pivotal change had taken place in American rhetoric: no longer were the exhortations coming exclusively from the pulpits and a few zealous "patriots"; the broad mass of the people themselves had taken up the torch and were carrying it forward on their own.
And now even a governor, Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut, spoke out openly in defense of freedom: "It is hard to break connections with our mother country, but when she strives to enslave us, the strictest union must be dissolved. . .'The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitudes of isles be glad thereof'—the accomplishment of such noble prophecies is at hand."
But most Crown-appointed governors remained submitted o their king, and one wrote to the Board of Trade in England: "If you ask an American, who is his master? He will tell you he has none, nor any governor but Jesus Christ." Which may have given rise to the cry which was soon passed up and down the length of America by the Committees of Correspondence: "No king but King Jesus!"
Sam Adams had urged implementation of the Committees for the purpose of keeping all the Colonies abreast of the latest resistance developments. Yet despite the Committees and America's growing unity of spirit, she remained disjointed and compartmentalized in terms of any concerted action. A political cartoon of the day reflected this, picturing a snake in thirteen sections, with the caption DON'T TREAD ON ME!
This is exactly what a willful, obtuse and vindictive crown did. The patriots, as they called themselves, had almost given up on ever finding an event which would catalyze and/or catapult them into union. The event was handed to them when the British decided to punish Boston for her Tea Party. They closed the most prosperous port in America to all incoming and outgoing trade, thereby not only ruining Boston financially, but imposing on her near-siege conditions.
Stunned outrage and commiseration swept America! The first to send physical aid were the people of South Carolina, who shipped two hundred barrels of rice to the port nearest to Boston, and pledged eight hundred more. At Wilmington, North Carolina, the sum of two thousand pounds was raised in a few days. A vessel was donated to carry provisions, and the crew volunteered to sail her without pay. Lord North, the British Prime Minister, had scoffed at the idea of American union, likening it to a rope of sand. "It is a rope of sand that will kill him", said the people of Wilmington, Windham, Connecticut, sent 258 sheep, and Delaware was so earnest that plans were made for sending relief annually. Maryland and Virginia contributed liberally, George Washington personally subscribing fifty pounds (approximately thirty-five hundred 1977 dollars).
By August, the men of Pepperell Massachusetts, had already sent many loads of rye. Their leader, William Prescott, must have summed up the feelings of a great many Americans, when he wrote to the men of Boston:
We heartily sympathize with you, and are always ready to do all in our power for your support, comfort and relief, knowing that Providence has placed you where you must stand the first shock. We consider that we are all embarked in [the same boat] and must sink or swim together. We think if we submit to these regulations, all is gone. Our forefathers passed the vast Atlantic, and spent their blood and treasure, that they might enjoy their liberties, both civil and religious, and transmit them to their posterity. Their children have waded through seas of difficulty, to leave us free and happy in the enjoyment of English privileges. Now if we should give them up, can our children rise up and call us blessed?. . .Let us all be of one heart, and stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. And may He, of His infinite mercy, grant us deliverance out of all our troubles.
In October, Massachusetts held a Provincial Congress, the President of which, John Hancock, declared:
We think it is incumbent upon this people to humble themselves before God on account of their sins, for He hath been pleased in His righteous judgment to suffer a great calamity to befall us, as the present controversy between Great Britain and the Colonies. [And] also to implore the Divine Blessing upon us, that by the assistance of His grace, we may be enabled to reform whatever is amiss among us, that so God may be leased to continue to us the blessings we enjoy, and remove the tokens of His displeasure, by causing harmony and union to be restored between Great Britain and these Colonies.
Two things stand out here: first, that the basic Puritan response of seeking for sin at the outset of hard times was still intact among men who had truly given themselves to God. Second, that these same men still hoped and prayed for a peaceful solution, and would enter into active resistance only with the greatest reluctance.
Once committed, however, their commitment was total. That same Congress addressed the inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay as follows: "Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. . .Continue steadfast, and with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us."
So, the dawn broke on the year 1775. The nation responded as one body to the ringing words of Patrick Henry's famous speech, given on March 23 in the Virginia house of Burgesses:
There is no longer room for hope. If we wish to be free, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!
They tell me that we are weak, but shall we gather strength by irresolution? We are not weak. Three million people, armed in the holy cause of liberty and in such a country, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. We shall not fight alone. God presides over the destinies of nations, and will raise up friends for us. The battle is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. . . .
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"