Sons of Liberty, patriotic societies established in the American colonies prior to the Revolutionary War. They were organized during the controversy over the Stamp Act of 1765 and helped to stimulate a consciousness of colonial grievances against British rule. The name came from a speech by Isaac Barré, a member of the British Parliament, supporting colonial opposition to the act and referring to the colonists as “these sons of liberty.”
The societies, at first secret, sprang up spontaneously throughout the colonies. The objective of the Sons of Liberty was to prevent collection of the stamp tax and to enforce the nonimportation agreements (agreements by merchants not to purchase British goods). Although they resorted to intimidation and violence on occasion, public sentiment generally was favorable to their actions. As a result of their efforts, all stamp agents had been induced to resign before the effective date of the Stamp Act, November 1, 1765, and the act was ignored. The Sons of Liberty continued to oppose British rule for as long as it lasted.