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Desperate Sons
Book Discussion Guide -
Chapters 4 - 6

Welcome to Chapters 4 - 6 of our Desperate Sons Book Discussion Guide. Our American History Book Club helps you increase your understanding of American history and principles of the American Revolution. Desperate Sons by Les Standiford delves into the origins of the Sons of Liberty, those rebels who encouraged the rebellion against Great Britain, especially looking at the lives of John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry.

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In chapters 4 - 6, the issue of whether or not the American Revolution was primarily rooted in economics or in the principles of liberty is examined. We see the first signs of opposition rising against the Stamp Act as the colonists form Committees of Correspondence to organize the revolt. Many colonists pass resolutions condemning taxation by Parliament following Patrick Henry's example in Virginia.

Newspapers spread the anti-British rhetoric across the colonies and the first acts of violence break out in Boston when stamp distributor Andrew Oliver and Lt. Governor Thomas Hutchinson have their personal property destroyed by an angry mob. Hutchinson writes an ominous warning to Parliament that they should heed the colonists' demand to repeal the Stamp Act or risk "a total lasting alienation of affection" between the colonies and the Crown.

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This page has Chapters 4 - 6 of our reading guide. You can also go to the first page and start reading with us from the beginning here - Desperate Sons Book Discussion Guide.

Find other book discussion guides on our American History Book Club page.

Desperate Sons by Les Standiford

Chapters 4 - 6:

Storm Before the Calm
Nourished by Indulgence and...


  • The question of whether or not the American Revolution was primarily based on economics or on the ideology of freedom and liberty is discussed.
  • The population and demographics of colonial America are discussed, including the origins, occupations, incomes and educational levels of the colonial population.
  • The term "Sons of Liberty" becomes popular after Isaac Barré uses it in a speech in Parliament defending the colonists and renouncing the Stamp Act.
  • Prominent citizens in the colonies form Committees of Correspondence to organize opposition and write letters of remonstrance to Parliament and the King against the Sugar Act and Stamp Act.
  • Patrick Henry gives a speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses challenging Parliament's authority to tax the colonies and stating that anyone who supports such a tax is an enemy of liberty.
  • Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina all follow Virginia's example and publish their own resolves in the mold of Henry's Virginia Resolves, protesting Parliament's right to tax the colonists and equating such an idea with tyranny.
  • The first acts of violence break out in Massachusetts when the stamp distributor, Andrew Oliver is hanged, beheaded and burned in effigy, his warehouse torn to the ground and house attacked. A few days later, the home of Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson is destroyed.
  • Governor Frances Bernard and Lt. Gov. Hutchinson write letters to London in the most serious terms advising Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act or suffer an all out rebellion in the colonies.

Discussion Questions

  • From what you know of the American Revolution, do you believe the Revolution was based on economics or on the ideology of freedom and liberty? Why?
  • What do you think of Arthur Schlesinger's idea that colonial newspapers pushed the anti-British rhetoric because it was sensational and would sell more newspapers?
  • Why do you think Parliament so underestimated the affect the Stamp Act would have on the colonies? Why did they not comprehend the animosity and passion that it would create?
  • If you were Thomas Hutchinson, what would you write back to Parliament after your house was destroyed and your life threatened by a mob angry about the Stamp Act?

Things That Caught Our Eye

  • An interesting fact - In 1760 the entire population of the colonies was around 1.6 million. In comparison, the city of Phoenix, Arizona alone had 1.6 million residents in 2010.
  • It's a very interesting point that the wording we know of Patrick Henry's Virginia Resolves speech is not certain. One Frenchman who was present even wrote that Henry apologized for offending anyone and pledged allegiance to the King! A very different ending than what we have been taught!
  • The letters from Governor Bernard and Lt. Gov. Hutchinson are so striking. Once the violence began, they had the pulse on the residents of Massachusetts and predicted that an all out rebellion would occur if the Stamp Act was not repealed.


  • "Most historians agree that no other action on the part of the British government [referring to the Stamp Act] was as effective a blow against its relations with the colonies."
  • "This shocking Act... filled all British America from one End to the other, with Astonishment and Grief... We saw that we, and our Posterity were sold for Slaves."
  • "Parliament, it was clear, was the devil incarnate in Patrick Henry's eyes."
  • "The consequences of the Stamp Act 'will be bad, & I believe I may say more fatal to you than to us,' he said. 'For God's sake use your Interest to relieve us. I dread the Event." - John Hancock
  • "Such will be the effects of not submitting to it that all trade must cease, all courts fall, and all authority be at an end." - Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson referring to the colonists' demand that the Stamp Act be repealed

Comment on this chapter

Desperate Sons Book Discussion Guide Chapters

Chapters 1 - 3 Chapters 4 - 6 Chapters 7 - 9
Chapters 10 - 12 Chapters 13 - 15 Chapters 16 - 18
Chapters 19 - 21 Chapters 22 - 24 Chapters 25 - 26

Thanks for reading Desperate Sons with us. If you have not yet ordered the book and would like to, you can order from Amazon here.

Find other book discussion guides on our American History Book Club page.

Last updated 12/18/12

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