Isaac Barre was one of several British members of parliament who opposed the Stamp Act and spoke openly in support of the American colonists and their objections. This speech was delivered in the House of Commons in February 1765, and contains the famous reference to “these sons of liberty”:
Mr Townshend: “Will these Americans, children planted by our care, nourished by our indulgence till they are grown up to a degree of strength and opulence, and protected by our arms… will they grudge to contribute to relieve us from the heavy burden under which we lie?”
Mr Barre: “[Were] they planted by your care? No! Your oppression planted them in America. They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated and inhospitable country, where they exposed themselves to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable, and among others to the cruelties of a savage foe, the most subtle, and I take upon me to say, the most formidable of any people upon the face of God’s earth…[Were] they nourished by your indulgence? They grew by your neglect of them. As soon as you began to care about them, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule over them, in one department and another… sent to spy out their liberty, to misrepresent their actions and to prey upon them; men whose behaviour on many occasions has caused the blood of these sons of liberty to recoil within them… [Were] they protected by your arms? They have nobly taken up arms in your defence, they have exerted a valour amidst their constant and laborious industry for the defence of a country whose frontier, while drenched in blood, its interior parts have yielded all its little savings to your emolument [compensation].
The [American] people, I believe, are as truly loyal as any subjects the king has. But they are a people jealous of their liberties and who will vindicate them if ever they should be violated; but the subject is too delicate and I will say no more.”