Massachusetts Historical Society
America's oldest historical society, founded 1791.

Lessons

Lesson for Core Concept #2: Attempting to Resolve Disputes by Communication

Duncan Wood, Newton North High School, MA

In both Britain and America, those involved in economic and political disputes used a variety of tactics and forms of communication before resorting to military action.

Colonies Fight British Taxation

Introduction:

The colonial American separation from Britain did not occur because of one dramatic incident. Instead it was the slow escalation of an argument in which no middle ground could be found that led to the American secession from the British Empire. The colonists felt put upon because of Britain’s many attempts to levy taxes on them. Colonial Americans believed that taxation without direct representation in Parliament made them not citizens of Britain, but a subjugated people like the Irish.

This lesson is designed to give students a look into the nonviolent political tactics used by the colonies to kill the taxes levied by Britain. Though initially successful, Parliament’s anger caused by these tactics would elicit responses that would in turn anger the colonists and lead to armed conflict.

Objectives:

  • The reasons the colonists thought the taxes were unfair.
  • The various political tactics the colonists used to try and defeat the taxes.

Documents

The Formation of the Sons of Liberty

The Badge of Slavery
Boston, February 24. Last Week was taken up ...
"Boston, February 24. Last Week was taken up ..."
Article from page 3 of The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, number 569, 24 February 1766

View Document

The Stamp Act

The Cost of Resistance

Non-Consumption and Non-importation

Merchants vote: block English trade!
John Rowe diary 5, 4 March 1768, pages 717-718
John Rowe diary 5, 4 March 1768, pages 717-718

View Document

The Boston Tea Party

"You Are ... Political Bombadiers"
The following was dispersed in Hand Bills among the worthy Citizens of Philadelphia ...
"The following was dispersed in Hand Bills among the worthy Citizens of Philadelphia ..."
Article from page 2 of The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, Number 968, 25 October 1773

View Document

Lesson Outline:

  • Give the class the background for why Parliament felt the need to levy taxes on the colonies after the French and Indian War.
  • Break the class into four groups. Give each group a copy of the readings above. Group One will read the The Formation of the the Sons of Liberty, Group Two The Stamp Act and so on.
  • Groups will read their documents and draw up a list of what political tactics (economic protest, public protest, written protest) the colonists used to defeat British taxation.
  • Groups will present their findings to the class.