December 10, 2023 at 2:44 a.m.

Tracing History; 250 Years Ago, Events Were Leading Up to War

Jennifer Baker, DAR Vesuvius Furnace Chapter | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

As we prepare for America's 250th birthday in 2026, the Lincoln Herald is publishing a series of articles from the SAR & DAR related to that celebration.  This week:L

Leading up to War

Compiled by Jennifer Baker, Vesuvius Furnace DAR

While the 250th anniversary commemoration events surrounding the Revolutionary War don’t technically start until April 19th, 2025, with the 250th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, quite a few things occurred in 1774 leading up to the war.

Coercive Acts. In response to the Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed several acts to punish Massachusetts. The Boston Port Bill banned the loading or unloading of any ships in Boston harbor. The Administration of Justice Act offered protection to royal officials in Massachusetts, allowing them to transfer to England all court cases against them involving riot suppression or revenue collection. The Massachusetts Government Act put the election of most government officials under the control of the Crown, essentially eliminating the Massachusetts charter of government. A fifth act, the Quebec Act, which extended freedom of worship to Catholics in Canada, as well as granting Canadians the continuation of their judicial system, was joined with the Coercive Acts in colonial parlance as one of the Intolerable Acts, as the mainly Protestant colonists did not look kindly on the ability of Catholics to worship freely on their borders.

In 1771, Royal Governor Tryon called out five militiamen of Tryon County to help put down the Regulator Movement, a protest against corrupt county officials and excessive taxes, centered in counties to the northeast of Tryon. While there were major indiscretions occurring in Massachusetts, smaller ones like this occurred throughout all the colonies.

As word reached the other colonies, the response was mixed. Most colonists believed Bostonians should pay for the ruined tea, but they were also overwhelmingly shocked by the harshness of the Coercive Acts. Fearful of England’s new form of authority, support from across the 13 colonies began to pour into Boston. Using an already established “Committee of Correspondence” network created in the early 1770s, colonial leaders began to discuss a proper reaction. Boycotts on imports of British goods and tea especially were accepted broadly.

Quartering Act. Parliament broadened its previous Quartering Act from 1765. British troops could now be quartered in any occupied dwelling. As the language of the act makes clear, the popular image of Redcoats tossing colonists from their bedchambers in order to move in themselves was not the intent of the law; neither was it the practice. However, the New York colonial assembly disliked being commanded to provide quarter for British troops—they preferred to be asked and then to give their consent, if they were going to have soldiers in their midst at all. Thus, they refused to comply with the law, and in 1767, Parliament passed the New York Restraining Act. The Restraining Act prohibited the royal governor of New York from signing any further legislation until the assembly complied with the Quartering Act.

The Colonies Organize Protest. To protest Britain's actions, Massachusetts suggested a return to nonimportation, but several states preferred a congress of all the colonies to discuss united resistance. The colonies soon named delegates to a congress -- the First Continental Congress -- to meet in Philadelphia on September 5. In response to their planned attendance, Massachusetts Royal Governor Gage dissolved the Massachusetts Provincial Assembly before the Continental Congress met and called for new elections. This did not deter them from sending representatives (John Adams, Samuel Adams, Thomas Cushing, and Robert Treat Paine) to Philadelphia. Community leaders in Massachusetts began to

officially lay out their opposition to the Coercive Acts. One of the most significant were the Suffolk County Resolves, passed in September 1774.

The First Continental Congress. Twelve of the thirteen colonies sent a total of fifty-six delegates to the First Continental Congress. Only Georgia was not represented. On October 20, the Congress adopted the Articles of Association, which stated that if the Intolerable Acts were not repealed by December 1, 1774, a boycott of British goods would begin in the colonies. The Articles also outlined plans for an embargo on exports if the Intolerable Acts were not repealed before September 10, 1775.

New England Prepares for War. British troops began to fortify Boston and seized ammunition belonging to the colony of Massachusetts. Thousands of American militiamen were ready to resist, but no fighting occurred. Massachusetts created a Provincial Congress, and a special Committee of Safety to decide when the militia should be called into action. Special groups of militias, known as Minute Men, were organized to be ready for instant action. But it wasn’t just New England…

Committees of Safety were a network of committees authorized by the Continental Congress, endorsed by the Second Provincial Congress of North Carolina and the North Carolina Assembly, and established in late 1774 and early 1775 to enforce the Continental Association banning all trade with Britain. The committees, located in 18 counties and 4 towns throughout North Carolina, performed such duties as spreading Whig propaganda, making military preparations, enforcing price ceilings on strategic items, seizing, and selling imported goods, reshipping enslaved people and other imports, punishing violators of the Continental Association with boycotts, and regulating public morals. The Committees of Safety, particularly the Wilmington-New Hanover committee, one of the most active, contributed to the breakdown of the royal government in North Carolina by causing Governor Josiah Martin to flee in fear in June 1775 to Fort Johnston, on the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and then to the British warship Cruizer.

For example, Surry County established another one of the colony’s most active committees of safety. The small group of leading citizens, led by Chairman Benjamin Cleaveland, took charge of the county’s preparations for the colonial crisis. The month of resolutions recorded in the journal kept by William Lenoir, clerk of the committee, includes declarations of loyalty to the king but reveals hatred for his policies in America. The resolutions invoke the “Law of Nature,” the British Constitution and the colonists’ “Natural Rights” as British subjects to argue for their fair treatment and reconciliation with the Crown. At the same time, they call for stockpiles of arms and ammunition in support of “the Common Cause of American Liberty.” The decorative motif at the beginning of the journal embodies this tension, with the words “Liberty or Death” printed in a circle surrounding “God Save the King.” (Both men would later serve as officers of the Revolution and have counties named for them.)

What is known today as the Tryon Resolves (entitled at the time the Tryon Declaration of Rights and Independence from British Tyranny) was a brief declaration adopted and signed by "subscribers" to the Tryon County Association that was formed in Tryon County, North Carolina in the early days of the American Revolution. In the Resolves—a modern name for the Association's charter document—the county representatives vowed resistance to the increasingly coercive actions being enacted by the government of Great Britain against its North American colonies. The document was signed on August 14, 1775, but—like other similar declarations of the time—stopped short of calling for total independence from Britain. Tryon County would become Lincoln County during the Revolution.


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