Sons of Liberty Letter, April 3, 1766
1p, approx. 5.5 x 8 in. New York, April 3d 1766. Lower left: "To ye Committee in Baltimore." Docketing on verso: "From the Sons of L. in NY / to ____ d____ in Baltimore / Dated Apl 3d 66."
A mysterious letter from the Sons of L, presumably the Sons of Liberty, in New York to their brothers in Baltimore discussing an act circulating throughout the Colonies. Presumably this was the Stamp Act which was passed in mid-1765 and caused considerable outrage in the colonies. It was the impetus for the formation of many of these branches of the organization. So much outrage was generated,in fact, that Britain repealed the act March 18, 1766, but that news may not have reached the colonies yet. (It took a while for letters to cross the Atlantic.) Here was the message from New York to Baltimore:
We are favoured with yours of 24th Ultimo by Mr. McClure with your which we conceive to be as efficacious as any that we have seen.
Eastern provinces in all which it has been approved of and since sent westward
We desire that you wd. forward Copies of it to all ye Southern Governments with as much Dispatch as possible, for we know not how soon we may be put to the test by that pack of infernal rascals – Granville and his Minions.
Whenever opportunity offers we Should be glad that you would communicate to Pensylvania [sic] as much as possible.
We should be fond of yr. opinion by the quickest conveyance relative to a General Congress in case the Act is to be enforced. By means of which a plan might be found to be pursued by the whole – as we expect our fate is Decided ere now, the sooner you communicate the better.
We are with ye utmost esteem
Gentlemen yr Hble Svts.
The Sons of L (Sons of Liberty) were a secret organization formed in 1765 in Boston in opposition to the Stamp Act. Other chapters formed almost immediately throughout the colonies, including New York. Notable members or "The Loyal Nine" (Boston) included: Paul Revere, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, Benedict Arnold, and Samuel Adams. Less than reputable members were tavern mongers and wharf rats. The motley group organized the Boston Tea Party, published articles in newspapers, and printed broadsides all over the colonies. There is little known about the covert organization. Most of the information is from recovered documents and an invaluable account from an original member, years after the organization dissolved.
The signer of this letter is unknown, but clearly literate and educated, as indicated by the use of words such as "efficacious." We were unable to match the hand to the more prominent members - Alexander McDougall, Isaac Sears (both privateers), Joseph Allicock (African American - unable to locate exemplar), John Lamb, Marinus Willett (not either one of them - exemplars in George Washington Papers).
Many of these men tried to remain anonymous. What they were doing bordered on treason, or at least terrorism. They often burned the offices of stamp sellers and other officials, and tarred and feathered many British sympathizers - officials and citizens alike. This is certainly a project for someone's research, but since we do not even know all of the members of these scattered chapters of SOL, it is hard to compare the hand with all of them.
It is not even clear who Mr. McClure is. He does not show up in most references to the Baltimore group. The letter was sent to "_____ D______." We were not able to locate who this might be, either. It is not one of the names on the letter sent from Baltimore to New York on March 8, 1766. In that letter Baltimore writes: "...That we will cheerfully cooperate with, and second all just endeavors made by our fellow Subjects in the Neighboring Colonies, to prevent the execution of that most unconstitutional Act commonly called the Stamp Act, and that we will pursue every necessary method to oppose the Introduction of that, or any other oppressive, arbitrary, and illegal Measure.... Our Society have also endeavor'd to form a Union of all the Countys in the Province, and from our Intelligence since rec'd we find it succeeds as we cou'd wish as the whole Province seems unanimous in prosecuting the same design....Our Society order us in a particular manner to return thanks to your Sons of Liberty for obliging our fugitive Stamp Master to resign his odius office, he having fled from the just Resentment of his injured Countrymen....(signed) Thos. Chase, Willm. Lux, D. Chamler, Robt. Alexander, Robt. Adair (https://seaofliberty.org/explore/sons-liberty/419.)
An important letter, although possibly to remain anonymous.
Stabilized at sometime in the past. Affixed to a small mat. With partial separations of old folds. Moderate toning and foxing.