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Maps: Sites of Liberty

  Introduction | Boston | Philadelphia | District of Columbia


Map of Colonial Boston Colonial Boston -- "that noisy, dirty Town," John Adams called it -- has a bustling port and a strong tradition of political autonomy. In the years leading up to the first military skirmishes with Britain, Bostonians grow more and more unhappy with what they see as the trampling of essential rights. Adams residence, Braintree Boston Common State House Griffin Wharf, Boston Harbor Lexington Green Bunker Hill, Charlestown

Adams is a native of Braintree, a town near the sites of the earliest American battles for liberty.

Adams residence, Braintree
September 1765

The Stamp Act

Detail of Paul Revere engraving of the obelisk on the Boston Common commemorating the repeal of the Stamp Act.

Boston built a monument to celebrate the end of the Stamp Act.
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Newlyweds John and Abigail Adams settle in Braintree, Massachusetts. In July 1765 their first child, Abigail (Nabby), is born. That summer, Bostonians violently protest the Stamp Act. It taxes most printed materials, including newspapers.

Adams' first concern is his growing family and his law practice, but he is drawn into politics. He writes an influential document -- the Braintree Instructions -- attacking the Stamp Act and asserting colonists' rights.

..the printers [in Boston] intend to continue their papers, and to risk the penalties... if any of them were to stop on account of the Stamp Act, their offices would be in danger from the enraged people.
-- The Pennsylvania Gazette, November 7, 1765

Read more on the Massachusetts Historical Society Web site.

Boston Common
October 1768

British Troops Occupy Boston

British soldiers marching.

British soldiers marching.

In October 1768, 4,000 British troops arrive in Boston to maintain order and enforce more taxes imposed by the Townshend Act. They live on the Boston Common, a 50-acre parcel of land used for pasturing farm animals, hanging criminals and training militias.

John Adams works behind the scenes against British oppression, but when he is asked to speak publicly in a town meeting, Adams declares, "That way madness lies."

[British soldiers'] very Appearance in Boston was a strong proof to me, that the determination in Great Britain to subjugate Us, was too deep...
-- John Adams, in his autobiography

Read more on the Massachusetts Historical Society Web site.

State House
March-November 1770

The Boston Massacre and Trial

Detail of Paul Revere engraving of the Boston Massacre.

Paul Revere's illustration of the Boston Massacre.
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On March 5, 1770, British soldiers fire into a group of colonists in front of the State House (today known as the Old State House), killing five people. The colonists are outraged; John Adams calls it a "slaughter."

Still, Adams he agrees to represent the commander, Captain Preston, and eight British soldiers in court, believing that they are entitled to a fair trial. Seven of the nine defendants, including Preston, are acquitted based on the evidence.

As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the jury was exactly right.
-- John Adams, on the Massacre's 3rd anniversary, March 5, 1773

Read more on the Massachusetts Historical Society Web site.

Griffin Wharf, Boston Harbor
December 16, 1773

The Boston Tea Party

Political cartoon showing England forcing America to drink tea.

In this cartoon, America is forced to drink tea.
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Colonists loudly oppose the 1773 Tea Act and the monopoly it grants the East India Company. On the evening of December 16, 1773, a group of men dressed as Indians board three tea-carrying ships in Boston harbor. They destroy 342 crates of tea, dumping them into the water.

Last Night 3 Cargoes of Bohea Tea were emptied into the Sea. This Morning a Man of War sails... There is a Dignity, a Majesty, a Sublimity, in this last Effort of the Patriots, that I greatly admire.
-- John Adams, December 17, 1773

Read more on the Massachusetts Historical Society Web site.

Lexington Green
April 19, 1775

First Bullets of the Revolution

Battle of Lexington

Fighting breaks out in Lexington.

On the night of April 18-19, 1775, Paul Revere and William Dawes ride from Boston to Lexington. They alert the Minute Men -- the colonial militia -- that the British are headed to Concord to destroy the colonists' munitions. Colonial rebels meet the British on Lexington Green. A shot is fired and fighting breaks out. The two sides skirmish again later that day in Concord, as British forces retreat.

..the 19th of April, changed the Instruments of Warfare from the Penn to the Sword... the Die was cast, the Rubicon passed, and as Lord Mansfield expressed it in Parliament, if We did not defend ourselves they would kill Us.
-- John Adams, in his autobiography

Read more on the Massachusetts Historical Society Web site.

Bunker Hill, Charlestown
June 17, 1775

Battle of Bunker Hill

Battle of Lexington

A 1775 illustration of the battle.
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On June 17, the colonists experience their first major battle -- and defeat. But victory comes at a price for the British. Some 40 percent of their troops -- 1,000 men -- are killed or wounded. Abigail Adams and her seven-year-old son, John Quincy, can see the battle smoke from Braintree.

The Day; perhaps the decisive Day is come on which the fate of America depends. My bursting Heart must find vent at my pen... God is a refuge for us. -- Charlstown is laid in ashes. The Battle began upon our intrenchments upon Bunkers Hill, a Saturday morning about 3 o clock and has not ceased yet...
-- Abigail Adams, June 18, 1775

Read more on the Massachusetts Historical Society Web site.

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