Patriots' Day is a special holiday in Massachusetts. Because it is marked by public celebrations unique to each Massachusetts town, children grow up eagerly attending or even participating in parades and historic reenactments that commemorate the beginnings of the American Revolution. Through these, they become familiar with events and people that are tied to landscapes right outside their front doors. The Museum’s other blog, "Learning at the National Heritage Museum", highlights primary sources and provides lessons that can be used in the classroom or at home to help learners of all ages gain a deeper understanding of the familiar historic events that we celebrate on Patriots' Day.
With the material on the 'Learning Blog', rooted in the "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington and the American Revolution" exhibition, visitors can reconstruct the feelings and experiences that must have flooded the thoughts of the citizens of Lexington as Regular troops equal in number to the 800 people who lived in Lexington marched up to the Common in the early morning of April 19th. Why did seventy-seven members of Lexington's militia decide to assemble and confront the King's troops? Click on the links that follow to access the Learning Blog and find out.
The Massachusetts provincial court archives provide us with a window to glimpse what kind of community Lexington was before 1775. The town seems to have been an unlikely home for revolutionaries, with very little crime of any kind. In this peaceable community, however, provincial politics filled the meetinghouse, both at town meeting and through the sermons of Jonas Clarke. One vivid example is the Lexington Tea Party of Dec. 13, 1773. Three days before the Boston Tea Party, Lexington's selectmen resolved to boycott imported tea, newly taxed by Parliamentary Act, and, in reaction to the King's policy, "be ready to Sacrifice our Estate, and everything dear in life, yea and Life itself, in Support of the common cause." These strong words reveal the passion and resolve that took symbolic form in a winter bonfire on the town common, onto which the people of Lexington threw all their tea. This act of protest was reported on approvingly by the widely-read Worcester newspaper, The Massachusetts Spy.
The drama of Lexington's political actions unfolded against the backdrop of how the series of taxes levied on vital goods imported from England affected the people of Lexington. Both the Sugar Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act of 1765 made goods that people used virtually every day more expensive . Although the public mood of the town never turned riotous, as it did in Boston, the primary sources and activities on the Learning Blog show how citizens gradually developed the resolve to resist, and finally to rebel.
After more than ten years of buildup, the tensions caused by this fundamental conflict between Massachusetts colonists and their rulers exploded into a bloody confrontation, the Battle of Lexington and Concord. If we can fathom the "Why?" behind the first shots in the American Revolution, it becomes that much more engaging to delve into the "Who?", "What?", "Where?" and "When?" of that day. We can imagine how the chain of events on April 18th and 19th, 1775, might have been experienced by the children of Lexington families. While they watched their fathers and older brothers assemble with the town militia, the towns for miles around were filled with similar scenes of preparation for defense against the King's soldiers. The militiamen of Massachusetts and their families were not the only people anxiously peering at the horizon, straining to see what the day would bring - the Regular troops marching down the road towards Concord and their commanders surely also felt an unsettling sense of foreboding as they traveled further into the hostile countryside. Were any of them aware that the road would take them through the heart of Lexington, a community convinced that the sacrifice of life itself, in support of the common cause, might very well be the culmination of the town's resistance against the long series injustices meted out by the representatives of London?
There is much more to explore on the Learning Blog- we welcome your comments and questions! For information about in-house programs for school groups, please contact the Museum's Education Department (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 781 457-4142).
“The Battle of Lexington,” 1775, Amos Doolittle (1754-1832) - engraver, Ralph Earl (1751-1801) - painter, New Haven, Connecticut
Courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Connecticut
Teapot, ca. 1765, England
National Heritage Museum, 91.025.12a-b