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Desperate Sons
Book Discussion Guide

Welcome to the Desperate Sons Book Discussion Guide from our American History Book Club. We invite you to join in and read Desperate Sons by bestselling author Les Standiford with us.

Desperate Sons by Les Standiford

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Our Discussion Guide contains a synopsis of the events in the chapter, several thought provoking questions about the reading, interesting points we would like to point out and some key quotes from the chapter. You can use the Discussion Guide for a formal discussion group or just use it to guide you through the reading on your own. It will help you to get the most important thoughts out of what you are reading.

As you read along with us, we encourage you to post your own comments about what you are reading with the Facebook comments at the bottom of the page. You can post here whether you have a Facebook account or not. If you do have a Facebook account, your post will appear on this page, as well as on your own Facebook page, so your friends can join in the discussion too.

If you decide to read along with us, please let our group know who you are in the comments! If you do leave a comment about the reading, be sure to tell us which chapter you are referring to!

And do please join in the discussion if you can. The more people that participate, the more we will get out of it! Our intent is to create a community of learners about the Founding Fathers and the foundation of America.

If you aren't able to join in the discussion from the beginning, don't worry, you can join in any time. Just order your copy of Desperate Sons from your favorite bookstore and join in when you can!

You will find the discussion guide for Chapters 1-3 on this page, while there are links to the other chapters at the bottom of the page. Note that this reading guide is not yet finished because we are posting as we read!

Find out about our other current book discussions at our American History Book Club page.

Desperate Sons

Desperate Sons is one of the only books to examine the Sons of Liberty in depth. The Sons are frequently mentioned in Revolutionary War histories, but there has not been an exhaustive study of the Sons themselves and their origin until now. This is a brand new book that came out in November of 2012, so if you get the book soon, you will be one of the first to read it!

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In Desperate Sons, Les Standiford takes us back to the origins of the Sons of Liberty during the Stamp Act crisis, when new taxes on nearly everything made of paper were levied on the American colonists by the British Parliament. The colonists resisted these taxes, primarily due to the fact that they were not represented in Parliament and they believed it was unjust for anyone to tax them without their consent. This is the origin of the phrase, "taxation without representation."

The colonists began to retaliate everywhere, threatening the lives and property of stamp distributors if they carried out their orders. This system of intimidation proved to be very effective. By the time the Stamp Act was to take effect, on November 1, 1765, not a single stamp distributor remained in the colonies. Every one had resigned.

This practice of intimidating officials and even the destruction of private property continued through the years leading up to the American Revolution every time a new British policy came along that the colonists disliked. Eventually, leaders of this resistance, such as John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and many others, organized and came to call themselves the Sons of Liberty. They are responsible for much of the early planning of resistance against the British government, including coordinating correspondence between the colonies, gathering military supplies, organizing military opposition and facilitating new governments in each of the colonies.

Les Standiford is the Director of Creative Writing at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. He is the author of twenty books, including Bringing Adam Home, the John Deal mystery series and The Man Who Invented Christmas, a New York Times Editor's Choice recipient.

You can order Desperate Sons by clicking on the Amazon image to the upper right. Click here if you are interested in ordering the Kindle edition . If you aren't too familiar with ebook readers, click here and we'll explain a little more about them to you.

Desperate Sons
Book Discussion Guide

Desperate Sons by Les Standiford

Chapters 1 - 3:

O Albany!
Measures Illegal, Unconstitutional and Oppressive and...
The Sons Are Born

Synopsis

  • Henry Van Schaack is confronted by residents of Albany, New York for applying to become the region's stamp distributor for the Stamp Act.
  • Ben Franklin becomes Pennsylvania's representative in London.
  • Prime Minister Grenville enacts the Stamp Act to help erase the huge debt gathered during the French and Indian War.
  • The various taxes and their prices are discussed and the colonists begin voicing their dissent to the new taxes.
  • Van Schaack is threatened and his property destroyed for refusing to sign a statement that he would not become a stamp distributor.
  • Van Schaack finally relents and agrees not to become a stamp distributor.
  • The local men who had pressured Van Schaack call themselves, "Sons of Liberty."

Discussion Questions

  • What is your opinion on the issue of "taxation without representation?" Is it just for a political body to tax people who are not represented in that body and why?
  • What would your response be if nearly every single item printed on paper suddenly had a new tax on it? Contracts, diplomas, newspapers, calendars, wills, etc.? And what would you think if you could be hauled into court and charged with a crime if you didn't pay the tax?
  • Considering the threats, harassment and physical destruction of property directed at Henry Van Schaack, do you consider the Sons of Liberty to be terrorists or criminals? Were their "crimes" justified?

Things That Caught Our Eye

  • There's a little bit of helpful information here when reading about British prices during the American Revolution. There are 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound!
  • Isn't it interesting that the Stamp Act taxes would have fallen most heavily on lawyers, the people most familiar with the law, who would be the most skilled at refuting it?
  • Ben Franklin is usually considered to be a brilliant diplomat, but isn't it interesting that he severely underestimated the American reaction to the Stamp Act taxes, even supporting its passage in London?

Quotes

  • "In short, in the minds of most Britons, the colonies existed primarily for the benefit of the mother country, and the colonists who went there should be pleased at whatever benefits they might accrue from association with the most powerful nation in the world."
  • "On March 22, King George III decreed that on November 1 would take effect the following: 'An Act for granting and applying certain stamp duties, and other duties, in the British colonies and plantations in America, towards further defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the same."
  • "The very act of taxing exercised over those who are not represented appears to me to be depriving them of one of their most essential rights as freemen, and if continued seems to be in effect an entire disfranchisement of every civil right." - James Otis
  • "Ultimately he appeared before the group, and despite his continued protest that it was 'illegal, arbitrary and oppressive,' he signed the oath. He had never sought the post of stamp collector for the British he swore; and he swore that he never would."

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 your copy here.

Find out about our other current book discussions at our American History Book Club page.


Last updated 12/17/12

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