A well-conceived work of popular history that fills a gap in the chronology of the American Revolution.
The period between the Boston Tea Party, which took place at the end of 1773, and the first revolutionary battles at Lexington and Concord, which took place in April 1775, is unknown to most general readers and often overlooked even by professional historians’ accounts of the Revolutionary War. Yet they were crucial, as Ray (Founding Myths, 2014, etc.) and Marie Raphael (A Boy from Ireland, 2007, etc.) ably document. Tea, write the authors, was but one of five goods on which Parliament levied taxes, but while it backed off on the other four, it held to tea as a more-than-symbolic gesture of imperial power that “became the symbol of its oppressive policies.” While Parliament debated what to do about the upstarts in Boston, colonial committees and militias formed in more or less open rebellion. More important, during the 16-month gap, the rebels formed the basis of independent government. As the Raphaels write, when their rejection of British suzerainty placed the people of Worcester County, Massachusetts, in a so-called state of nature or mere anarchy, they stepped up and figured out how to rule themselves: “That the Worcester County Convention presumed it could appoint men to government posts, although it possessed no legal claim to do so, was in and of itself revolutionary.” The period also revealed divisions in Colonial society. In Massachusetts, loyalists tended to cluster near fall-line cities while revolutionaries abounded in the western counties. Radicals and moderates argued about what to do with the newly formed militias even as formerly restrained British garrisons began to itch with punitive desire and Colonial governor Thomas Gage came to regard the colonists “for what they now were, near enemies”—and enemies who were better prepared for war than the British authorities imagined.
The authors shine a light on a dark corner of the struggle for American independence.