This study examines terror in the American founding experience, focusing on the Imperial Crisis and American War of Independence. For clarity, the Imperial Crisis refers to the North American anti-British movement of the 1760s and 1770s. I argue that the proponents of the anti-British movement were terrorists. Indeed, the same methods contemporary terrorist groups use to push their agenda were similarly adopted and employed by American radicals to advance an anti-British agenda.
Terrorism and the American Experience
Students of American history are surrounded by romanticized accounts of the American Revolution. Historian Holger Hoock claims, “while contemporaries experienced the Revolution as frightening, messy, and divisive, its pervasive violence and terror have since yielded to romanticized notions of the nation’s birth.” Idealized portraits of Washington crossing the Delaware River stand next to daring accounts of Paul Revere’s midnight ride. The Boston Massacre epitomizes imagery casting British troops in poor light. Romanticized interpretations of the Imperial Crisis and American Revolution color textbooks at the high school and collegiate levels, and such interpretations, I argue, breeds too much nationalistic sentiment. In the end, too much nationalism blinds consideration for alternative interpretations of the past. Certainly, nationalism has its merits. It serves as a unification mechanism, emboldens men to fight, and promotes solidarity. Too much nationalism, on the other hand, threatens minority group rights, justifies politically motivated violence, and produces animosity between in-group and out-group members. Too much nationalism, too, inspires and motivates terrorism. Today, Americans are inclined to reject notions suggesting that terrorism contributed to the United States’ birth. Certainly, Americans tend to equate terrorism with something un-American. American distancing from the more unpleasant aspects of their past fuel’s blind nationalism.
Today, no universal definition of terrorism exists. Scholars, government officials, and the media have all put forth varying definitions. Academics, on the other hand, have agreed on a consensus definition: “terrorism refers, on the one hand, to a doctrine about the presumed effectiveness of a special form or tactic of fear-generating, coercive political violence and, on the other hand, to a conspiratorial practice of calculated, demonstrative, direct violent action without legal or moral restraints, targeting mainly civilians and non-combatants, performed for its propagandistic and psychological effects on various audiences and conflict parties.” This essay will primarily utilize Gus Martin’s definition of terrorism: “terrorism is a premeditated and unlawful act in which groups or agents of some principal engage in a threatened or actual use of force or violence against human or property targets. These groups or agents engage in this behavior intending the purposeful intimidation of governments or people to affect policy or behavior with an underlying political objective.”
Throughout the Imperial Crisis and American War of Independence, American rebels used violence to unify a cohesive element, deter dissent, and assert authority over British North America. Ideologically, American radicals utilized nationalism to legitimize and organize an effective resistance base against British authority. Such American nationalism stemmed from the emergence of an American identity. After the Seven Years’ War, Britain’s rise in the world as a heightened imperial power injected elevated surges of nationalism into British culture. Englishmen began identifying colonial populations in North America as a distinct and separate people who were different from their own. Americans were thus regarded as not completely English. Colonist realization of their second-class status and inferiority produced an American identity. This identity sowed the seeds of division that eventually led to the American War of Independence.
Disingenuity, Terror, and the American Founding Experience
This paper rejects the glorification of the American founding experience. Perspectives that speak against that glorification and more towards the founder’s disingenuity are few and far between. In his 1907 book titled, The Spirit of American Government: A Study of the Constitution: Its Origin, Influence and Relation to Democracy, James Allen Smith argues that the Constitution was set up to restrain the Revolution’s popularized democratic opinions through a complex system of checks and balances. The founder’s real motives, as opposed to those put forth in their public statements, Smith contends, revolved around the creation of a strong central government that would be resistant to change from popular opinion. In 1913, Charles A. Beard argued that the founders were motivated by personal financial interests. The Constitution, Beard asserts, was the product of elite efforts to derive “economic advantages from the establishment of the new system.” In 1969, Gordon Wood wrote that the Constitution was “an aristocratic document designed to check the democratic tendencies of the period.” In 1973, James Kirby Martin argued that the frustrations lesser provincial government officials felt about political immobility led to the American Revolution. According to Martin, “the preconditions and precipitants of revolution grew out of the frustrations of insurgent community leaders. The American Revolution from the outset was a contest for power involving men in power.” In his 1988 book titled, Toward an American Revolution: Exposing the Constitution and Other Illusions, Jerry Fresia argues that the Constitution’s Framers were undemocratic, that they harbored contempt for the people, and the Constitution was purposefully anti-majoritarian. “Far from champions of the people,” Fresia writes, “[the Framers] were rich and powerful men who sought to maintain their wealth and status by figuring out ways to keep common people down.” The American Revolution, then, was the product of the personal financial ambitions of a select few.
Breaking away from the more undemocratic arguments, Donald Barr Chidsey compares the Sons of Liberty to the Ku Klux Klan, a domestic terrorist group. “Like the later Ku Klux Klan,” Chidsey points out, “members of the Sons of Liberty preferred to work in secret, shrouding their movements, changing their personnel. In some places they had slightly different names, though they were always known generically as the Sons.” In 2008, David Rapoport spoke more towards American experiences with terror during the Imperial Crisis. Rapoport’s exploration of this issue provides solid information on the anti-British mob terror campaign which is explored in more detail below. Taken together, these findings reflect a lack of coverage on studies of terror in the founding experience.
The Terrorism of the Imperial Crisis and American War of Independence
Recorded history dates early forms of terrorism as far back as first-century Palestine. The Zealots, members of an ancient Jewish sect who resisted the Roman Empire, were the very first group to practice systematic terror. Since then, a variety of different groups around the world have employed terrorism. In order to place terrorism within the context of the Imperial Crisis and American War of Independence, attention must be paid to the loyalists. But first, who were the loyalists? The loyalists were men and women who remained loyal to the British Crown during the American War of Independence. They were the Americans who refused to support the Declaration of Independence and the war against Britain. They aided the British cause to undermine America’s independence. Roughly twenty percent or one out of every five people were loyalists. Examining the loyalist experience during the American rebellion sheds light on the different types of violence radicals used against civilians. For this paper, violence refers to the use of physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. It also refers to psychological violence that speaks to threats and bullying, measures used to instill fear and coerce popular conduct. According to Hoock, “psychological torment and physical violence played a far greater role in suppressing dissent during America’s first civil war than is commonly acknowledged.”
During the Imperial Crisis and American War of Independence, loyalists were subject to unchecked rebel violence. In order to successfully affect change, rebels dehumanized their loyalist neighbors and adopted/implemented various types of violence. Some of the more common types of violence, listed in no particular order, included tarring and feathering, lynching, mob action/rioting (which included looting and property destruction), ostracism, intimidation, vigilantism, imprisonment, and murder/death. Many cases of violence involved a combination of the above types. According to Richard Maxwell Brown, violence was used as a weapon against unpatriotic Americans to intimidate the disaffected and further justify “the sovereignty of the people,” even if such violence resulted in death which it sometimes did. The “disaffected” encompassed anyone who did not associate or refused to associate with the anti-British movement. Usage of the term “disaffected” refers to both loyalists and neutralists. Customs officials, local informants, printers, and Anglican clergymen received the brunt of rebel violence. Solely because of their political allegiance, loyalists were purged from their communities. According to one man’s unsigned letter, “the poor proscribed Tories are hunted… like Beasts of Prey.”
Americans during the Imperial Crisis and later Revolutionary War lived in a climate of self-censorship, distrust, and apprehension. Revolutionary committees served as an apparatus of oppression and terror. Committees employed loyalty oaths to differentiate friend from foe among ordinary colonists. Individuals who refused to take an oath risked ostracism, property confiscation, banishment, arrest, and imprisonment. For full measure, there were some disaffected who swore loyalty oaths to escape suspicion and be left alone. In the beginning, verbal pledges proved sufficient to render someone free from harassment. However, over time, men were forced to prove their allegiance only through bearing arms and enlisting in the local militia. At length, the committee system produced an atmosphere of terror, suspicion, and fear, similar to that experienced under the Spanish Inquisition. New Jersey State authorities considered the methods employed by some patriots within their jurisdiction to be illegal and “terroristic.” While pointedly against harsh treatment, those same officials did nothing to try and rein in such behavior. Comparatively speaking, only a minority of loyalists directly experienced targeted abuse. However, those incidents were widespread enough and sufficiently talked about at large to strike fear into those who quietly supported the British Crown. This fear was permanent, and it was everywhere, unrestricted by man-made political or economic boundaries. Terror advanced by violence and the ever-present threat of violence was thus used to quiet dissent. As Hoock points out, “creating solidarity always relies on excluding others, often through violent means.”
Neutralists were treated just as harshly as the loyalists were. According to Ray Raphael, “The choice, really, was to join the Revolution or suffer the consequences. In Farmington, as in most communities, the alternative to the Revolution was jail or banishment, but in Morristown, New Jersey, it was the gallows.” American rebels ensured that everyone picked a side. Below, this essay examines the following types of terror: tarring and feathering, lynching, mob action/rioting (which included looting and property destruction), ostracism, intimidation, vigilantism, imprisonment, and murder/death. Additionally, three unique cases of terrorism, The Gaspee Affair, the actions of John the Painter, and the Boston Tea Party, as well as the other various tea parties that occurred throughout British North America, are each given their own individual consideration.
Tarring and Feathering
Tarring and feathering originated in Europe as an instrument of violence. Similar to the European practice of showing instruments of torture to sufferers, pine tar was heated before victims. Victims were usually stripped naked, at least to the waist, held down, and covered in hot tar. Pine tar, used for the various purposes of building and maintaining ships, was the common choice. The tar was either poured or painted on victims. A little or a lot was poured on top of a victim’s head, threatening to blind him. In some cases, it did. Some tar was poured on the victim’s genitals, rendering him impotent for the rest of his life. Victims were then rolled in feathers or had feathers thrown on them which stuck to the tar. Victims were then paraded around town. Those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of such treatment, in addition to the humiliation they endured, reported scarred skin. Removing the hardened tar was excruciatingly painful. Tremendous scrubbing, accomplished with the aid of chemical solvents, irritated the skin. Skin would sometimes come off with the tar. In rare cases, tar acne developed on the afflicted skin. It took weeks to fully remove all the tar. During the Imperial Crisis, the threat of tarring and feathering was always present. As a warning, messengers slipped balls of cold tar encased in feathers into the hands of unpopular men. The message was clear.
Americans used tarring and feathering to intimidate customs officials, castigate informants who ratted out patriots to British officials, and punish anyone who refused to support the anti-British movement. Those who refused were tarred and feathered, their livestock was shot, their home burned, their slaves seized (if they had any), and their crops cut up. Of significant consequence, tarring and feathering forced compliance from the populace to support the legitimization of unofficial de facto revolutionary governments.
The first instance of tarring and feathering in America, during the anti-British movement of the 1760s and 1770s, occurred in the early spring of 1766 when a ship captain, William Smith, was seized in Norfolk, Virginia after he was allegedly caught alerting royal officials of the presence of contraband aboard a vessel named Vigilant. The owner of that ship, aided by several accomplices, bound Smith, and carted him through town. Smith was then stoned, covered in tar and feathers, and dumped into the harbor. He was saved at the last minute by a passing ship. He would have drowned had he not been rescued.
Owen Richards was born in Wales. He arrived in the American colonies in the 1740s. By the 1770s, Richards became a customs official in Boston. In May 1770, Richards discovered a ship captain attempting to smuggle sugar into Boston. He reported his findings to his superiors and the ship was seized by British officials. Enraged, an angry mob paid Richards a visit in the middle of the night. They kicked in his door, dragged him out of bed by his feet, stripped him naked, and tarred and feathered him. Next, they set his feathers on fire, burning his skin. Richards survived his ordeal and hired John Adams to sue one of the men who assaulted him. Joseph Doble was charged with assault and battery, destruction of private property, and theft of valuables. In 1778, Richards was named in the Banishment Act of Massachusetts. He relocated to Halifax, Nova Scotia, but did not stay there long. He eventually sailed to England. In 1784, Richards applied to the Loyalist Compensation Board. He was repaid for the loss of his property in Boston, and he was awarded an annual stipend of £30 a year. He never returned to North America.
Anne Hulton was the sister of Henry Hulton, Boston’s Commissioner of Customs. Anne sailed for the American colonies early in 1768, arriving in Boston five weeks later. In 1774, Anne witnessed an angry mob drag John Malcom onto the middle of a street. They tore all the clothes off his body, dislocating his arm in the process. Roughly placing him in a cart, they beat him with clubs and whipped him terribly. They then poured hot tar over his head and body. The tar scalded his skin. He was then covered in feathers. After his horrific assault, the aggressors brought Malcom to the gallows, put a rope around his neck, and threatened to hang him. They even threatened to cut off his ears. After that, the mob forced Malcom to swallow large quantities of tea until he turned pale. After his attack, Malcom took several weeks to recover. The physical and psychological scars from the attack stayed with him for the rest of his life.
Dr. Abner Bebee was a physician of East Haddam, Connecticut. Bebee’s pro-British opinions and complaints against mob abuse pitted his community against him. His opinions may have stemmed from his uncle’s experience at the hands of mob violence. His uncle, a parish clerk of an episcopal church at East Haddam, was dragged out of his bed on a cold night and beat against his hearth while assailants held his arms and legs. The mob then laid him naked on his horse and rode him a great distance. Unable to stomach Abner’s opinions, a mob stripped Bebee naked and poured hot pitch over his person. He was then carried to a hog sty where the mob rubbed hog dung in his face, ramming some down his throat. In that condition he was brought before a group of women. At the same time, his house was attacked, and his windows broke. His gristmill was destroyed, and the community ostracized Bebee.
Thomas Brown was born in the town of Whitby, England on May 27, 1750. Brown aspired to become a gentleman planter in British North America’s Georgia colony. In 1774 Brown recruited English colonists from Whitby and Scottish colonists from the Orkney Islands to emigrate with him and settle in Georgia. While in Georgia, Brown established the plantation of Brownsborough. He also became a magistrate of his district. Unfortunately for Brown, his arrival to Georgia and his royal appointment came at a very inopportune time. On August 2, 1775, a Sons of Liberty mob approached Brown at his home demanding he sign an association that required his obedience to any measure adopted by Congress. Brown flatly refused to subscribe to the association, after which the mob turned angry and ferociously descended upon him. The mob grabbed Brown, tying him to a tree they placed burning pieces of firewood beneath his feet. Brown was scalped in three or four places. He endured a tarring and feathering that resulted in the loss of two of his toes. A strike to his head from a rifle butt fractured his skull, and looters ransacked his house. Immediately after the attack, Brown was paraded around Augusta, Georgia in a cart. The following morning, Brown promised the rebel gang who abused him that he would support the American rebellion. Satisfied, the Sons of Liberty provided Brown with a horse and released him. After his suffering and subsequent humiliation, Brown could not walk properly for months, and he endured frequent headaches which afflicted him for the rest of his life. Adding insult to injury, Revolutionary War veterans mockingly remembered Brown for his nickname “Burnfoot Brown.” Brown left Georgia and reached East Florida in 1776, hungry for revenge against his assailants. Brown would go on to lead the East Florida Rangers, a provincial loyalist corp. Throughout the war, Brown and his rangers participated in numerous engagements in the southern theater, provided intelligence to British officials, and raided the Georgian frontier.
Merchants and owners of vessels were also tarred and feathered, or threatened with such, if they were caught importing and/or selling boycotted goods. According to Hoock, revolutionary committees imposed price controls on goods like sugar and beef, monitored customs houses, merchant’s invoices and account books, and inspected ships’ cargoes.
The term “lynching” originated in Virginia. The term is derived from the name Charles Lynch, a Virginia militia colonel who served in the American War of Independence. Today Charles Lynch is one of the more obscure figures in early American history. During the war, Lynch headed an irregular court that punished loyalists. Charles Lynch was born in 1736. Charles belonged to Virginia’s planter aristocracy. While not at the same level as Thomas Jefferson, he still occupied a social station above the average man. Charles Lynch married Anne Terrell on January 12, 1755. On August 1, 1780, Thomas Jefferson instructed Lynch to seize those who preferred British government. According to Jefferson’s instructions, individuals suspected of leading loyalist forces, enlisting others against Congress, or who accepted commissions from the British should be tried for high reason and if found guilty, should be sent to Richmond, Virginia for further trial. Smaller offenders who showed repentance and provided assurances speaking to their change of opinion should be disarmed and not legally prosecuted.
Operating with the blessings of Virginia’s government, Lynch tried and collected confessions from the loyalist prisoners he captured. Lynch earned the reputation of a harsh judge. Prisoners were tried at his home just outside of Altavista, Virginia. If found guilty, rather than sending them to Richmond, loyalists were hung by their thumbs and severely flogged. Typically, the prisoner received thirty-nine lashes. The guilty party hung until they cried out “Liberty!” or “Liberty Forever!” Interestingly enough, the term “lynch law” emerged from these proceedings. Government officials were aware of Lynch’s unofficial justice system but did nothing to stop him. After the war, the Virginia government exonerated Lynch from the harm he caused his prisoners, harm caused without official sanction. It is important to note that Lynch never hung any of his prisoners. Interestingly, in the 1780s, lynching meant to whip not execute. After an active life in public service, Lynch died on October 29, 1796, at the age of sixty. At length, Lynch suppressed loyalists through fear by relinquishing their right to a proper trial.
During the Imperial Crisis, mobs served several important purposes. They triggered the Boston Massacre and Tea Party, terrified stamp agents, forced a repeal of the Stamp Act, obstructed the execution of the Townshend Revenue Act, and enforced compliance for boycotting British goods. Mobs also heightened grievances against British policy, struck terror into loyalists, and fashioned folk heroes out of common street hoodlums. These extralegal groups took public action to intimidate, regulate prices, and close the courts. Colonial law enforcement officials encouraged mobs by clearing culprits of mob action in court. Revolutionary committees collaborated and even competed with mobs in persecuting the disaffected. As Hoock reminds us, “the boundary between mob and committee was porous at best.” Unlike mobs in European cities, American mobs were smaller, personalized, direct, and more importantly, single purposed. When they accomplished what they set out to do, they dissolved and went home. Participants typically brandished muskets and cutlasses while employing clubs, brickbats, rocks, and clods of dung. To demonstrate how widespread mob terror was, upwards of sixty riots occurred in twenty-five different locations during the Stamp Act’s nine-month enaction. Throughout many of those months, mobs were out in the streets every night.
On the morning of August 14, 1765, a crowd of Stamp Act protestors hung an effigy of Andrew Oliver, newly appointed Stamp Act distributor for Massachusetts. At dusk, the mob cut down Oliver’s effigy and carried it across town in a mock funeral procession. The mob stopped at a building Oliver owned that was under construction and nearing completion. This building was intended to be rented out for shops, but the crowd believed it was going to be an office that distributed the hated stamped paper. The mob destroyed this building in five minutes. The mob then proceeded to Oliver’s home. Crowding around the outside, rioters beheaded the effigy and hurled rocks at the house. Next, the mob burned the effigy from the remains of Oliver’s demolished shop building. The crowd then tore down Oliver’s fence and broke into his house, smashing through the barricaded doors and windows. By this time, Oliver and his family had fled. Realizing Oliver was gone, the rioters entered into a frenzy. Shouting vengeance, mobsters swore they would find Oliver and kill him. Unable to unleash their anger on Oliver, rioters, instead, turned on his house. They destroyed everything they could get their hands on. Furniture, mirrors, walls. Rioters even broke into Oliver’s liquor supply, helping themselves to its contents. A few months later, Oliver resigned his commission as a stamp distributor. Despite this setback in his career, he eventually went on to become the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. When he died on March 3, 1774, from poor health, the Sons of Liberty threatened potential mourners with unspecified consequences should anyone attend his funeral. Attendees were taunted and when Oliver’s body was lowered into the ground, the Sons delivered three cheers.
Thomas Hutchinson was born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 9, 1711. Hutchinson was the son of a wealthy trader. He was an aristocrat, representing the fifth generation of his family in British North America. In 1758, Hutchinson was appointed lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. A staunch Tory during the Imperial Crisis, Hutchinson has been dubbed the first American loyalist. His political leanings during these critical years earned him many enemies. On the night of August 26, 1765, a mob attacked Hutchinson’s Boston mansion. The story that circulated among those that partook in such violence was that the Stamp Act was conceived and framed in Hutchinson’s house. Chaos ensued. The rioters smashed in Hutchinson’s door with axes. Tearing through the house, they splintered furniture, slashed paintings, beat down walls, tore up the garden, chopped down all the trees, laid flat his fence, ripped off the roof, and stole a variety of Hutchinson’s personal property, including £900 in cash, clothes, plates, and decorations. They also destroyed and scattered all of Hutchinson’s personal books and papers, including volume one of a manuscript he was working on about the history of the Massachusetts Bay colony and a collection of historical papers he had been collecting for thirty years to serve as the basis of a public archive. Hutchinson and his family had just barely escaped their tormentor’s wrath. Hutchinson himself fled only because his daughter frantically pleaded with him to leave. He originally intended to stay behind and confront the mob. His daughter vowed that if he did not flee, she would remain behind with him. Without hesitation, he ran. Had he stayed behind, it is likely the mob would have killed him. The next day, a variety of Hutchinson’s personal belongings littered the street. Gold rings, plates, and money were some of those effects that had been dropped by plunderers the night before. His family left destitute, Hutchinson was humiliated. At length, the damage done to Hutchinson’s property was valued at £2,218. He was given £3,194 for his losses. When the courts looked into the matter, spectators refused to identify any of the rioters out of fear of similar retribution. Those who were linked to the rioting were imprisoned, but after short order were set free and their crimes were looked into no further.
On the same night Hutchinson’s mansion was looted, angry mobs targeted at least three other properties. Rioters broke into the Office of the Register of the Admiralty and, according to Peter Oliver, “did considerable damage there.” Next, the mob visited William Story, the deputy register of the Vice-Admiralty Court, at his house. Armed with clubs, rioters broke into Story’s house, smashed his windows, destroyed furniture, and burned books and various personal and official papers. The mob then descended on Benjamin Hallowell, royal comptroller for the port of Boston. The mob tore down Hallowell’s fence, shattered his windows, entered his house, and destroyed all his furniture, and drank what liquor they could stomach from Hallowell’s cellar, destroying the rest. Looters carried off his clothing and about £30 in cash. Shortly thereafter, the Hallowell family fled Boston. They never lived there again.
Cadwallader Colden was the lieutenant governor of the New York province during the Imperial Crisis. On several occasions he served as acting governor. Colden’s enforcement of the Stamp Act garnered him many enemies. On the night of November 1, 1765, 2,000 people gathered and burned an effigy of Colden. The crowd then seized his coach, smashed it, and used it’s remains for a bonfire. As the fire consumed Colden’s coach, a group of rioters stole away and looted the house of Major James of the Royal Artillery, a deeply unpopular man whose work on strengthening the defenses of the local government fort, which included repairing the walls and gate and planning the best use of men and supplies, won him many enemies. In less than ten minutes, plunderers destroyed the major’s windows, doors, furniture, fine china, and various books from his private library. The major’s feather beds were cut open and thrown about the streets while the garden was viciously torn up. Satisfied with their work, the mob left the scene triumphantly carrying the Royal Regiment’s colors, a military trophy taken from the house.
At thirty-six years old, James Rivington sailed for America. He opened stationary shops in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. In time, he eventually sold his Philadelphia and Boston shops to concentrate solely on his New York business. On March 18, 1773, he published an introductory free issue of the New-York Gazetteer, the first daily newspaper in America. As the anti-British movement engulfed New York, Rivington’s paper espoused loyalist bias, much to the rebel’s displeasure. In November 1775, an armed posse of seventy mounted Sons of Liberty paid Rivington’s print shop a visit. Destroying all his printshop machinery, the Sons melted down what type was left for bullets.
Contrary to what has been outlined above, mobs did not solely loot, pillage, destroy private property, and hang effigies. Victims of mob action were tossed in rivers and ponds, whipped or beaten until their ribs broke, forced to sit on blocks of ice for long periods of time, handcuffed to slaves, had their limbs bayonetted, and some had their faces marked. Peter Guire had the letters G.R., which stands for “George Rex,” seared onto his forehead. Mobs often tortured victims. In Darien, Connecticut, patriots suspected fifteen- or sixteen-year-old Walter Bates, the son of a loyalist family, of knowing the whereabouts of several armed loyalists in the area. Patriots threatened to kill or drown Bates if he refused to provide them with information. One night, an armed mob kidnapped Bates. Taking him to a local salt marsh, they stripped him naked and tied him to a tree. Mosquitoes ate his body for two hours straight. Two committee members then approached Bates, offering him a choice: confess and be released or refuse and be handed back over to the mob which might kill him. Walter refused to give out any information. His kidnappers whipped him twenty times before turning to psychological torture. Ensuring that Walter could hear what they were saying, the committee men discussed how best to torture him in order to extract a confession. They contemplated cutting him in half with a saw. In the end, Walter was released, his captors impressed at how much suffering he endured.
One of the more brutal forms of violence involved crowds carrying loyalists on a fence rail. Victims were forced on top of the fence with their legs across the beam. They were then danced up and down the sharp points. In this manner, victims were paraded around town while onlookers pelted stones, eggs, and/or garbage. Sometimes, victims were stripped naked and forced to swallow unhealthy quantities of tea. Assailants stopped just short of death. Occasionally, however, victims did die. In 1774, John Taylor offended his neighbors, possibly by voicing his support for Parliament. In response, a group of men and women from Taylor’s community decided to teach Taylor a lesson. They forced Taylor on a long fence rail and bounced him up and down while participants beat and kicked him. It is uncertain if what happened next was an accident or done deliberately, but a sharp edge of the fence rail cut deeply into Taylor’s groin. The wound itself was six inches long and four inches wide. Taylor bled out.
Ostracism was a particularly effective means of controlling community members. Indeed, ostracism threatened one’s ability to earn a livelihood or obtain credit. Local committees learned about suspected loyalists through neighbors reporting on neighbors, sometimes anonymously, sometimes publicly. Committees who decided to look into reports or rumors usually interrogated suspects, looked through their mail, searched their homes, and took testimonies from witnesses. In cases where suspects were found guilty, they were required to apologize or perform rituals that varied by locality if they wanted to reintegrate back into their community. Persons who failed to do so, for whatever reason, were then ostracized, their trust broken in the community. At length, even the prospect of social death through shunning was enough to deter political dissent at the local level.
In many cases, mobs intimidated the disaffected. In taverns, disaffected persons were refused service and threatened with physical harm unless they drank toasts to the death of monarchical tyranny. Effigies of prominent loyalists were hung, burned, and maimed. Some loyalists were threatened with live burial. Unsympathetic newspapers to the rebel cause were either bullied into censoring loyalist statements or shut down entirely. The New Hampshire Gazette ceased production after its editor refused to disclose the name of an anonymous writer who talked about the atmosphere of fear and repression fostered by proponents of the anti-British movement. Sometimes, the entire print run of selected pamphlets deemed unagreeable to the rebellion were burned. Monetary rewards incentivized the capture of select pamphleteers. Anglican priests were similarly targeted. Their ability to speak to large groups of people threatened grassroots colonial resistance efforts. Numerous disaffected priests were forced into exile or else risk suffering imprisonment, violence, and/or death. Rebel mobs smashed Anglican church windows and poured bottles of rum over alters. Priests were dragged from their pulpits, had objects thrown at them, and were shot at mid-service. Some priests were even killed.
Intimidation was a terrifying experience for victims. Joshua Loring served with distinction in the British navy during the Seven Years’ War. Five men armed with cutlasses, their faces covered, banged on Loring’s door on the night of August 29, 1774. They ordered him to resign from his position as a member of the governor’s council. Loring said he would do no such thing. The visitors warned him that they would return the next night. Before leaving, sixty men assembled on the road and fired their guns into the air. The frightened Loring fled, leaving his wife and son behind. The men with covered faces returned the next night, this time with a mob of several hundred men, armed with clubs, demanding to speak with Loring. When they discovered that he was not there, the mob issued a third and final warning. If Loring’s public resignation was not published in the newspaper the following morning, the men with covered faces would level Loring’s house. Sometime in August 1774, a mob fired bullets into the house of Daniel Leonard, a loyalist lawyer from Massachusetts, demanding that he flee to save his life. In the summer of 1774, Dr. Abiathar Alden was approached by a crowd of some thirty to forty farmers who believed he was not enthusiastic enough about resisting the Coercive Acts. The farmers dragged Alden out of his house and demanded that he renounce all principles speaking against the resistance movement. To encourage the poor doctor, the mob pointed several muskets at him. Alden apologized for harboring favor for Parliament. Before the mob turned him loose, Alden was forced to shout, “I am very thankful for my life.” In February 1775, a mob broke the windows and shutters of a room where a group of disaffected ladies met. The women were verbally abused and subsequently chased out of town.
Local committees tolerated a significant amount of vigilante terrorism. Vigilante terrorism was orchestrated sometimes by local committees, sometimes by mobs, to extend the reach and authority of the anti-British movement. Vigilante terrorism is a form of political violence that is administered by nongovernmental groups and individuals. Vigilante terrorism usually arises in situations where an alternative social movement or ideology challenges the established order. In Monmouth County, New Jersey, a group of Whigs formed the Association for Retaliation. They have also been called the “Retaliators,” “Committee of Retaliation,” or the “Associators.” During the Revolutionary War, the Retaliators employed eye-for-an-eye violence against loyalist civilians. Vigilante action in Monmouth County occurred as early as 1777. By 1778, armed bands of loyalist refugees operating out of British controlled Staten Island regularly raided Monmouth County. These loyalists meted out violence solely against rebel leaders and the local militia proved unable to counter that threat. Desperate to alleviate their exposed military position, Monmouth County rebels turned to extralegal violence to exact their revenge. In October 1777, while sleeping at his parent’s house, loyalist Stephen Edwards was captured and illegally hung. In 1778, James Pew, captured for carrying contraband, was murdered in his prison cell. Amid these extralegal actions, the New Jersey government did nothing to punish transgressors, setting the stage for future vigilante violence.
The Association for Retaliation was officially created early in 1780. Members agreed to exact revenge for every violent act, including but not limited to theft, burning, or kidnapping, committed against any association member. Because loyalist raiders lived behind the protection of British lines, and since the Retaliators did not have the resources to launch an outright assault on Staten Island, Retaliators turned on disaffected citizens or the relatives of loyalist raiders suspected of aiding their kin, even if no evidence spoke to treachery. The Retaliators received widespread support within Monmouth County. Despite such support, the New Jersey government never granted the Association for Retaliation powers to enforce justice. Nor did the Continental Congress. No. The Retaliators empowered themselves by bestowing the authority to police and administer justice, without any consent or blessing from the rebel government. The Retaliators were a secretive organization. Today, documents that describe their activities are scarce. Much of what the association’s members did escaped documentation. What little evidence has survived speaks to the organization’s notorious reputation. By the middle of 1780, Retaliators killed a captured raider under “mysterious circumstances,” and looted the home of a loyalist physician suspected of aiding the raiders. On March 30, 1782, a militia guard captured loyalist raider Philip White. Two years earlier, White killed the father of Retaliator John Russell. The militia turned White over to Russell who encouraged White to attempt an escape. White ran for it. Three mounted men chased him down and killed him. White died with multiple sword wounds to his head and body. Sometime in 1782, a disaffected physician was killed without a trial. A common occurrence, Retaliators tried suspected loyalists before illegitimate courts without due process and confiscated their property. Since many Retaliators held prominent local offices, the local courts turned a blind eye to Retaliator violence. Victims claimed that some Retaliators participated in vigilante violence for their own private gain and to settle personal grudges since they knew they could do so with impunity.
Through their own efforts, Retaliators attempted to gain legitimacy and legal recognition. In June 1780, the association submitted two petitions to the New Jersey Legislature, requesting official recognition. On October 2, 1781, Retaliators introduced a bill to the New Jersey General Assembly, proposing to tax disaffected citizens in an attempt to recompensate victims of loyalist raids. On May 25, 1782, Retaliators attempted once again to legitimize pro-retaliation measures through official policy. All these attempts at legitimization failed. The New Jersey General Assembly denounced the Association for Retaliation as illegal and dangerous. The Retaliators, New Jersey officials asserted, encouraged anarchy and disunion, “tending to the dissolution of the constitution and government.” Despite their distaste for the Retaliators and their vigilantism, the New Jersey Assembly remained inactive at confronting and punishing the Retaliators. The Retaliators remained active until the end of 1783. Overall, the Retaliators were more about vengeance than self-defense. A majority of Retaliator victims were disaffected civilians. It is likely that some Retaliator victims provided intelligence to the loyalist raiders, but this was not the case for most victims who were just individuals trying to get by and who unfortunately just so happened to be related to a loyalist. In the end, the Retaliators were unsuccessful in curbing loyalist raids. In fact, the association actually escalated the violence in and around Monmouth County.
Committees regularly imprisoned political opponents. The threat of imprisonment was an effective method committees employed to spread their authority. The practice was widespread and not restricted to any one specific locality. Loyalist prisoners suffered at the hands of their rebel captors. Prisoners endured forced marches, sometimes ten miles a day in heavy irons. Some prisoners died from these long marches. Prisoners were beat, paraded through towns, bullied, tortured, starved, and isolated from human contact. The prisons themselves were either too hot or too cold and diseases like typhoid were rampant among prisoner populations. Overcrowding was a serious problem. Disaffected persons were regularly imprisoned for refusing to submit to committee pressures and support the revolutionary movement. In 1777, seventeen men from Farmington, Connecticut were jailed for failing to join the militia during a British raid on nearby Danbury. Later on, it was revealed that these men were neutralists who wanted the war to just go away.
Loyalist informants who fed information to British officials were often thrown in prison. Such was the fate of Mary Macklin’s husband, John Macklin. Mary Port was born in Southampton, Hampshire County, England on August 6, 1751. In her adolescence, Mary’s parents and her only sister died from natural causes. After her family’s death, she was given to a guardian who looked after her. Under her guardian’s care, Mary was arranged to be wed to Robert Adams, a ship captain who was old enough to be her father. In an act of defiance, Mary wed John Macklin, the brother of a friend. John travelled to Mary one day rather unexpectedly and, to her surprise, offered his hand in marriage. Mary agreed to tie the knot with John and shortly thereafter the newlyweds moved to Portsmouth where they opened a boarding house and furnished the parlor to serve as a perfume shop. They lived there for three years. During their time in Portsmouth, a grand naval spectacle occurred in 1773. King George III was in attendance. In her memoir, Mary recalled the regalia and magnificence displayed by the king’s guard.
In 1774 the Macklin’s migrated to Charleston, South Carolina. According to Mary, “it was our intenshen to cary on a perfumery shop.” During his time in Charleston, John was imprisoned twice because he refused to renounce his loyalty to Britain, swear fealty to the American States, and take up arms against King George III. John’s actions certainly did not win him any friends. He spied for the British, eavesdropped on conversations, and reported any seditious statements he came across. The second time John was arrested and sent to prison; Mary went with him. They were locked up for eight months. When they were released, Mary heard rumors that her husband’s rebel captors treated him well. She feared John joined the rebellion. According to Mary, if this were true, “I would Never Never would Forgiven him.” Because John could not secure a livelihood and the couple took on debt they could not pay, Mary and John were forced to leave South Carolina. They relocated to East Florida’s capital, St. Augustine, where John found work as a privateer for the British government. At one point, John took command of a ship called Polly. He went on to serve in every major coastal engagement of the Revolutionary War’s southern theater. On one of his adventures, he never returned to Mary. John survived the war, returned to England, and claimed compensation for his service in America. After her abandonment, Mary was placed in the care of a local family who took pity on her and brought her food and other necessities. In time, Mary grew to depend on them. In 1784, Mary relocated to the Bahamas.
William Franklin was the loyalist son of Benjamin Franklin. He became New Jersey’s royal governor in 1762. During the 1770s, politics ruined William’s relationship with his father, an ardent patriot. On July 15, 1776, New Jersey’s provincial congress branded William an enemy to the country. He was arrested and sent to Connecticut where he gathered intelligence for the British. When his captors discovered his spying efforts, Franklin was sent to the “Litchfield Gaol” in May 1777. Litchfield was a horrible place. The jail was a two-story building situated next to a large Elm tree. The tree served as a whipping post and gallows. Franklin’s cell was on the second floor. His room had one small window that just barely let in any light. The floor was covered in straw, reeking of human waste. Soon after his arrival, William was placed in solitary confinement. He was provided no bed, no seat, and no toilet. He was not allowed to speak to anyone. While he suffered in prison, William’s ill wife died. William was not permitted to see her in her final living days. Well aware of his son’s imprisonment, Benjamin did nothing to intervene and save William. Finally, on December 31, 1777, William was released after serving eight months in prison. He fled to New York City, arriving there on November 1, 1778, where he worked for the British for the remainder of the war.
Countless atrocities can be traced to the American prisoner experience in the Revolutionary War, particularly on British prison ships. Less attention, however, has been paid to the inhumane conditions of Simsbury Mine. In 1773, Simsbury Mine was turned into a prison, called Newgate Prison. Located fourteen miles northwest of Hartford, Connecticut, Newgate Prison became both a symbol and a threat, the place where enemies of the new American states would go to rot. One entered the prison through a trapdoor located in a guard house. Prisoners were escorted dozens of feet down a dark pit. Once they reached the bottom, only short prisoners were able to stand up straight. The ceiling was only five feet high. Some of the province’s worst criminals, whose sentences ranged from one year to life for a wide range of crimes including but not limited to accessory to murder, highway robbery, sexual assault, aggravated burglary, and thievery, were thrown in Newgate’s dungeons. Some court-martialed Continental soldiers were kept here as well. Loyalists, too, whose only transgression was political allegiance to King George, were tossed into the mix. One can only begin to imagine the horror some of the more morally upright loyalists endured as they lived in such close proximity to hardened criminals. The most dangerous inmates were chained to rock with irons that dug into their flesh.
Life inside the prison was miserable. Prisoners slept on the hard rock floor. Some may have had hay or straw to sleep on, but this padding proved to be of minimal relief against the cold hard ground. When wet, the hay invited fleas. In addition to fleas, disease was widespread among the prison population. Confined conditions, no natural light, limited air circulation and opportunities for prisoners to wash, constant dampness, and communal tubs which were used as toilets helped diseases like typhoid, dysentery, influenza, and respiratory problems spread. Sometimes, pots of burning charcoal were provided for the prisoners to overpower the noxious smells. Prisoners placed in solitary confinement were kept in a dark room with rock on all sides. A slightly elevated rock was placed in the center of the room. Problematic inmates were chained to this rock, probably for an uncomfortably long period of time. Psychologically, the prison proved just as challenging as the physical difficulties. One inmate commented on his feelings of descending into a dark abyss. “Hope,” he wrote, “seemed to have taken her everlasting flight.” Desperate prisoners risked their lives, sometimes unsuccessfully, to escape. On one occasion, several escapees tunneled into a disused mine shaft right before it caved in. At least three men were buried alive. Prisoners regularly staged mass escape attempts. On at least two occasions, inmates overpowered the guards and locked them up before fleeing.
As mentioned earlier, scholarship on the prisoner of war experience in the American Revolution tends to focus on the inhumane treatment of American prisoners at the hands of their British captors. Compared to the American experience, significantly less attention has been paid to Newgate Prison, which was just as bad if not worse than the British prison ships. What’s more, Newgate was the cruel home of many civilians, loyalists who, apart from their political allegiance, were probably decent folks who most likely did not deserve to have their lot cast in with violent criminals.
Death was by far the worst atrocity committed against the disaffected. Councils of safety or assemblies hung the disaffected while mobs and roving bands of marauders killed loyalists and neutralists indiscriminately. In South Carolina, Reverend John Roberts was brutally tarred and feathered and hung on a gibbet, his body thrown on a bonfire. Rebel Colonel Benjamin “Bull Dog” Cleveland broke two loyalists out of a prison, mercilessly hung one and gave the second a choice: he could either hang like his friend or cut off both his ears. The loyalist apparently grabbed a knife and sliced his own ears off. He was let go. In Morristown, New Jersey, the local court sentenced 105 suspected loyalists to death by hanging. They would be forgiven, however, if they enlisted in the army and fought for America’s independence. Four prisoners refused to enlist and were subsequently hung. Treason laws also contributed to the loyalist death toll. According to Congress’s definition of treason, anyone who levied war against the United Colonies, gave the enemy aid or comfort, or allied themselves with the British Crown, were guilty of treason. Under these laws, loyalists were banished and threatened with death if they returned. Some loyalists were executed. In addition to whites, patriots targeted African Americans who spoke out against Congress or who acted against the best interests of the United States. In South Carolina, a free black fisherman, Thomas Jeremiah, was hung and burned for helping the British. Another young slave was executed for preaching “[the British king would] set the Negroes free.” A black man named Harry was beheaded, his head mounted on a stake, after the rebels caught him spying for high-ranking British officials. In November 1775, Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore offered to free all African American slaves or indentured servants willing to take up arms against the rebels. African Americans who accepted Dunmore’s offer and who were caught by the enemy were enslaved once more and shipped off to the West Indies or Honduras, far away from any kinship ties they may have likely formed during their time in captivity on the North American mainland.
Now that I have covered the various types of violence, I will next devote some space below to explore three unique cases of terrorism as they relate to the anti-British movement.
The Gaspee Affair
The HMS Gaspee was a British customs schooner. It measured forty-nine feet long and boasted eight small guns. In 1772, the Gaspee enforced the Navigation Acts around Newport, Rhode Island. On June 9, 1772, the Gaspee ran aground near modern-day Gaspee Point at three or four o’ clock in the afternoon as it pursued the packet ship Hannah. When local rebels learned of the Gaspee’s condition, they assembled at Sabin’s Tavern and cast bullets in the tavern’s kitchen. The raiders set out for the Gaspee at ten o’ clock at night on June 9, 1772. One source claims the raiders “blackened their faces and hands.” In the early hours of June 10, 1772, the rebels approached the Gaspee in several longboats. They declared they were going to arrest William Dudingston, the schooners commander. When they tried boarding the vessel, Dudingston struck one man with his sword. Dudingston’s men then opened fire on the rebels who fired back. Unfortunately for the Gaspee’s crew, the rebels were too close for the schooner’s cannons to be of any use. During the exchange, one raider, Joseph Bucklin, shot Dudingston in the groin. The rebels then boarded the ship unopposed. Out of the roughly 150 to 200 rebels who partook in this action, thirty to forty boarded the Gaspee and took the crew, numbering no more than nineteen men, prisoner. Dudingston begged for his life. The rebels forced their prisoners aboard their longboats and set fire to the Gaspee. Eventually, flames reached the powder magazine, causing a massive explosion.
After the incident, Rhode Island Governor Joseph Wanton posted a £100 reward for anyone who uncovered those responsible for burning the Gaspee. On August 26, the British government offered a £500 reward for information leading to the conviction of any individual involved in the affair. Offenders were charged with high treason. In the Crown’s subsequent investigation, no Americans came forth to testify against their countrymen. The Gaspee incident was significant for three reasons. First, it reignited the patriot cause by prompting the desire among colonials to engage in inter-colonial committees of correspondence. Second, the incident was discussed in Reverend John Allen’s sermon published in a famous pamphlet titled Oration. Allen’s sermon justified the burning of the Gaspee and spoke to colonial fears of a British conspiracy to subvert colonial liberty. Lastly, the failure of British authorities to uproot and punish those responsible for the Gaspee affair emboldened rebels to further resist Crown efforts at implementing its authority. At length, the Gaspee affair was an act of terrorism. According to historian Steven Park, “It is difficult to analyze the Gaspee affair [today] without invoking the word ‘terrorism’ anachronistically.”
The Gaspee affair was not the last time American radicals burned a vessel for political reasons. On October 14, 1774, the Peggy Stewart, loaded with seventeen chests of tea,reached Annapolis from Britain. Unable to unload the ship’s cargo without paying customs duties, Anthony Stewart, co-owner of the Peggy Stewart, paid the tax enforced under the 1773 Tea Act. This offended many Annapolis residents who took Stewart’s actions as an affront to American boycott efforts against British tea. Consequently, a mob assembled and threatened to burn Anthony in his home with him in it. Anthony could keep his life, the mob concluded, provided he apologize and, to compensate for the error of his ways, destroy both the tea and Peggy Stewart. The ship, along with the tea, was then burned “with all her Sails and Riggin standing and Colours flying.” At length, total damages, including the costs for the voyage, duties, and freight, for both the tea and the ship, amounted to roughly £1,896. Had Stewart refused to burn his ship, it is likely the mob would have killed him.
John the Painter
It is impossible to write an essay about terrorism and the Imperial Crisis and American War of Independence without mentioning John the Painter. His real name was James Aitken. James was born on September 28, 1752, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was the son of George Aitken and Magdalen Boswell. After his father’s death in 1759, James entered George Heriot’s Hospital, a charitable school for impoverished children. James became a painter’s apprentice and in 1772, at the age of twenty, James completed his apprenticeship. Opportunities were limited for poor James who faced an unsuccessful future in painting. If you asked him what he really wanted to do, he would have told you he wanted to be a military officer. Unfortunately for James, he was too poor to purchase a commission. Compounding his bad luck, an economic depression rocked Scotland from 1772 to 1774, forcing James to leave his homeland in search of more opportunities and a better life. In short order, James turned to crime which proved to be more lucrative an enterprise than painting houses. Abandoning his training, he became a highway man, robbing coaches, shoplifting stores, and breaking and entering private residences. After his first robberies, James read an exact description of himself in the newspapers, prompting him to flee to America. He reached Virginia in 1773, and by the spring of 1775 he departed North Carolina for England. Back in Britain, Aitken robbed and wandered. He joined the British Army three times for the enlistment bonus, singing on as a different name each time and then deserting at the first opportunity he got.
Aitken was inspired to do something about the American Revolution shortly after he overheard a conversation at a public house in Oxford. The conversation talked about the Royal Navy and how much it depended on the royal dockyards. Eliminate the dockyards, the conversationalists asserted, and the war would be over. “It is amazing with what force this conversation kept possession of my mind,” Aitken later said, “I believe it never left me afterwards.” The newly inspired Aitken expected to destroy the dockyards after which the Americans would win their independence, grant him an officer’s commission, and name him a hero. Aitken planed on traveling to America to present his proposal of destroying the dockyards before the Continental Congress. Instead, he went to Paris and proposed his plan to Silas Deane, American Congress’s representative in France. Aitken met Deane twice. During the second meeting, Deane decided to support Aitken. Deane gave Aitken money, a passport, and the name of a man in London who Aitken could call on for protection and additional money, Dr. Edward Bancroft. Employing homemade incendiary devices, Aitken first started a fire at Portsmouth, causing roughly £20,000 worth of damages. He then moved on to Bristol where he set off several more fires. James became so notorious in England, King George III offered £1,000 for information leading to his arrest and conviction. Altogether, Aitken caused around £15,000 in damages at Bristol. Apart from the physical destruction he caused, Aitken’s exploits spread psychological terror throughout England. People were panicked. Aitken was eventually captured on January 27, 1777. He was indicted for three crimes, but guilty of dozens more. His trial took place on March 6, 1777. It took jurors “a second” to decide that Aitken was guilty. Upon receiving his verdict, Aitken did not break down as most criminals do, instead he merely smiled. Aitken was hung in Portsmouth on March 10, 1777. Roughly 20,000 people attended his execution.
Aitken has been called the first modern terrorist. While operating under the blessings of the Continental Congress, he paralyzed England with fear. By attempting to knock out Britain’s naval dockyards, he targeted civilians to achieve a political goal. In his final days, he died a lonely, friendless man. His contributions to the American cause were minimal, at best. Few Americans knew about Aitken. Had he succeeded in destroying the dockyards at Portsmouth and beyond, he would have seriously crippled the British Navy, restricting the Crown’s ability to ship new regiments and supplies to North America. In the end, Aitken was America’s adopted son who was born into anonymity, rose to fame for the briefest of time, and then in death fell back into obscurity.
The Boston Tea Party
The British define terrorism as a threat or violent action against any person or property designed to influence the government or intimidate the public to advance “a political, religious or ideological cause.” Similarly the FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” On December 16, 1773, a mob of colonists dressed as Mohawk Indians dumped 342 chests of tea, valued at £9,659, over $1 million dollars in today’s currency, into Boston Harbor. That event, a protest against the British Tea Act, is now famously called the Boston Tea Party. The phrase tea party came into use in the 1830s. The word party does not mean a celebration. Instead, it refers to the group or faction that took part in destroying the tea. During the Imperial Crisis, people referred to that event, and others like it, as “the action against the tea” or “the destruction of the tea.” The Boston Tea Party, and other tea parties like it, were violent events. Even though no one lost their life, property was destroyed, people were threatened, and terror spread, particularly among frightened families. All things considered, the Boston Tea Party should have never happened. Indeed, the tax on tea was small and insignificant. The tea tax was only three-pence per pound, or one-tenth of one penny for a nine-pence cup of tea. In fact, even with the tax, East India Company tea was deliberately priced cheaper than tea smuggled into the American colonies. British leaders just assumed that the colonists would consume the tea and the tax that went with it without issue.
The destruction of East India Company tea in Boston Harbor was not the only occurrence of politically charged tea destruction. To be sure, several other tea parties took place throughout British North America. According to one historian, “there were probably more tea parties than we’ll ever know.” Some of the more noteworthy events occurred in Philadelphia, Charleston, New York, York, and Greenwich. In Philadelphia, assignees to a shipment of tea were threatened to refuse said tea. The captain of the ship that was instructed to bring the tea to Philadelphia was also warned. The tea was refused, and the event drew out 8,000 onlookers. In the fall of 1773, 257 chests of tea were bound for Charleston, South Carolina. The vessel, the London, arrived on December 1. The tea was seized and stored under lock and key. Local patriots threatened to burn the London if her captain refused to comply with their demands. When more tea arrived several months later in 1774, local members of the committee of observation forced the merchants who had ordered the tea to dump their tea into the harbor. On April 18, 1774, the Nancy, bearing tea from England, reached Sandy Hook, New Jersey, a standard place ships visited en route to New York harbor. Prior to the Nancy’s arrival, the Sons of Liberty struck a deal with New York Governor Tryon, agreeing to pay to send the tea back to England. Shortly thereafter, another tea ship arrived from Charleston unexpectedly. On April 22, this second ship reached New York City at about four o’ clock in the afternoon. Enraged, New Yorkers destroyed the tea. In September 1774, a shipment of tea arrived in York, Maine. One night, a band of colonists dressed as Native Americans, likely the Sons of Liberty, carried the tea off into the woods. It disappeared without a trace. On December 12, 1774, the Greyhound, bearing a shipment of East India Company tea, docked at Greenwich, New Jersey. Under a secret arrangement with the captain, a local Tory stored the tea in his cellar. Within a few days, the whole town knew about this arrangement. On December 22, several patriots dressed as Indians seized the tea and burned it on the village green. The “Indians” whooped and hollered around the fire as it consumed the tea.
In full measure, violence and property destruction characterized the British North American tea parties. In the end, the Boston Tea Party, and other tea parties like it, were acts of terrorism since they destroyed private property, threatened civilians, and spread terror and fear in an attempt to coerce government officials into repealing official legislation.
For the most part, American patriots remained silent about the violence they inflicted on the disaffected. Contrary to how contemporary popular idealized accounts of the Imperial Crisis and Revolutionary War portray that era, violence occurred with frequent regularity, especially towards the loyalists. According to T. H. Breen, “Revolutions do not sustain themselves through ideas alone.” Indeed, examples like the French, Haitian, and Russian Revolutions demonstrate violence’s deep presence in impacting social change. With similarity, the American experience, too, utilized violence and terror to combat domestic enemies. If violence was such an integral part of the anti-British movement, why has it been relegated to the margins of modern-day historical scholarship? Holger Hoock argues that Americans whitewashed their own history, distancing themselves from the violence that brought about and sustained the revolution. What’s more, Americans eliminated the loyalist experience from public discourse. Lastly, British tendency to turn a blind eye to defeat is also partially to blame. Compounding the problem of burying America’s violent history, postwar Americans controlled the story of the American Revolution, and no one wanted to publish the loyalist perspective. In the postwar period, techniques of public memory attempted to alter cohesive American remembrances of the Imperial Crisis and American Revolution by glorifying the cause and masking the realities of the event which reflected outright rebellion. For generations, Americans have denied the violence and terror that made possible the political split with Great Britain, resulting in “a powerful myth of American exceptionalism” that whitewashed, and continues to whitewash, American history.
At length, I argue that the proponents of the 1760s, 1770s, and 1780s anti-British movement were terrorists, particularly through their use of politically motivated violence to threaten innocent civilians and coerce government officials into repealing official legislation. Going forward, it is important for the American people to confront their nation’s origin story and to cast aside popularized public memory to see the Imperial Crisis and American Revolution for what it really was, a terrorist movement. Confronting this assertion will allow discourse on the matter to shape a more realistic, wholistic, and truthful memory of the eighteenth century North American anti-British movement.
 Holger Hoock, Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2017), xii.
 Alex P. Schmid, “The Revised Academic Consensus Definition of Terrorism,” Perspectives on Terrorism 6, no. 2 (2012): 158.
 Gus Martin, Essentials of Terrorism: Concepts and Controversies, (Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2008), 9.
 T.H. Breen, “Ideology and Nationalism on the Eve of the American Revolution: Revisions Once More in Need of Revising,” The Journal of American History 84, no. 1 (June 1997): 29.
 James Allen Smith, The Spirit of American Government: A Study of the Constitution: Its Origin, Influence and Relation to Democracy (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1907), v-viii.
 Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (New York: The Free Press, 1986), 324-325.
 Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969), 513.
 James Kirby Martin, Men in Rebellion: Higher Governmental Leaders and the Coming of the American Revolution (New York: The Free Press, 1976), xi, 52-53.
 Martin, Men in Rebellion, 191.
 Jerry Fresia, Toward an American Revolution: Exposing the Constitution and Other Illusions (Boston: South End Press, 1988), 2-3, 10.
 Donald Barr Chidsey, The Loyalists: The Story of Those Americans Who Fought Against Independence (New York: Crown Publishers, 1973), 37.
 David C. Rapoport, “Before the Bombs There Were the Mobs: American Experiences with Terror,” Terrorism and Political Violence 20, no. 2 (April-June 2008).
 Gerard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin, ed., The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to Al Qaeda, translated by Edward Schneider, Kathryn Pulver, and Jesse Browner (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 55.
 For more on American loyalists see Thomas B. Allen’s Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War (New York: HarperCollins, 2010); Bernard Bailyn’s The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson (Cambridge: The Belknap Press, 1974); Wallace Brown’s The King’s Friends: The Composition and Motives of the American Loyalist Claimants (Brown University Press, 1965); Robert M. Calhoon’s The Loyalists in Revolutionary America, 1760–1781 (1973); Maya Jasanoff’s Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011); William H. Nelson’s The American Tory (1961); Mary Beth Norton’s The British-Americans: The Loyalist Exiles in England, 1774–1789 (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1972).
 Holger Hoock, Scars of Independence, 50.
 Richard Maxwell Brown, “Violence and the American Revolution,” in Essays on The American Revolution, edited by Stephen G. Kurtz and James H. Hutson (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1973), 103.
 Thomas Verenna, “Disarming the Disaffected,” Journal of the American Revolution, August 26, 2014, https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/08/disarming-the-disaffected/.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 62.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 33, 35-36, 40-41, 50-51, 338.
 Ray Raphael, The American Revolution: A People’s History: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence (London: Profile Books, 2001), 169.
 Physicians were the only exception to the rule. Because there was so few of them and both sides, rebel and tory alike, needed them badly, dissenting opinions were tolerated.
 Cold tar was also used in some instances. Though its effects were not as bad as that of hot tar, removing dried tar proved to be a painful experience, nonetheless.
 Chidsey, The Loyalists, 37-40.
 Benjamin H. Irvin, “Tar, Feathers, and the Enemies of American Liberties, 1768-1776,” The New England Quarterly 76, no. 2 (June 2003): 201, 204-205, 214-216, 222; Evangeline Walker Andrews, ed., Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the Years 1774 to 1776 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1922), 198.
 Irvin, “Tar, Feathers, and the Enemies of American Liberties, 1768-1776,” 200.
 Irvin, “Tar, Feathers, and the Enemies of American Liberties, 1768-1776,” 205.
 Mark Hurwitz, “#75 – Owen Richards,” This Old Pew, December 14, 2016.
 Anne Hulton, Letters of a Loyalist Lady: Being the Letters of Ann Hulton, Sister of Henry Hulton, Commissioner of Customs at Boston, 1767-1776, introduced by Harold Murdock (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927), 70-71; Hoock, Scars of Independence, 24-26.
 T. H. Breen, American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People (New York: Hill and Wang, 2010), 220-221; Hoock, Scars of Independence, 35; Douglass Adair and John A. Schutz, eds., Peter Oliver’s Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion: A Tory View (Reprint, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967), 157.
 Schafer, “Chapter Twelve: War on the Border,” El Escribano: The St. Augustine Journal of History: St. Augustine’s British Years 1763-1784 38 (2001): 192.
 James W. Raab, Spain, Britain and the American Revolution in Florida, 1763-1783 (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2008), 85.
 Cashin, The King’s Ranger, 28-29, 40-41.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 32-33.
 Andrew S. Buckser, “Lynching as Ritual in the American South,” Berkeley Journal of Sociology 37 (1992): 12.
 Gordon Godfrey Fralin, “Charles Lynch, originator of the term Lynch law,” (1955), master’s theses, paper 102, 3, 5, 7. https://scholarship.richmond.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1101&context=masters-theses.
 Thomas Jefferson to Charles Lynch, 1 August ,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-03-02-0602. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 3, 18 June 1779 – 30 September 1780, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951, 523.]
 Raphael, The American Revolution, 170.
 Arthur Meier Schlesinger, “Political Mobs and the American Revolution, 1765-1776,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 99, no. 4 (1955): 244.
 Gordon S. Wood, “A Note on Mobs in the American Revolution,” The William & Mary Quarterly 23, no. 4 (1966): 640.
 Schlesinger, “Political Mobs and the American Revolution, 1765-1776,” 246.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 33-34.
 Chidsey, The Loyalists, 33; Wood, “A Note on Mobs in the American Revolution,” 639.
 Schlesinger, “Political Mobs and the American Revolution, 1765-1776,” 246.
 Rapoport, “Before the Bombs There Were the Mobs.”
 Jeffrey D. Simon, “The Sons of Liberty and Mob Terror,” Journal of the American Revolution, December 12, 2019, https://allthingsliberty.com/2019/12/the-sons-of-liberty-and-mob-terror/.
 Andrew Stephen Walmsley, Thomas Hutchinson & the Origins of the American Revolution (New York: New York University Press, 1999), 4, 34.
 Bailyn, The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson, 35-36; Walmsley, Thomas Hutchinson & the Origins of the American Revolution, 68-70; Chidsey, The Loyalists, 20-21; Adair and Schutz, eds., Peter Oliver’s Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion, 52-53.
 The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, September 2, 1765.
 For more on Cadwallader Colden see Seymour Schwartz’s Cadwallader Colden: A Biography (Humanity Books, 2013) and Philip Ranlet’s Cadwallader Colden, 1688–1776: A Life Between Revolutions (Hamilton Books, 2019).
 F. L. Engelman, “Cadwallader Colden and the New York Stamp Act Riots,” The William and Mary Quarterly 10, no. 4 (1953): 560, 567-573.
 New York City During the American Revolution, The Mercantile Library Association (1861), 48.
 Chidsey, The Loyalists, 93-95.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 34, 119-120.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 61; Brown, The King’s Friends, 64, 78, 135.
 Breen, American Insurgents, American Patriots, 14-15.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 31-32; Breen, American Insurgents, American Patriots, 191-193, 216.
 Lewis Leary, “Literature in New York, 1775,” Early American Literature 11, no. 1 (1976): 6.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 38-40, 59.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 90-91.
 Adair and Schutz, eds., Peter Oliver’s Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion, 152.
 Breen, American Insurgents, American Patriots, 96-97.
 Adair and Schutz, eds., Peter Oliver’s Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion, 156.
 Michael S. Adelberg, “‘A Combination to Trample All Law Underfoot’: The Association for Retaliation and the American Revolution in Monmouth County,” New Jersey History 115, no. 3-4 (Fall/Winter 1997): 3, 5-6.
 Adelberg, “‘A Combination to Trample All Law Underfoot’,” 7-9, 19-20, 22-23.
 Adelberg, “‘A Combination to Trample All Law Underfoot’,” 9, 13-14, 19, 23-26.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 44.
 Raphael, The American Revolution, 168.
 Daniel L. Schafer, “The Memoir of Mary (Port) Macklin,” El Escribano: The St. Augustine Journal of History 41 (2004): 109.
 Schafer, “The Memoir of Mary (Port) Macklin,” 110.
 James G. Cusick, “Two People, Two Stories,” El Escribano: The St. Augustine Journal of History 41 (2004): 101-103.
 Schafer, “The Memoir of Mary (Port) Macklin,” 111.
 Cusick, “Two People, Two Stories,” 103-104.
 Schafer, “The Memoir of Mary (Port) Macklin,” 115-116.
 Louis Arthur Norton, “The Connecticut Captivity of William Franklin, Loyalist,” Journal of the American Revolution, November 1, 2017, https://allthingsliberty.com/2017/11/connecticut-captivity-william-franklin-loyalist/.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 45-47.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 47-49.
 Brown, The King’s Friends, 65.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 40, 122, 319-320.
 Raphael, The American Revolution, 169.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 94-97, 118, 330.
 Steven Park, The Burning of His Majesty’s Schooner Gaspee: An Attack on Crown Rule Before the American Revolution (Yardley: Westholme Publishing, 2016), 8, 15-19.
 Park, The Burning of His Majesty’s Schooner Gaspee, 21, 25, 75-76, 89-92, 95-99, 105, 107, 111.
 Richard D. Fisher, ed., “The Burning of the ‘Peggy Stewart,’” Maryland Historical Magazine 5, no. 3 (September 1910): 235-237, 241, 243-244; John Galloway and Thomas Ringgold, “Account of the Destruction of the Brig ‘Peggy Stewart,’ at Annapolis, 1774,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 25, no. 2 (1901): 248.
 Jessica Warner, The Incendiary: The Misadventures of John the Painter, First Modern Terrorist (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005), 13, 19, 36-39, 51, 54, 58, 64.
 Warner, The Incendiary, 95-96, 105, 109, 112, 115, 141, 154-157, 163, 167, 171, 191, 203, 220, 225.
 Warner, The Incendiary, 245-246.
 Martin, Essentials of Terrorism, 7.
 David J. Whittaker, ed., The Terrorism Reader (New York: Routledge, 2001), 3; Jeremy R. Spindlove & Clifford E. Simonsen, eds. Terrorism Today: The Past, The Players, The Future, 6th ed (New York: Pearson, 2018), 8.
 Joseph Cummins, Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot (New York: Bristol Park Books, 2012), 46-49, 51, 53, 195-197.
 Harlow Giles Unger, American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution (Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2011), 7.
 Cummins, Ten Tea Parties, 31.
 Cummins, Ten Tea Parties, 68-69, 71, 74-76, 85-87, 90-91, 105-109, 139-140, 186-188.
 Breen, American Insurgents, American Patriots, 16.
 Hoock, Scars of Independence, 13-15, 19-20, 390-393.
Andrews, Evangeline Walker, ed. Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the Years 1774 to 1776. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1922.
Fisher, Richard D., ed. “The Burning of the ‘Peggy Stewart.’” Maryland Historical Magazine 5, no. 3 (September 1910): 235–245.
Galloway, John and Ringgold, Thomas. “Account of the Destruction of the Brig ‘Peggy Stewart,’ at Annapolis, 1774.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 25, no. 2 (1901): 248-254.
Hulton, Anne. Letters of a Loyalist Lady: Being the Letters of Ann Hulton, Sister of Henry Hulton, Commissioner of Customs at Boston, 1767-1776. Introduced by Harold Murdock. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927.
Thomas Jefferson to Charles Lynch, 1 August ,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-03-02-0602. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 3, 18 June 1779 – 30 September 1780, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951, 523.]
The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, September 2, 1765.
Adelberg, Michael S. “‘A Combination to Trample All Law Underfoot’: The Association for Retaliation and the American Revolution in Monmouth County.” New Jersey History 115, no. 3-4 (Fall/Winter 1997): 3-35.
Bailyn, Bernard. The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1974.
Beard, Charles A. An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. New York: The Free Press, 1986.
Breen, T. H. “Ideology and Nationalism on the Eve of the American Revolution: Revisions Once More in Need of Revising.” The Journal of American History 84, no. 1 (June 1997): 13-39.
Brown, Richard Maxwell. “Violence and the American Revolution.” In Essays on The American Revolution, edited by Stephen G. Kurtz and James H. Hutson, 81-120. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1973.
Brown, Wallace. The King’s Friends: The Composition and Motives of the American Loyalist Claimants. Brown University Press, 1965.
Buckser, Andrew S. “Lynching as Ritual in the American South.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology 37 (1992): 11-28.
Cashin, Edward J. The King’s Ranger: Thomas Brown and the American Revolution on the Southern Frontier. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1989.
Chaliand, Gerard and Arnaud Blin, ed. The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to Al Qaeda. Translated by Edward Schneider, Kathryn Pulver, and Jesse Browner. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.
Chidsey, Donald Barr. The Loyalists: The Story of Those Americans Who Fought Against Independence. New York: Crown Publishers, 1973.
Cummins, Joseph. Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot. New York: Bristol Park Books, 2012.
Cusick, James G. “Two People, Two Stories.” El Escribano: The St. Augustine Journal of History 41 (2004): 97-105.
Engelman, F. L. “Cadwallader Colden and the New York Stamp Act Riots.” The William and Mary Quarterly 10, no. 4 (1953): 560-578.
Fralin, Gordon Godfrey, “Charles Lynch, originator of the term Lynch law.” (1955). Master’s Theses. Paper 102. https://scholarship.richmond.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1101&context=masters-theses.
Fresia, Jerry. Toward an American Revolution: Exposing the Constitution and Other Illusions. Boston: South End Press, 1988.
Harmon, Christopher C. and Randall G. Bowdish. The Terrorist Argument: Modern Advocacy and Propaganda. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2018.
Hoock, Holger. Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2017.
Hurwitz, Mark. “#75 – Owen Richards.” This Old Pew. December 14, 2016.
Leary, Lewis. “Literature in New York, 1775.” Early American Literature 11, no. 1 (1976): 4-21.
Martin, James Kirby. Men in Rebellion: Higher Governmental Leaders and the Coming of the American Revolution. New York: The Free Press, 1976.
Norton, Louis Arthur. “The Connecticut Captivity of William Franklin, Loyalist.” Journal of the American Revolution. November 1, 2017. https://allthingsliberty.com/2017/11/connecticut-captivity-william-franklin-loyalist/.
Park, Steven. The Burning of His Majesty’s Schooner Gaspee: An Attack on Crown Rule Before the American Revolution. Yardley: Westholme Publishing, 2016.
Raphael, Ray. The American Revolution: A People’s History: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence. London: Profile Books, 2001.
Rapoport, David C. “Before the Bombs There Were the Mobs: American Experiences with Terror.” Terrorism and Political Violence 20, no. 2 (April-June 2008): 167-194.
Schafer, Daniel L. “Chapter Twelve: War on the Border.” El Escribano: The St. Augustine Journal of History: St. Augustine’s British Years 1763-1784 38 (2001): 189-206.
Schafer, Daniel L. “The Memoir of Mary (Port) Macklin.” El Escribano: The St. Augustine Journal of History 41 (2004): 106-117.
Schlesinger, Arthur Meier. “Political Mobs and the American Revolution, 1765-1776.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 99, no. 4 (1955): 244-250.
Schmid, Alex P. “The Revised Academic Consensus Definition of Terrorism.” Perspectives on Terrorism 6, no. 2 (2012): 158-159.
Simon, Jeffrey D. “The Sons of Liberty and Mob Terror.” Journal of the American Revolution. December 12, 2019. https://allthingsliberty.com/2019/12/the-sons-of-liberty-and-mob-terror/.
Smith, James Allen. The Spirit of American Government: A Study of the Constitution: Its Origin, Influence and Relation to Democracy. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1907.
Spindlove, Jeremy R. & Simonsen, Clifford E., eds. Terrorism Today: The Past, The Players, The Future, 6th ed. New York: Pearson, 2018.
Unger, Harlow Giles. American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution. Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2011.
Verenna, Thomas. “Disarming the Disaffected.” Journal of the American Revolution. August 26, 2014. https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/08/disarming-the-disaffected/.
Whittaker, David J., ed. The Terrorism Reader. New York: Routledge, 2001.
Wood, Gordon S. “A Note on Mobs in the American Revolution.” The William & Mary Quarterly 23, no. 4 (1966): 635-642.
Wood, Gordon S. The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969.
New York City During the American Revolution. The Mercantile Library Association. 1861.
George Kotlik has an MA in political science from Sul Ross State University.