J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

The 2018 Boston Massacre Reenactment, 3 Mar.

On Saturday, 3 March, the Old State House Museum and a large contingent of dedicated volunteer interpreters will reenact the Boston Massacre and events surrounding that historical milestone.

There will be once-a-year events for the public all afternoon.

1:00 – 4:00 P.M.
Talk of the Town
Immerse yourself in Boston’s colonial past and meet citizens who lived through the contentious period of the military occupation. Gain insight and perspective on historic events that led to the American Revolution by asking questions and hearing accounts from living historians.
Inside the Old State House. Included with museum admission.

1:30 & 3:30 P.M.
History Hunters
Unique and personal stories take center stage in this activity for young visitors, ages 5-12, and their families. Use the tools of a historian to interact with the past and help colonists and soldiers discover the truth! Space is limited. Sign up with museum staff as early as 9:30 A.M. on Saturday.
Inside the Old State House. Included with museum admission.

6:00 P.M.
Convening of Bostonians
Before the action unfolds, watch downtown Boston transform into its colonial past as the citizens of the city gather outside the Old State House. Arrive early to hear from patriots, loyalists, and moderates who lived through the events that sparked the Revolution.
Outside the Old State House. Free and open to all.

7:00 P.M.
The Tragedy on King Street
Witness the violent and tumultuous incident on King Street, reenacted by living historians. Once the smoke clears, explore the galleries of the Old State House and discover how the aftermath of the Boston Massacre led to the birth of a nation.
Outside the Old State House. Free and open to all.

As in recent years, I’ll participate in that final presentation as the narrator of the scenes leading up to and after the fatal violence. Last year frigid weather forced us to cancel that part, which was a real shame since top reenactors come in from up and down the eastern seaboard to participate. This year we’re all hoping for a crisp, clear March evening, just like in 1770.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

“Black Experience in Concord” panel, Lincoln, 25 Feb.

On Sunday, 25 February, as part of its “Winter Learning Series,” the Friends of Minute Man Park will sponsor a panel discussion on “The Past We Never Knew: New Research and Reflections on the Black Experience in Concord.”

The event description says, “In the last couple of years alone, historical scholars and site staff have made dozens of intriguing discoveries as they have engaged in uncovering and recovering the lives of Concord’s black residents and visitors.”

The panelists sharing their findings will be:
  • Maria Madison, President of the Board of the Robbins House (shown above), the Concord home of the descendants of an African-American veteran of the Revolutionary War. She is also the Dean of Diversity at Brandeis.
  • Dr. John Hannigan, scholar-in-residence at both Minute Man National Historical Park and the Robbins House and now the Head of Reference Services for the Massachusetts State Archives. His original focus was on black soldiers in the Revolution; his work eventually broadened to encompass a broad range of African-American experiences over a long span of time.
  • Jane Sciacca, curator of the Wayland Historical Society, retired after twenty-eight years as an interpreter for the National Park Service. Jane has studied local slavery in the Revolutionary War period and done extensive research on the man who escaped slavery to take up temporary residence with the Alcott family at the Wayside.
The panel will be moderated by local historian Jayne Gordon. It will take place at Bemis Hall, 15 Bedford Road, in Lincoln, starting at 2:00 P.M. This event is free and open to the public.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Further Evolution of “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song”

As I discussed back here, in April 1774 the New-York Journal published a new version of “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song” that was actually less strident about Britain than the original. It may have been revised to reflect Whig talking points.

Isaiah Thomas’s Massachusetts Spy picked up those New York lyrics for the “Poets Corner” in its 26 May 1774 issue, thus bringing the song back to its town of origin.

The next newspaper to run the verses in its “Poet’s Corner” was Timothy Green’s Connecticut Gazette of New London for 24 Feb 1775. That was another rewrite of the original lines, but in a different way. Instead of talking about “Americans,” for example, this version praised and addressed “America.”

The song now started:
Let’s look to Greece and Athens!
And there’s proud mistress Rome;
Tho’ late in all their Glory,
We now scarce find their Home:…
The verse that began by describing Americans as “Torn from a world of tyrants” now started, “Turn then, ye lordly Tyrants…”

And this original verse
We led fair FREEDOM hither, when lo the Desart smil’d,
A Paradise of Pleasure, was open’d in the Wild;
Your Harvest bold AMERICANS! no Power shall snatch away,
Assert yourselves, yourselves, yourselves, my brave AMERICA.
became
We led fair Freedom hither,
Unto a Desart wild;
A Paradise of Pleasure,
Soon opened and smil’d;
Your Harvest’s rich, AMERICA,
No Power shall snatch away.
Preserve, preserve, preserve your Rights Brave N. America.
Finally, the original’s final line about “their Lords, their Lords of brave AMERICA” had turned into “the Laws, the Laws, of NORTH-AMERICA.”

All told, that New London version feels like it was written down from memory by someone who had sung the song a few times. It doesn’t feel like a revision by the original author.

A couple of months later, war had broken out. On 8 May 1775, Ebenezer Watson’s Connecticut Courant of Hartford published “A Song Compos’d by a Son of Liberty” with the date “February 13, 1770”—Josiah Flagg’s original concert. Appropriately, that version had the same lyrics that Edes and Gill had published in their North-American Almanack five years before.

And then the song apparently went underground again for the war.

COMING UP: Who wrote “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song”?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The “Swan Shot” that Killed Christopher Seider

On 22 February 1770, Customs service employee Ebenezer Richardson killed a young boy named Christopher Seider.

Christopher was part of a crowd of boys mobbing Richardson’s house. Indeed, he had just stooped to pick up a stone when he was hit by the discharge from Richardson’s gun.

Richardson had not shot a musket ball. Instead, he had loaded his musket with “Swan shot.” What that meant is clear from the Whig newspapers’ report on the boy’s injuries:

soon after the child’s decease his body was opened by Dr. [Joseph] Warren and others and in it were found eleven shot or plugs, about the bigness of large peas; one of which pierced his breast about an inch and one-half above the midriff and passing clear through the lobe of the lungs, lodged in his back.

This, three of the surgeons deposed before the Jury of Inquest, was the cause of his death; on which they brought in their verdict, wilful murder by Richardson. The right hand of the boy was cruelly torn, whence it seems to have been across his breast and to have deadened the force of the shot, which might otherwise have pierced the stomach.
“Swan shot” was a common term at the time. For example, in the 6 Nov 1729 Pennsylvania Gazette Benjamin Franklin reported:
We are inform’d that the following Accident lately happen’d at Merion, viz. A Man had order’d his Servant to take some Fowls in from Roost every Night for fear of the Fox: But one Evening hearing them cry, he look’d out and saw, as he thought, a Fox among them; accordingly he took his Gun, charg’d with Swan Shot, and fir’d at him; when to his Surprize it prov’d to be the Servant’s Arm, which taking down the Fowls he had mistaken for a Fox. The Man receiv’d several Shot, some thro’ his Arm, but none of them are thought to be dangerous.
In 1751, reporting on how he had knocked himself out with an electric shock, Franklin wrote, “I afterwards found it had rais’d a Swelling there the bigness of half a Swan Shot or pistol Bullet.” Likewise, in Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe had his hero speak of “swan-shot, or small pistol bullets.”

On 22 Aug 1774, a crowd surrounded the house of Daniel Leonard of Taunton, protesting his appointment to the Council under Parliament’s new Massachusetts Government Act. According to Leonard, most people went home but “at 11 o’Clock in the evening a Party fixed upon the house with small arms and run off;...four bullets and some Swan-shot entered the house at the windows.” This is the earliest incident I’ve found of Massachusetts Patriots firing guns in their long political dispute with the royal government and its supporters.

Back in 1770, Richardson’s gun might have contained even smaller pellets than swan shot. During his trial, prosecuting attorney Robert Treat Paine took notes on testimony about George Wilmot, who had helped Richardson defend his house (and was acquitted of murder). If we can read Paine’s handwriting accurately, a witness said: “I took from W[ilmot]. a Gun loaded with 179 Shots. 17. Swan Shot. The rest Goose and Duck.” “Goose shot” and “duck shot” were evidently smaller pellets. Nowadays we’d lump them all together as “birdshot” and assign them numbers.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Evolution of the “New Massachusetts Liberty Song”

In February 1770, as I’ve described, the musician Josiah Flagg and the printers Edes and Gill brought to the Boston public new lyrics to the tune of “The British Grenadiers.”

The following month, most of the soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre were British grenadiers—men in the 29th Regiment of Foot.

We might think that would make Bostonians happier about replacing lines praising the grenadiers with lines praising “brave America.” But the shooting could have had the opposite effect, rendering anything to do with the grenadiers, even a tune, less popular.

In any event, “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song” wasn’t printed again (so far as I know) until 6 Jan 1774, when Alexander Purdie and John Dixon of Williamsburg ran the verses in the “Poets Corner” section of their Virginia Gazette. They headlined it “A Song on LIBERTY, made by a Bostonian, to the Tune of The British Grenadiers.” The text wasn’t precisely what Edes and Gill had printed in 1770, but close enough that the changes might have come in the typesetting.

The 28 April New-York Journal from John Holt likewise gave “Poets Corner” space for “A Song on Liberty.” But this version (shown here) had more changes, small and large.

In the original, every verse ended with “brave America.” This version had “brave America,” “North America,” and “free America” each twice—the first time that last phrase appeared in the song. And the ending of the fourth verse changed from:
The World shall own their Masters here, then hasten on the Day,
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza, for brave AMERICA.
to:
The world shall own we’re freemen here, and such will ever be,
Huzza! huzza! huzza! huzza for love and liberty.
There were other tweaks.
And blast the venal Sycophant, who dares our Rights betray,
Preserve, preserve, preserve, preserve my brave AMERICA.
became
And blast the venal sycophants who dare our rights betray;
Assert yourselves, yourselves, yourselves for brave America.
The awkward “And shout, and shout, and shout, and shout, for brave AMERICA” turned into “And shout huzza! huzza! huzza for brave America.”

But the biggest change occurred in the final verse. Here’s how the 1770 version ended:
Some future Day shall crown us, the Masters of the Main,
And giving Laws and Freedom, to subject FRANCE and SPAIN;
When all the ISLES o’er Ocean spread, shall tremble and obey,
Their Lords, their Lords, their Lords, their Lords of brave AMERICA.
The song already started by reminding Britons that they had been conquered by “many Masters” while Americans had “never fell a prey.” And here it ended with the prediction that in “Some future Day” Americans would be the “Masters of the Main” with “all the ISLES”—which by implication must include the British Isles—bowing to “their lords of brave AMERICA”! That’s a remarkable public position, especially for 1770.

In the 1774 version, that verse was rewritten to make a better fit with the American Whigs’ message:
The land where freedom reigns shall still, be masters of the main,
In giving laws and freedom to subject France and Spain;
And all the isles o’er ocean spread shall tremble and obey,
The prince who rules by freedom’s laws in North America.
Americans, the song now said, still trusted King George III to uphold traditional British liberties. Who would claim anything different?

COMING UP: More versions as war approaches.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

“In Bedlam’s lofty Numbers discordant Yankies Sing”

On the back of the sheet of paper giving the earliest lyrics of “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song,” which I believe is at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, someone has written another set of verses.

This side is headed “Massachusetts Liberty Song Paradized, April 1770,” which is helpful in showing not only when the parody appeared but also how early the lyrics must have been printed.

The parody of John Dickinson and Arthur Lee’s “Liberty Song” that appeared in 1768 had nothing good to say about the Boston Whigs opposing the royal government, but it treated them as a bunch, not naming names.

Whoever wrote this new parody quickly got personal:
In Bedlam’s lofty Numbers discordant Yankies Sing,
And twang in awful Ditty, God save our Gracious King
May they leave off their Canting, and with Devotion pray,
Have Mercy, Mercy, Mercy Lord on poor America.

Their Patron J——y O—s, that Sage of great renown,
Like Sheep he led the Rabble of this Siditious Town,
The Rostrum then he mounted, where he did loudly pray,
Defend, Defend, Defend my Boys, Defend America.
The initials leave no doubt the target of this verse is “Jemmy” or James Otis. At the time, he was in poor shape after his fight with Customs Commissioner John Robinson. But Otis was still the top enemy of the friends of government.
Next Independent Sammy, a Scribble in the cause,
An Enemy to Britain, to George and to his Laws,
Whose Rebel dictates all the Sons of Liberty obey
The Fools, the Fools, the Fools, the Fools of weak America.
“Sammy” is obviously Samuel Adams, already criticized for wanting to be “Independent.”
The Penman Great Humanus is ready at their call,
To sacrifice his Neighbour the Ministry to mall,
On him they blindly pin their Faith & great Dependance lay,
To purge, to purge, to purge, to purge oppress’d America.
In the Sparks Manuscripts at Harvard is a letter from innkeeper Richard Silvester identifying “Humanus” as a pen name for Dr. Benjamin Church. The doctor was indeed known for his writing, and his profession fits with the verb “purge.”
The puff’d Determinatus the mock-bird of the Throng
With rapture boasts the Power of his loquacious Tongue
Which tickles so the Vulgar they ready Homage pay,
This prating Oracle the pride of dup’d America.
“Determinatus” has long been identified as a pseudonym of Samuel Adams. Harbottle Dorr even appears to have written “S. Adams” atop Determinatus’s letter in the 8 Aug 1768 Boston Gazette. It’s curious, therefore, that this Loyalist writer treats “Determinatus” and Adams as separate newspaper essayists. There must be some confusion somewhere.
Great William their Commander, that Bully in disguize,
That well known bite of Yorkshire and Magazine of Lies,
That truly patriotic Man, who bellows Night and Day,
Confirm’d, Confirm’d, the Knave, the Knave of weak America.
This is definitely William Molineux. Printer John Mein called him “William the Knave” in pamphlets criticizing the non-importation movement in 1769. Molineux had come to Boston from Wolverhampton—not Yorkshire but only about a hundred miles away.
There’s busy Master Aaron, and many Worthies more,
As factious as the Gentry we’ve mention’d just before
Who strive with all their Mimic Might Old England low to lay,
And cry Rebel, Rebel, Rebel, Rebel America.
I’ll take a guess that “busy Master Aaron” is a reference to William Cooper, town clerk. He was brother to the Rev. Dr. Samuel Cooper, just as the Biblical Aaron was brother to Moses. But that’s a guess.
To scourge such disobedience, and crush these Mushroom Lords,
Let British Grenediers gird on their conjuring Swords,
Bra Donald frae, the Highlands, his Muckle Wanger Play
Adieu, Adieu, Adieu, Adieu, to lost America.
(I suspect the parodist meant “Hanger” instead of “Wanger.”)

Speaking so favorably of Scottish Highlanders was very unusual in Boston, even for people who opposed the local Whigs. That might indicate the author of this parody was Scottish himself, like Mein. By April 1770 he had been driven out of Boston by violence and lawsuits, so he had a lot to complain about.

TOMORROW: New lyrics on the eve of war.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Are You Ready for a Cabinet Meeting?

For Presidents Day, we look in on George Washington’s meetings with his cabinet on 1-2 Aug 1793.

The issue on the table was what to do about Edmond-Charles Genet, the French diplomat who was stirring up support of Revolutionary France, resentment of Britain, and friction within the U.S. of A.

The cabinet members—Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph—all agreed to ask France to recall Genet. They differed on how peremptorily to do so. They really differed on whether to report the decision and the reasons for it to the American public.

Hamilton liked the idea of an official “appeal to the people,” despite not usually being interested in public opinion, because it offered an opening for a full-throated critique of Revolutionary France. According to Jefferson’s notes:
Hamilton made a jury speech of 3/4 of an hour as inflammatory and declamatory as if he had been speaking to a jury. E.R. opposed it. I chose to leave the contest between them.
The President adjourned that meeting until the next day. “Hamilton spoke again 3/4 of an hour,” Jefferson wrote then. “I answered on these topics.” He kept minimal notes on Hamilton’s remarks and detailed notes on his own, indicating that he didn’t write those notes at the time but afterwards, and he really didn’t care about Hamilton’s opinion.

Eventually it became clear which way Washington was leaning:
The President manifestly inclined to the appeal to the people. He said that Mr. [Robert] Morris, taking a family dinner with him the other day went largely and of his own accord into this subject, advised this appeal and promised if the Presidt. adopted it that he would support it himself, and engage for all his connections.—The Presidt. repeated this twice, and with an air of importance.—

Now Mr. Morris has no family connections. He engaged then for his political friends.—This shews that the President has not confidence enough in the virtue and good sense of mankind to confide in a government bottomed on them, and thinks other props necessary.
Jefferson distrusted campaigns for public opinion by his political opponents. He was, of course, promoting his own ideas with allies like James Madison. He had also recruited Philip Freneau to come to Philadelphia and start the anti-Federalist National Gazette, giving the writer a sinecure in the State Department.

Then the meeting took an awkward turn.
Knox in a foolish incoherent sort of a speech introduced the Pasquinade lately printed, called the funeral of George W—n and James W[ilso]n, king and judge &c. where the President was placed on a Guillotin.

The Presidt. was much inflamed, got into one of those passions when he cannot command himself. Run on much on the personal abuse which had been bestowed on him. Defied any man on earth to produce one single act of his since he had been in the government which was not done on the purest motives. That he had never repented but once the having slipped the moment of resigning his office, and that was every moment since. That by god he had rather be in his grave than in his present situation. That he had rather be on his farm than to be made emperor of the world and yet that they were charging him with wanting to be a king. That that rascal Freneau sent him 3. of his papers every day, as if he thought he would become the distributor of his papers, that he could see in this nothing but an impudent design to insult him. He ended in this high tone.

There was a pause. Some difficulty in resuming our question—it was however after a little while presented again, and he said there seemed to be no necessity for deciding it now: the propositions before agreed on might be put into a train of execution, and perhaps events would shew whether the appeal would be necessary or not.
It took another three weeks for the cabinet to complete their dispatch to the American minister in Paris, Gouverneur Morris, telling him to ask the French government to withdraw Genet. Meanwhile, it became clear to Washington that most informed Americans disapproved of the French diplomat’s behavior, so he no longer saw any need for a public appeal.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Was Bentham on the Autism Spectrum?

Last year I relayed the news that British philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham’s body was coming to America for a museum exhibit.

To be exact, Bentham’s clothed skeleton will be in display in New York at the Breuer branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His head was mummified poorly and is therefore not usually shown to the public. But it was on display this winter in London.

A Telegraph story told me some other news about the head:
…scientists have taken samples of Bentham’s DNA to test theories that he may have had Asperger’s or autism, both of which have a strong genetic component. . . .

he was notably eccentric, reclusive and difficult to get hold of. He called his walking stick Dapple, his teapot Dickey, and kept an elderly cat named The Reverend Sir John Langbourne.

In 2006, researchers Philip Lucas and Anne Sheeran suggested his unique character was driven by Asperger’s syndrome, after studying biographies which described a young Bentham as ‘having few companions his own age’; and being ‘morbidly sensitive.’
Lucas and Sheeran’s study was “Asperger’s Syndrome and the Eccentricity and Genius of Jeremy Bentham” in the Journal of Bentham Studies; a P.D.F. file can be downloaded here.

There are some obstacles to a genetics test of that hypothesis. First, while autism has a heritable aspect, nobody has identified specific genes as switches or markers. Instead, at least sixty-five genes have been linked to the condition, so it would be at least complex and perhaps impossible to say Bentham had the combination of genes that gives rise to autism.

Second, so far it’s been hard to isolate Bentham D.N.A. from, well, other D.N.A. The Telegraph quotes the curator who looks after Bentham’s head that “99 per cent of the DNA taken has come from bacteria in his mouth.” But at least the geneticists haven’t announced that Bentham was in fact a bacterium.

(Click on the Telegraph link for photos of Bentham’s head today. It’s not pretty.)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

“And shout, and shout, and shout, and shout, for brave AMERICA”

This broadside shown on the website of the Library of Congress could be the first printing of the words to “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song.” (I think the original is at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.)

The sheet might even have been created for Josiah Flagg’s 13 Feb 1770 concert, the first time we know that song was publicly performed. The printing was definitely done by April (as I’ll discuss next week).

The printers Edes and Gill included the same lyrics in their North-American Almanack for 1770, published around the start of March.

Like “The British Grenadiers,” which provided its tune, “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song” began with allusions to the classical world but praised contemporaries as even more admirable. Not because they stood up to modern weapons like grenadiers but because, as good self-protective Whigs, they hadn’t fallen to tyranny and decay:
That seat of science ATHENS, and Earth’s proud mistress ROME,
Where now are all their Glories, we scarce can find their Tomb:
Then guard your Rights, AMERICANS! nor stoop to lawless Sway,
Oppose, oppose, oppose, oppose,—thy brave AMERICA.

Proud ALBION bow’d to Caesar, and num’rous Lords before,
To Picts, to Danes, to Normans, and many Masters more:
But we can boast AMERICANS! we never fell a Prey;
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza, for brave AMERICA.

We led fair FREEDOM hither, when lo the Desart smil’d,
A Paradise of Pleasure, was open’d in the Wild;
Your Harvest bold AMERICANS! no Power shall snatch away,
Assert yourselves, yourselves, yourselves, my brave AMERICA.

Torn from a World of Tyrants, beneath this western Sky,
We form’d a new Dominion, a Land of LIBERTY;
The World shall own their Masters here, then hasten on the Day,
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza, for brave AMERICA.

GOD bless this maiden Climate, and thro’ her vast Domain,
Let Hosts of Heroes cluster, who scorn to wear a Chain:
And blast the venal Sycophant, who dares our Rights betray,
Preserve, preserve, preserve, preserve my brave AMERICA.

Lift up your Heads my Heroes! and swear with proud Disdain,
The Wretch who would enslave you, shall spread his Snares in vain;
Should EUROPE empty all her Force, wou’d meet them in Array,
And shout, and shout, and shout, and shout, for brave AMERICA.

Some future Day shall crown us, the Masters of the Main,
And giving Laws and Freedom, to subject FRANCE and SPAIN;
When all the ISLES o’er Ocean spread, shall tremble and obey,
Their Lords, their Lords, their Lords, their Lords of brave AMERICA.
This is not exactly the song I’ve seen in modern collections. For one thing, “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song” has often been retitled “Free America” because that phrase became part of its refrain. But the words “free America” don’t appear anywhere in this early version. I’ll discuss other ways the song evolved in a future posting.

COMING UP: But first, the inevitable parody.

Friday, February 16, 2018

“With a tow row, row row, row row, to the British Grenadiers”

Just as “The Liberty Song” and “The Massachusetts Liberty Song” were written to a popular and patriotic tune, the song that Josiah Flagg debuted in February 1770 also consisted of new lyrics to an established melody.

The source was “The British Grenadiers,” referred to as “The Granadeer’s March” by 1706. The first known printing of the song came in about 1750, and here’s one version of the lyrics from that period:
Some talk of Alexander and some of Hercules,
Of Conon and Lysander, and some Miltiades;
But of all the world’s brave heroes
There is none that can compare
With a tow row, row row, row row, to the British Grenadiers.
Chorus: But of all the world’s, &c.

None of those ancient heroes e’er saw a cannon ball,
Or knew the force of Powder to slay their foes withal;
But our brave boys do know it, and banish all their fears,
With a tow row, row row, row row, the British Grenadiers.
Chorus: But our brave boys, &c.

Whene’er we are commanded to storm the Palisades,
Our Leaders march with Fusees and we with hand Granades;
We throw them from the Glacis about our enemies’ ears,
With a tow row, row row, row row, the British Grenadiers.
Chorus: We throw them from, &c.
And so on. That third verse refers to the grenadiers throwing grenades, something they hadn’t actually done for decades, so those lines were undoubtedly older.

The 29 June 1769 Boston Chronicle included this advertisement from Josiah Flagg:
For the Benefit of Mr. FLAGG.
This Evening,
A public Concert of
Vocal and Instrumental MUSIC,
Will be performed at Concert Hall in Queen-street.
The Vocal part to be performed by Four Voices, and to conclude with the BRITISH GRENADIERS.——N.B. TICKETS to be had at the Printers, or at the London Bookstore, at HALF a DOLLAR each.—To begin precisely at half after seven.
*** The last Concert this Season.
Flagg therefore knew “The British Grenadiers” well. His earlier advertisements for this concert hadn’t mentioned that tune, but he must have thought it had appeal.

At the time there were actual grenadiers in Boston—men of the 14th, 29th, 64th, and 65th Regiments. The latter two regiments would move to Halifax the next month, but the British government’s decision to station soldiers in Boston since October 1768 was a political sore spot. Even though “The British Grenadiers” was a patriotic song, and the Boston Whigs were busy proclaiming their patriotism, there were undeniable implications to singing praise for soldiers then.

Might that have inspired “a Son of Liberty” to pen new lyrics?

TOMORROW: New words to an old tune.