Sons of Liberty

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 6 20:01:34 UTC 2012

Is there a direct connection between Isaac Barre's speech in the House of
Commons prior to the passage of the Stamp Act and the name of the colonial
association? The identity of the cause certainly suggests that Barre's
speech was known in the colonies and in Massachusetts in particular. More
specifically, is there any evidence of a direct connection?

Here's the excerpt of the rather famous speech (from Lossing's Field Book
of the Revolution):

Colonel Barré arose, and, echoing Townshend’s words, thus commented: "They
> planted by your care! No, your oppressions planted them in America. They
> fled from your tyranny, to a then uncultivated and 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, the
> most subtle, and I will take upon me to say, the most formidable of any
> people upon the face of God’s earth; yet, actuated by principles of true
> English liberty, they met all hardships with pleasure compared with those
> they suffered in their own country, from the hands of those who should have
> been their friends. 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 them in one department and another,
> who were, perhaps, the deputies of deputies to some members of this House,
> sent to spy out their liberties, to misrepresent their actions, and to prey
> upon them -- men whose behavior on many occasions has caused the blood of
> those SONS OF LIBERTY [11] 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 public justice in
> their own. They protected by your arms! They have nobly taken up arms in
> your defense; have exerted a valor, amid their constant and laborious
> industry, for the defense of a country whose frontier was drenched in
> blood, while its interior parts yielded all its little savings to your
> emoluments. 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 superior to me, in general
> knowledge and experience, the respectable body of this House may be, 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." For a moment after the utterance of these
> solemn truths the House remained in silent amazement; but the utter
> ignorance of American affairs, and the fatal delusion wrought by ideas of
> royal power and colonial weakness, which prevailed in that assembly, soon
> composed their minds. [12] Very little debate was had upon the bill, and it
> passed the House after a single division, by a majority of two hundred and
> fifty to fifty. In the Lords it received scarcely any opposition. On the
> 22d of March the king cheerfully gave his assent, and the famous Stamp Act
> -- the entering wedge for the dismemberment of the British empire -- became
> a law. The protests of colonial agents, the remonstrances of London
> merchants trading with America, and the wise suggestions of men acquainted
> with the temper and resources of Americans were set at naught, and the
> infatuated ministry openly declared "that it was intended to establish the
> power of Great Britain to tax the colonies." "The sun of liberty is set,"
> wrote Dr. Franklin to Charles Thompson [13] the very night that the act was
> passed; "the Americans must light the lamps of industry and economy."

[Original emphasis not preserved--several parts of the statement were
"echoes" of Townshend's speech in support of the Stamp Act.]

Lossing was certainly convinced of the connection. Here are the cited

[11] This was the origin of the name which the associated patriots in
> America assumed when the speech of Barré reached the colonies, and
> organized opposition to the Stamp Act was commenced.
> [12] The apathy that prevailed in the British Parliament at that time
> respecting American affairs was astonishing, considering the interests at
> issue. Burke, in his Annual Register, termed it the "most languid debate"
> he had ever heard; and so trifling did the intelligent Horace Walpole
> consider the subject, that, in reporting every thing of moment to the Earl
> of Hertford, he devoted but a single paragraph of a few lines to the debate
> that day on America. Indeed, Walpole honestly confessed his total ignorance
> of American affairs.
> [13] Mr. Thompson was afterward the Secretary of the Continental Congress.
> In reply to Franklin’s letter he said, "Be assured, we shall light torches
> of another sort," predicting the convulsions that soon followed.

But I don't seem to find any parallel reference to this fact among
contemporary history books (my sample is admittedly fairly small).


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