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Essay Sample: Were the Sons of Liberty Patriots or Terrorists?

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1590 words
Middlebury College
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Sons of Liberty were a pro-revolutionary organization formed by Americans mostly of British descent to protest against the Revenue Act of 1764. Although some white Americans in the colonies did not see the British government as oppressive before the Act, many changed their positions to fight against the new law (Paterson 1).This change of attitude toward the British Government led to the formation of Sons Liberty.

The Sons of Liberty used all forms of tactics to oppose the enforcement of the Revenue Act in the colonies. Use of mob violence, protests, intimidations, political rallies, and publications were some of the methods used to advance their agenda of liberty (Peterson 74-87).Members of this group were branded terrorists for using such tactics.

Who is a terrorist? A terrorist has been described as an individual or group of individuals who use violence to instill fear in order to advance their political objectives (Mannik 154-54). In context, the Sons of Liberty may have used violence and other unlawful methods to voice their dissatisfaction with the Government of Great Britain, but no other form of terrorism is more unlawful and unjust than economic exploitation of Great Britain. Besides, the colonial government used unfair and violent methods in suppressing the organization (Paterson 74-87).It appears that British government only wanted to exploit citizens of the colonies. As such, the Sons of Liberty had a right to take arms and fight for their liberty. Indeed, the organizations activities played the most influential role in sparking off the American Revolution of Independence (Paterson 1). Great Britain may have branded them terrorists, but their activities led to the birth of the United States. Had they not used such tactics, perhaps awareness about the injustices of the British would not have been created across the colonies, and the revolution would not have occurred hence the Republic would not have been born. Therefore, the Sons of Liberty were patriots and not terrorists.

What was the perception of equality between men and women in the early republic?

The idea of liberty upon which the Revolution of Independence was based did not apply to some groups in the new Republic. Women were regarded as weaker being with a weaker intellect and did not participate as they should have done in matters relating the running of the new Republic. For instance, women were confined to certain roles such as cooking and sewing. Murray argued that the mentioned roles would not bring out the best out of women because they limited their imagination. On the overall, the role of women in the new Republic was limited. They did not participate in the running of the political affairs of the early Republic.

Why are property rights so important to the American idea of suffrage?

Respect for property rights meant that every American regardless of race and sex. The Founders of the Union held a strong attachment to ownership of property because it was considered a right just as the right to liberty. It was considered important to idea of suffrage due to its origins in taxation of the British which led to the Revolutionary War of Independence. In other words, ownership of property gave a voice in public affairs.

How did the idea of democratic involvement evolve as we spread westward?

The idea of manifest destiny fueled the expansion. As the nation expanded westward, the American model of democracy was emphasized and spread. During the 19th century, it appeared asserting the Unions military might was part of the democratization of the region. Democracy evolved in the sense that respect for individual property rights was emphasized as a pillar of democracy. Annexation of new territories was thus considered a democratic right of the United States and her citizens.

What was the main cause of the Civil War?

Some scholars have argued that the disagreements between the states and the federal government were major factors for the outbreak of the Civil War. Leaders of Southern states held the view that the federal government did not have the constitutional rights to interfere with the economic activities of states (Woods 415). For example, the decision by the federal government to impose taxes on imported goods was interpreted in the South as interference in the economic affairs of the states. This because the taxes undermined commercial agriculture in the South (National Park Service; Woods 417).Since slavery was at the heart of plantation agriculture in the South, Southerners felt state sovereignty was under threat hence decided to break away.

Some states were admitted as slave-holding whereas others joined the Union as Free states. These compromises and agreements played out against the two regions as the North, whose economy was dominated by manufacturing, felt that slavery was not the moral way of creating wealth (National Park Service). On the other hand, the Southern states held the view that how their citizens created wealth should not have been the concern of the federal government because the Southern citizens were pursuing liberty and happiness as the Independence Constitution stipulated (Finkelman 14).

A combination of factors such state rights, sectionalism, the role of federal government and economic rights have been identified as the factors that led to the start of the Civil War. However, economic rights, state rights, sectionalism and intervention of the federal government in matters of the states were all tied to the institution of slavery (National Park Service; Finkelman 14-15).In other words, a section of the Union wanted to maintain slavery because it was their economic mainstay hence the friction between the federal government and the North. Therefore, the Civil War broke out due disagreements over the role of slavery in the mid-19th century America.

Were Jim Crow and the KKK a direct result of Reconstruction?

The enactment of Jim Crow laws and the rise of white supremacist group, the KK, were as a result of the Reconstruction policies. Lincolns economic plan to rebuild the South after the devastation of the Civil War was meant to restore prosperity and equality of all Americans regardless of race. This part of the policy was not received well by the former Confederate states who felt that equality of blacks could not equal whites regarding rights and privileges of citizens. This notion was rooted in slavery where blacks were considered as property. Through Congress, they pushed several legislations that sought to give back the privileges to whites which were lost after the Civil War (National Park Service). To force blacks into submission, terrorist organizations such as the KKK emerged to promote white superiority in the South ( Therefore, Jim Crow laws and the rise of KKK were as a result of the Reconstruction policies. Perhaps had Lincoln not been assassinated, the story of the South might have been different because he had a tough stance on equality. Unlike Lincoln, Andrew Johnson held a soft stance towards the Southern states. This made Southern states to engage in rogue legislation.

Would African Americans have been subjected to the oppression of the black codes if the South had not been placed in military districts and Confederate soldiers not been stripped of their rights?

The decision to administer the South by the military districts was instrumental in granting basic human rights to black citizens in the South. The military districts practically forced the adoption of the 13th and 14 Amendments down the throats of the people of the South (National Park Service). In any case, they had not shown any willingness to promote equality among races. But the fact that the grant of equal rights to blacks was forced on the South created anger and resentment towards to the North ( For this reason, African Americans would not have been subjected to black codes because the codes were a product of the apparent harsh treatment by the federal government after the end of the Civil War.

However, blacks would not have escaped other forms of racial discrimination in the South. Slavery was an important human resource to the economy of the South. Slaves worked with little compensation in cotton plantations. This explains why Southern states objected to the end of slavery and grant of rights to blacks (Post 289-95). In a sense, the Civil War destroyed this source of livelihood for the people of the South. As such, they would have looked for other ways to ensure that they continued exploiting blacks. Besides, centuries of slave labor created the notion that a slave was a property (National Park Service). Therefore, this would not have changed. In other words, black would still be considered inferior in the absence of military districts and alienation of rights of some Southern leaders.

Works Cited

Finkelman, Paul. "Slavery, the Constitution, and the Origins of the Civil War." OAH Magazine of History, vol. 25, no. 2, 2011, pp. 14-18.

Mannik, Erik. "Terrorism: Its past, present and future prospects." ENDC Proceedings, vol. 12, no. 1, 2009, pp. 151-171.

National Park Service. "Slavery: Cause and Catalyst of the Civil War." (U.S. National Park Service), 2017,

Paterson, Martha M. "The Resistance Movement of 1765-1776: The Sons of Libertys Quest for Independence and the Formation of the American Identity." 2010. Georgetown University Washington, D.C, MA thesis.

Post, Charles. "Plantation-Slavery And Economic Development In The Antebellum-Southern United States." The Journal of Agrarian Change, vol. 3, no. 3, 2003, pp. 289-332.

UShistory. "Reconstruction []." US History, 2018,

Woods, Michael E. "What Twenty-First-Century Historians Have Said about the Causes of Disunion: A Civil War Sesquicentennial Review of the Recent Literature." Journal of American History, vol. 99, no. 2, 2012, pp. 415-439.

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