People Rule - ENGLAND: WE'VE HAD IT!

ENGLAND: WE'VE HAD IT! (Illustration) Censorship Civil Rights Government History Law and Politics Social Studies Visual Arts American History

Attributed to Faith Robinson Trumbull (1718-1780), this needlework depicts “The Hanging of Absalom.” Created, circa 1770, the piece demonstrates how American Colonists viewed their relationship with Britain (in Biblical terms): Absalom, an alleged wayward son, is actually a patriot who is rebelling against the arbitrary rule of his father (King David depicted as King George III). The hanging of Absalom is carried-out by a “Redcoat.” Image online via the Library of Congress; original needlework maintained at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum at Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut. Click on the image for a better view.


In colonial America, newspapers published all kinds of information on the rights of the colonists. Before, during and after the Revolutionary War, Americans learned about new laws by reading the newspapers.

Many times the entire law, or declaration of rights, would be printed in the papers of the day.

Eighteenth-century Americans were tired of paying taxes to, and taking orders from, the British Crown.  (That was also true for some British subjects, in the UK, like "highwaymen" who were a type of "Robin Hood.") But when the colonists initially rebelled, the British military was there to put a stop to it. The Boston Massacre (of March 15, 1770) is just one example. (Paul Revere memorialized that notorious event in a famous engraving.)

Colonists thought about English repression in the context of Bible stories. Not long after the Boston Massacre, Faith Robinson Trumbull (1718-1780) created a celebrated tapestry, "The Hanging of Absolom." In it, the rebellious son Absolom (an American colonist) takes a stand against his father, King David (George III), and is hanged for it.

Notice the executioner is wearing a British "red coat."

While King George's rules still applied, Thomas Jefferson defiantly spelled out the colonists' legal Declaration of Rights. They were adopted by the Continental Congress (on October 14, 1774) and printed in the newspapers. It would be interesting to know whether any Royal officer reported those potential "fighting words" to the King.

Before colonial Americans officially told King George III (on July 4, 1776) they were done with his laws, they put England on notice of their intentions. When that failed to convince His Majesty, the colonists fought back and justified their reasons in the "Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms" (published in London in The Gentleman's Magazine).

When English "gentlemen" read this explanation for war (in August of 1775), they likely disbelieved the rebellious colonists would actually prevail against England's might.

Not only did they prevail. Throughout their history, Americans have believed - as Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address - that "rule of, by and for the people must not perish from the earth." That type of rule permits the people to publicly challenge even (if not especially) the person with the top job: The President of the United States.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Jan 03, 2018

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"ENGLAND: WE'VE HAD IT!" AwesomeStories.com. Sep 01, 2004. Jan 19, 2020.
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