Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Pine Tree Riot of 1772

If you've studied American history, you've probably heard about the Boston Tea Party. But have you heard about the Pine Tree Riot?

Though not as well known as the Boston Tea Party, the Pine Tree Riot of 1772 was one of the more important, and earliest, acts of resistance by the American colonists leading up to the Revolutionary War. Like the Boston Tea Party, the Pine Tree Riot was resisting a form of taxation that the colonists considered unjust. In the case of the Pine Tree Riot, the tax was placed on certain pine trees that the colonists wanted to harvest.

Important Concept: The American colonists realized that it is not possible to have political and personal freedom without also having economic freedom. This is why they kept resisting unjust taxes. 

During the colonial period, white pines (which often grew over 150 feet tall) were used to construct ship masts. This quickly became an important export for the colonists. England realized the importance of these pines  and claimed ownership of all white pines of 24-inch & greater diameter in the colonies (the Mast Preservation Clause in the Massachusetts Charter in 1691). Over time, additional acts were passed reinforcing their claim, and in some areas even reducing the size of the claimed pines to as little as 12-inches in diameter.

A Surveyor of the King’s Woods, and his deputies, worked for the Crown identifying and marking, by carving a special arrow symbol into the pine, those pines claimed by the Crown. In order to harvest those pines, the colonists had to purchase a special Royal license, even if the pines were on property owned by the colonists. This created resentment among the colonists, who often would harvest the pines without the license.

Important Concept: Not only was the tax on these pines a form of taxation without representation, the American colonists also considered it a violation of their private property rights. 

In New Hampshire, in 1772, the English tried to enforce this tax on mill owners who refused to pay for the Royal license. Several Mill owners, joined by local townsmen (all with their faces blackened with soot), assaulted the Sheriff and Deputy sent to arrest one of the Mill owners, giving them one lash for every tree being contested, and running them out of town through a jeering crowd.

The Sheriff later returned with reinforcements, and eventually eight men were charged with rioting, disturbing the peace, and assault. They were found guilty and fined 20 schillings apiece, plus court costs.

Several of the rioters (Timothy Worthley, Jonathan Worthley, and William Dustin) later fought for the American side in the Revolutionary War, and the Sheriff (Benjamin Whiting) fought for the British side.

Importance: The Pine Tree Riot was one of the earliest acts of physical resistance against the British by the American colonists, and is considered by many historians as inspiring the Boston Tea Party almost two years later.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Star-Spangled Banner

The national anthem of the United States of America, The Star-Spangled Banner, is from a poem by Francis Scott Key entitled Defence of Fort M'Henry. Key wrote the poem in 1814, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry, on Baltimore Harbor in Chesapeake Bay, by the British Royal Navy during the War of 1812. The poem was later set to the music of English composer John Stafford Smith, and renamed The Star-Spangled Banner. The poem has four stanzas, although only the first is most commonly sung today. It quickly became a very popular patriotic song. In 1889, the US Navy began officially using it in Naval ceremonies. In 1931, it was named the official National Anthem of the United States by a congressional resolution signed by President Herbert Hoover.

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Steve the Balladeer sings the first and fourth verses of The Star-Spangled Banner:

Steve the Balladeer on the Internet


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