On March 3 one Benjamin Welsh, of Maryland, having had his house and buildings burnt, supposedly by parties who objected to his outspoken opposition to the Stamp Act, wrote to the Sons of Liberty in Philadelphia for assistance. The subscription list of those who gave is in existence; but, while some of those on it were unquestionably members of the society, others, we are led to infer, were rather unwilling givers.
The Stamp Act was repealed on the 18th of March, 1766, and on receipt of the news upon this side of the water the Sons of Liberty, believing that their work had been accomplished, disbanded.
In a letter from their London member, Mr. Nicholas Ray, he says, "Permit me therefore to recommend ten or twenty of the principal of you to form yourselves into a club to meet once a month under the name of Liberty Club and forever on the 18th. of March or 1st. of May give notice to the whole body to commemorate your deliverance, spending the day in festivity and joy."
In the reply from the Sons of Liberty in America, they write, "Your proposal with regard to a number of us forming ourselves into a club we have already had under consideration; but as it is imagined that some inconveniences would arise should such a club be established just at this time, we must postpone the same till it may appear more eligible."
The Sons of Liberty soon found the necessity for renewed action, for it was not long after they had planted their liberty pole on the common in New York in commemoration of the repeal of the Stamp Act before they were called to defend it against the attacks of the British soldiers, instigated by their officers, who showed great resentment against that which they considered was a victory of the liberty-loving colonists over the British government.
In the first of the "Farmer's Letters," which appeared in 1768, John Dickinson writes, "Benevolence towards mankind excites wishes for their welfare and such wishes endear the means of fulfilling them. These can be found in liberty only and therefore her sacred cause ought to be espoused by every man on every occasion to the utmost of his power." In the two lines of his song—
"Then join Hand in Hand brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall"—
Is the pith of all his letters; it was the motto of the times; it was the slogan which was eventually to lead the patriots to victory.
The non-importing resolutions were made stronger, and their being adhered to by weak-kneed and avaricious brethren and looked after by the patriotic Sons of Liberty forged another link in the chain that was forming to bind the Colonies together. Men now began to talk and write of America. There was much less heard of the Colony,— more of the Colonies. There had long been a Saint Andrew's Society, founded in 1749 to look after Scotchmen, a Saint David's for the Welsh, and in 1771 a Saint George's Society had been established for Englishmen, promptly followed by the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick for the Irish.
It is true that the bells in Philadelphia had been rung on May 1 for some years in honor of King Tammany, (PENNA. MAG., Vol. V. p. 29.) but the American spirit had been born as the natural results of the labor through which the country was passing, and it found expression in the Saint Tammany Society, for Tammany was certainly a full-blooded American.
It is evident that while the friends of liberty and America had accomplished much in the furtherance of their cause, it bad been performed generally under cover of secrecy, and it was now felt that the time had come for the organization of a society that could, openly have meetings which would unite those whose minds secretly held the thought expressed in later years of America for Americans.