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Road to the Revolution

Celebrating our Independence

Karen and Jay share thoughts on the events leading up to the American Revolution and celebrate the courage and spirit of our Founding Fathers.

Life is not a straight line.  When you’re actually in the moment, experiencing events, you really don’t know how things are going to turn out. In fact, as Steve Jobs once said, ‘You can never connect the dots going forward.  But in retrospect, you can connect them in a straight line.’  It all seems so obvious in retrospect.  So true in life.  Also, as we share here in today’s Sunshine Report – so true in recounting the events leading up to the American Revolution.


When you put it into perspective, achieving independence from Great Britain was undoubtedly a challenging, arduous, and must have been seen to be an impossible journey for the early American colonies. The road to independence was marked by years of escalating tensions, political struggles, and growing unrest among the colonists. Issues such as taxation without representation, restrictions on trade, and increased British control over colonial affairs created a powder keg of resentment that eventually exploded into open rebellion. 

As one indication of how strong the bitterness toward Great Britain had become, there is an historical marker in my hometown of Newport, New Hampshire.  It bears an inscription that commemorates the fact that on June 20th, 1776, the 151 residents of the town of Newport voted unanimously in favor of Armed Rebellion against the British!’  I take great pride in the courage and spirit exhibited by my fellow Newporter’s of that critical era.

Many of the founding fathers and other patriots knew that by declaring independence, they were famously risking their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.  As we observe July 4th this year, it’s important to remember that the signing of the Declaration of Independence was a moment that forever changed the course of history. The signers of the Declaration knew that by affixing their names to this document, they were effectively committing treason against the British Crown. They were putting their lives on the line and risking everything they held dear for the cause of freedom and independence.

In the end, the unified decision to declare independence galvanized support for the revolutionary cause, inspired countless others to join the fight for freedom, and ultimately led to the birth of a new nation founded on the principles of liberty, equality, and self-government. The courage and determination of those who signed the Declaration of Independence continue to inspire and resonate with people around the world to this day. So, as we gather with friends and family and celebrate our nation’s independence, I urge you to take a few minutes to go back and closely read this remarkable document. As you do, I’m nearly certain that you will feel a renewed pride and admiration for those brave patriots who gave us the freedom that we enjoy today.

The Road to Revolution: How a Series of Escalating Events Sparked the American Revolutionary War

It wasn’t just one event – one moment – that triggered the Revolution.  It was a series of events that had built up over time.  To refresh your memory, here is the basic storyline.


-            The Stamp Act:  It began with the Stamp Act of 1765, which imposed taxes on paper goods, legal documents, and other items, demanding revenue from the colonies without their representation in Parliament. This legislation ignited widespread riots and protests across the colonies, where "No taxation without representation" became a rallying cry.


-            The Townshend Acts:  Following the uproar over the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts of 1767 further inflamed tensions by taxing essential imports such as tea, glass, and paper. The colonists responded with a series of boycotts against British goods and acts of civil disobedience. The British response was to send troops to Boston in 1768 to enforce order, which only heightened the sense of occupation and oppression felt by the colonists.


-            The Boston Massacre:  These mounting tensions erupted in the Boston Massacre of 1770, where a confrontation between British soldiers and a crowd of colonists turned deadly, resulting in the deaths of five colonists. This incident was used by colonial leaders as a potent symbol of British brutality and injustice, galvanizing further opposition to British rule.


-            The Boston Tea Party:  The situation took a dramatic turn with the Boston Tea Party in 1773. In direct response to the Tea Act, which granted the British East India Company a monopoly on tea sales in the colonies, a group of colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded British ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor. This bold act of defiance was a clear message to Britain that the colonies would not tolerate unjust laws.


-            The Coercive Acts:  In retaliation, the British government enacted the Coercive Acts in 1774, also known as the Intolerable Acts, which included measures such as closing Boston Harbor until the dumped tea was paid for, altering the Massachusetts Charter to reduce self-governance, and allowing British officials accused of crimes to be tried in Britain. These harsh measures were meant to punish Massachusetts and deter other colonies from resisting British authority, but instead, they unified the colonies in opposition to British tyranny.


-            The Battles of Lexington and Concord: The conflict turned violent at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. British troops were dispatched to confiscate colonial military supplies in Concord, but they were met with resistance from the colonial militias. The skirmishes resulted in the deaths of several colonists and British soldiers, marking the outbreak of open armed conflict and the beginning of the Revolutionary War.


-            The Brutal British Attacks:  The brutal British attacks on coastal towns like Falmouth (Portland) and Norfolk, where towns were burned, further solidified colonial unity against a common enemy. These aggressive actions by the British galvanized the colonies, leading to the formation of the Continental Army and the decision to declare independence. Each of these events built upon the previous grievances, ultimately creating a crescendo of resistance that culminated in the fight for American independence.


-            Honoring the Legacy:  As we celebrate the 4th of July, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to the courageous colonists who stepped forward to challenge tyranny and secure our independence. Their unwavering resolve and sacrifices laid the foundation for the freedoms and liberties we cherish today. Without their bravery in facing overwhelming odds, the United States might never have come into existence. Let us honor their legacy and remember that the rights and privileges we enjoy are a direct result of their extraordinary efforts and enduring spirit.

Shots Fired in New Castle, NH – The True Beginning of the Revolution

Although it is popularly believed that the first shots of the Revolution were fired in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, we in New Hampshire know otherwise. The pre-revolutionary battle at New Castle, New Hampshire, known as the raid on Fort William and Mary, holds a special place in our state’s history, highlighting the pivotal role New Hampshire played in the early struggle for American independence.  This daring raid, which took place on December 14, 1774, was not only a significant act of rebellion against British rule but also marks the moment when the first shots of the Revolution were fired!.

By way of context, New Hampshire's strategic coastal location made it a vital point of contention in the colonial resistance. Fort William and Mary, located on Great Island (now New Castle), guarded Portsmouth Harbor and housed essential military supplies, including gunpowder, which was in short supply among the colonial militias. The fort was critical in protecting the New Hampshire coast and its thriving maritime trade.

Under the leadership of John Langdon and John Sullivan, both prominent figures from New Hampshire who would later serve with distinction in the Continental Army and in the newly formed United States government, a group of about 400 men from the Portsmouth area mobilized to seize the fort's armaments. The success of this raid provided a significant morale boost and essential supplies that would aid the revolutionary cause in New Hampshire and beyond.

New Hampshire’s involvement in the raid was a precursor to the broader revolutionary efforts that would culminate in the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This bold action demonstrated the state's commitment to the principles of liberty and self-governance that would be enshrined in the Declaration. The raid also helped to galvanize support across the colonies, contributing to the unity and resolve that were crucial in the fight for independence.

Today, Fort Stark, the site of the raid, stands as a historical landmark in New Castle. I often go running past it, as do other runners and walkers who frequent this route.  And, each time I pass, it instills in me a special sense of ‘Granite State Pride!  It serves as a testament to New Hampshire's early and active participation in the struggle for American independence. The bravery of those New Hampshire patriots is commemorated every Fourth of July, a reminder of the state's significant contribution to the founding of the nation. The spirit of resistance and the quest for liberty that drove the raid on Fort William and Mary are integral to the celebrations of Independence Day, reflecting the enduring legacy of our state’s role in the birth of the United States. We are so very grateful for those men and women that helped win our freedom!  I encourage you to visit this site where history was made NH State Parks - Fort Stark State Historic Site.

Positive Profiles of the Week – The Amazing ‘Signers’ from New Hampshire!

This week we are delighted to highlight the three courageous Granite Staters who affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence - Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, and Matthew Thornton. Their signatures symbolized a deep commitment to the foundational principles of our new nation, and we are beyond proud to honor them as our ‘Positive Profiles’ this week.


Josiah Bartlett was born on November 21, 1729, in Amesbury, Massachusetts. He pursued a career in medicine and moved to Kingston, New Hampshire, where he quickly gained respect as a skilled physician. Bartlett's keen intellect and leadership abilities propelled him into the realm of politics.Bartlett's political career began in the New Hampshire provincial legislature, where he emerged as a strong advocate for colonial rights. His steadfast opposition to British policies earned him a place in the Continental Congress in 1775. Bartlett played a crucial role in the debates leading up to the adoption of the Declaration, and his vote was the first recorded in favor of independence. As a signatory, he risked not only his own life but also the welfare of his family and practice. Bartlett's unwavering belief in the principles of liberty and self-governance drove his actions. After signing the Declaration, he continued to serve New Hampshire as Chief Justice of the Superior Court and later as the state's first governor under its new constitution. His lifelong dedication to public service underscored his patriotism and commitment to the young nation.


William Whipple was born on January 14, 1730, in Kittery, Maine. Before his political career, Whipple was a successful merchant and sea captain, a background that provided him with a broad perspective on the economic and political issues facing the colonies. Whipple settled in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and became active in local politics. Elected to the Continental Congress in 1776, he brought a pragmatic and strategic mind to the debates. Beyond his congressional duties, Whipple served as a Brigadier General in the New Hampshire militia during the Revolutionary War, contributing to the pivotal American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. Whipple's dedication to the cause of independence was evident in both his legislative and military roles. His signature on the Declaration symbolized his commitment to the principles of freedom and justice. Post-war, he continued to serve as a judge, shaping the legal foundations of the new nation.  Note: You can still visit his house just a few blocks away from us down the street in Portsmouth.


Matthew Thornton was born in Ireland in 1714 and emigrated to America with his family, eventually settling in Worcester, Massachusetts. Thornton trained as a physician and established his practice in Londonderry, New Hampshire, where he became a prominent community figure. Thornton's political involvement included serving as President of the Provincial Congress of New Hampshire and as a member of the Committee of Safety. Although he joined the Continental Congress later than many others, his reputation as a patriot was well-established. He signed the Declaration of Independence in November 1776, firmly aligning himself with the revolutionary cause. Thornton's signature represented a deep commitment to the ideals of liberty and self-determination. After the war, he continued to serve New Hampshire as a judge and state legislator, reflecting his enduring dedication to the new nation’s principles.


Together, Bartlett, Whipple, and Thornton embodied the spirit of New Hampshire’s contributions to American independence. Their signatures on the Declaration of Independence marked their unwavering resolve to forge a new, free nation, leaving a legacy of courage and commitment and we are forever grateful!  Gentlemen, we thank you and on this special occasion, we take a moment to honor your selfless devotion to the creation of our blessed nation.

Quote of the Week:  From the Declaration of Independence

 "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." - Declaration of Independence


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