Johnny occasionally visits Cilla at the Lyte family mansion. It bothers him that Lavinia’s attention has gone to Isannah’s head, but it bothers him more to see Cilla treated like a common servant. Mrs. Bessie, the Lyte’s cook and Cilla’s new best friend, is an ardent Whig and a secret ally of Samuel Adams. She tells Johnny that the Sons of Liberty plan to tar and feather the Lytes at their country home, but she promises to protect Cilla and Isannah.
As the rebel colonial forces begin to mobilize, resorting to action instead of just words, Johnny grapples with the complex morality of violent political protest. We see in these chapters that mob violence, rational political theory, and exuberant optimism all drive the Revolutionary fervor in colonial Boston. Whigs engage in acts of random violence, such as tarring and feathering Tory families, as well as in controlled acts of violence under the guise of political protests like the Boston Tea Party. Though Johnny believes in the political rhetoric behind such acts as the Boston Tea Party and the harassment of Tories, he is not convinced that lofty ends justify the violent means. Johnny does not actually examine the issues of Whig violence in an explicit, intellectual way. He is excited by the rational, idealistic underpinnings of rebellion, but sickened by the fact that human beings must be harmed, or even killed, to implement these rebellious ideas. Violence, however, particularly mob violence, is the only tool available to the Whig colonists, who wield no other power over England. Nearly a decade of fruitless boycotts and diplomatic political agitation has taught them that nonviolent means are not sufficient for their end.
In response to the Boston Tea Party, the British government passed a series of legislations known in the colonies as the -Intolerable Acts. The Intolerable Acts not only ordered that the port of Boston be closed until all the tea was paid for, they also -dictated that British officials accused of violence be tried in English rather than American courts, that British troops could be quartered in any town in Massachusetts, and that the Massachusetts charter be amended to greatly reduce the colony’s right to self-government. We see in Chapter VII that outrage over these acts spread far beyond Massachusetts, uniting the thirteen colonies for the first time. Not only did the other colonies provide Boston with food and other provisions, but also the leaders of other colonies began to seriously discuss a plan for a unified secession from Britain.
When the British forces occupy Boston, the idea of war and enemies becomes confusing for Johnny, as it does for many colonists. Though the colonial population resents the ruling British, there is little resentment toward the actual British troops. In fact, many colonials are friends with the British soldiers, as in the case of Johnny’s friendship with Lieutenant Stranger or the romance between Madge Lapham and Sergeant Gale. The soldiers are generally well behaved and not intrusive. In addition, apart from the officers, they are mostly poor boys who are no better represented in Parliament than the colonists. There is still the sense that the soldiers and the colonists belong to the same group, since the colonists thought of themselves as British citizens, and even intense political conflict could not shatter their cultural identity.
The tensions between the British soldiers and the colonists serve to illustrate the origins of many of our country’s most fundamental laws. The British harass Mr. Lorne and other printers of rebellious newspapers, threatening to hang them if they do not cease their seditious propagandizing. The desire of the colonists to voice protests gave rise to the constitutionally protected rights to free speech and freedom of the press. The anger over taxation without political representation led to a government based on democratically elected lawmakers. The constitutionally protected right to bear arms originated in the colonists’ mad scramble to create a fighting force to oppose the well-equipped, better-prepared British troops. In creating their ideal society from scratch, the creators of the new government drew heavily on the recent grievances they suffered under British rule, seeking to outlaw such grievances for the future.
The character of Lydia, the black washerwoman, highlights an often ignored and marginalized portion of the American Revolutionary movement—black Americans. While it is ironic that many of the architects of the American Revolution were also slave owners, it is equally remarkable that free American blacks and slaves also participated in the rebel cause despite their lower status in the colonies. The British often ignored or discounted slaves as a threat, so people such as Lydia were able to serve effectively as spies. The slaves’ position as servants within the inns and homes that the British officers occupied made them ideal for this crucial work. Freed blacks and slaves also served as Minute Men, and gave their lives for American independence. Sadly, despite their aid in the war for American independence, they would not win their own independence for nearly another century.