Betsy Ross Flag - Network Design

Protocols of Liberty: Communication, Innovation, and teh American Revolution [Book Banner from Title Page Image] Betsy Ross Flag - Network Design
William Warner [Author Name]
The University of Chicago Press [Publisher Name]
Overview [Link]
Introduction [Link]
Chapter 1 [Link]
Chapter 2 [Link]
Chapter 3 [Link]
Chapter 4 [Link]
Chapter 5 [Link]
Chapter 6 [Link]
Conclusion [Link]

The Liberty Tree: The Tree at Essex and Orange Streets (Snow) & Satiric British Cartoon,
"The Bostonian’s Paying the Excise-Man, or Tarring and Feathering" (1774)

LINKS: Gathering -- The Liberty Tree -- Tea Ship Arrived! -- First Continental Congress


By the summer of 1765, Boston Whigs had developed a place for public gathering and public protest: under the huge old elm, planted in 1646 (only 16 years after the settlement of Boston), on the property of Deacon Eliott at the intersection of Essex Street and Orange Street. It was dubbed "the Liberty Tree." The tree shared some of the features of the liberty that Boston Whigs aspired to defend: it was ancient and strong and available to the public, but also, as a living thing, it was also vulnerable to prunning or decay. The image on the top right, which comes from Snow's History of Boston (1825), suggests the peaceful pastorale protections offered by the tree.

In rousing the citizens of Massachusetts to action, the authors of the Votes and Proceeding (1772) make an oblique reference to this tree where they had periodically gathered to protest British measures. They express their confidence that Whigs must surely stand ready to defend the tree and the values that it embodies.

"We are sure your Wisdom, your Regard for yourselves and the rising Generation, cannot suffer you to doze, or set supinely indifferent, on the brink of Destruction, while the Iron Hand of Oppression is daily tearing the choicest Fruit from the fair Tree of Liberty, planted by our worthy Predecessors, at the Expense of their Treasure, and abundantly water’d with their Blood. [3]  (Votes and Proceedings, 33-34

The image on the lower right,"Bostonians play the Excise-man," is a Tory satire that foregrounds the violence doled out under this tree in the name of liberty. It gives the tree's name an ironic sense as the malevolent license of the Boston mob. After the outbreak of war brought the seige of Boston, Loyalists used the need for fuel and their hatred of the 'liberty tree' to justify reducing it to firewood. However, after the evacuation of Boston in 1776, tourists, as well as prominent figures like the Marquis de Lafayette, continued to honor with a visit the stump of Boston's "Liberty Tree."


Liberty Tree at Essex & Orange Strees (Snow)
British Cartoon featuring Liberty Tree

Back to Top