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Patriots and Pilgrims in the Revolution:

Liberty Song
by John Dickinson
Our worthy forefathers -
let's give them a cheer,
To climates unknown
did courageously steer.
Through oceans to deserts,
for freedom they came,
And dying, bequeathed us
their freedom and fame.
The Boston Gazette
18 July 1768

This is the story of a community in conflict.

The Plymouth experience in the Revolutionary era mirrored that of the 13 American colonies. In 1765, the public mood was indignant opposition to injustice. By 1776, the majority of Americans accepted what would have been inconceivable 10 years earlier -- a revolution in the cause of independence.

Revolution represented an unprecedented break with history and tradition. And nowhere was respect for tradition stronger than in Plymouth, New England's oldest town. The memory of the Pilgrim Forefathers was keenly felt by Plymoutheans as they responded to the tensions of the times.

In Plymouth, as throughout the Colonies, there was a wide spectrum of response to each new event in the growing division between King and Colony. Colonists weighed economic interests, family ties, and individual beliefs to ultimately reach a political decision.

Plymoutheans, however, also consciously used the memory of their ancestors, the Pilgrims, to justify political decisions. And in so doing, the Pilgrims became elevated to an even higher status than that of local ancestors. They became symbols of all Americans' quest for freedom.

We invite you to "meet" the men and women of this community --
the Patriots and Loyalists,
the civic leaders and slaves,
the heroes and housewives
-- as they face the challenges of
Plymouth in the Revolution.

a community in conflict

In 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act. The act taxed almost all sorts of paper, including newspapers, legal documents such as marriage licenses and diplomas, even liquor licenses and playing cards by requiring them to carry a purchased stamp. The tax was to defray the expenses of the costly French and Indian War, a war waged on American soil for the benefit of the colonies. Colonists across America were enraged because they had no voice in the matter. After violent demonstrations and riots across the Colonies, the act was canceled the next year.

Records of the Town of Plymouth
October 21, 1765:
Our youth, the Flower of this country are many of them slain, our treasure exhausted in the service of our mother country, our trade and all the numerous Branches of Business Dependent on it Reduced & Almost Ruined By severe acts of Parliament & now we are threatened by a Late Act of Parliament with being Loaded with internal taxes, without our consent

Judge Peter Oliver of Plymouth County
Origin and Progress of the American Revolution:
The Design of raising Moneys, by Stamps in the Colonies, was in Order, that they should Contribute to the lessening of that immense Debt which the British Nation had contracted in the late War...
It was a right that was justifiable by the Principles of the English constitution.

Parliament imposed a new tax in 1767.  The Townsend Act taxed glass, lead, paper, paint and tea.   Many Massachusetts colonists protested the taxes by boycotting British goods.   Groups of patriotic women known as "Daughters of Liberty" made their own cloth as an alternative to British silks.  Instead of British tea, they drank herbal brews of sage and other local plants.

Silver teapot, made in London in 1754. 
Owned by the Otis family of Barnstable

Records of the Town of Plymouth
March 24, 1774:
Whoever Continues to Sell or shall for the future expose for Sale in this town any India tea is & ought to be Considered as an Enemy to the rights of America

Resolves of the Town of Marshfield
January 31, 1774:
This town ever have and always will be good and loyal subjects to our Sovereign Lord, King George the 3rd, and will observe, obey and enforce all such good and wholesome laws as are... made by the Legislature

James Thacher of Cape Cod & Plymouth
Military Journal:
Tea drinking is almost tantamount to an open avowal of Toryism.  Those who are anxious to avoid the odious epithet of enemies to their country, strictly prohibit the use of tea in their families

Judge Peter Oliver of Plymouth County
Origin and Progress of the American Revolution:
The Ladies were so zealous for the Good of their Country, that they agreed to drink no Tea, except the Stock they already had by them; or in Case of Sickness.  Indeed, they were cautious enough to lay in large Stocks before they promised; & they could be sick just as suited their Convenience

Plymoutheans also consciously used the memory of their ancestors, the Pilgrims, to justify political decisions.

Samuel Baldwin, Pastor of First Church, Hanover
in a sermon preached at Plymouth on 22 December 1775:
Forced into an unnatural civil war, we are followers of [the Pilgrims] in tribulation, in defense of the liberties, the mighty blessing, descended from them to us as a natural inheritance

Plymoutheans were divided on the proper response to British oppression. Click here for the story of Plymouth's Old Colony Club, destroyed by this division.

Even though public opinion in the town was not unanimous, on 21 May 1776, Plymouth Town Meeting instructed its representatives to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress to declare for independence:

We your Constituents do instruct ...
that you exert Every power in you Vested in Defense of the Rights, the Liberty's and Property's of the American Colonies in General & of this Colony in Particular in opposition to the impious effort of the proud, the Imperious & worse than Savage Court of Great Britain, which Seems to be lost to Every Sense of Justice & determined to deluge all America in Blood & carnage...
that you without Hesitation be ready to declare for Independence on Great Britain in whom no Confidence Can be Placed Provided the Honourable the Continental Congress shall think that measure necessary


Plymouth Rock, long associated with the Forefathers, came to symbolize the spirit of rebellion and separation. During the Stamp Act controversy of 1765, the Pilgrims and their struggle for religious freedom were linked to the colonists' struggle for political liberties.

In 1774, a group of citizens led by Theophilus Cotton moved Plymouth Rock from the waterfront to Town Square, where it could be seen by all as a symbol of liberty. As the Rock was moved, it split. An observer compared the Rock breaking in two to the growing division between the King and colonies.

In 1775, James Thacher saw Plymouth Rock and was moved by its significance:
This Rock, with its associations, would seem almost capable of imparting that love of country, and that moral virtue, which our times to desperately require... Can we set our feet on their rock without swearing, by the spirit of our fathers, to defend it and our country?

The Royal Arms, a Lion and a Unicorn flanking the seal of George III painted in oil on a wooden board, hung in Plymouth's Court House. The arms were one of many reminders of the allegiance owed to the crown. Official town and county documents began with the phrase "In His Majesty's name."

By the early 1770s, many colonists were beginning to lose faith in King George and Parliament. "His majesty's name had lost its power; it can have no charms with the sons of liberty," said James Thacher, a young army surgeon, in 1776.

Others, however, remained loyal to the King. While they may have disagreed with his actions, they felt that disloyalty was treason. After the outbreak of the war, Plymouth Loyalist Gideon White, fearing for the safety of the Royal Arms, "rescued" them from the rebels in Plymouth and took them to Nova Scotia. His descendants returned the Arms to Plymouth in 1859.

Link to the stories of :

Want to know more about the Revolution?

First, visit Paul Revere's home at and George Washington's Mount Vernon at

Read from James Thacher's Military Journal at (go to the "Scholar's Showcase").  Lots of great articles and fantastic links, too!

Then, for nonstop online fun and learning about the Revolutionary War, visit!  Maintained by the Independence Hall Association, this spectacular and colorful site has a wealth of information.  For a sampling of what's available, log onto   to learn all about the Declaration of Independence and the men who signed it, and then pay a visit to George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge at

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75 Court St, Plymouth, MA 02360 | Phone (508) 746-1620