It never dawned on me to call someone who might be really knowledgeable about what was going on in the Capitol and got paid for it. I was surprised to get a call from Jane Merchant, a reporter and editor of the local Harrisburg Patriot. Jane had been a great resource to me over the years, as well as a good friend. I could not believe that she had gotten my phone number. I asked her if she had a friend at Verizon. She said, very plainly, that she had called around and Chief Banion had given it to her.
I was both surprised and happy that she called. She knew that I was a friend of Sam Ellis and she wanted to include some comments by various people about him. Although the murder had taken place the previous week, she was still working on some background material for a fuller article. Her understanding of the Capitol and how it worked was beyond most media people. So, when she asked a question, she may have already discerned the answer. Her queries were short and to the point. What kind of person was Sam Ellis? Did he have many enemies and those sorts of questions? I gave her as much as I could. I told her that I was in serious trouble. She had already gathered that I had almost been killed in a fire. She did not know about the two people who were in the house while I was there and that they tried to burn me to death. I asked her to keep that information out of the story. It would surely make things worse for me. Jane was not the kind of person where the story came first and people’s safety did not count.
Then out of the blue she asked me this, “What do you know about the Sons of Liberty?” I gave her my history major answer, as much as I could recall.
In 1765 England passed the Stamp Act. A stamp was to be placed, as a tax on pretty much all reading material, posts and a number of other things. A group up in Massachusetts gathered some nine people to create a group known as the Sons of Liberty. It was said that the Adams were part of this, but no one really knows. If they kept away, it was because they were well known enough to be arrested by the British. By the end of that year, they were publishing, through newspapers and pamphlets, lots of anti-stamp tax rhetoric. By the beginning of the following year, there were groups called the Sons of Liberty in every colony. Their objective was to get all of the stamp distributors to resign.
In each colony they were either run, or openly led by important men in the community. There were copycat groups who resorted to violence to achieve their ends. However, by 1766, by intimidation or other means, Royal Governors went into hiding to avoid confrontation with these groups. The newspapers and pamphlets continued to be distributed without stamps in open conflict with the Stamp Act.
Finally, in every colony, the Sons of Liberty became leaders of the legislature. Eventually, the groups corresponded with each other to achieve a greater end. By the beginning of the revolution, many of the Sons of Liberty groups became the basis of the nascent leaders of the early United States.
That was my memory of the group. I asked Jane what this had to do with selling tea in China. Her answer rocked me to my innards.