Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization

Trista - February 19, 2020

Secret organizations have always held a place in American history. The Sons of Liberty are one secret organization established in each of the 13 colonies to help expand the rights of European colonists. While many well-known American Revolutionary names are a part of the organization, the two principal founders are John Hancock and Samuel Adams.

Formed in 1765, the Sons of Liberty are remembered for their role in the Boston Tea Party. However, the revolutionary group did so much more than take a stand during the Boston Tea Party. In fact, many historians believe that without these revolutionaries, winning independence from Britain wouldn’t be possible.

 

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Sons of Liberty Broadside posted in Boston. Constitution Facts.

32. The Mission For The Sons Of Liberty Aimed For More Freedom For Americans

The Sons of Liberty came together to fight for more freedom for colonial Americans. They wanted to push away the British government through any means necessary. The members of the organization felt that the British government mistreated the colonists, especially when they started taxing the colonies.

The tactics the Sons of Liberty used, including threats and violence, helped the organization with its mission of angering the British government. They wanted to create a confrontation between the American colonists and the British.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Drawing of George Washington and soldiers during the American Revolution. Lithub.

31. The Sons Of Liberty Started Before The American Revolution

The Sons of Liberty was one of the most prominent revolutionary groups that started before the main dates of the American Revolution. The founders, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, became enraged at how the British treated the American colonists and needed to make changes.

Starting in Philadelphia, the men secretly joined forces and invited other men to join. They started spreading the word through well-known elite males interested in politics. From there, the Sons of Liberty grew into all 13 colonies, and any male joined the cause. However, the most active males remained landholding men.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Illustration of a mock funeral for the Stamp Act. Library of Congress.

30. The Main Event The Led To The Formation Of The Sons Of Liberty Was The Stamp Act

A few minor events happened that the first few members of the sons of liberty took part in before the Stamp Act in 1765, but the organization’s first main event was the act. The Stamp Act enraged many colonists, which helped expand the group’s membership. In fact, people continued to secure their sons of liberty membership every hour.

In August of 1765, most of the members lived around the Boston, Massachusetts area. By November of that year, members lived as far as New York City. In March of 1766. the colonies of New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Maryland also had members.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Drawing of a tar and feathering event. Metal floss.

29. The Sons of Liberty Become Violent, Even For Their Time

You know that violence was a regular part of a person’s life during the 1700s. People regularly fought in the streets, and crime was punishable through violence. However, the sons of liberty started to bring back some of the punishments fit for a criminal that the colonists tried to keep in Britain or rarely use, such as tar and feathering.

The sons of liberty regularly tar and feathered anyone who offended them or were officers of the British government. They also started burning down buildings and homes. The organization became so violent that even British officials feared them.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Collage showing several members of the Sons of Liberty. Wikimedia.

28. Several Members Of The Sons Of Liberty Are Also Well-Known American Revolutionists

One myth of the Sons of Liberty is that all of the members were also Founding Fathers. While some members became Founding Fathers, such as John Hancock, most members didn’t have a significant part in politics at the time. However, several members are well-known historical figures.

Samuel Adams, Benedict Arnold, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, and Paul Revere were all members of the Sons of Liberty. Members that are not as well-known, but signers of the Declaration of Independence include William Paca, William Ellery, Samuel Chase, and William Williams.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
The Sons of Liberty 9 stripe flag. Wikipedia.

27. Sons Of Liberty Had Their Own Flag

The early members of the Sons of Liberty knew they needed a symbol for their organization. In 1767, the members finally adopted their own flag, known as the rebellious stripes flag. It had four white vertical stripes along with five red vertical lines. People began to pay attention to this flag as it linked an event to the Sons of Liberty.

During the time, it was common for organizations to use stripes on their flag. Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Navy, Esek Hopkins, flew a 13 horizontal red and white striped flag while many other people had striped flags, but in various colors, such as white and green or yellow and white.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
The Alternative of Williamsburg, 1775, Emmet Collection of Manuscripts. New York Public Library/Boston Party Ship.

26. The Loyal Nine Came Before The Sons Of Liberty

A group known as “The Loyal Nine” came before the Sons of Liberty. While no one is entirely sure if the Sons of Liberty formed because of The Loyal Nine, we do know that all members joined the Sons of Liberty. The Loyal Nine started in Boston and consisted of artisans and shopkeepers.

Two distillers, John Avery Jr, and Thomas Chase were members along with a cousin of Samuel Adams, Henry Bass. Benjamin Edes, printer of the Boston Gazette, ship captain Joseph Field, painter Thomas Crafts and braziers John Smith and Stephen Cleverly also became members. The last member was jewelry George Trott.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
1785 painting of Colonel Isaac Barre by Gilbert Stuart. Yale Center for British Art/All Things Liberty.

25. The Name Sons Of Liberty Came From The Stamp Act

The Sons of Liberty started in secret, so no one knows precisely when they came together. What we do know is that people became aware of the Sons of Liberty during the Stamp Act, and all nine members of The Loyal Nine joined the Sons of Liberty.

Colonel Isaac Barre gave a speech defending the colonists against the British government. In this speech, Barre stated,”… sent to spy out their liberty, to misrepresent their actions and to prey upon them; men whose behaviour on many occasions has caused the blood of these sons of liberty to recoil within them…”

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
A Colonial-style eatery at Walt Disney World Resort. Touring Plans.

24. The Sons Of Liberty Celebrated The Stamp Act Riot For Years

The Loyal Nine request help when it came to the Stamp Act, which is one way that that organization became a part of the Sons of Liberty. Many other colonists, such as Paul Revere, Ebenezer McIntosh, and Samuel Adams, came to help The Loyal Nine. After the riot, the men formed the Sons of Liberty and decided to celebrate the annual event.

The celebrations occurred every year after the Stamp Act Riot and included a big feast known as “Liberty Dinner,” but also parades. All the events took place under a tent by the Liberty Tree Tavern.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Illustration of the Green Tavern. Boston Tea Party Ship.

23. No Matter What The British Government Tried To Do, The Sons Of Liberty Remained Close

The riots and backing off from taxing the colonies after the Stamp Act didn’t stop the British government from finding other ways to tax the colonies. However, the government knew they needed to watch their next steps, to find out who was a part of the rebellion, and how to stop further resistance.

No matter what the British government tried, the Sons of Liberty showed up and did everything they could to send the message that the colonists won’t tolerate this unfair treatment. Every step that the government and Sons of Liberty took sent everyone closer to war.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Drawing of the Boston Tea Party. Thoughtco.

22. The Boston Tea Party Is The Sons Of Liberty’s Most Famous Act Of Defiance

The most well-known act of defiance by the Sons of Liberty happened when they destroyed over 90,000 pounds of tea in an event known as the Boston Tea Party. This event took place on December 16, 1773, and became known as the straw that broke the camel’s back and led both sides into the American Revolutionary War.

The leader of the Sons of Liberty for the Boston Tea Party was Samuel Adams. He is also known to be the reason that the Revolutionary War started in Massachusetts. The British government felt the main man behind all the riots was Adams.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Illustration of a liberty tree with signs from the Stamp Act hanging from it. History.

21. The Sons Of Liberty Made Liberty Trees Popular

Trees became a popular place for colonists to meet to plan a protest and then protest. Once one group decided to use a tree, other groups quickly followed. With the popularity of the Sons of Liberty, the trees quickly became known as Liberty Trees.

Boston has one of the first and most significant liberty trees in the colonies because it became the main tree for many revolutionary protests in Boston. There is no way to tell how many liberty trees stood in the colonies, but many believe it’s over 100. Decades after the war, people still honored the liberty trees.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of Samuel Adams. Biography.

20. Samuel Adams Was One Of The Most Well-Known Members Of The Sons Of Liberty

Samuel Adams, a cousin to John Adams, came into the world on September 27, 1722, and died on October 2, 1802. Not only did he become famous for his role in the Boston Tea Party, but also as a leading voice for American Independence.

Samuel Adams felt that independence needed to happen at any cost, including mob violence. In fact, he became a master of mob violence. After the Revolutionary War, Adams became a delegate from Massachusetts for the Continental Congress and the state’s fourth governor. He still remains one of the most well-known revolutionary men.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
A 1765 John Hancock oil canvas by John Singleton Copley. Britannica.

19. John Hancock Was Another Prominent Member Of The Sons Of Liberty

When most people think of John Hancock, they think of the first signer on the Declaration of Independence. As the Second President of the Continental Congress, Hancock became an influential voice during the revolution and continues to hold true today.

The biggest difference between Hancock and Samuel Adams is that Hancock didn’t agree with the violence. He wanted to try to change everything between the American Colonies and Great Britain in diplomatic form. He often spoke to members of the British government and tried to persuade them to give the colonists their independence.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Drawing of Benedict Arnold by H.B. Hall. Wikimedia.

18. Benedict Arnold Started His Political Career As A Sons Of Liberty Member

Many people know Benedict Arnold as a traitor to the American cause. However, he started his political journey as a traitor to the British. As a bookseller and pharmacist, the Intolerable Acts his Arnold and his business hard as he fell into financial trouble.

As a member of the Sons of Liberty, Arnold started to trade under the table so he could ignore the tax. He kept away from the famous riots and protests. He became a Revolutionary War General during the war but eventually started to change his tune. Halfway through the war, Arnold joined the British side.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of Patrick Henry. Historic St. John’s Church.

17. Founding Father And Virginia Governor Patrick Henry Joined The Sons Of Liberty

Patrick Henry is the famous Founding Father who stated, “Give me liberty or give me death” during a speech made at the Virginia House of Burgesses. Henry voiced his opinions about the British government and the need for American independence all over the colonies. In fact, Henry is credited as one of the central figures to cause Virginia to raise troops to help fight during the American Revolution.

He helped the Sons of Liberty in many ways by protesting and spreading the word of their organization to increase members. After the revolution, Henry became the first Governor of Virginia.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of Marinus Willett. Wikimedia.

16. Marinus Willett Became The Leader For The New York Sons Of Liberty Chapter

People knew Marinus Willett as a reckless street brawler before the organization of the Sons of Liberty. He became open about his beliefs when it came to American independence and jumped on the bandwagon for opening a chapter in New York for the Sons of Liberty.

He became the leader of this chapter and assembled several men to organize protests against British actions. In one of the demonstrations, Willett and his men captured several British storehouses. Once the Revolutionary War started, Willett left his post in New York and joined the New York Regiment.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Copy of the Boston Gazette from 1756. Wikimedia.

15. The Boston Gazette Publisher Joined The Sons Of Liberty

Benjamin Edes, publisher and printer of the Boston Gazette became a political spokesperson during the days leading up to the American Revolution. He joined the Sons of Liberty and quickly gave the organization what financial resources he could. In fact, he financially supported several revolutionary events, such as the Boston Tea Party.

Through his newspaper, he spread the words of supporters for independence. He spoke against British policies and the Intolerable Acts. Eventually, authorities arrested Edes, but he escaped and ran to Watertown, Massachusetts, where he continued to support independence through his newspaper.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Revolutionary War General, Joseph Warren. History.

14. Joseph Warren Joined The Sons Of Liberty And Warned People Of Incoming Arrests

Born in 1741, Joseph Warren quickly became interested in the Sons of Liberty organization as soon as he heard about them. Warren held radical ideas for his time that matched many of the ideas from other Sons of Liberty members. Not only did Warren became a Revolutionary War General, but he also held the title of President of the Massachusetts Revolutionary Congress.

While Warren is well-known because of John Trumbull’s painting “The Death of General Warren,” he also notified Samuel Adams and John Hancock of their impending arrest and militias of incoming British troops.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of John Lamb. Wikimedia.

13. His Father Was A Burglar And He Joined The Sons Of Liberty

During his time, John Lamb became known as the son of a convicted burglar. Because of what his father did, many people believed Lamb would follow in his father’s footsteps. However, Lamb decided to take a different path and overcome his father’s criminal legacy by joining the Sons of Liberty. In fact, he became one of the organization’s leading members.

Lamb’s leading role for the organization became that of a writer. He wrote articles and pamphlets that helped spread the word of the revolutionary cause. He also helped bring people into the Sons of Liberty organization through his work.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of James Otis, Jr. Encyclopedia Britannica.

12. James Otis, Jr. Joined The Sons Of Liberty And Became A Leading Member

Born in 1725, Otis joined the revolutionary cause and became one of the leading members. Otis always followed politics as his father had a keen interest in politics. After graduating from Harvard, Otis turned to practice law.

Otis is famous for saying, “taxation without representation is tyranny.” Patriots continued to use this phrase throughout the American Revolution to oppose the British government. Otis continued to use his words to gather people together and fight for independence, especially once Britain enforced the “writs of assistance,” allowing the British to enter the homes of colonists at any time.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
The Sons of Liberty fought against British rule. History.

11. Isaac Sears Became Known As King Sears

Like many other people who joined the Sons of Liberty, Isaac Sears was a regular colonist who stuck to his own businesses until the British government started to get involved in his company. Once Sears got involved, people called him “King Sears” because he organized the New York mob and became a leading member of the Sons of Liberty.

Sears became one of the Sons of Liberty members that followed the violent path. In fact, he believed that violence was the best way, especially after the Intolerable Acts. Sears warned people about action coming to anyone who supported the acts.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of Benjamin Rush. Wikimedia.

10. The Founder Of Dickinson College Joined The Sons Of Liberty

Benjamin Rush held many hats in Pennsylvania during his lifetime. He worked as a physician, social reformer, educator, humanitarian, and politician. Not only did Rush become a leader of the American Enlightenment, but he became a leader of the American Revolution.

Today, Rush is one of the most well-known voices of his time. He spent many his giving speeches opposing Great Britain and remained an active politician until his passing. Rush signed his name on the Declaration of Independence and joined the Medical Committee of the Continental Congress.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of Oliver Wolcott. Wikimedia.

9. Oliver Wolcott Led A Minor Role For The Sons Of Liberty

Not all well-known Sons of Liberty members had large roles during their reign in the colonies. Oliver Wolcott became a signer on the Declaration of Independence, making him a more notable Sons of Liberty member. However, Wolcott didn’t spend much time helping the organization fight the British before the Revolutionary War.

The most significant step Wolcott took during the revolution was establishing a shed on his land to cast more than 40,000 bullets with the help of his neighbors. He also won the governor’s seat in Connecticut and became the state’s fourth governor.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Illustration of the Boston Tea Party. Click Americana.

8. Thomas Young Became A Bold Member Of The Sons Of Liberty

Thomas Young became one of the first Sons of Liberty members to meet a death due to his beliefs. Before he joined the organization, he worked as a doctor and stepped into the Sons of Liberty as an organizer for the Boston Tea Party.

In fact, he was the only member not to wear a disguise, which allowed the British to capture him and make him an example of what happens to Patriots by nearly killing him. People continued to target Young with death threats that he ran off to Philadelphia, where he continued to push for American independence.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of Charles Thomson. Wikimedia.

7. Charles Thomson Became Known As The “Samuel Adams Of Pennsylvania

John Adams gave Charles Thomson his nickname, “Samuel Adams of Pennsylvania” because the two men showed similar characteristics during the revolution. However, unlike Samuel Adams, Thomson involved himself quickly with foreign affairs because he sat as secretary to the Continental Congress for fifteen years.

One of the tasks Thomson received was designing the Great Seal of the United States. Unfortunately, he was also a man who made as many enemies as friends. One enemy, James Searle, attacked Thomson on the Congress floor. While both men lived, they both received a cut in the face.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of Alexander McDougall. Wikimedia.

6. Seaman And Merchant Alexander McDougall

Alexander McDougall came into this world sometime around 1731 in New York City. He grew up to become a prominent New England Merchant and seaman. At first, McDougall didn’t see much wrong with the British government.

However, once the government enacted the Stamp Act, McDougall’s work became affected, and he didn’t believe British officials had the right to enforce the act. Therefore, he joined the Sons of Liberty and became one of the organization’s New York leaders. At the start of the war, McDougall enlisted in the New York City regiment and received the title of Major General in 1777.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of Sons of Liberty member James Swan. Wikimedia.

5. James Swan Financed Revolutionary Efforts As A Sons Of Liberty Member

Born in Scotland during 1754, James Swan emigrated to Massachusetts during 1765. He went to Boston and started working at Thaxter & Son as an apprentice. Through his relationships at his job, Swan got into politics and participated in the Boston Tea Party. He became a Sons of Liberty member and became close friends with John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock.

As a writer, Swan published several articles and other works that focused on opposition toward the British government. He persuaded people to not only join the cause of the American Revolution but the Sons of Liberty as well.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Drawing of Haym Salomon. Wikimedia.

4. Haym Salomon Was Sympathetic To The Revolutionary Cause

Even though Salomon immigrated to New York from Poland right before the start of the American Revolution, he quickly joined in on the cause. He became a businessman and financial broker who helped fund many Sons of Liberty events and Revolutionary causes during the war.

While working as a spy in 1776, the British captured him and tortured him on a British vessel for 18 months. The British only released Salomon because he agreed to help their cause. Instead, he helped many American prisoners escape their confinement. He also continued to encourage people to join the purpose of the revolution.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Burial grounds of Benjamin Kent. Wikimedia.

3. Benjamin Kent Became A Popular Sons Of Liberty Member

Benjamin Kent is a Sons of Liberty member that many history books overlook. However, by the time he passed away in 1788, he made his place as a popular member and friend among many notable Sons of Liberty members and Founding Fathers.

Kent urged Adams to create the Declaration of Independence, a task that the Founding Father gave to Thomas Jefferson. Once Kent read the printed Declaration of Independence, he wrote to Samuel Adams, “It is GOD’s doing the bringing about his truly astonishing and unparalleled union the declaration of Independence.”

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of Isaiah Thomas. Wikimedia.

2. Isaiah Thomas Became The First To Read The Declaration Of Independence

As a newspaper publisher and author, Isaiah Thomas became a member of the Sons of Liberty and the first person to read the Declaration of Independence publicly. He also became the founder of the American Antiquarian Society and gave the first account for the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Many of Thomas’ newspapers during the early years of the 1770s focused on opposition to the British. He angered the Massachusetts governor so much that he ordered the attorney general to prosecute Thomas, but nothing came from the indictment.

Facts About The Sons of Liberty, The Secret Revolutionary Organization
Portrait of John Brown. Wikimedia.

1. John Brown Is Best Known As An Instigator Of The Gaspee Affair

The instigator of the 1772 Gaspee Affair, an event that led to the American Revolution, became a member of the Sons of Liberty. A slave trader, merchant, and statesman from Rhode Island, Brown became one of the founders of Providence Bank and Brown University.

Other than the Gaspee Affair, Brown supported the American Revolution financially. He remained political, even after the colonies gained their independence by becoming a United States House of Representatives member in 1798, a role he held until 1801. Today, Brown’s Providence home is a museum and National Historic Landmark.

 

How did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Who Were The Sons Of Liberty?” Patrick J. Kiger, History. August 2019.

“The Sons of Liberty: Who Were They and What Did They Do?” Rebecca Beatrice Brooks, History of Massachusetts Blog. November 2014.

“Sons of Liberty.” The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica. November 2019.

“Voices of the Revolution: Sons of Liberty.” Constitution Facts.

“Why ‘Liberty Trees’ Became an Obsession After the Revolutionary War.” Erin Blakemore, History. July 2018.

“Thomas Young Distracts The Crowd…So His Friends Can Tea Party.” Jason Mandresh, Founder of the Day.

“Sons of Liberty: The Masterminds of the Boston Tea Party.” Boston Tea Party Ship.

“The Loyal Nine of Boston: The Predecessors of the Sons of Liberty.” Boston Tea Party Ship.

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