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American Revolution

Sons of Liberty

History >> American Revolution

Who were the Sons of Liberty?

The Sons of Liberty was a secret political organization in the American Colonies that protested against British taxes and laws before the American Revolution. By the time the revolution began, there were chapters of the Sons of Liberty in all thirteen colonies.

How were they first formed?

The Sons of Liberty formed out of a number of smaller protest groups in 1765 in response to the Stamp Act. The first group was likely formed out of the "Loyal Nine" in Boston with other groups soon forming in New York and Connecticut.

Flag used by the Sons of Liberty
Sons of Liberty Flag created by Gunter Kuchler
How did they get their name?

The name comes from a speech made in the British Parliament by Irishman Isaac Barre. He referred to the American colonists as "sons of liberty" when arguing against the passage of the Stamp Act.

Where did they meet?

The Sons of Liberty had to arrange secret meetings or they might get arrested by British soldiers. They had informal gatherings at local taverns such as the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston. More formal meetings were held at night. In Boston, they met under an elm tree in Hanover Square that was called the "Liberty Tree." In New York, they would signal the location by building a tall pole called a "Liberty Pole."

Drawing of the Green Dragon Tavern
The Sons of Liberty in Boston would often
meet at the Green Dragon Tavern
Engraver: Russell. 1898
Protesting the Stamp Act

The first major action of the Sons of Liberty was to protest the Stamp Act. They took direct action by harassing the stamp tax distributors who worked for the British government. The distributors became so scared of the Sons of Liberty that many of them quit their jobs. They also gathered in large groups and protested in the streets. Their protests worked and the tax was soon repealed by the British government.

The Boston Tea Party

The most famous action of the Sons of Liberty was the Boston Tea Party. In protest to a tax on tea, several members boarded trade ships in Boston Harbor and tossed their tea into the water. This act was a major event leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Portrait of Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
by John Singleton Copley
Who joined the Sons of Liberty?

The Sons of Liberty attracted members from all walks of colonial life such as lawyers, dockworkers, farmers, doctors, tavern owners, traders, and publishers. Some of the more famous members include Samuel Adams (who is often considered the founding member of the Sons of Liberty), John Adams, Benedict Arnold, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Joseph Warren, and Paul Revere.

Interesting Facts about the Sons of Liberty
Raising the liberty pole
Raising the liberty pole by F.A. Chapman
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