The thirteen colonies that eventually became the United States of America were originally colonies of Great Britain. By the time of the American Revolution, a revolution of violence and consequences, the citizens of these colonies were tiring of British rule. Rebellion and discontent were rampant. For most citizens, the major reason for the Revolution was an economic one. The colonies contested England's legal power to tax them and, furthermore, did not wish to be taxed without representation. The Revenue Act of 1764 focused on the constitutional issue of the King's right (or not) to tax the thirteen colonies and this eventually became the decisive wedge between the colonies and their Motherland. It was the phrase "taxation without representation" that was to draw many American patriots to the Revolutionary cause against England.
The reaction against taxation was often violent. The most powerful and articulate groups in the population rose against the taxation. Resolutions denouncing taxation without representation as a threat to colonial liberties were passed. In October of 1765, colonial representatives met on their own initiative for the first time and they decided to
colonial opinion against the English parliament's interference in American affairs. From this point on, events began to reach the point of no return for the colonies.
This sense of rebellion and discontent with Imperial England was especially evident in Revolutionary Boston, as we will witness in
Fifth of March
. Both of these novels will focus on Pre-Revolution events such as the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party which were to lead to the battles of Lexington and Concord. Within these novels, we will also be introduced to many famous personages of the period. People such as John and Abigail Adams for whom our heroine Rachel Marsh worked as an indentured servant—- a nanny to their children Nabby and Johnny; Doctor Joseph Warren, the Adams' family physician; John Hancock, one of New England's richest merchants; Sam Adams, John's brother and a radical leader of the Patriot cause; as well as several members of the Sons of Liberty, including Will Molineaux, Crispus Attucks, Josiah Quincy, Paul Revere and Thomas Boylston. We will also meet representatives of the English crown such as Governor Bernard and Lieutenant Governor Hutcherson of Massachusetts, Attorney General Mr. Jonathan Sewell, and the fictional Mathew Kilroy, the British soldier who engages Rachel's attention while standing guard duty at the Adams' homestead, becomes a central figure in the Boston Massacre, and ultimately is sent back to England after being successfully defended by John Adams. Mathew and his fellow British soldiers had been charged with murder in the aftermath of the bloody incident.
Although "The Boston Massacre" was hardly a massacre, this event was a milestone on the road to American independence, being the first powerful influence in forming an outspoken anti-British opinion. On Monday, March 5, 1770, after a weekend of minor clashes, the conflicts between the Boston "lobsterbacks" and the colonials came to a head. Insults exchanged between British soldiers and local merchants ended with physical confrontations. This led to a small riot, and the Boston Garrison responded with a small squad of soldiers under the command of Captain Thomas Preston. The colonial mob, led by Sam Adams and Crispus Attucks, taunted and menaced the soldiers, but it wasn't until Private Hugh Montgomery (our Private Mathew Kilroy) was struck by a thrown club that any action occurred. When Montgomery returned to his feet, he took aim into the crowd and fired, his fellow soldiers joined him and the rest is history.
When British troops fired on the unruly mob of Boston citizens, killing three and fatally wounding two others, it was immediately dubbed the "Boston Massacre". Paul Revere's engraving shows a line of British soldiers gunning down an unarmed and peaceful group of citizens. John Adams, patriot and future President of The United States, referred to the mob as "a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and mulattos, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs". Adams, as has been noted, was to successfully defend these soldiers at their murder trial.
The real significance of this event was that it gave rebellious leaders propaganda against the British. Young boys such as Chris Snider, who was shot by Tories during one of the mob's escapades, became martyrs; Snider's death became a focal point for the anger of the Patriots.
Crispus Attucks, who was shot and killed during the Boston Massacre, became a hero when in fact he was an outsider to the region. He was specifically recruited as an agitator to move the mob to action. Others were involved in the "Massacre" for the violence of it or to avenge personal grievances. Popular legend has made these colonials who died heroes and martyrs but in truth, they were neither. It is widely accepted now that those who died were no more than unlucky members of an angry crowd.
Between 1770 and 1773, the colonies appeared to be quietly celebrating the repeal of the Townshend Acts. The boycott against British goods had hurt the British economically. Following the violence of the Boston Massacre, the English Crown decided to eliminate duties on cloth, paper, glass and paint among other items. They also put an end to the absolute power of the tax collectors who, without warning or legal recourse, could search colonial homes and businesses for smuggled goods. In April, 1770, most of the Townshend duties were repealed; however, the tea tax was not and this tax continued to aggravate and strain the relationship between England and her colonists.
In our novel
, we find our central character caught up in the on-going struggle between Boston's anti-British Whigs and Tories. In addition to working at "The Boston Observer", a pro-Patriot newspaper, and delivering it by horseback throughout the countryside surrounding Boston, Johnny begins delivering letters for Sam Adams and the Boston Committee of Correspondence, the secret communications network of the American rebels. It was in short order that Johnny became an ardent Whig, listening to the Patriot leaders of opposition in and around Boston and attending secret "Boston Observer" meetings in the printing press attic with such notables as Sam Adams, Reverend Samuel Cooper, John Hancock, Will Molineaux, Josiah Quincy, James Otis, Joseph Warren, and Paul Revere. It was at these private meetings that the colonials decided to rebel against the Tea Act of 1773. This Act, passed by the British Parliament, enabled the British East India Company to decide which colonial merchants could sell their tea. Furthermore, they created a monopolistic environment in which the price of tea was so lowered that it made smuggling unprofitable and subsequently eliminated the independent colonial merchants. Prior to this Act, the colonists had boycotted the company's tea and, after 1770, such a flourishing illegal trade existed that perhaps up to ninety percent of the tea consumed in America was of foreign origin and imported
. In December, 1773, the Boston Tea Party occurred as a reaction to the hated Tea Act of that same year - more than 340 chests of valuable tea were dumped into Boston Harbor.
Following this rebellion, the struggle against England intensified and the British responded quickly. First they closed Boston Harbor to all ships and imposed martial law on the city. To demonstrate their resolve and power, the British then moved nearly ten thousand troops into Boston. The "Town" was to be starved into submission and the harbor was not to be reopened until all the dumped tea had been paid for. The closing of the port of Boston was indeed tyranny, and this kind of oppression was the last straw for most colonials as the news spread rapidly throughout the colonies.
The colonies reacted in 1774 by calling together the First Continental Congress to form an "Association" to assume leadership and spur new local organizations to end royal authority. Because of the influence of these "Associations", many people throughout the colonies joined the movement, and the collection of supplies and the mobilization of troops began to take place. The leadership of the "Associations" was able to fan the fires of Revolutionary fever. Fifty-two men from all of the colonies except Georgia met to condemn the British move and to demand the repeal of the oppressive taxes. The most significant aspect of the meeting wasn't that they stood up to the King and his government; it was that they stood up together. By the close of the novel, Johnny Tremain has learned that the Yankees have a fighting chance against the Redcoats, and he is prepared to take his place among the rebel armies encircling the British in Boston.