“Through You we will push back our adversaries.”
– Psalm 44:5
It was another raucous debate in British Parliament. In 1765. The transcript for the controversial Stamp Act:
Mr. Townshend: “Will these Americans, children planted by our care, nourished by our indulgence …, protected by our arms, … will they grudge to relieve us?”
Mr. Barre: “[Were] they planted by your care? No! They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated country, where they exposed themselves to … [extreme] hardships. [Were] they nourished by your indulgence? They grew by your neglect, [by your] sending persons to rule over them … [which] caused the blood of these sons of liberty to recoil within them!”
The Stamp Act, taxes imposed directly upon American colonists to pay for the costly Seven Years’ War, sparked an enormous backlash across the Atlantic. In Boston, a gang of activists assembled and later adopted that name — “The Sons of Liberty.” On Aug. 12, 1765, they decided an object lesson should be given to the British. They built effigies (life-size dummies) of two British leaders and hung them on the Liberty Tree, a prominent elm in the town center. Their daring leader was “First Captain General of Liberty Tree” Ebenezer Mackintosh the Rioter, who happens to be my great, great (about seven generations here) grandfather. He was by trade a shoemaker, among the lower classes of tradesmen.
So a shouting mob marched the streets and damaged a building constructed to distribute the hated stamps. Boston merchants quietly cheered. However, more serious, destructive riots occurred on Aug. 26. City leaders were stunned. Gov. Bernard summoned a counsel the next day and learned that “one Mackintosh, a shoemaker, was among the most active in destroying the lieutenant governor’s house and furniture. A warrant was given to the Sheriff … after arresting Mackintosh, the sheriff quickly released him.
Patriot leader Samuel Adams documented that stamp distributor “Andrew Oliver … was forced by the Sons of Liberty, with much indignity, to appear at Liberty Tree on Dec. 17, and in the presence of two thousand people to declare on oath that he would never take any measures to enforce the action. The shoemaker, Mackintosh … stood at his right side.”
What would embolden a lowly, impoverished shoemaker to lead a riot against the British government? It appears that his rebel DNA ran deep. When the Romans invaded Britain 20 centuries ago, their efforts stopped at the Highlands of Scotland, home of the fierce and fighting Scottish clans including the Mackintosh. Hardy and vigorous, the Mackintosh who did not fight was not a true Mackintosh. Oliver Cromwell captured several hundred after the battles of Dunbar and deported them to Boston, where they were sold. So it was an interesting surprise to learn that my ancestors were slaves – from Scotland. (One of life’s injustices – you can’t choose your ancestors. Apparently I share this family tree with such luminaries as Oliver Wendell Holmes and two New England governors.)
Four generations later, Ebenezer was born in Boston into a home of hardship and poverty. His mother died, his father, Moses, left town, and at age 14 he was apprenticed to his uncle Ichabod Jones as a shoemaker. At age 20 he enlisted in the British military’s campaign against Canada and fought at Fort Ticonderoga in New York. Returning to Boston he was hired as a fire fighter, was elected a “sealer of leather” (inspector) and opened a shoe shop.
After the Stamp Act was repealed, Ebenezer married and settled into a quiet decade of matrimony and family until his wife died. Then Britain imposed the Tea Act of 1773.
Patriot leader Samuel Adams reached out to the Sons of Liberty, and under cloak of darkness on Dec. 16, 1773, dozens of individuals in Mohawk warrior disguises boarded three English ships and tossed 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor. “This made the tea unsuitable for drinking. Even for Americans.” While their identities were kept secret, subsequent writings identified my fearless forefather as one of the tomahawk-wielding leaders. (My husband says he is not at all surprised.)
The next summer, Ebenezer Mackintosh left town with his children and tools and moved to Haverhill, N.H. He fought in the Revolutionary War with the New Hampshire regiment in 1777, and later served as a scout. He returned to a quiet life in New Hampshire after the war.
While we remember the statesmen and generals who fought for our nation’s freedom, we should not forget that those wars would not have been won without the foot soldiers. More than 231,000 men served in the Continental Army, never more than 17,000 at a time. They were humble, ordinary men, of varying backgrounds, perhaps with flaws, who possessed little and gave it anyway for their families and countrymen. We owe a debt of gratitude to these humble warriors.
Ebenezer Mackintosh: Continental Army, New Hampshire Regiment; Son of Liberty: a feisty and fearless American patriot. Lest we forget.