In the early 1760’s Isaac Sears was a successful New York merchant who invested in ships that engaged in trade with the West Indies. Like a lot of New Yorkers he was becoming more concerned with the attitude of the British Crown toward the American Colonies. When the Stamp Act was imposed in 1765, it was the last straw. Sears and other merchants assembled in New York City to enforce opposition to distribution of the stamps and to curtail the importation of British goods.
Out of these meetings, the Sons of Liberty were born. The “Sons” became a secret underground group that would use violence or threats of violence to protest the act. They would outline their threats through the use of broadsides that they would post throughout the town. When the Stamp Act was repealed, the Sons of Liberty erected a wooden “Liberty Pole” as a symbol of their success.
The British governor was outraged and ordered troops to tear down the broadsides and chop down the Liberty Pole.
This back and forth would continue for years. If the British passed an unpopular act (and they were all unpopular) a Liberty Pole would go up and inflammatory broadsheets would be posted. The “redcoats” also posted their own handbills which attacked the Sons of Liberty as “the real enemies of society” who “thought their freedom depended on a piece of wood”.
On January 19, 1770, Sears and others tried to stop some soldiers from posting handbills on the common west of Golden Hill (today Gold Street and Maiden Lane). He captured some of the soldiers and marched his captives towards the mayor’s office, while the rest of the British soldiers ran to the barracks to sound the alarm. By now a mob had formed and the officers of the British Crown were harassed with some of them being tarred and feathered while others were clubbed to a bloody pulp.
No one was killed and some reports said it was more of a small riot than a battle. But, the Battle of Golden Hill marked the first bloodshed between British Troops and American colonists