This Day in History: Georgia defies the British government
On this day in 1774, the Sons of Liberty hold a meeting—except it was more than just a meeting! It was Georgia’s first formal act of defiance against the British government.
The center of the storm was Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah. Just a few weeks earlier, the Sons of Liberty had held a meeting there. The outcome of that meeting was somewhat limited. Attendees appointed a committee to draft objections to the Intolerable Acts, and they scheduled another meeting for the consideration of those objections. This second meeting was delayed until August 10 so delegates from distant parishes would have an opportunity to attend.
Unfortunately, Georgia Governor James Wright learned of these plans. The response that he issued to Georgians was a bit condescending, to say the least! He spoke of the “imaginary grievances” that the colonists thought they were addressing. (I’m sure the colonists took *that* well!) The Governor then denounced any future meetings and forbade the colonists from holding them. “[A]ll such meetings of the people,” he declared, “which may tend to raise fears and jealousies in the minds of his Majesty’s subjects, under pretence of consulting together for redress of public grievances, or imaginary grievances, are unconstitutional, illegal and punishable by law.”
His words had little effect. The Sons of Liberty ignored the order and met on August 10, as they had planned. Reportedly, Peter Tondee acted as the doorkeeper at his own tavern. He had a list of representatives from various parishes, and he allowed in only those whose names were listed.
The Sons of Liberty stopped short of appointing delegates to the First Continental Congress, but they did pass eight resolutions. Among these resolutions, they declared that “his Majesty’s subjects in America owe the same allegiance, and are entitled to the same rights, privileges, and immunities with their fellow subjects in Great Britain.” They also found that Parliament “hath not, nor ever had, any right to tax his Majesty’s American subjects.”
Such blatant rebellion could not go unanswered, of course! The Governor promptly called a meeting of his own. Whether honestly or not, he managed to obtain the signatures of about one-third of Savannah citizens on a dissent to the August 10 resolutions.
Ultimately, the Governor’s action would not be enough. About a year later, on July 4, 1775, Georgians again met at Tondee’s and finally made their decision to break free from the British.
Isn’t it interesting that they chose July 4 for their decision? Only one year later, of course, that date would gain national significance for the very same cause of independence.
Lucian Lamar Knight, Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends (1913) (volume 1)
The Revolutionary Records of the State of Georgia (Allen D. Candler, ed. 1908) (volume 1)
Walter J. Fraser, Savannah in the Old South (2005)