Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Origin of the Second Amendment - Early Sources On America's Armed Civil Population, Part 2

What happened at the time of the Boston Tea Party? 

Updated  June 22, 2024
Many Americans died helping Great Britain defeat France and conquer Canada in the French and Indian War that ended in 1763. After that, Britain began treating the American colonists as if they were also conquered. Parliament imposed taxes upon Americans with no input from American legislative assemblies contrary to their rights and past practice. Well before the end of 1773, many Americans were vehemently opposed to British actions and determined to put a stop to them.

On November 29, 1773, one of Boston's selectmen wrote "twould puzzle any person to purchase a pair of p[istols] in town, as they are all bought up, with a full determination to repell force with force." Then on December 18th, he described what happened at the Tea Party two days earlier.

In the morning "a general muster was assembled" at the Old South Church numbering 5,000 to 6,000 men. A unanimous vote was taken that the tea in the three tea ships at the wharf should go out of the harbor that afternoon. Attempts were made by a ship's captain with a committee from the meeting to allow for the three ships' departure without paying the tea tax. The port officer refused. Then the committee went to another town to locate the governor, who also refused. Very late in the day when the committee returned with this news, there was considerable shouting at the Church, and the meeting broke up with more shouting and three cheers.

Immediately thereafter, about two hundred men appeared who were dressed like indians and marched two by two to the wharf, "each armed with a hatchet or axe, and a pair of pistols". By 9 o'clock, all the tea chests were broken and tossed into the harbor by these native american actors.

The population of Boston in 1773 included a maximum of approximately 3,500 males 16 and older. Assuming that every male over 16 from Boston attended the "general muster", it would have included a minimum of 1,500 to 2,500 men who were from the surrounding small towns.

Period actions like those described above indicate why the Founders understood the body of the people to be the militia and vice versa. In the next post, a vote of Boston's freemen in a town meeting recommending that the inhabitants without arms should arm themselves in September of 1768 will be addressed.

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