1775: A Year of Turmoil

When Jacob Duché wrote his American Vine Sermon, the colonists were experiencing extreme turmoil. Duche’s sermon, The American Vine, reflected the tumultuous times plaguing the colonies. The colonists were on the brink of war in late 1774 when they became frustrated by British rule and the hope of reconciliation continued to fade. In the spring of 1774, the British passed the Intolerable Acts, which included the Boston Port Act, Massachusetts Government Act, and Administration of Justice Act. The Boston Port Act discontinued the shipping of goods within Boston, the Massachusetts Government Act regulated the government in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the Administration of Justice Act declared impartial justice in the province of Massachusetts Bay. The colonists in Massachusetts were largely affected by these acts, and they proved that the colonies needed a remedy to their situation with the British. This lead to the First Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774. The Quebec Act, declared by the British on June 22, 1774, also caused much distress within the colonies. This act recognized the Catholic Church in Quebec, which the Protestant American colonies did not like because it was seen as an extension of tolerance to the Catholics, whom Protestants completely detested for many reasons. In addition, the British granted the highly coveted land in Quebec to the French. The colonists viewed this land grant as tolerance toward Catholics and as a deliberate act against their Protestant beliefs. Moreover, the British enacted the New England Restraining Act on March 30, 1775, which focused on New England primarily since that is where the rebellion was centered. The act forbade trade between the colonies and any country other than Great Britain, and this purposeful act of Parliament increased efforts to corner the colonists into a position of desperation which only furthered their anger and desire to rebel. 

Tensions heightened as the British and the colonists engaged in the first battle of the American Revolution. On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and William Dawes were sent to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock in Lexington of the coming of the British troops. The ride succeeded almost entirely by luck of the colonists and reinforced the idea that God’s providence was on the side of the American colonists. [Paul Revere’s ride resulted in the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775]. After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress met in May 1775. The congress created an army, commissioned George Washington to be commander, authorized the printing of money, and created a postal system. The colonies now began acting like a governing body. Another major battle between the colonists and Great Britain occurred on June 17, 1775 where the American and British troops had their first major and deadly battle. The British attacked the Americans with a frontal assault up a hill. Eventually, the Americans ran out of ammunition and lost. General Joseph Warren led the Americans in battle. Although the Americans lost, their determination and inspiration in battle was evident in the large amount of British troops that were killed. Despite the now physical fighting between the colonists and the British, the colonists still hoped for a peaceful reconciliation. On July 5, 1775 the members of the Continental Congress created the Olive Branch Petition. The petition appealed directly to King George III instead of Parliament as a whole, differing from previous approaches which placed blame on Parliament rather than the King. John Dickinson still phrased the petition in a way that notified the King that the colonists were unhappy with ministerial policy, not his own. The petition was refused, leaving the colonists no choice but to make the decision to go to war with the British for independence. The events of late 1774 and 1775 caused much controversy throughout the colonies.The colonists viewed the British as encroaching on their liberties and as an aggressive force that needed to be eliminated, and Duché’s understanding of this was evident in his sermon. Duché explained how the current conflict in the colonies was due to God’s displeasure, but also portrayed the British as a force that was causing harm to the prosperous and growing vine of the colonies. The characteristics that Duché portrayed of both the British and the Americans was a result of the events that occurred throughout late 1774 and 1775.