And what of the threat, what of Gage’s order to enforce the Coercive Acts, by any means necessary?
That is the question I left you with last week. It would be so easy to just start telling the history of Lexington and Concord at this point, to drive on with the story. As good as the story is, I want to help everyone understand the why, as much, or more, than the how of our revolution.
You can see by now that there was no one event that triggered our revolution, no single flash of smoke and fire that created a rebellion. You could better describe the cause as a cascade of events, little things that built up over time, until their weight as a whole, was more than the population could bear. Modern historians might point to the Coercive Acts as the last straw, the one thing that caused the colonists to take up open rebellion. Others might say the Tea Act, or the Port Act. I would disagree. The colonists had endured many such insults from the crown for years, prior to 1774.
I am not a smart man, but I am a student of behavior, and I am often amazed at what motivates people. I tend to think of the change in the colonists` attitudes like Grandpa watching the news on TV. Grandpa will grumble at what he hears most every night, sometimes he will stand up and bellow his dissatisfaction at the TV. Occasionally, Grandpa will take off his loafer before he stands, and shake it at the TV, as if he might launch it through the air towards the offending newscaster. But, most of the time, he just shakes his shoe and sits back down.
I don’t think the Coercive Acts were any more intolerable than the other acts that made the colonists grumble. No, my vote goes to the Powder Alarm. When it became clear to General Gage that the colonists had no intention to repaying the cost of the tea dumped in Boston Harbor, he decided to quietly go about disarming the local militias, as a means of defusing the situation. In all fairness, General Gage had the best of intentions at heart. He set out to remove any powder and arms he could find from the area, and move them to ships and forts under military control.
On September 1st 1774, 260 regulars (King’s troops, red coats, lobsterbacks, regulars) commanded by Lt. Madison, rowed up the Mystic River to near the town of Somerset and removed the powder from the local powder house. In the opinion of the colonists this was outright theft. Rumors flew across the countryside that the Regulars were marching, men had died, and Boston was under attack. By September 2nd, people began heading to Boston from all over the countryside. Militias were forming up to march to the rescue of those beleaguered Bostonians. Thousands of armed men were on the move.
Now, they soon realized Boston was not burning, no shots had been fired, and they returned home. But the fact that the colonists were ready and willing to take up arms, and had the ability to do so quickly and in larger numbers than his own, was not lost on General Gage. He, in fact, canceled his plan to seize the powder at Worcester next. Recalling his troops to Boston, General Gage sent word to London that reinforcements were needed.
…if you think ten thousand men sufficient, send twenty; if one million is thought enough, give two; you save both blood and treasure in the end.
Gage knew! He saw it before Adams, Hancock, and Henry did I think. War was inevitable at this point. The colonists had made that final step. They had reached the place where they could tolerate no more, and they were now willing to fight.
The Iron Act, Stamp Act, Townshend Acts, and even the Coercive Acts, all played a part in changing the colonists` views. None of them alone would be the one thing that caused open rebellion. By the time Lexington and Concord happened, the die had already been cast. Armed conflict was inevitable. If not there, somewhere, but the colonists would accept no further abuses of their Liberty.
In my humble view the Powder Alarm was the final straw. That was the point at which the colonists stepped over the line from grumbling, to sending a No. 9 loafer sailing across the family room towards the TV. Lexington and Concord? That is what it sounds like when a loafer hits the TV.