What Were the Sons of Liberty? Is Outlander’s Cornelius Harnett Based on a Real Person?

After resigning as an Indian agent of the British Crown in Starz’s historical series ‘Outlander’ season 6, Jamie becomes more determined to stand against the Loyalists in the impending Revolutionary War. Upon arriving at Wilmington to attend a gathering hosted by Flora MacDonald in the fifth episode of season 6, Jamie meets Cornelius Harnett, the leader of “the Sons of Liberty.”

Jamie promises to attend a meeting conducted by Harnett and his allies as the lord of Fraser’s Ridge severs his allegiance to the Crown. Since the narrative of the sixth season interconnects with the annals of American history, one must be thinking whether the Sons of Liberty and Harnett were part of the same history. Let’s find out!

What Were the Sons of Liberty?

In ‘Outlander,’ the Sons of Liberty is a political organization that stands against the Loyalists for the freedom of the thirteen colonies from the tyrannical rule of the British Crown. The organization is based on the real eponymous organization that existed in the colonies between 1765 and 1776. The organization was primarily founded to fight the taxation rules of the British empire, especially to protect the colonists from the Stamp Act of 1765, which imposed a direct tax on many printed materials. After the repeal of the act, the organization, as the show depicts, focused on the liberation of the colonies from Great Britain.

Since taxation was the King’s principal way of exerting his authority over the thirteen colonies, the Sons of Liberty fought against those laws and raised the slogan: “No taxation without representation.” As the show portrays, the Sons of Liberty was a formal underground organization with several distinguished leaders and members. Even though the organization was a significant presence in the colonies, it wasn’t rigidly organized. Several individuals or groups, all fighting against the Crown, adopted the name of the organization to create a sense of unity among them.

The Sons of Liberty was the organization behind the renowned Boston Tea Party, the protest that escalated into the Revolutionary War. The Tea Party also inspired several other protests against the interests of the Crown. After the start of the American Revolution, the Sons of Liberty got dissolved and the members joined several groups and committees that operated as shadow governments upon taking control of the colonies away from the British authority.

Is Cornelius Harnett Based on a Real Person?

Yes, Cornelius Harnett is based on a real person. Harnett was a Founding Father of the United States, who fought against the British Crown as an American Revolutionary statesman. Harnett became the chairman of the Sons of Liberty in 1765 and led the organization’s protests against the Stamp Act. After the start of the American Revolution, he became the first president of the North Carolina Provincial Council, a shadow government of the Patriots who ruled the state with limited powers.

Image Credit: The New York Public Library

Harnett was a member of the Continental Congress between 1777 and 1779, a series of legislative bodies that functioned in the thirteen colonies. The statesman also signed the Articles of Confederation, the first United States constitution. He was captured and imprisoned by the British in January 1781 after the British force’s occupation of Wilmington. Harnett did not live long after the imprisonment due to his declined health. He died on April 28, 1781, after being released on parole. As a homage to his remarkable involvement during the American Revolution, Harnett County in North Carolina was named after him.

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