The Gathering Storm in America is an account of how a headstrong and misguided King, with the support of his puppet-like Parliament, sowed the seeds of the American Revolution. Through a series of unlawful acts, unwise restrictions, and unprecedented taxations, they threatened the liberty of the American colonists.
In the minds of the colonists, liberty was their most prized possession. To possess the liberty to worship in their own way, many of the colonists sacrificed friendships, homes, and their ways of life to immigrate to the colonies. To possess the liberty to farm their own land without the shadow of a landlord hovering over them, many more braved a dangerous journey across a treacherous ocean to an unsettled wilderness, and an uncertain future. To possess the liberty to chart their own lives and enrich the lives of their families, they risked everything. For if their liberty was lost, they believed they would have lost everything.
In the words of Patrick Henry, “Liberty is the greatest of all earthly blessings. Give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else.”
The Gathering Storm in America began as a prologue to Independence Now! Initially, it included a progression of quotes that related to the thoughts and reactions of events leading to the decision that the American colonies should separate from Great Britain.
In researching the events that progressed to the Declaration of Independence, the prologue revealed a story of its own that begged to be told about an all-but-forgotten Founding Father and his electrifying contribution to a storm that began slowly in the colonies, but as storms do when fueled by pressure, add energy to clouds already in formation. Gathering speed and momentum, the storm clouds broke into a maelstrom of events that inundated the colonies in successive torrents of unrest. The clouds began to form when, in 1761, James Otis, a Massachusetts lawyer, challenged the actions of the King and his Parliament on the basis of English law.
A brilliant young lawyer, Otis revered English law as the most perfect form of government devised by man. When Writs of Assistance authorized general search warrants for customs officers of the crown that allowed them—and anyone they appointed—to inspect homes and businesses suspected of containing smuggled goods in Boston, Otis challenged the legal authority of the Writs. No proof was needed. Mere suspicion was enough. This was in violation of the English Bill of Rights that under the Magna Charta protected the rights of property against unreasonable search and seizure. John Adams, who took notes of the court proceedings that followed, wrote to his friend, “Every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go, as I did, ready to take arms against Writs of Assistance” (Smith, 1976, p. 180).
For several generations, the American colonists felt proud to be subjects of the British Empire. During the French and Indian War, the colonies actively participated and contributed to the result of England’s victory over France. However, when the war was over, there appeared to be a fundamental change in their relationship with England. The colonists began to feel different than their British cousins, because they were being governed differently. Basic rights, under English law, were denied. There was interference in their trade with other countries, and their grievances were repeatedly ignored.
The process of separation began long before an actual clash of arms.
The Stamp Act in 1765 fanned the fire. In coining the phrase, “No taxation without representation,” James Otis made a plea for the right of colonial representation in Parliament. He wrote, “American representation in Parliament would provide a beneficial union of these colonies to the realm, so that all parts of the empire may be reconciled and consolidated. The English Constitution will then flourish with new vigor, and our national strength, power, and importance will shine with a greater splendor than has ever been witnessed by the sons of men” (Tudor, 1823). His plea was ignored.
In The Rights of the Colonies Asserted and Proved, Otis wrote, “We all think ourselves happy under Great Britain. We love, esteem and reverence our mother country, and adore our King. British America will never prove undutiful, till driven to it, as the last fatal resort against ministerial oppression, which will make the wisest mad, and the weakest strong” (Otis, 1764). The seeds of liberty were then and there sown.
To establish absolute control, King George III was driven to exert more pressure on the colonies after the French and Indian War. Similar to England’s actions in Ireland, the colonies were now being governed as a foreign nation that had been conquered and needed to be controlled and subdued. Over time, this exercise of power served to unite the thirteen colonies against England’s arbitrary rule.
The British viewpoint is also included in The Gathering Storm in America. There were those in Parliament who perceived the colonists as being ungrateful and reactionary, and there were those that recognized that the colonists’ reactions were justified. Benjamin Franklin, who was in London as an agent for the colonies, wrote newspaper articles and attended meetings to present the colonial points of view. But it was clear that the colonies were not being given their due concerning the rights and freedoms of British subjects.
Gradually, the relationship changed to “us” and “them”—a tribal mentality that unfortunately continues to influence many nations and governments of the world today.
When a relationship deteriorates from “we,” to “us” and “them,” separation is inevitable, and the resulting isolation can lead to the insanity of war.
James Otis predicted that “This country must soon be engaged in contests that will require neither the tongue nor the pen of a lawyer…If we are to be slaves, the living have only to envy the dead, for without liberty, I desire not to exist” (Tudor, 1823, p. 239).
Of the events that followed, George III declared, “Blows must decide.”
And the journey continued.
Otis, J. (1764). The rights of the colonies asserted and proved. Evans Early American Imprint Collection. Retrieved from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N07655.0001.001/1:5?firstpubl1=1470;firstpubl2=1790;rgn=div1;sort=occur;subview=detail;type=simple;view=fulltext;q1=American+representation+in+Parliament
Smith, P. (1976). A new age now begins. The history of America. Norwalk, Connecticut: The Easton Press.
Tudor, W. (1823). Life of James Otis of Massachusetts. Boston, MA: Wells and Lilly. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=fwBmAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA195&lpg=PA195&dq=American+representation+in+Parliament+would+provide+a+beneficial+union+of+these+colonies+to+the+realm,+James+Otis&source=bl&ots=uhRyO-Sheo&sig=NKO8O4PLcOLkIvlxVa9n_8S11SU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj6sYqN26XUAhVn6oMKHYfIBHkQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=American%20representation%20in%20Parliament%20would%20provide%20a%20beneficial%20union%20of%20these%20colonies%20to%20the%20realm%2C%20James%20Otis&f=false