Blockade of Boston's Harbor, Virginia's Day of Fasting, & the "shot heard round
After a long list of Acts intended to bring colonists into submission, which sparked the Boston Massacre, the British imposed yet another, the Tea Act of 1773.
It was viewed as the camel's nose under the tent, for if colonists acquiesced, they would implicitly be accepting Parliament's right to tax the colonies anytime it wished.
Colonists objected because they had no representation in Parliament -- "No taxation without representation."
The Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773.
Samuel Adams led a band of patriots, the Sons of Liberty, disguised as Mohawk Indians, from the South Meeting House toward Griffin's Wharf.
There they threw 342 chests of British East India Company tea into Boston's harbor.
Furious at the Boston Tea Party, the King decided to punished Boston.
Britain imposed the Boston Port Act, MARCH 7, 1774, effectively closing Boston's harbor till the cost of the tea was repaid.
It was the first of five Punitive Acts, also called Coercive Acts or Intolerable Acts, which were designed to punish colonists by stopping all commerce from coming in and out of Boston, thus ruining the city's economy.
Thousands were put out of work.
The situation soon became a test of wills between the King and his colonists.
In enforcing the Boston Port Act, the British Commander-in-Chief in America, General Thomas Gage, effectively ruled through martial law.
He prevented citizens of Massachusetts from electing their own leaders.
Gage dissolved Massachusetts' Provincial Congress.
He forbade town hall meetings without his permission:
"Calling such meetings ... the inhabitants ... pass many dangerous and unwarrantable resolves: for remedy whereof, be it enacted ... no meeting shall be called ... without the leave (permission) of the governor."
Britain's Prime Minister, Lord North, told Parliament these Acts were necessary "to take the executive power from the hands of the democratic part of government."
It was the memory of Gage's actions that later led the writers of the Bill of Rights to insist on "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Massachusetts' citizens refused to stop their town hall meetings and passed more resolves against the King.
Surrounding colonists rallied by sending food to Boston.
William Prescott, who later commanded at Bunker Hill, wrote:
"If we submit to these regulations, all is gone ...
Our forefathers passed the vast Atlantic, spent their blood and treasure, that they might enjoy their liberties, both civil and religious, and transmit them to their posterity ...
Now if we should give them up, can our children rise up and call us blessed?"
Upon hearing of the Boston Port Act, Thomas Jefferson drafted a Day of Fasting & Prayer resolution, to be observed in Virginia the same day the blockade was to commence in Boston.
It was introduced in the Virginia House of Burgesses by Robert Carter Nicholas, May 24, 1774.
It passed unanimously, being supported by Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee and George Mason:
"This House, being deeply impressed with apprehension ... from the hostile invasion of the city of Boston in our Sister Colony of Massachusetts Bay, whose commerce and harbor are, on the first day of June next, to be stopped by an armed force,
deem it highly necessary that the said first day of June be set apart, by the members of this House, as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, devoutly to implore the Divine interposition, for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to our civil rights ...
Ordered, therefore that the Members of this House do attend ... with the Speaker, and the mace, to the Church in this City, for the purposes aforesaid;
and that the Reverend Mr. Price be appointed to read prayers, and the Reverend Mr. Gwatkin, to preach a sermon."
On the appointed Day of Fasting, June 1, 1774, George Washington wrote in his diary:
"Went to church, fasted all day."
Virginia's Royal Crown-appointed Governor was Lord Dunmore.
He was finishing up fighting Dunmore's War against the Shawnee and Mingo tribes in the Ohio River Valley of western Virginia, as they had tortured and massacred settlers, including Daniel Boone's son, James.
Dunmore was so upset by Jefferson's Day of Fasting and Prayer resolution that he dissolved Virginia's House of Burgesses.
Virginia's legislators, instead of going home, went down the street and gathered in Raleigh Tavern.
There, in a back room, they decided to form a Continental Congress, to meet in Philadelphia three months later.
Meanwhile in Massachusetts, General Thomas Gage continued to tighten his grip by removing gunpowder from the storage magazine near the town of Somerville in September of 1774.
Thousands of American militiamen rapidly confronted them in what was referred to as the Powder Alarm.
Shocked by the colonists' quick and firm response, Gage wrote:
"If force is to be used at length, it must be a considerable one, and foreign troops must be hired, for to begin with small numbers will encourage resistance, and not terrify; and will in the end cost more blood and treasure."
The next Spring, April of 1775, General Gage sent troops to confiscate the arms and gunpowder at Lexington and Concord.
They were also going to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, who was President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and President of the Continental Congress.
Gage had received an order from Lord Dartmouth "to arrest the principal actors and abettors in the Provincial Congress whose proceedings appear in every light to be acts of treason and rebellion."
Hancock was staying in Lexington at the home where he grew up, which was now the home of his cousin, Lucy Bowes Clark, and her husband, Pastor Jonas Clark.
Warned ahead of time by the midnight ride of Paul Revere and William Dawes, American militiamen were armed and waiting for the British at the Lexington Green, led by Pastor Jonas Clark, who stated:
“I have trained them for this very hour; they would fight, and, if need be, die, too, under the shadow of the house of God!”
That day, April 19, 1775, British Major Pitcairn shouted, "Disperse, ye villains! Ye rebels, disperse! Lay down your arms! Why don't you lay down your arms and disperse?"
Then was fired the "shot heard round the world," and the war of Independence officially began.
Driven back, colonists regrouped at the Concord Bridge. This time they did not retreat.
The colonists fought back, joined by more militiamen, and chased the British all the way back to Boston.
The British suffered 273 casualties.
Pastor Jonas Clarke declared:
"From this day will be dated the liberty of the world!"
General Gage offered a pardon to anyone who would abandon the patriot cause, with the specific exception of John Hancock and Samuel Adams.
On May 3, 1775, Patrick Henry led the Hanover militia to seize the gunpowder in Williamsburg, Virginia.
British Governor Lord Dunmore, fled Williamsburg and issued a proclamation against "a certain Patrick Henry ... and a Number of deluded Followers" who organized "an Independent Company... and put themselves in a Posture of War."
Dunmore sent raiding parties to plunder plantations along the James River, York River and Potomac River, which only served to make colonists resent him more.
George Washington wrote:
"I do not think that forcing his lordship (Dunmore) on shipboard is sufficient. Nothing less than depriving him of life or liberty will secure peace to Virginia, as motives of resentment actuate his conduct to a degree equal to the total destruction of that colony."
Lord Dunmore eventually sailed back to Britain and Patrick Henry became Virginia's first post-colonial governor.
The situation in Boston escalated with the British bringing thousands of additional troops, led by Admiral Samuel Graves and Generals William Howe, John Burgoyne and Henry Clinton.
General Thomas Gage, who had been Commander-in-Chief in America since Pontiac's War, was recalled to Britain after the Battle of Bunker Hill and replaced with General William Howe.
On May 31, 1775, citizens of Charlotte Town, North Carolina, passed the Mecklenburg Resolves, officially rejecting allegiance to Britain's King and Parliament:
"Whereas by an Address presented to his Majesty by both Houses of Parliament in February last, the American Colonies are declared to be in a State of actual Rebellion, we conceive that all Laws ... derived from the Authority of the King or Parliament, are annulled and vacated ...
All Commissions, civil and military, heretofore granted by the Crown, to be exercised in these Colonies, are null and void,
That whatever Person shall hereafter receive a Commission from the Crown, or attempt to exercise any such Commission heretofore received, shall be deemed an Enemy to his Country ...
That these Resolves be in full Force and Virtue, until Instructions from the General Congress of this Province ... shall provide otherwise, or the legislative Body of Great-Britain resign its unjust and arbitrary Pretentions with Respect to America ...
That the several Militia Companies in this county do provide themselves with proper Arms and Accoutrements, and hold themselves in Readiness to execute the commands and Directions of the Provincial Congress."