Friday, July 20, 2012

Drafting The Declaration of Independence


I am co-author of a new American history textbook for college students, The American Challenge: A New History of the United States. Below, in a passage I co-authored with Norwood Andrews, we discuss the impact of Thomas Paine’s incendiary pamphlet Common Sense in the critical days after the battles of Lexington and Concrod and the fierce debate over the Declaration of Independence.


In the days leading up to the American Revolution, the soon-to-be former colonists would struggle with reconciling a fight supposedly for freedom with the racist practice of slavery.   However, a significant number of Americans had traveled a long philosophical distance from when they considered themselves loyal British subjects. Beginning in January, copies of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense began to circulate through the colonies.  Over the year that followed, the pamphlet was reprinted no fewer than twenty-five times, with roughly half a million individual copies made.  Paine was a virtually penniless Englishman fleeing to America from a failed career as a corset-maker and tax collector, but along with a letter of introduction from Franklin, he brought a style of written expression that was clear, sharp, elegant, and fearless.  In Philadelphia he found work as an editor, but he would make his mark as an author of one the clearest arguments for the colonies’ political independence.  

With his skeptical, scientific turn of mind and his uncompromising temperament, Paine saved no respect for sacred traditions in his blunt pamphlet.  His complete lack of deference was breathtaking.  “The royal brute of Great Britain” was no guardian of his subjects’ liberties.  England was corrupt, not as a result of recent missteps or individually bad government ministers, but because kings by their nature tended to be corrupt tyrants. Governments existed to serve the people, not the other way around, and the British regime could not meet that basic requirement. “A government of our own,” he proclaimed, “is our natural right.”   British rule brought no practical benefits, recent British military attacks made reconciliation unthinkable, and independence was no more likely to lead to intervention by foreign powers or civil wars among the colonies. Paine was not only angry at injustice, however, but his pamphlet also offered a vision of an optimistic American future.  In his scripture-quoting yet fundamentally secular way, Paine reimagined America, as had earlier Puritans, as a shining city on a hill, a light to the rest of humanity:

O! ye that love mankind!  Ye that dare oppose not only the tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth!  Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression.  Freedom hath been hunted round the Globe.  Asia and Africa have long expelled her.  Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart.  O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.

Common Sense captured a growing public mood and helped to seal a permanent shift away from olive branches and petitions to the King to demands for a separate, new American nation.

DEBATING “INDEPENDENCY”


As the summer of 1776 wore on, heat, dust, and the usual unsavory smells permeated the streets of Philadelphia, and even the insides of its grand brick buildings.  In the Pennsylvania state house, in a stifling hall filled for a second consecutive summer by weary delegates from thirteen colonies, the windows had to be closed to keep out the biting horseflies.

Some hoped the Congress would launch not just a war of political independence, but a more profound social revolution as well. In writing to her husband in March of that year, Abigail Adams had playfully instructed him to “remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your Ancestors. . . . If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”  John’s effort to respond in kind betrayed mild indignation. America’s revolution would in many ways be a conservative one, aimed at replacing one government ruled by rich elites with one headed by a different, local set of the privileged.  Gender, racial and class inequality were not on the table in Philadelphia.


Some delegates still held out hope for reconciliation at the beginning of this summit, but the day was carried by those who advocated what they called “Independency.” In early June, a small committee of delegates to the Second Continental Congress had been assigned to draft a declaration of independence for consideration by the whole.  Sequestered in his boarding house, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, diffident in public debate but both meticulous and forceful in written argument, sought to frame a case that would draw upon the delegates’ shared experiences of recent years.

Taking his wording sometimes directly from the English philosopher John Locke, Jefferson’s declaration argued that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” were natural rights possessed by all people and that governments that failed to protect those rights were no longer legitimate.  The declaration listed alleged acts of tyranny committed by the British king and the Parliament, such as the closure of Boston Harbor after the Tea Party protest; the suspension of the right of trial by jury for cases involving smugglers; closing elected colonial assemblies; using foreign mercenaries to attack the colonists and so on.  Jefferson wrote that as a result of these violations of rights, the bonds between the British government and the colonies had been “dissolved.”

With minor changes made by Jefferson’s fellow committee members (John Adams and Benjamin Franklin), his draft was brought before the delegates in the airless room on June 28.  Eventually the Congress would reduce the length of the Declaration by one-fourth.  The Congress would eliminate Jefferson’s more controversial passages condemning King George III for encouraging the transatlantic slave trade.  Even though Jefferson himself owned slaves, he frequently attacked the institution of slavery as immoral. 

“[H]e [the king] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people, who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither . . .determined to keep a market where MEN should be bought and sold,” read Jefferson’s original draft.  Jefferson then condemned the king for “suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce . . .”   Southern members of the Continental Congress, particularly from South Carolina and Georgia, according to Jefferson, disdained the argument that slavery was in any way “execrable” and insisted on deletion of this passage. Meanwhile, some Congressmen did not support slavery per se but feared Jefferson’s words would undermine support for independence on the part of both Southern slaveowners and New England merchants profiting from the slave trade.  Some would acknowledge the contradiction of proclaiming the universal right to liberty while holding human beings as property, but decided the time to push for abolition of slavery had not arrived and that political independence from Great Britain remained the more important cause.  However, they did not remove a reference to Lord Dunmore’s offer of freedom to slaves who escaped from their masters and served in the British military or of the recent slave revolt supposedly plotted by Thomas Jeremiah.  The final draft of the Declaration condemns the king for “inciting treasonable insurrections of our fellow citizens” and exciting “domestic insurrections among us.”  Regardless of the arguments it engendered about slavery, the Declaration itself had been improved in many ways from Jefferson’s original draft. “This was no hack editing job; the delegates who labored over the draft Declaration had a splendid ear for language,” wrote historian Pauline Maier. 

Four days later, the delegates unanimously agreed on the core issue—“that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent States.” Writing to his wife Abigail in Massachusetts, Adams confidently anticipated that “the Second Day of July 1776” would be “celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the Great anniversary Festival. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”  The Congress, however, quibbled about wording for another two days before ratifying a final draft on July 4 and sending the text to a printer.  The die was cast. The “American Revolution” would not uproot society, but it would it become one of those rare points at which startling new possibilities existed, and the range of possible outcomes stretched the limits of human imagination.  


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Calling The President "A Monkey": Just Another Day Hate Radio



According to right-wing radio hater Barbara Espinosa, it’s not possible for her to be a racist because she has a Latino last name.

She insists that she is no bigot even though she referred to President Barack Obama as a “monkey” during a radio broadcast. Incidentally, when she compared the first African American president to a lower primate during a June 17 broadcast of her Hair On Fire radio talk show on KFNX, Arizona Republican chair Tom Morrissey was the guest and he never uttered a word of protest.


According to this right-wing talk show host, you can't be a racist if your last name is "Espinosa," even if you call a black man a "monkey. (Photo from http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/06/19/arizona-radio-host-voted-for-the-white-guy-because-obama-is-a-monkey/).

Fielding a call from a listener who described Obama as “the guy with the rabbit ears,” and who asked why anyone would possibly back the “idiot” in the White House, Espinosa responded, “I call him a monkey.  I don’t believe in calling him the first black president.  I call him the first monkey president.”   She then clarified that, “I voted for the white guy myself.”  (See http://newsone.com/2021269/barbara-espinosa-obama-monkey/).

After receiving a flurry of national attention, Espinosa said that her choice of words was inspired by a cartoon image of Obama as a monkey.  “The comment was prompted by the Google image cartoon that was sent to me,” she posted on her website, American Freedom by Barbara.  “With a last name of Espinosa, I’m anything but racist.”   She also defended her on-air remarks at her blog site:

“To set the record straight I did use the word monkey and Obama in the same sentence. Yes I did say I voted for the white guy. Unless there has been a takeover of America and free speech is no longer allowed and I can be put to death for making a remark, I refuse to take the fifth.” (See http://www.mediaite.com/online/radio-host-barbara-espinosa-stands-by-calling-barack-obama-a-monkey/).


An ad back when Phoenix AM radio station KFNX was proud to broadcast Barbara Espinosa,  They later replaced her with higher-rated racists. (Photo from http://www.mediaite.com/online/radio-host-barbara-espinosa-stands-by-calling-barack-obama-a-monkey/).

As noted, GOP chair Morrissey chose to say nothing during Espinosa’s racist rant, but instead only offered praise for the patriotism of Obama’s opposition.  “Those of us — and I believe this and it’s bias — those of us that do not support Barack Obama and act upon our love of country are motivated by that,” Morrissey said. “That’s why I say we’re patriots. I believe he is as wrong as wrong can be, and I hope that there’s enough people that think like we do — this group — so that we can defeat what I call, it’s like a national sickness.” (See http://www.mediaite.com/online/az-gop-chair-remained-silent-when-radio-host-barbara-espinosa-called-obama-monkey-on-air/).


Arizona GOP chair Tom Morrissey was a guest on the "Hair On Fire" radio show when host Barbara Espinosa called President Obama a "monkey."  Morrissey said nothing about the racist outburst.  (Photo from http://www.mediaite.com/online/az-gop-chair-remained-silent-when-radio-host-barbara-espinosa-called-obama-monkey-on-air/).  

If not a tacit endorsement of Espinosa’s racism, Morrissey’s silence doesn’t exactly represent a profile in courage.  Apparently the public outrage didn’t move Arizona Republicans to denounce her, but it did lead to KFNX to cancel her show.  The station tried to disingenuously suggest that the broadcast in question did not originate in their studios, but evidence suggests otherwise.  Here’s the KFNX statement:

“Barbara Espinosa does not host a show anymore on KFNX 1100, so the information is dated. She has not aired a show at KFNX for nearly a month. She currently hosts an internet show on Blogtalk radio to the best of our knowledge.

KFNX management, staff and sponsors do not endorse or agree with her viewpoints. Ms. Espinoza (like all KFNX Hosts) does have the First Amendment Right to say what she believes, but KFNX Host Contracts includes a clause which prohibits on-air slander of people.

KFNX no longer has a relationship with Ms. Espinosa, and again certainly does not support her comments. If those comments were made on KFNX, we would have terminated our relationship with her. We certainly apologize for our former relationship with Ms. Espinosa and are deeply sorry she said offensives things.

We do not know when the comments were made, but it is possible they were made in the past while airing on KFNX, or maybe could have been said on her current internet show on Blogtalk. We also do not know who posted the YouTube video. It is an edited video (and not dated), so it is unclear what context the improper comments were made.” (See http://jim.tarber.net/?p=220). 

Lest you be moved by KFNX’s act of contrition, the Phoenix station continues to carry other right-wing racist and anti-Semitic hosts such as Neil Boortz, who in 2006 called the mostly black victims of Hurricane Katrina  “just debris” (see http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2006/fall/overheard)  and in 2007 commented that, “Muslims don't eat during the day during Ramadan. They fast during the day and eat at night. Sort of like cockroaches." (See http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2007/winter/overheard).


Right-wing host Neal Boortz, whose show is still carried on KFNX, tries to prove he's not racist by sitting next to Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain before the New Hampshire primary.  Boortz once compared Muslims to "cockroaches."  (Photo from http://www.boortz.com/s/photos/). 

They also carry Michael Savage’s show.  Samplings of Savage’s thoughtful commentary on world events include calling the so-called “Developing” or “Third World” the “Turd World,” describing fellow talk show host Jerry Springer (who is Jewish), a “hooknose,” demeaning inner city residents as “ghetto slime” and charging that Latinos “breed like rabbits.”  Considering the other hosts still carried by the station, one wonders what line Espinosa crossed exactly. (See http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2004/spring/the-rating-game). 


Another KFNX host, Michael Savage, calls Jews like Jerry Springer "hooknoses," and says that Latinos "breed like rabbits."   (Photo from http://media.photobucket.com/image/michael%20savage/lizardjulia/savage-sm.jpg?o=11).

Comparing African Americans to apes and monkeys has been a recurring theme with white racists in the Western world since Europeans first encountered these primates in Africa starting in the 1500s and especially since the publication of Darwin’s evolutionary theories in the mid-19th century.  The comparison is meant to suggest that Africans and their descendents represent a lower stage of evolution that whites.  (For more on this theme in racism, see http://www.authentichistory.com/diversity/african/3-coon/6-monkey/index.html).  





Comparing Obama to an ape or monkey has become a favorite theme of the Republican right.  Above is just a small sampling o f images circulating on the internet.  Espinosa, sadly, is not exceptional in today's GOP.  (Above images of Obama from http://thenakedtruthinaconfusedworld.blogspot.com/2011/05/usa-obama-deception-why-cornel-west.html and http://thenakedtruthinaconfusedworld.blogspot.com/2011/05/usa-obama-deception-why-cornel-west.html and http://www.columnpk.com/president-obama-monkey-cartoon/)

Espinosa is despicable and deserves her unemployment.  She is, however, only par for the course on talk radio. And the mainstream Republican Party is happy to accommodate these white supremacists by keeping quiet when these bigots rave.

(For more, see http://wonkette.com/475902/arizona-talk-radio-gal-who-called-obama-monkey-has-excellent-reason-why-she-is-not-racist and http://www.americanfreedombybarbara.com/). 


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Slavery And The American Revolution


I am co-author of a new American history textbook for college students, The American Challenge: A New History of the United States. Below, in a passage I co-authored with Norwood Andrews, we discuss a last peace offering made to the British Crown by the Second Continental Congress and the role slavery played in the American Revolution.

Initially the American Second Continental Congress had been envisioned, like the First, as a kind of inter-colonial treaty conference working out a common response among the colonies to new actions by the British government.  But when delegates convened in Philadelphia in May 1775, the colonies were already in a state of undeclared war against the world’s leading imperial power.  Instead of convening for a brief, intense conference, delegates settled in for prolonged legislative debates and the difficult task of managing the war.  The ultimate objective of the colonial resistance continued to divide the delegates. During its opening months the new congress attempted, as John Adams put it, “to hold the sword in one hand, and the olive branch in the other.”

George Washington, who had commanded frontier troops and the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War, was one of a number of colonial military leaders who were eminent and politically well connected.  However, a uniformed member of the Virginia delegation – the largest colony -- to the Second Continental Congress, he appeared as an indispensable man at a critical moment.  On June 14, the Congress created the Continental Army, to be made up of new recruits from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, along with the New England militia around Boston.  Washington was selected as its commander the next day and immediately left for Massachusetts.  Washington won the trust of fierce advocates of independence and supporters of reconciliation with Britain alike. Even John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, the leading advocate of reconciliation, voted in favor of the army and Washington’s appointment.

Perhaps in return for his cooperation, Dickinson secured the delegates’ signatures to an “Olive Branch Petition” addressed to King George III, professing their loyalty as faithful subjects.  The deferential prose of the petition, which described the conflict between the colonies and Great Britain as painful and blamed the impasse on devious ministers and “artful and cruel enemies”, offers a window into the mindset of a colonial moderate:  honestly conflicted, still feeling fundamentally British as well as colonial.  In London, as Franklin, Adams, and at least a few others could see, none of it mattered.  In November, intermediaries on behalf of the colonies presented the Olive Branch Petition to George III.  The King refused to receive it.
 
The American Strategy:
The Invasion of Canada and the Siege of Boston

Waging war brought its own kinds of disappointments.  In late 1775 the Congress supported an ambitious effort to expel British forces from Quebec, bring the formerly French Canadians into the common struggle against London, and remove Canada as a source of likely threats to the colonies from the north and west.  The opportunity arose from an early victory at Fort Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain in northern New York.  Ethan Allen, a legendary frontiersman, land speculator, self-styled philosopher, and commander of a backcountry militia called the Green Mountain Boys, took on the project of capturing the fort. He was joined by Benedict Arnold, a Connecticut merchant and militia leader who had conceived the same project.  Despite their differences, Allen and Arnold surprised the token British force and seized the fort without firing a shot. Having gained the main strategic point between New York and the borders of provincial Quebec, the Congress approved an expedition that was ultimately led by General Richard Montgomery.

 Arnold, passed over for command, obtained a separate commission and a detachment of men from Washington. As Montgomery invaded from New York, took Montreal, and continued down the St. Lawrence River toward the British stronghold at Quebec, Arnold led his men on an impossibly arduous two-month advance up the Maine rivers and through the north woods.  

Ultimately it was all wasted effort:  when the two forces converged near Quebec, both were drastically reduced by sickness, hunger, and expiring enlistments, and when they attacked the city in a snowstorm on December 31, the large British garrison repelled them with heavy losses. With Montgomery killed in combat, Arnold maintained a semblance of a siege with his few surviving men.  With the impoverished American forces having worn out their welcome among French-speaking colonists, the entire project gradually collapsed. Failure to develop the alliance with French Canadians would prove potentially costly later in the war, as British strategists considered the same invasion route between Canada and New York.

Washington’s own work that winter was less adventurous but much more successful.  With British forces, now under General Howe, still nursing their wounds in Boston, the Continental Army focused on instilling discipline and building basic skills among the men in its ranks.  Lacking a proper officer corps as well as proper soldiers, Washington complained, as he had in his previous military career, about their rudimentary state, but worked with the materials he was given. By early March 1776, he felt ready to act.  Through a series of careful maneuvers, he successfully occupied Dorchester Heights—like Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill, a site looking down on Boston from a short distance—without exposing his forces unduly to a possible counterattack from the city. Then, to the amazement of the British, he quickly installed artillery, captured at Fort Ticonderoga, behind portable fortifications.  Facing the guns, Howe was forced to make a choice.  He chose not to attempt another uphill attack against fortified positions.  Instead the British Army evacuated Boston, while Washington and his men watched from above.  On March 17, as the Continental Army entered the city, no British armies of occupation remained in the thirteen colonies.

GEORGE III THROWS DOWN THE GAUNTLET
 
A Congress which could approve, and sign, a document such as the Olive Branch Petition was clearly not yet ready to declare independence.  Part of the point of the petition was to defend the Congress against accusations of disloyalty.  The Adams cousins from volatile, radical Massachusetts continued to bide their time and avoid provoking their colleagues.  Yet, the mood in America changed quickly in the months that followed.

The experience of being at war, under attack by British soldiers supposedly sent to defend the colonies only a few years before, had a profound impact. If King George III felt the colonisst were disloyal, the colonists felt betrayed. The king’s response to the Olive Branch Petition must have made an impression as well.  In fact, during the closing months of 1775, both king and Parliament added still further insults and injuries.  In a speech to Parliament in October, George III himself charged that the colonial rebellion was “manifestly carried on for the purpose of establishing an independent empire.”  In December, Parliament passed one more piece of punitive legislation.  The American Prohibitory Act closed the thirteen colonies to all legal commerce and empowered the Royal Navy to confiscate not only American ships, with their cargoes, but all other ships continuing to trade with the colonies, as well.

Lord Dunmore’s Emancipation Proclamation

For white Southerners, the most serious provocation came at the hand of Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia since 1771.  After formally dissolving the Burgesses in response to its denunciations of the Intolerable Acts, Dunmore, like other royal governors in other colonies, watched helplessly as unsanctioned committees claimed legitimacy and began exercising the powers of government.  When he attempted to prevent elections for the Second Continental Congress (again in response to orders from Lord Dartmouth) his own situation became dangerous.  Before leaving for the safety of a Royal Navy frigate, he warned that if militia units threatened him, he would “declare freedom to the slaves, and reduce the City of Williamsburg to ashes.”  In fact Dunmore was himself a slaveowner, but he placed military necessity ahead of his own interests.  In May he sent Dartmouth a proposal to “arm all my own Negroes and receive all others who come to me whom I shall declare free.”  Then, in November 1775, having landed at Norfolk with two companies of loyal British troops, Dunmore reasserted his authority as Virginia’s legitimate governor and declared free all slaves who “are able and willing to bear arms, they joining His Majesty’s Troops as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing the Colony to a proper sense of their duty.”

For the Virginia planters now committed to the colonial resistance, Dunmore’s proclamation, and the military campaign that followed, could hardly have been a deeper outrage or a graver threat.   As in the days of the Stamp Act, as masters debated the defense of their own liberties, slaves listened carefully and watched for opportunities for their own freedom.  In fact, Dunmore’s initial threats against Williamsburg were not his own idea.  A group of local slaves had offered to “take up arms” against Williamsburg in the governor’s defense.  News of the British government’s offer of freedom spread widely among excited Virginia slaves.  

In the closing days of 1775, as Dunmore marched inland from Norfolk through Princess Anne County, crowds of escaped slaves, including many women and children, flocked to his standard.  With hundreds of new volunteers, Dunmore’s officers formed a new “Ethiopian Regiment.”  Their uniforms included sashes bearing the inscription “Liberty to Slaves.”  (A second, smaller regiment was composed of white volunteers.)  The Virginia “committee of safety” sent a force of militiamen and a Continental Army regiment.  In the first major battle of the war in the South, at the hamlet of Great Bridge, on December 9, Dunmore’s regular troops and volunteers attacked but failed to overrun the patriot position.  Falling back on Norfolk, they were soon forced to withdraw to Royal Navy ships in the harbor.  Dunmore attempted to maintain the Ethiopian Regiment offshore, but smallpox swept through the crowded vessels.  Ultimately the surviving members of the regiment were assigned to scattered locations, including Bermuda, Florida, and British regular forces later occupying New York.

Throughout the colonies, slaves spread word about Dunmore, the “African Hero.”  While gathered in cities or isolated on their own estates, masters active in the patriot struggle lived in fear.  In South Carolina, in August 1775, a free black fisherman and boat pilot, Thomas Jeremiah, was accused of planning a general slave insurrection, to be supported by Royal Navy ships that he would guide into Charles Town harbor. Jeremiah, who owned slaves himself, had grown rich and probably stood out to white slaveowners because of his business success, which made a mockery of the theory of white supremacy upon which slavery rested. Despite flimsy evidence, a kangaroo court quickly convicted Jeremiah, who was hanged.  Escape plots, fears of insurrection, and the threat of British forces together preoccupied white Southerners.  Even in the North, with significant concentrations of slaves in port cities and a vastly larger proportion of free black residents, rumors of slave conspiracies terrified local elites.  Yet in the seaport cities where artisans active in politics had fostered the resistance movement, free blacks were well represented in the artisanal communities.  A substantial number of black militiamen fought with distinction at Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill. When Washington, an extensive owner of slaves, arrived outside Boston, he found himself in the ironic position of commanding black troops.  He worked out his own idea of a judicious policy, which the Congress later ratified:  he ordered an end to the recruitment of “Slaves and Vagabonds” into the regular army but would not expel black soldiers already serving.   In some regiments, such as in Connecticut, slaves took advantage of an offer of freedom in return for military service from the colonial authorities.  Many dropped the slave names imposed by their masters and took new last names like “Liberty” or “Freedman” or even “Washington” to celebrate their new personal independence.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"The Shot Heard Around The World": The Beginning Of The American Revolution


I am co-author of a new American history textbook for college students, The American Challenge: A New History of the United States. Below, in a passage I co-authored with Norwood Andrews, we discuss the final breakdown of British authority in the 13 North American colonies and the  “shot heard around the world” in Massachusetts that started the American Revolution.


 A DISINTERGRATION OF AUTHORITY

In September 1774, the First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia, with delegates from twelve colonies, appointed by legislatures where possible and by unofficial conventions where necessary.  (Georgia was the one colony that failed to participate.)  Behind closed doors, seven intense weeks of debate and committee work resolved differences over tactics and smoothed out differences between boycott advocates and Southern planters dependent on British manufactured goods. Ultimately, they found common ground, endorsing a declaration of rights; agreements on non-importation, non-exportation, and nonconsumption of tea; and a network of “committees of safety,” to be elected “in every county, city, and town,” which would enforce the agreements.  A Second Continental Congress was also scheduled for the following year.

Important as the Congress was, the most crucial developments may have been those occurring within local communities, particularly those well outside the seaport cities whose merchants, artisans, and laborers had long provided much of the leadership and support for the colonial resistance.  In long-settled farming regions and in the backcountry, in small villages and in the sprawling countryside, among the small landowning and tenant families who constituted 70 percent of the white population of the colonies, participation in the resistance developed slowly.  Even in rural eastern Massachusetts, Boston’s fights with redcoats and customs commissioners seemed distant. Humble farming folk, however, were hardly cut off from the surrounding world.  They read newspapers, attended evangelical revivals, and traded surplus crops for consumer goods, some even imported, but compared to city folk, their exposure (as producers or as consumers) to the impact of imperial tax policies was limited.

When the shift finally came, it was in response to the “Intolerable Acts.”  The extreme punishment inflicted by the British blockade on Boston and on Boston’s masses of impoverished artisans and hungry laborers, evoked an emotional response and a tide of donations from throughout the colonies.  (In rural Maryland, a member of a relief committee explained that, “those who cannot give money, can give corn.”) Participation in the charitable campaign created new networks of correspondence and led to further commitments to a common cause.  Moreover, for farmers within the colony, the Massachusetts Government Act posed an even more direct threat.  Appointments to colonial offices by General Gage, under the terms of the act, were intrusions into local government by an illegitimate pretender.  As villagers began withholding taxes, assembling in crowds to shut down county courts, and disabling other functions of the colonial government, the “committees of safety” mandated by the Continental Congress began filling the vacuum.  Farmers began joining the boycotts, watched their neighbors for signs of disloyalty, took charge of local militia units, and sought what one county committee called “a well-ordered resistance.”  The revolt against the British had moved from the cities to the country.

As Gage’s appointees and others loyal to his government fled the countryside and sought safety in Boston, the governor recognized that his authority outside the city had disintegrated.  An unauthorized Massachusetts Provincial Congress, featuring Sam Adams and other resistance leaders, now held sessions in Cambridge, across the river from Boston.  Other colonial governors found themselves similarly isolated.  In New York and Philadelphia, as large-scale “committees of safety” dominated by merchants and artisans asserted power, long-established colonial legislatures adjourned quietly and disappeared.  In Virginia, Lord Dunmore grimly acknowledged that local committees of safety were now the acting government of the colony.  By early 1775, opposition to British authority, once the distinct preoccupation of merchants, artisans, and leading planters, had emerged as a defining feature of American patriots.

ARMED CAMPS

The stage was set for war, most of all in Massachusetts, where rival governments now confronted each other with military force.  Gage kept his regiments in Boston through the winter, pondering his options, appealing to London for reinforcements, and waiting for orders.  Across the surrounding countryside, in towns and villages, militia companies held drills, and local volunteers enlisted as so-called minutemen, ready for military duty upon a moment’s notice. As they watched and waited, a well-organized network of spies monitored Gage’s forces and intercepted his scouts.  In the city itself, Paul Revere, William Dawes and other unemployed artisans kept watch in shifts.

In London, Lord North and his fellow minister William Legge, the 2nd Earl of Dartmouth and the secretary of state for the colonies, fumed over Gage’s inaction.  In late January, Dartmouth sent new instructions.  Without issuing formal orders, and without fulfilling Gage’s requests for thousands of additional troops, he demanded some kind of action “to defend the Constitution & to restore the Vigour of Government.”  Dartmouth was unconvinced that the Massachusetts resistance amounted to anything more than “a rude Rabble” incapable of seriously challenging the king’s regular soldiers.  In his own view—“in which His Majesty concurs”—the proper next step was to arrest and imprison the leaders of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress.
 
“THE SHOTS HEARD AROUND THE WORLD”:
THE BEGINNING OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
 
The arrival of Dartmouth’s letter in April 1775 forced Gage’s hand.  He organized an expedition to seize militia arms and ammunition he believed held in the town of Concord. Gage’s own scouting patrols alerted the patriot militias to the impending action.  Late on the evening of April 18, on Boston Common, Gage assembled a detachment of select infantrymen from different regiments.  In the middle of the night, they rowed across the bay separating Boston from its hinterlands and set off on the Concord road.

The British troops intended to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock, whom they saw as the leaders of a treasonous movement.  Revere hung signal lanterns in the Old North Church steeple to send a warning.  He then made his own crossing to the mainland and, with William Dawes, took off on horseback along a designated route through a succession of towns leading toward Concord, rousing the minutemen and sending other riders on their way.  In Lexington, he awakened Adams and Hancock, who (after some hours of delay and debate) agreed to head for safety.  

Ultimately Revere was caught by a British advance patrol before reaching Concord, but by then the alarm system was operating fully.  When the redcoat infantry reached Lexington, shortly after four in the morning, the village militia stood assembled on the green, some seventy men strong.  The regular infantrymen arranged themselves in battle formation.  As the minutemen attempted an orderly withdrawal with their arms, a shot rang out.  The British infantrymen then discharged two volleys with their muskets, and charged across the green.  Eight of the Lexington men lay dead, and ten were wounded (including the militia commander, Captain John Parker).  The war had begun.  More than eight years of bloodshed lay ahead.

If the “Battle of Lexington” had fulfilled Gage’s hopes, what then unfolded later on April 19 could only have confirmed his worst fears.  Marching onward, the infantry reached Concord later in the morning and searched the town.  They failed to find any large cache of weapons.  But they did set fire to several buildings, perhaps by accident.  Unwilling to reenact the scene in Lexington, the Concord volunteers occupied a nearby hillside, until they saw the smoke column rising from the town.  Arriving on one side of the Concord River, across from the main body of British troops, the minutemen fired on three isolated companies of infantrymen, which had crossed one of the village bridges, and sent them retreating back over the river.  Suddenly the momentum shifted.  As the infantry column marched back to Boston, it found itself facing a gauntlet of militiamen along both sides of the road, shooting from behind trees and fences, and attacking stragglers with hatchets and clubs.  The marching infantrymen defended themselves with bayonets and return fire, but what had been an intimidating show of force became a bloody ordeal.  By the time they reached safety, the British forces had suffered nearly three hundred killed and wounded.  Militia casualties numbered less than one hundred.

The shots fired at Lexington and Concord resounded across the colonies.  “This accident has cut off our last hope of reconciliation,” Jefferson wrote in a private letter, “and a phrenzy of revenge seems to have seized all ranks of people.”  John Adams later wrote that the news of the bloodshed “changed the instruments of War from the pen to the sword.”  Reflecting the dominance of patriot views in the colonial press, the initial published accounts converted the bloody, inconclusive events of the day into a debacle for the British. Believing that Great Britain had started a war on the colonies, new volunteers enthusiastically enlisted in militia companies. Gage, still under intense pressure to show results, recognized that militia forces on the ridges overlooking the Boston peninsula and its rivers and harbor might soon encircle his army.  With reinforcements of his own now arriving, Gage planned to secure the Charlestown Peninsula close to the North End of Boston, but he found himself beaten by a quick deployment of Massachusetts militia forces led by Colonel William Prescott.  

As Prescott hastily fortified his positions on the high ground above Charlestown—two ridgetops named Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill—Gage and his lieutenants prepared an assault.  On June 17, troops crossed over from Boston and marched up the hills.  Colonel William Howe, entrusted by Gage with the field command of some 1,700 light infantrymen, sent his men with bayonets directly against the militia fortifications and into a devastating volley of musket fire.  Howe and his subordinates managed to organize a second advance, into a second volley (or, as one British officer called it, “an incessant stream of fire”). But with Prescott’s militia now out of ammunition, Howe’s men overran the top of Breed’s Hill on the third try.  This time British dead and wounded numbered well over one thousand, including many of Howe’s subordinate officers.  Three days after Gage’s report was received in London, Dartmouth wrote a request for the general’s resignation.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night:  Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Boston Massacre And Other "Intolerable Acts"


I am co-author of a new American history textbook for college students, The American Challenge: A New History of the United States. Below, in a passage I co-authored with Norwood Andrews, we American and British reactions to Boston Massacre in 1770, the Boston Tea Party, and the British attempts to restore authority through the Tea Act and the so-called Intolerable Acts.


In the supercharged political environment of Boston in 1770, the stationing of red-coated troops only raised tensions further. Quartered on private properties seized from the city, guarded by sentries who challenged townsfolk at will, these soldiers inevitably provoked resentment by their mere presence.  Poorly paid soldiers seeking work on the side competed with local laboring men.  Fights with civilians led to prosecutions of soldiers in local courts, where convictions and fines confirmed the army’s sense of being surrounded by enemies.  When townsfolk confronted merchants accused of violating the non-importation agreement, soldiers on patrol served as targets of rage and frustration.


The explosion finally came on the moonlit night of March 5, 1770, when a detachment of army privates, commanded by Captain Thomas Preston, faced an angry crowd in front of Boston’s custom house.  The crowd began to throw snowballs, some containing rocks. One of the soldiers was hit by a chunk of ice, slipped to the ground, regained his feet and fired his musket.  The soldiers in formation beside him then fired into the crowd, hitting eleven men.  Five died, including Crispus Attucks, a mixed-race dockworker of African and Wampanoag descent.  (Historians are uncertain whether Attucks was a slave or free.)  Hutchinson, then serving as acting governor of the colony, faced the furious crowd the following day, promised justice, and managed to prevent further bloodshed.

The “Boston Massacre” had immediate local consequences.  The British troops were redeployed to an island fortress in Boston Harbor.  Samuel Adams, and others in the thick of the struggle to enforce non-importation, immediately sought to portray the incident as a deliberate attack on helpless civilians—a view illustrated in the famous engravings by local silversmith Paul Revere.  Captain Preston and his men were held and later tried in colonial court, defended by John Adams, Samuel’s second cousin.  John Adams was equally dedicated to the opposition movement but, as an attorney, believed in the principle of a fair trial.  Adams secured acquittals of all the defendants on murder charges (although two of the privates were convicted of manslaughter and released after being branded with an iron).

 Beyond Boston, the incident coincided with a partial reversal of imperial policy toward the colonies.  A new set of ruling ministers in London was willing to modify the Townshend policies, mainly in response to new petitions by London merchants.  The original rationale—that modest import duties and firm enforcement could prepare the way gently for future imperial revenue gathering—now lay in ruins.  The new prime minister, Lord North, secured the repeal of most of the Townshend duties but kept the tax on tea, which would continue to pay the salaries of governors and other leading officials. North calculated, correctly, that partial concessions would appeal to colonists afraid of further violence and tip the political balance against non-importation.  In July 1770, merchants in New York, over the objections of the local Sons of Liberty, declared that they would resume import shipments.  Over the months that followed, the resistance movement continued to die down.  In October, the Boston merchants gave in as well.  On Bowling Green at the tip of Manhattan, a new equestrian statue of George III was raised, to general acclaim.  For the time being, as Lord North had intended, peace, order, and normal commerce appeared to prevail once again in the British North American colonies.

The Boston Tea Party

A deceptively quiet pause of three years ensued, a time that encouraged complacency on the part of government ministers in London and frustrated firebrands like Sam Adams.  In fact, discontent and frustration with imperial rule continued to fester, sustained by minor incidents in the absence of major provocations such as the Townshend Acts.  The relationship between colonies and mother country had already been altered forever, though most in America and Great Britain did not realize it at the time.

The Tea Act shattered the surface calm, and set in motion a final sequence of events leading to war and independence.  The new Prime Minister, Frederick North, really had no intention of demonstrating imperial power over the colonies.  His attitude toward the colonies was relatively conciliatory.  The British Empire, however, still badly needed revenues to pay its expenses, and the leadership of that Empire remained adamantly opposed to allowing any self-rule for the colonies or their representation in the Parliament.  Then, a new fiscal problem arose.  The British East India Company, a vast commercial enterprise controlling British trade with India and the Far East that heavily impacted the overall British economy, teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.  The company 
wielded great influence in Parliament, and government ministers basically granted the company more favorable terms for the importation of its Indian tea to the American colonies. The company would now be allowed to bypass Britain (where even tea sold for transshipment had been subject to British import duties) and use its own ships and consignment agents to supply colonial markets (where the tea would now be available to consumers at lower prices, even with the Townshend duty included).  Americans would pay a lower price, but the East India Company would be able to undersell smugglers and would eventually achieve a monopoly that could come back to haunt the colonies.  Again, the colonists continued to object to a tax that had been passed without their consultation, whatever the amount of the duty. Tea represented a major issue. Americans preferred tea to coffee and quaffed gallons of it.  North received advice that the existing tea duty remained a sensitive issue, and that the Tea Act risked stirring new controversy if the duty were maintained.  But as a continuing source of funds for payment of royal officials, North reasoned that the duty was too valuable to be abandoned.

Responses to the Tea Act in the colonial ports of entry were decisive, reflecting the underlying strength and renewed intensity of the opposition movement.  Special circumstances made Boston’s response uniquely provocative.  As the Tea Act’s provisions appeared in the colonial newspapers, the Sons of Liberty insisted that the Act was a ruse to “trick” colonists into accepting the Townshend duty, and portrayed the East India Company as a rapacious monopoly extending its reach into the colonies—a perfect example of the general corruption that many colonists now associated with the mother country and its government. Merchants now faced the loss of their own profitable trade in smuggled tea, as well as the prospect of seeing the legitimate trade taken over by East India Company consignment agents.  On the question of allowing the new law to take effect, merchants were drawn back into alliances with artisans and planters.  The Sons of Liberty gently—or not so gently—persuaded local recipients of the company’s tea consignment rights to resign their commissions.  In New York and Philadelphia, incoming tea ships were warned away and sailed for England with their cargoes.  But Governor Hutchinson—who, true to form, had secured company commissions for his two sons—insisted on allowing three Boston-bound vessels to enter the port.  As the casks of tea remained on board, a standoff commenced between the ship owner and consignment agents, who wanted the vessels unloaded, and Adams and the other leaders of the Boston town meeting.

Once again the city was like a boiling kettle.  The committee of correspondence appealed to the rest of the colony for support.  Mass meetings at “Liberty Hall” and the Old South Church attracted thousands of townsfolk and thousands more from the surrounding counties, demanding that the ships leave for England.  Adams and the other Sons of Liberty felt compelled to act before a legal deadline empowered the governor to confiscate the cargo.  On the night of December 17, 1773, dozens of men dressed as Indians boarded the ships, smashed open the casks, and threw the tea into the harbor waters.  The event, later called the Boston Tea Party, had one long-term cultural impact on the future United States, marking when Americans would begin to prefer coffee to the tea preferred in the British Isles.  In modern times, right-wing protestors objecting to the federal debt and to President Barack Obama’s health care reform proposals would imitate the original Tea Party, dressing in colonial garb and wearing tea bags during protests in 2009.

The Intolerable Acts

English responses to the “Boston Tea Party” showed how much political, economic and emotional distance had grown between Boston and London.  Even previous friends of the colonies fell silent, finding the action incomprehensible.  Franklin was summoned before a council of ministers, ostensibly to defend a petition from Boston, and instead had to stand silently while his own character was impugned in extravagant terms, in obvious retaliation against Boston as well as against him.  (Perhaps defiantly, Franklin remained in England for another year but then left, never to return.)  For North, at this point, the only issue now involving the colonies was “whether we have, or have not, any authority in that country.”  

A package of proposals quickly approved by Parliament became known as the Coercive Acts. (They were also referred to as the Intolerable Acts).  These included the Boston Port Act, which closed the port to all commerce until the destroyed tea was paid for; the Massachusetts Government Act, which unilaterally rewrote the colony’s charter to strengthen the governor’s powers and limited town meetings to once a year; and new procedures for royal officials accused of crimes, allowing their trials to be held in England, which amounted to a grant of impunity, since witnesses for the prosecution were unlikely to be able to afford attending the proceedings.  Under the new law, General Thomas Gage, a longtime commander of British forces on the western frontier and elsewhere in the colonies, was appointed military governor of Massachusetts and sent to Boston in command of some four thousand regular troops.

A separate piece of legislation, the Quebec Act, was passed several months later, but colonists associated it with the Coercive Acts.  Much of it related to the internal governance of formerly French Canada and the rights of French-speaking Catholic residents, but it also included an expansion of the province’s boundaries south to the Ohio River and west to the Mississippi River, taking in vast lands previously granted to New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  This actually favored not so much the Quebecois themselves as the Iroquois nations occupying these lands, who were entitled to new protections against white squatters.  The British were already worried about the French and the Spanish, and hoped that by protecting the Iroquois they would make peace with one of the Native American nations within their Empire. By the same token, the act amounted to a new assault on the financial interests of colonial land speculators, whose claims made under the previous colonial boundaries were now rendered invalid.  With few exceptions, members of Parliament agreed that the rebellious colonies needed to be cut down to size. In addition, the Quebec Act granted freedom of worship to French Catholics living in the province and ended the requirement that Catholics renounce their faith before they could serve in public office.  This expression of religious tolerance infuriated many in the 13 colonies, especially in Puritan New England, where anti-Catholic prejudice burned the brightest.

The British government could hardly have done anything more to confirm the colonists’ worst suspicions.  Admittedly, even now, at least some divisions persisted among colonists.  A significant minority of Boston merchants, facing the extinction of the city as a trading center, were willing to offer payment for the tea destroyed during the Tea Party and beg for mercy.  Others elsewhere remained reluctant to go back to non-importation.  But the “Intolerable Acts” or “Coercive Acts” (as colonists called them) seemed far more of an immediate threat.  As the Boston Port Act took effect, with its catastrophic economic consequences for the city, colonists in other places recognized Boston as a martyr in a common cause.  In Williamsburg, Virginia, Patrick Henry and a young burgess named Thomas Jefferson proposed a “Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer” for their fellow colonists facing a “hostile invasion.”  (John Murray, the Fourth Earl of Dunmore and the royal governor of Virginia, then promptly dissolved the legislature.)  Once again, denied a legal framework to express their grievances, the colonists turned to each other and acted outside of the law.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.