The Sons of Neptune

Stamp Act Riots

Prior to 1765, a secret society composed of a diverse, radical group of sailors in the American colonies formed. They called themselves the Sons of Neptune.

The Press Gang, 1770

During peacetime, the Royal Navy sent press gangs through dockside neighborhoods searching for able-bodied men to join their crew. It was imperative to the British Empire to have as strong a naval force as possible to maintain their dominance around the world. That being said, merchant sailors earned higher pay than the navy, and few went willingly into impressment.

Impressment, to the Sons of Neptune, was a prime example of British tyranny. Their response to it launched America’s rebellion.

Underground Networks

The Sons leveraged communication. With sailors arriving at port from around the world, they developed an unofficial, underground news network throughout the British Empire. They warned others of inbound ships likely to impress to fill quotas, and they rallied mobs to come to the defense of those captured.

They took action by organizing loud, and sometimes dangerous, demonstrations of 500 or more, tarring and feathering naval officers, or burning and scuttling the boats used to take the impressed men back to the naval ships.

Tarring & Feathering

They took action by organizing loud, and sometimes dangerous, demonstrations of 500 or more, tarring and feathering naval officers, or burning and scuttling the boats used to take the impressed men back to the naval ships.

As Britain struggled financially in the aftermath of the French and Indian War, they imposed the Stamp Act on the American colonies. This direct tax required printed materials in America be produced on specially stamped papers supplied by London.

Terror and Fear

Stamp Act riots

In October 1765, Isaac Sears, a privateer sea captain in New York, led the Sons of Neptune in taking on the Stamp Act. In posters pasted all over the city, they warned the British that unless the governor turned over the Stamps to the people, a thousand rioters would come and burn down Fort George.

Within twenty-four hours, Governor Colden surrendered the Stamps.

Satisfied with Colden’s capitulation, they promised to keep the peace in the city, “except they should have other cause of complaint.”

This was only one of many protests among the colonies, including Benjamin Franklin’s appeal to the British House of Commons that lead Parliament to repeal of the Stamp Act. 

Next Level Rebellion

The Tea Act of 1773, meant to bolster Britain’s flagging East India Company, enraged Americans. Captain Sears united the Sons of Neptune with the newly formed Sons of Liberty for greater reach. To combat the Act, they used the cover of Mohawk dress to disguise their members, and then destroyed 342 chests of tea in Boston Harbor. Four months later, they did it again in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, destroying 698 chests.

Boston Tea Party

The Tea Act of 1773, meant to bolster Britain’s flagging East India Company, enraged Americans. Captain Sears united the Sons of Neptune with the newly formed Sons of Liberty for greater reach. To combat the Act, they used the cover of Mohawk dress to disguise their members, and then destroyed 342 chests of tea in Boston Harbor. Four months later, they did it again in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, destroying 698 chests.

After the Sons of Neptune dissolved into the more famous Sons of Liberty, Patriot leaders formed shadow governments in the colonies as the Committee of Correspondence, which led to the Continental Congresses. At least three signers of the Declaration of Independence were members of the Sons of Liberty.

Shadow Organization

In my historical romance, The Widow’s Guide to Scandal, I took creative license with the Sons of Neptune and kept them going as a shadow organization run by Benjamin Franklin in 1776. They were privateers, artisans, and business owners, but most of all, they were friends. 

clip from AMC’s Turn

In July 2020, you’ll meet Marcus, a gregarious carpenter who’d rather conquer America’s problems than his own, as he resists falling in love with Henrietta, a widow coerced into British intelligence.


More information on the Sons of Neptune:

Images in order of appearance:

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Published by Hallie Alexander

Hallie Alexander writes steamy historical romance novels set during the American Revolution. Her first novel, A Widow's Guide to Scandal, arrives July 2020. Hallie resides in North Carolina with her family.

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