I have been on the East Coast on my senior trip: a whirlwind crash course of Colonial American History. This trip contained pit stops in Salem, Boston, and Philadelphia. These cities are well renowned for their history: the senseless murder of nineteen, riots and acts of violence, and the meeting where the word independence was first uttered. This history is elegant, neat, and linear.
By visiting these locations, I came upon a realization: we know what happened because that's what we learned. Yet, what we're taught is never the whole truth. There is always a forgotten narrative. There are ones that may be too painful to study, ones that don't have adequate documentation or ones that didn't fit the image presented to us in school. Sometimes, the stories may even be that of the "bad guys." But, while history is happening all around us, how can we be sure which side is "right?"
Take Boston. In the years prior to the American Revolution, Boston was at the center of the rebellion and a handful of townsfolk had a habit of becoming violent. They hung a dummy of a tax collector from a "Liberty Tree" and tore down his factory by hand, only because he was to become the Stamp Act tax collector. Property was torched, people were injured, and there was a general air of storminess throughout the town. By the time of the Boston Tea Party, this group of people had a name: The Sons of Liberty. Unlike the mainstream narrative presented, the town was not cheering these men on. Instead, they were dead silent as men with faces painted black carrying Tomahawks destroyed 1.5 to 2 million dollars worth of Crown property.
These (most likely) drunk men carried Native American weapons meant to break apart crates. These men destroyed property. Property of a government they were still a part of, a government some still supported. About a third of Bostonians were self-proclaimed "Friends of Government" ("Loyalist" and "Tory" were insults given to Crown Supporters by the Sons of Liberty). To them, the Sons of Liberty were rabble-rousers and ones that ruined everything. The Boston Tea Party resulted in the Coercive Acts, a set of acts that resulted in the closing of the Boston Harbor, the banning of town meetings, and British soldiers coming back to Boston tenfold. The many were being punished for the actions of a few.
In a time where everyone was a proud British citizen, the Friends of Government were the ones who still believed peace could be achieved. Many enjoyed the security that the Crown provided and were not eager to lose that. These beliefs lasted all the way to the first shots fired at Lexington. After war broke out, many fled back to England, as staying in the colonies might have meant their death. To them, the Revolution was not a grand, eloquent formation of a new country. It was the result of violence and rebellion against Law and Order. They knew revolutions never succeeded. They thought they were on the right side of history.
Now, in this polarized and political America, one must wonder whether they are on the right side of history. Are the causes we're fighting for just? Will our success prove the betterment of America as not only a country, but as a republic? Is the battle we're currently fighting worth it? If so, fight on, and fight hard. The Sons of Liberty did.
The Friends of Government did too.