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Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Wealth: The Colonists Strike Back


Jack is walkin', talkin' history
Jack is walkin', talkin' history
"What they were doing was treason!"

Jack Meredith, an actor playing a colonist, takes me back in time. Wearing fancy breeches (pants) and a cloak, he stands outside Carpenter's Hall, meeting place of the 1st Continental Congress, and proclaims:

"But I do think the King of England was slowly going mad."

colony.gif "Well," he says, "the colonists complained about being taxed without having a say in how those taxes should be spent. So King George told them they could be come to Parliament to give their two-cents worth on tax spending - they just needed to travel to London! Now, it takes over six and a half weeks to get there. How are they supposed to be in Parliament if they're six and a half weeks late? That King…pfft!"

In September of 1774 a bunch of people from the 13 colonies got together in Philadelphia to talk about the bad way that the King was treating them.

The colonists could have been killed for speaking out against the King. That's why they picked Carpenter's Hall away from the King's friends to meet.

At Carpenter's Hall, colonists met in secret
A typical meeting might have gone something like this:

Sam Adams: "OK guys, here's my plan. Let's tell England and that King to take a hike! What's up with all these taxes?"

John Jay: "Hold up, Sam. You're talking about ENGLAND, the most powerful nation in the world! You think you can just walk up to the King and tell him to take a hike?"

Patrick Henry: "Dude! Are you chicken or what? Why are you wimping out? I thought you were on our side!"

John: "Who're you calling chicken?"

Patrick: "You heard me - chicken, chicken! Co-co-co!"

John: "Well, I'm gonna kick your..."

Joseph Galloway: "You idiots! I'm not gonna sit around here watching you two fight about this. I'm outta here!"

And so, the 1st Continental Congress made slow progress. They finally agreed on a few key points: they want to govern themselves, and end many unfair laws of the British Parliament towards the colonies. They hoped to pressure King George to accept these terms by boycotting (not buying) many English goods.

Inside Carpenter's Hall
Everyone decided to meet again the following spring if England did not agree to the terms they set. Would England agree?

Fat chance! King George wasn't having any of that. He wanted to teach these pesky colonists a lesson. Besides, how could the colonies possibly fight the most powerful country in the world?

Independence Hall, where the 2nd Continental Congress met
And so in May 1775, the 2nd Continental Congress got together at Independence Hall. The battles in Lexington and Concord (the first between the colonists and British in the Revolutionary War) pushed John Adams to name George Washington the commander of the Continental Army.

So that's it, right?


Those men that decided to declare war were not the ones doing the real fighting. If you had enough money, you could buy your way out of the army. All of the men in charge had money so they didn't have to join. The poor people were made to be soldiers.

Neither this National Park Service Ranger nor I would've been allowed to participate in the Continental Congress
Some people started to wonder what the real purpose of the Continental Congress was.

Well, the congressmen were making a ton of money trading tobacco, tea and other goods. They were rich and getting richer. But when England made new trade laws their money was threatened. So they came together and demanded freedom and justice!

How do you think slaves felt about that? And Indians? And women?

They weren't represented and therefore, they didn't count.

Nowadays we see that the founders of the United States might have only been after more money. But, their push for freedom and the laws they made have given the people of today the ability to gain their own rights. The poor, African Americans, women, gays - these people are the ones who have gained the most from the American Revolution.


Please email me at: daphne@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Kevin - And justice for all … of the rich and powerful
Teddy - The first day of war is always the longest...