~ Isaac Barré, MP, 6 February, 1765
In 1675/76 two major incidents occurred in North America, both stemming from what the citizenry considered their government's arrogance and lack of concern for what was happening to them. In both incidents the government, safe in their fine homes, far from the trouble, ignored complaints, calls for assistance, and the growing anger of the people. The result, in both cases, was immense embarrassment and disgrace for the government, military intervention when it was too late for negotiation, and the seeds of rebellion sown. Seeds that would take a century to germinate into full-scale war.
In New England, Plymouth Colony, the government exerted pressure to thoroughly control the Indians. This included commanding the appearance of the Wampanoag chief, Wamsutta, to appear in Plymouth. He was met by Major Winslow and an armed force, taken at gun point, and questioned. He died shortly after. Wamsutta's brother, Metacom - known to the colonists as Phillip - became chief.
Despite long-standing uneasy relations between the Indians and the colonists, such heavy-handed actions on the part of the colonial government showed an appalling lack of understanding. And the colonists would pay a bloody price. The result was 'King Phillip's War' which ended in 1676.
Family History.com summarizes thus:
In 1675, hostilities broke out in the town of Swansea, and the war spread as far north as New Hampshire, and as far southwest as Connecticut. Not all Native People, however, sided with Philip. Most Natives who had converted to Christianity fought with the English or remained neutral. The English, however, did not always trust these converts and interned many of them in camps on outlying islands. Also, some Native communities on Cape Cod and the Islands did not participate in the war. Native soldiers fighting on the side of the colonists helped turn the tide of the war, which ended in 1676 when Philip was killed by a Wampanoag fighting with Captain Benjamin Church.
Fighting continued until 1678, when a treaty of Peace was signed at Casco Bay. For the colonists, the farmers and townspeople who suffered at the hands of the Indians due to the government's ignorance and arrogance, more was to come via the British government. Seeds were being sown.
In the Virginia colony, in the year 1676, trouble was also brewing. With high taxes, tobacco prices dropping, and special privileges given to the friends of the Royal governor, the people of the outlying areas were ready to revolt. Adding to their misery were the incessant attacks by the Indians. The Governor, and his Elite friends of the Virginia Tidewater, refused to respond to those attacks in any meaningful way. The citizenry took things into their own hands, sending two punitive expeditions against the Indians. These successful expeditions were headed by Nathaniel Bacon, a planter of the region. Soon elected to the House of Burgesses, Bacon was attempting to take his seat when the Governor arrested him.
Bacon was soon released, but the final bit of damage had been done. As Info Please summarizes:
Bacon gathered his supporters, marched on Jamestown, and coerced Berkeley into granting him a commission to continue his campaigns against Native Americans. A circumspect assembly then passed several reform measures. The governor, having failed to raise a force against Bacon, fled to the Eastern Shore. He gathered enough strength to return to Jamestown, where he proclaimed Bacon and his men rebels and traitors. After a sharp skirmish Bacon recaptured the capital (Berkeley again took flight) but, fearing that he could not hold it against attack, set fire to the town. Bacon now controlled the colony, but he died suddenly (Oct., 1676), and without his leadership the rebellion collapsed. After a few months Berkeley returned to wreak a bloody vengeance before he was forced to return to England. Berkeley's removal and the end of attacks by Native Americans were the only benefits the yeomen had won in the rebellion, and the tidewater aristocracy long maintained its power.
The Royal government took over control of the colony, but never addressed the problems of the colonists. They knew better than any common people what was best. More seeds had been sown.
Move ahead to the 1760s. The French and Indian War has been fought, the French defeated, Canada taken as the latest British Crown Colony. In London, the new, expanded Empire has depleted so much of the Treasury that Prime Minister Grenville must do something to refill the coffers. Where to find some of that money? The American colonies, for one.
The experts on the American colonies consisted of men who gained their knowledge before the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War it's called in Britain), and knew nothig of the sacrifices, in blood and treasure, expended by the Americans in defense of their homes and the Empire. In short, the Elite experts knew little about Americans, and could not care less. They knew what was best. And so began the institution of several Acts of Parliament which would tinder a fire of resentment in the hearts of Americans, and smoulder for a decade.
At the end of the War America fell into an economic depression deepened by a drought that made farmers weep. Most of the colonies had gone into debt to supply the men and supplies demanded by the King's armies to fight the French. Now, as they tried to find ways to struggle out of that debt, the Royal government moved in, in its typical heavy-handed, muzzie-headed way, and changed the way finances were to be handled. This threw American merchants into a kind of panic. Many went bankrupt, many went deeply into debt which would take years, or decades, to clear.
But things seemed quiet in America, to the Grenville government, and the King. After all, there were no protests to Parliament, aside from a few respectful, mealy-mouthed requests from colonial legislatures, for a second look at things by Parliament. In America the legislatures, involved in internecine war with opposition parties, were really too busy holding, or gaining, or consolidating their own power, to worry about the lesser mortals of the citizenry. And so George Grenville passed the infamous Stamp Act as a way to increase revenues from the colonies in a way that spread the cost to all. Grenville thought it was eminently fair. He knew nothing of Americans save what the Army Commanders-in-Chief had described during the early phases of the War. Americans were insolent, rebellious, and interested in only making money. The British saw nothing of the growth in patriotism of Americans as they joined in the fight agaisnt the French. They had no conception of the way Americans had moved slowly away from the kind of stratified society of nobility known in European lands. In short, the British government had learned little from the French and Indian War, when it came to their American colonies.
The Stamp Act passed in 1765. The seeds had sprouted.
While colonial legislatures remained mired in their own power politics, one of the opposition parties in New England used the Stamp Act as a way to gain power. Unleashing two mobs in Boston they forced the Stamp Collector to resign. This success led to similar, and far more violent and bloody, mob action in the other colonies. Many of these groups took the name, "Sons of Liberty" after the term used by Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Barré. Barré rose in Parliament to speak against the Act. Speaking without notes, in response to Charles Townshend's observation when introducing the Stamp Act resolutions that the colonies should "contribute to the mother country which had planted, nurtured and indulged them," Barré replied,
"They planted by your care! No, your oppressions planted them in America. They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated, inhospitable country, where they exposed themselves to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable, and among others to the cruelties of a savage foe and actuated by principles of true English liberties, they met all hardships with pleasure compared with those they suffered in their own country from the hands of those who should be their friends.Barré knew and respected Americans. He had lost an eye in the War, fighting alongside American militia. His speech made no difference to Parliament or the British government. But his words struck a spark in the colonies.
"They nourished up by your indulgence? they grew by your neglect of them: ---as soon as you began to care about them, that Care was Exercised in sending persons to rule over them, in one Department and another, who were perhaps the Deputies of Deputies to some Member of this house---sent to Spy out their Liberty, to misrepresent their Actions & to prey upon them; men whose behaviour on many Occasions has caused the Blood of those Sons of Liberty to recoil within them; men promoted to the highest Seats of Justice, some, who to my knowledge were glad by going to a foreign Country to Escape being brought to the Bar of a Court of Justice in their own.
"They protected by your Arms? They have nobly taken up Arms in your defence, have Exerted a Valour amidst their constant & Laborious industry for the defence of a Country, whose frontier, while drench'd in blood, its interior Parts have yielded all its little Savings to your Emolument. And believe me, remember I this Day told you so, that same Spirit of freedom which actuated that people at first, will accompany them still.---But prudence forbids me to explain myself further. God knows I do not at this Time speak from motives of party Heat, what I deliver are the genuine Sentiments of my heart; however superiour to me in general knowledge and Experience the reputable body of this house may be, yet I claim to know more of America than most of you, having seen and been conversant in that Country. The People I believe are as truly Loyal as any Subjects the King has, but a people Jealous of their Liberties and who will vindicate them, if ever they should be violated---but the Subject is too delicate & I will say no more."
Britain didn't try to enforce the Stamp Act. Had they, no doubt the Revolution would have begun ten years earlier than it did. By the time the colonial legislatures had a grasp of the will of the people, those they considered unimportant, it was to late to head them off.
The politicians on both sides of the Atlantic had paid no attention to those they ostensibly represented. By 1775 it was no longer possible for the politicians to fix the problems they themselves had fostered. And the people would take the lead and rise in a full-fledged Revolution.
Governments who pay heed to only their supporters and friends inevitably become tyrannical, not to mention myopic. Political parties who interest themselves in gaining power, and expect support for not being the other Party, are out of touch with those they represent, those who pay their salaries, those who expect honest governance.
Just as in 1675/76, and in the 1760s, the citizenry are not being represented but misrepresented by those whose salaries they pay. Democrats represent the Special Interests who contribute to their campaign coffers; Republicans strive to be 'Not Democrats'. Neither Party pays heed to the citizenry of the United States. Instead they are content that each knows best what the people 'need', and continue their power politics games, while the citizens of this nation grow angry, fearful, and discontented.
Have seeds been sown?