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Desperate Sons
Book Discussion Guide -
Chapters 19 - 21

Welcome to Chapters 19-21 of our Desperate Sons Book Discussion Guide. Desperate Sons covers the pre-American Revolution years of the Sons of Liberty organization. It discusses how and why this organization began and details the leading factors that led to the Revolution. We are reading Desperate Sons, by author Les Standiford as part of our American History Book Club, in which we read an historical book about the founding period of the United States and post our observations and discussion questions for our visitors to read along.

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Chapters 19-21 deal with the Boston Tea Party, the Coercive Acts, called the Intolerable Acts by the colonists and the period leading up to the First Continental Congress. Sam Adams is leading the way in re-establishing the Committees of Correspondence throughout the colonies, while some very embarrassing private letters of Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson are revealed in public. The letters call for the removal of liberties and self-rule in Massachusetts.

Parliament passes the Tea Act in order to save the British East India Company. The Act lowers the price of tea for consumers in America, but they will have no taxes put on them in Parliament because they have no representation there. The Act leads to another boycott of British goods and the colonists refusal to allow any tea to land.

Several tea ships arrive in Boston and a stand-off occurs. Eventually the colonists, some dressed as Indians, board the ships and throw all the tea into the harbor. The Boston Tea Party is celebrated throughout the colonies, but in London, Parliament responds by passing the Coercive Acts, which the colonists call the Intolerable Acts. The Intolerable Acts shut down the port of Boston until the lost tea is paid for, remove the right of Massachusetts citizens to vote for members of the Governor's Council, restrict the citizens from holding town meetings, require colonial governments to house British troops and remove trials of British officials to England.

The colonists are outraged and begin planning a continent-wide meeting to discuss their response. They begin to elect members for a Continental Congress to be held in Philadelphia in September, 1774.

If you have not yet ordered your copy of Desperate Sons, you can order a copy from Amazon here.

This page has Chapters 19 - 21 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 19 - 21:

Prelude to a Party
Mad Hatter's Ball and...


  • Sam Adams encourages the reemergence of Committees of Correspondence throughout Massachusetts and writes several letters on behalf of the Assembly stating its position about their right to govern themselves. Governor Hutchinson challenges their assertions.
  • Virginia establishes its first colony wide committee of correspondence. Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson are on the committee.
  • All the other colonies join the network of committees of correspondence, including hundreds of cities as well.
  • Governor Hutchinson's personal letters are exposed by Ben Franklin, Thomas Cushing and Sam Adams. In the letters, he advocates much harsher treatment of Massachusetts' citizens by Parliament and the Assembly demands his resignation.
  • Parliament passes the Tea Act in an attempt to save the British East India Company. Many colonists vow not to drink tea and pledge to stop any tea from entering American ports.
  • The tea ships arrive in Boston, but are forbidden to land. The citizens order the tea's owners to ship it back to London and vow not to let any tea land on shore.
  • The colonists storm the ships and throw the tea into the harbor at the Boston Tea Party.
  • Another tea ship, the Polly is forced to turn back in Delaware.
  • The tea in Charleston, South Carolina lands but is put in a government warehouse and never distributed.
  • Parliament passes the Coercive Acts, called the Intolerable Acts by colonists, shutting down Boston Harbor, demanding restitution for the tea, limiting town meetings, removing the right to vote for officials and moving trials of government officials to England.
  • The colonies begain planning their first Continental Congress.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think of the following statement?: "The people," Hutchinson lamented, had prevailed and were now "in possession of all the power of government, for any purpose they thought fit."
  • What are your thoughts about Francis Rotch and Captain Hall who tried to bring tea into Boston on the Dartmouth? Rotch paid for the transportation of the tea and Hall was just doing his job as a captain.
  • If you were caught in the middle of the dispute between the colonists and England, as Francis Rotch was, with your livelihood and life on the line, but unable to comply with the crowds demands either, what would you do?
  • If you were the captain of a tea ship arriving in America at this time, what would you have done? What would your responsibilities have been?
  • If you had been a colonist in far off Virginia or Georgia, what would have been your response to the blockade of Boston Harbor, the prohibition on town meetings and the removal of trials of government officials to England? These acts aren't affecting you directly, only another far away colony.

Things That Caught Our Eye

  • Governor Hutchinson underestimated the letter writing campaign of the Committees of Correspondence, calling them a "foolish scheme." Later, however, he realized that towns everywhere were forming the committees, communicating with one another and coordinating their activities. It's amazing what a little communication can do.
  • The fact that the colonists were not moved by a reduction in the price of tea disproves the theory that some "historians" promote that has the colonists only being motivated by financial interests.
  • Did you know there was a duel fought over accusations of who exposed Governor Hutchinson's letters to Ben Franklin? That was new to us!
  • The fact that none of the participants in the Boston Tea Party seemed to know anyone else who participated seems rather... odd.
  • Funny... the New York Sons of Liberty formed a group called the "Mohawks" to do to any tea ship that arrived in New York what had been done in Boston.


  • "From the beginning, Adams argued, the colonies had not been considered 'within the realm of England,' and therefore they could not be considered subject to the laws governing that realm. Certainly, the inhabitants of the colonies had never given their assent to governance by Parliament, Adams said, and they were not about to give it now."
  • "What Adams was suggesting in those fateful lines was the formation of a Continental Congress in which the prospect of independence would be formally considered."
  • "Perhaps most damning was Hutchinsons's declaration: 'There must be an abridgement of what are called English liberties... there must be a great restraint of natural liberty.'"
  • "Still, he gathered a number of associates for a meeting of the North End Caucus, a Whig organization, at the Green Dragon Tavern, where those present voted to prevent the sale of British East India Company tea in Boston, even if it cost them their fortunes and their lives."
  • "What measures will the Ministry take in consequence of this? Will they resent it? Will they dare to resent it? Will they punish us? How? By quartering troops upon us? By annulling our charter? By laying on more duties? By restraining ourtrade? By sacrifice of individuals? Or how?"
  • "In the end, North determined to craft a set of punitive legislative measures, known as the Coercive Acts in England and termed the Intolerable Acts in the colonies, that would punish Bostonians and show the rest of the colonies that England meant business."

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.

Published 1/24/13

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