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Brethren! Countrymen! That worst of Plagues, the detested tea shipped
for this Port by the East India Company, is now arrived in the Harbour:
the hour of destruction, of manly opposition to the machinations
of Tyranny, stares you in the face.”
This quote appears in Chapter VI, as
part of Samuel Adams’s rally cry. Adams writes this passage to rouse
up the colonists against the shipment of tea that the British are
forcing the Bostonians to purchase. Adams and the other rebel leaders
view the shipment as an act of British tyranny and another instance
of “taxation without representation,” since the colonists must pay
a small tax on the tea. When the British governor of Boston refuses
to send the pricey tea back to England, the rebellious Whigs organize
a controlled act of violence, now known as the Boston Tea Party.
Young men, dressed as Native Americans, board the ship and throw
all of the tea overboard. Historically, this act of rebellion was
the most dramatic one the colonists had ever staged, and it drew
a strong punishment from the British government: the port of Boston
was closed. The Boston Tea Party was significant because it set
off a series of events that led to the Revolutionary War. The colonists
were outraged by Britain’s stiff penalties, such as the Intolerable
Acts and the closing of Boston’s harbor. As a result, the colonists
banded together to fight against the injustice and declared a war
for independence. Adams’s quote expresses the anger and frustration
of the colonists that caused them to unite against the British and
emerge as a new, independent country.
Adams’s quote is also important because it shows how
the Whigs tried to unify the colonists against the British by making
them seem like an inhuman enemy. Many colonists still had ties to
the British and considered themselves English citizens. Adams realizes
that it is difficult to fight against a country if you feel you
are fighting against your family members, lovers, or friends. Adams
chooses his language carefully, and forces a distinction between
the colonists (“us”) and the British (“them”). He speaks to the
colonists, whom he calls friends, family, and countrymen, and the
“manly opposition,” showing that the colonists are human beings,
fighting for human rights. He asks the colonists to fight against
the British, whom he describes as an inhuman face and an unnatural
machine—a technological monster clamping down on the rights of humanity.
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