Vail Daily column: Voice of a nation
“It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” — Samuel Adams.
More than 200 years ago, men and women were trying to make a living much like they do today. A few took definite action to improve their lives and life in their community. These, at the time, seemed to be small contributions to the world.
On this day, March 5, 1770, British soldiers patrolled the streets in Boston. The British had placed soldiers in the city at the request of customs officials to enforce the unpopular taxation recently placed on the colonies. Prominent citizens in the community were openly protesting this recent imposition of parliament, and a group had started to protest that evening outside of the Customs House. It was cold and snowy. The crowd was working itself into a frenzy.
The protesters became hostile, throwing snowballs and anything else within easy reach at the British guards outside the building. In response to an object being thrown, one of the soldiers fired his rifle. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the soldiers opened fire. Five Bostonians were killed and others wounded.
Almost immediately a subversive group of mostly tradesmen and laborers, later called the Sons of Liberty, began a widespread public relations campaign to build popular opinion against the presence of the British in Boston. Many of these locals were recovering from a tax-induced economic recession in Massachusetts, further adding a sense of righteous purpose to their cause. A 35-year-old local silversmith named Paul created a romanticized engraving of the incident that was soon circulated throughout the colonies.
At the same time, two Boston attorneys named John and Josiah offered to represent the British soldiers involved in the incident. Their acceptance of the controversial case would eventually lend credibility and legitimacy to a fledgling colonial legal system and to their later roles.
Another local chamber of businessmen had been meeting for several years to try to create a voice on behalf of local interests. In response to the incident, the Provincial Assembly gathered in order to take definite action and soon passed a vote to approach local British representatives regarding the presence of soldiers in Boston. A local failed businessman turned politician named Samuel was chosen to take word to the British governor.
Miraculously, the British governor granted the request and the soldiers were removed from Boston.
This minor success, rather than the end of the story, was only the beginning. Samuel soon connected with several other local statesmen. They began to discuss their vision for life in the colonies. One prominent statesman from Virginia named Richard began to frequently write to Samuel regarding the creation of an organized colonial voice.
This led to the creation of a letter exchange amongst the colonies. Soon, the new British governor of Massachusetts, a man named Gage, sent a veiled bribe and threat to Samuel and another of his friends, a man named John Hancock, to cease their organized PR efforts against the British government.
With ever increasing resolve, Samuel Adams and John Hancock gathered together many of the men with whom they had exchanged ideas. After locking themselves in a room, they proposed an organized system of representation in the colonies to actively move against British interests.
Many men in that room expressed concern. There would be consequences … perhaps war. In the end, it was decided to hold the first Continental Congress later that year in 1774.
Most of us grew up learning about the American Revolution in school. We summarize the conflict in a few brief paragraphs the majority of the time. The highlights of the American Revolution usually consist of a description of a few major battles or political acts: the Boston Tea Party, Valley Forge, Franklin’s enlistment of French aid. While all of these moments were important in the grand tapestry of the Revolution, many of us miss the key lessons.
Often, the greatest events in our own lives and in the world in which we live begin with the seemingly isolated or unrelated actions of a few determined individuals. We look back and see the manner in which our lives change, only seeing the design long after having lived the events that bring great change to pass.
Much of the future was realized on June 7, a few years later, when Richard Henry Lee stood among just over 50 of his like-minded peers and made a motion. “Gentlemen, I make the motion that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states, that they be absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be totally dissolved.”
Ben Gochberg is a commercial lender and business finance consultant. He plays, lives, works and is trying to do a little good in Eagle County. He can be reached for business inquiries or free consultation at 970-471-3546.