U.S. History/Sons of Liberty


I am a writer and am researching a new novel. I would like to know the earliest date and reference you have found for the Sons of Liberty as a recognized group.
The earliest I have found is 1752. Would like to know how they began and when they formed.


ANSWER: Hello,

I would be shocked to see a reference to the Sons of Liberty from 1752.  Everything I have ever read indicates that the group received its name based on a spontaneous speech given by Isaac Barré during the 1765 Parliamentary debates over the Stamp Act.  You can read about it, and the speech he gave here:


During 1765, a group in Boston formed known as the Loyal Nine.  These were working class men focused on resisting the Stamp Act.  When they heard about Barré's speech, the group changed its name to the Sons of Liberty.  This was some time in the summer of 1765.  Some historians say that the Sons of Liberty formed separately from the Loyal Nine and that the two groups merged that summer.  But in any event, the Sons of Liberty did not exist prior to 1765.

You can read more about the Sons of Liberty and their origins here:


Best of luck with your novel!
- Mike

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello again, Mike.

Be prepared to be shocked. I found the reference to Sons of Liberty in a book of the early Masons in South Carolina, written by Albert G Mackay, M.D, in 1861. It is now reprinted as A FORGOTTEN BOOK. It gives the history of Freemasonry in South Carolina from their beginning in 1735.  On page 24 is a reprinting of an essay that was attributed to Brother Hugh Anderson, Grand Master of Solomon's Lodge in Charles Town. The essay was printed in Timothy's Gazette of that time. Here is the line that includes our subject:  I quote:
"To improve the most noble art, to adore the Grand Architect of the Universe, is one of the arcanums of Freemasonry. In recommending which to all the Sons of Liberty *, I conclude, Sir,  Your most humble servant, Archeologus"

Note: * A political term, at that time much in use, and applied to designate the members of that party who were opposed to the oppressive exaction of the parent government. At a later period , the "Sons of Liberty" became the Whigs of the Revolution.

This essay was printed in Timothy's Gazette in 1752, March 30.

I would have thought you would have asked me where I found the reference in 1752, rather than dismissing it out of hand. I do my research, Mike. Deep, research.

Interesting, sorry if I sounded dismissive.  I thought you were asking about the group "Sons of Liberty" which was founded in 1765 and did not exist anywhere before then.  The term "sons of liberty" to refer to people supportive of certain rights, apparently must pre-date Barré's 1765 speech, even if the group does not.

Interestingly, Barré was also a Mason.  I wonder if that is a term that was used in Masonic circles.  

In any event, I had not seen the term referenced anywhere prior to 1765 before you brought this 1752 reference to my attention.  If it was a term, it is not something one sees commonly from writings of the period.  If your original question was asking about other earlier uses of the term as a generic reference to supporters of freedom, I am not aware of any.  That's not to say they are not out there, I just have never come across any examples in my extensive reading from that period.

U.S. History

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.