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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Saturday, July 23, 2016

“He would produce a better one”

In investigating the anecdote about George Washington’s whisper at the Constitutional Convention, I started to wonder about the political views of Maryland delegate John Francis Mercer.

Mercer arrived at the Philadelphia convention on 6 Aug 1787. On that day he told his fellow Marylanders that he didn’t think the government set up by the Articles of Confederation “was susceptable of a revision which would sufficiently invigorate it for the exigencies of the times.”

But a couple of days later Mercer told James McHenry “that he did not like the [newly proposed] system, that it was weak—That he would produce a better one since the convention had undertaken to go radically to work, that perhaps he would not be supported by any one, but if he was not, he would go with the stream.”

Remember that Mercer was only twenty-eight years old, younger than all but one delegate, and he had arrived after the other men had been working out issues and compromises for months. I can’t imagine his brand-new proposals were welcomed with any enthusiasm.

Mercer is often grouped with the Anti-Federalists who preferred to keep more power with the states, such as his Maryland colleague Luther Martin. But at the convention, Mercer’s big complaints had to do with the relationship between the branches of the federal government. At times he argued for strict separation of powers, speaking out against Senate approval of treaties (an executive function, he said) and judicial review of laws (a legislative function).

On 14 August, the debate focused on what might seem like a quaint question: whether the President could appoint legislators to positions in the government. On that question, Mercer didn’t want to maintain the separation between executive and legislative. He delivered his longest argument to get into James Madison’s notes, revealing his political philosophy:
It is a first principle in political science, that whenever the rights of property are secured, an aristocracy will grow out of it. Elective governments also necessarily become aristocratic, because the rulers being few can and will draw emoluments for themselves from the many. The governments of America will become aristocracies. They are so already. The public measures are calculated for the benefit of the governors, not of the people. The people are dissatisfied, and complain. They change their rulers, and the public measures are changed, but it is only a change of one scheme of emolument to the rulers, for another. The people gain nothing by it, but an addition of instability and uncertainty to their other evils.

Governments can only be maintained by force or influence. The Executive has not force,—deprive him of influence, by rendering the members of the Legislature ineligible to Executive offices, and he becomes a mere phantom of authority. The aristocratic part will not even let him in for a share of the plunder.

The Legislature must and will be composed of wealth and abilities, and the people will be governed by a junto. The Executive ought to have a Council, being members of both Houses. Without such an influence, the war will be between the aristocracy and the people. He wished it to be between the aristocracy and the Executive. Nothing else can protect the people against those speculating Legislatures, which are now plundering them throughout the United States. . . .

Mr. MERCER was extremely anxious on this point. What led to the appointment of this Convention? The corruption and mutability of the legislative councils of the States. If the plan does not remedy these, it will not recommend itself; and we shall not be able in our private capacities, to support and enforce it: nor will the best part of our citizens exert themselves for the purpose.

It is a great mistake to suppose that the paper we are to propose will govern the United States. It is the men whom it will bring into the Government, and interest in maintaining it, that are to govern them. The paper will only mark out the mode and the form. Men are the substance, and must do the business.

All government must be by force or influence. It is not the King of France, but 200,000 janissaries of power, that govern that kingdom. There will be no such force here; influence, then, must be substituted; and he would ask, whether this could be done, if the members of the Legislature should be ineligible to offices of State; whether such a disqualification would not determine all the most influential men to stay at home, and prefer appointments within their respective States.
Madison added, “On these points he was opposed by Elbridge Gerry.” Gerry was another of the convention’s champions of keeping more power in the states and of limiting the executive power.

Mercer left the convention early and opposed ratification of the Constitution. When the nation ratified the plan anyway, he served some terms in the U.S. Congress, allying himself with the Jeffersonian party that included Martin and Gerry. But I don’t think Mercer was with them during the convention.

Friday, July 22, 2016

“The army shall not consist of more than — thousand men”

When John Francis Mercer arrived late at the Constitutional Convention on 6 Aug 1787, he was only twenty-eight years old—the second youngest man there. But he wasn’t shy about speaking up.

The day after Mercer signed in, James Madison’s notes portray the young Maryland delegate as saying, “The Constitution is objectionable in many points, but in none more than the present” issue. The next day: “Mr. MERCER expressed his dislike of the whole plan, and his opinion that it never could succeed.”

This Teaching American History profile says Mercer attended the convention until 16 August, but Madison recorded him speaking the following day as well. That was his last documented contribution to the debate. But did he stick around silently (or silently enough for Madison not to quote him)?

On Saturday, 18 August, George Mason and Elbridge Gerry (shown above) spoke at length about the danger of a standing (permanent) army and the value of a militia system. Madison’s notes say:
Mr. MASON introduced the subject of regulating the militia. He thought such a power necessary to be given to the General Government. He hoped there would be no standing army in time of peace, unless it might be for a few garrisons. The militia ought, therefore, to be the more effectually prepared for the public defence. . . .

Mr. GERRY took notice that there was no check here against standing armies in time of peace. The existing Congress is so constructed that it cannot of itself maintain an army. This would not be the case under the new system. The people were jealous on this head, and great opposition to the plan would spring from such an omission. He suspected that preparations of force were now making against it. [He seemed to allude to the activity of the Governor of New York at this crisis in disciplining the militia of that State.] He thought an army dangerous in time of peace, and could never consent to a power to keep up an indefinite number. He proposed that there should not be kept up in time of peace more than — thousand troops. His idea was, that the blank should be filled with two or three thousand.
That seem to be the basis of the anecdote about George Washington that I quoted yesterday: “A member made a motion that congress should be restricted to a standing army not exceeding five thousand, at any one time.” Supposedly Washington, chairing the convention, whispered to a Maryland delegate “to amend the motion, by providing that no foreign enemy should invade the United States, at any one time, with more than three thousand troops.”

Mercer, uncle of the Virginia legislator who told that story in 1817, seems the most likely candidate to have been that Maryland delegate. However, Madison’s notes make no mention of Mercer in the discussion that followed:
Mr. L[uther]. MARTIN and Mr. GERRY now regularly moved, “provided that in time of peace the army shall not consist of more than — thousand men.”

General [Charles Cotesworth] PINCKNEY asked, whether no troops were ever to be raised until an attack should be made on us?

Mr. GERRY. If there be no restriction, a few States may establish a military government.

Mr. [Hugh] WILLIAMSON reminded him of Mr. MASON’S motion for limiting the appropriation of revenue as the best guard in this case.

Mr. [John] LANGDON saw no room for Mr. GERRY’S distrust of the representatives of the people.

Mr. [Jonathan] DAYTON. Preparations for war are generally made in time of peace; and a standing force of some sort may, for aught we know, become unavoidable. He should object to no restrictions consistent with these ideas.

The motion of Mr. MARTIN and Mr. GERRY was disagreed to, nem. con.
“Nem. con.” meant that motion to limit the army was voted down unanimously.

Was John F. Mercer even present that day? As I said above, Mercer doesn’t appear in Madison’s notes after 17 August, and he left the convention sometime before its end because he disagreed with its goal. But the anecdote about Washington’s whisper, if we believe it, hints that Mercer was still present on 18 August.

Dr. James McHenry, another Maryland delegate Washington may have addressed so frankly, definitely was present on 18 August. He wrote brief notes on the discussion. McHenry didn’t record anything about the size of the standing army, however. That might have been because he mostly wrote down when the convention agreed to amend its draft, not when it decided not to.

Either way, there was a moment when the Constitutional Convention discussed the possibility of a numerical limit on the size of the U.S. Army. And the anecdote about Washington’s whisper described that moment almost two decades before Madison’s notes were published.

TOMORROW: John F. Mercer’s objections.

[Who was the youngest delegate to the convention? Jonathan Dayton, who had the last word in that debate over the size of the U.S. army.]

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Washington’s Whisper

In 1817, the Philadelphia Federalist magazine The Port Folio (possibly cribbing from an unnamed newspaper) published this anecdote about the Constitutional Convention:
Anecdote of [George] Washington.—In debate, in the house of delegates of Virginia, 1817, on the bill relative to a map of the state, in which something was said of military roads, Mr. Mercer, (L) related and applied an anecdote of general Washington, which he had received from a member of the convention that formed the constitution of the United States.

The subject of power to be given the new congress, relative to a standing army, was on the tapis. A member made a motion that congress should be restricted to a standing army not exceeding five thousand, at any one time. General Washington, who, being chairman, could not offer a motion, whispered to a member from Maryland, to amend the motion, by providing that no foreign enemy should invade the United States, at any one time, with more than three thousand troops.
This story struck me as odd for Washington. If we’d heard about that quip without knowing who said it, we’d ascribe it to Benjamin Franklin or Gouverneur Morris or someone else known for sarcastic wit. Washington was indeed a stickler for protocol as chairman—so much so that I was surprised that he might violate neutrality even in this whispered way. So I got curious about whether I could tease out any more information about this story’s provenance.

During the 1816-17 legislative session, the Virginia House of Delegates did indeed debate a bill about “a map of the state.” Formally it was “An act ‘to repeal in part an act entitled “an act to provide an accurate chart of each county, and a general map of the territory of this Commonwealth,”[’”] but some earlier law needed amending in order to get the work done.

The reference to “Mr. Mercer, (L)” confused me until I figured out there were two men named Mercer in the Virginia House of Delegates that term. John Mercer represented Spottsylvania County, and Charles Fenton Mercer represented Loudoun County. The “(L)” stood for Loudoun and was a way to designate the right man.

Charles Fenton Mercer was a nephew of John Francis Mercer (1759-1821), who spent a couple of weeks at the Constitutional Convention in August 1787 representing Maryland—and thus fits the description of the source for this story.

Washington was well acquainted with John F. Mercer, having employed his older half-brother George as an aide de camp during the Seven Years’ War. (George Mercer’s career in Virginia ended after he accepted the job of stamp master in 1765.) John F. Mercer himself served in the Revolutionary War as an officer under the general’s second cousin William Washington, as an aide to Gen. Charles Lee in 1778-79, and finally as a cavalry officer at Yorktown.

The Mercers owed Washington money, resulting in a long correspondence from 1783 on. In 1786, for instance, Washington wrote a letter to John F. Mercer with a notable remark on slave-trading. They also discussed the debt in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787.

TOMORROW: When could this exchange about a standing army have happened?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Patrick Henry’s Gerrymandering

Elizabeth Kolbert’s New Yorker essay “Drawing the Line,” a review of David Daley’s new book on modern computer-aided gerrymandering, starts out with this snatch of early Virginia politics:
Sometime around October 20, 1788, Patrick Henry rode from his seventeen-hundred-acre farm in Prince Edward [County], Virginia, to a session of the General Assembly in Richmond. Henry is now famous for having declared, on the eve of the Revolution, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”—a phrase it’s doubtful that he ever uttered—but in the late seventeen-eighties he was best known as a leader of the Anti-Federalists. He and his faction had tried to sink the Constitution, only to be outmaneuvered by the likes of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. When Henry arrived in the state capital, his adversaries assumed he would seek revenge. They just weren’t sure how.

“He appears to be involved in gloomy mystery,” one of them reported.

The Constitution had left it to state lawmakers to determine how elections should be held, and in Virginia the Anti-Federalists controlled the legislature. Knowing that his enemy Madison was planning a run for the House of Representatives, Henry set to work. First, he and his confederates resolved that Virginia’s congressmen would be elected from districts. (Several other states had chosen to elect their representatives on a statewide basis, a practice that persisted until Congress intervened, in 1842.) Next, they stipulated that each representative from Virginia would have to run from the district where he resided. Finally, they stuck in the shiv. They drew the Fifth District, around Madison’s home in the town of Orange, to include as many Anti-Federalists as possible.

An ally of Madison’s who attended the session in Richmond wrote to him that while it was unusual for the legislature to “bend its utmost efforts” against a single individual, this was, indeed, what had happened: “The object of the majority of today has been to prevent yr. Election in the house of Representatives.” Another friend reported, “The Counties annexed to yours are arranged so, as to render your Election, I fear, extremely doubtful.” George Washington, too, was pessimistic; Madison’s defeat seemed to him “not at all improbable.”
This was of course decades before the term “gerrymandering” was devised, immortalizing another opponent of the U.S. Constitution. And back then the voter data wasn’t as detailed and reliable as it is now. As we know, James Madison did make it to the first federal Congress.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Taking Stock of Richard Stockton

Back in 2008 I wrote a series of postings about Richard Stockton, a judge from New Jersey who signed the Declaration of Independence in August 1776. Four months later he was in the custody of the British army.

As I discussed in my first posting, the standard story of Stockton for the past century and a half matches this passage from the Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence:
Judge Richard Stockton was the only signer to be put in irons, starved and imprisoned under brutal conditions by the British four months after signing the Declaration of Independence.
He reportedly became ill, returned home to find his estate ruined, and died poor and sick as a result of his imprisonment.

My postings pointed out that after Stockton’s release his contemporaries, family members, and clergy didn’t speak of the British army treating him cruelly. (His colleagues did worry while he was in custody in December 1776 and they had little information.) Instead, as soon as Stockton came home, fellow members of the Continental Congress wrote ruefully about how he had “sued for pardon” and “Rec’d General How’s protection.” He resigned from the Congress; rebuilt his health, estate, and legal career; and died of an oral cancer in 1781.

In 2009 Loyalist expert Todd Braisted, now author of Grand Forage 1778, provided a gun with at least a wisp of smoke coming from it: a document showing that Adm. Lord Richard Howe and Gen. Sir William Howe had granted Stockton “a full pardon” by 29 Dec 1776. That cut the judge’s time in enemy hands to less than a month. It also strongly suggested he had reached some sort of deal with the Howes—if not a loyalty oath to the Crown then (as I rather suspect) an agreement between gentlemen to sit out the war.

My articles also discussed how the legend of Stockton’s suffering blossomed in the early 1800s as the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration approached. They really took off in the latter part of that century, despite some evidence to contradict the story and no solid evidence for its more extreme claims. That story turned Stockton into one of New Jersey’s most honored heroes, namesake of Stockton University and subject of a statue in the U.S. Capitol.

Christian McBurney has now rounded up all that material about Stockton and more in an article at the Journal of the American Revolution titled “Was Richard Stockton a Hero?” McBurney has become an expert on captures during the Revolutionary War, the topic of his books Kidnapping the Enemy: The Special Operations to Capture Generals Charles Lee & Richard Prescott and Abductions in the American Revolution: Attempts to Kidnap George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and Other Military and Civilian Leaders. The latter book covers the Stockton capture.

McBurney’s article concludes:
To summarize, I believe Richard Stockton showed great courage in signing the Declaration of Independence. For that reason, and for other work he performed as a Patriot, I believe he is a hero of the American Revolution. But because strong evidence indicates that he signed an oath of allegiance to the Crown, I do not believe he should be celebrated as one of New Jersey’s greatest heroes.
There will no doubt be pushback from fans, descendants, and others invested in the story of Richard Stockton as a martyr for independence.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Visit the History List for Signed Books and More

The History List is an online resource of events at historical sites, tours, reenactments, conferences—whatever organizations choose to list.

You can visit the site to see what’s coming up in your state or sign up for one of its weekly mailing lists for your area.

The History List site is also the only place online now where you can now buy a pre-signed copy of The Road to Concord. All the profits from those sales support the History List.

The site’s shop offers a miscellany of history-celebrating T-shirts, books, and other products, including Sam Forman’s biography of Dr. Joseph Warren, also autographed.

Lee Wright at the History List is also the organizer and proponent of History Camps. At the end of this month I’ll be one of the speakers at History Camp Pioneer Valley, talking about on rural Massachusetts’s uprising against royal rule months before the Revolutionary War began; that event is now sold out with a waitlist. The next History Camp after that is in Denver.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jerks, Shockers, and Lucky Dogs at the J.A.R.

The Journal of the American Revolution has just concluded one of its popular group interviews, in which chief editor Todd Andrlik asks a bunch of us contributors for our opinions on various questions. Sometimes we agree, sometimes there are almost as many answers as respondents.

This week the questions were:
The J.A.R. also recently opened an online shop selling unique Revolutionary-themed T-shirts, posters, and books, including The Road to Concord.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Behind Blood on the Snow

The Summer 2016 issue of Humanities, the magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities, includes a short article by me about Blood on the Snow, the play that the Bostonian Society commissioned and hosted this spring.

As I noted back in early May, this play was produced within the same walls as the events it fictionalizes: the Massachusetts Council’s discussion of how to respond to the Boston Massacre.

For readers from out of town, the article offers some more detail:
One of the Old State House’s main rooms was designed for the governor to meet with his council, the gentlemen selected to advise the royal appointee but often at odds with him. In recent years, the museum refurnished the Council Chamber using inventories from the mid 1700s. Visitors can sit in the governor’s upholstered chair at the long wooden table and examine reproductions of official documents. Nat Sheidley, the society’s historian, came to view the space as “a set that wanted to be peopled.”

But how? The Old State House already uses other methods of bringing history to life: a program of costumed interpreters called “Revolutionary Characters” and an annual outdoor reenactment of the massacre by dedicated volunteers. As he considered possibilities, Sheidley was struck by Boston’s response to the marathon bombing of 2013. Exploring how the community reacted to an earlier calamity could move the Council Chamber beyond politics to show “human beings living through the trauma.”

To dramatize that moment, Sheidley had to find the right playwright. Patrick Gabridge brought experience in writing dramas about historical events and for specific sites. Just as important, he came with a background in producing plays and had many contacts in Boston theater. He could assess the dramatic potential of the Council Chamber and recruit director Courtney O’Connor and a cast of ten.
Read more about the results, and the potential for similar projects elsewhere, here.

Friday, July 15, 2016

When Minutemen Marched into Marshfield

So in 1775 there were a hundred British soldiers stationed in Marshfield, mostly on the estate of Nathaniel Ray Thomas. Their commander was Capt. Nisbet Balfour of the 4th Regiment.

And on the morning of 20 April, according to Isaac Thomas (who was nine years old at the time), the Marshfield militia was summoned by musket shots and drum.

I wouldn’t just leave the story there, would I?

The colonel of the Plymouth County militia was Theophilus Cotton (detail of his gravestone shown above, courtesy of Find-a-Grave). We have many documents about militia companies that he commanded that day, such as this roster from Hanson. That’s because the men who turned out in April 1775 expected to be paid, so the Massachusetts government asked for and kept paperwork with their names and days of service.

However, we don’t have, to my knowledge, contemporaneous narratives of what happened in Marshfield, from either the locals or the British troops. Instead, we have accounts written decades later by the historians of nearby towns, based and focused on the activities of men from those towns.

Dr. James Thacher’s History of the Town of Plymouth (1832) relates two detailed and flattering anecdotes about how Plymouth’s “watchful sons of liberty” intimidated British officers visiting from Marshfield. As for the military activity in Marshfield, he wrote:

Capt. Balfour, with his company remained at Marshfield for several weeks unmolested, but the day after Lexington battle, governor [Thomas] Gage, apprised of their danger, took off his troops, by water, to Boston.

At this period minute companies were organized in town, and immediately on hearing of the bloodshed at Lexington, Col. Theophilus Cotton, of this town, marched to Marshfield with a detachment of militia under his command. There were at the same time about sixty fishing vessels with their crews on board at anchor in Plymouth harbor. The fishermen voluntarily left their vessels, and speedily marched to Marshfield with their arms, resolutely determined to attack the company of British troops. When arrived at Marshfield, their numbers had increased to near one thousand men, collected from the different towns, burning with the feelings of revenge: they might have surrounded and captured the whole company before they could get to their vessels, but were restrained by Col. Cotton, who it is said had received no orders for the attack.
A more detailed account appeared seventeen more years on in Justin Winsor’s History of Duxbury (1849):
Immediately after the news arrived of the bloodshed at Lexington, Col. Cotton with his regiment formed for an attack on Balfour’s party. On the 20th Col. Cotton and Maj. [Ebenezer] Sprout met in Duxbury, at Col. Briggs Alden’s for consultation. Maj. Judah Alden, who was in Rhode Island when the news came of the fight, had just returned, having ridden all day on horseback, and soon after learning the circumstances of the case, he met Cato, a negro who had been sent by Capt. Balfour to ascertain the numbers of the men who were marching against him. Maj. Alden suspecting his design, told him to tell Balfour, they were coming in a host after him, and dismissed him.

Col. Cotton again returned to Plymouth; and, about 7 o’clock, on the morning of the 21st, marched for Marshfield with a portion of his regiment, consisting of the Plymouth company under Capt. [Thomas] Mayhew, the Kingston under Capt. Peleg Wadsworth, and the Duxbury under Capt. Geo. Partridge. They proceeded to Col. Anthony Thomas’ [sic], about a mile N. W. of Capt. John Thomas’, where were Balfour’s troops.

At this juncture Col. Cotton and Lt. Col. Alden held a long conference, as to the course to be taken. At noon there were assembled about 500 men, including the crews of many fishing vessels in the harbor. In the afternoon Capt. [Earl] Clapp’s company from Rochester and Capt. [Jesse] Harlow’s from Plympton arrived. Capt. Peleg Wadsworth was greatly dissatisfied with the delay, and moved forward his company until within a short distance of the enemy, and then halted as his numbers were too small to venture an attack.

About 3 o’clock, P. M., two sloops hove in sight and anchored off the Brant rock. Balfour then conveyed his company through the Cut river [Green Harbor] in boats, and reaching the sloops soon sailed for Boston, leaving however several sentinels behind to watch the movements of the Americans, who also set guards for the night.

The British watch finally left and in going to their boats, they passed one of the American sentry posts, where were stationed Blanie Phillips, and Jacob Dingley, both of Duxbury. Dingley was seized, and conveyed to their boat, when they concluded to release him. Phillips escaped, fired his gun, and gave an alarm, which roused the country for many miles around.

Balfour, it is reported, said that if he had been attacked, he should have surrendered without a gun. In their hurry to escape they left much of their camp equipage behind.
That final detail is the sort that always makes me skeptical: no source for information from the other side of the war, flattering to the author and readers as local descendants. In the following sentences Winsor cited “an inhabitant of Duxbury” whom Balfour spoke with in New York later in the war, so it’s possible the captain told that person. But it’s also possible that’s what the Plymouth County men told themselves.

With Capt. Balfour and the regulars went Nathaniel Ray Thomas, who settled in Nova Scotia, and possibly some other Marshfield Loyalists. His Patriot son John regained the mansion at the center of the estate after the war. Later Daniel Webster bought that house and enlarged it, creating the Victorian structure which (after a fire) is now reproduced on the property. Locals point out that could have been the site of the second battle of the Revolutionary War.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Child’s View of the Revolution in Marshfield

In his History of Shipbuilding on North River, Plymouth County, Massachusetts (1889), L. Vernon Briggs recorded some recollections he remembered hearing from Isaac Thomas (1765-1859) of Marshfield.

Isaac was nine years old when the Revolutionary War began. His father Zenas was one of the men who signed the letter complaining about the town’s official condemnation of the Boston Tea Party in 1774. (Zenas Thomas was, therefore, protesting the protest against a protest.)

Briggs wrote of young Isaac:
On Dec. 20, 1774 he beheld and followed with boyish curiosity the Queen’s Guards commanded by Capt. [Nisbet] Balfour as they marched by the common, where his school room was situated, on their way from North River to their destined quarters at the mansion house of Nathaniel Ray Thomas. He often spoke of the brightness of their bayonets as they glittered in that midday sun of one of the mildest days that the annals of past Decembers have recorded.
Actually, that arrival occurred on 23 Jan 1775. But it still should have been cold. As for “the Queen’s Guards,” that seems to be poetic license; those hundred soldiers in Marshfield were drafted from several regiments in Boston.
He also, on the morning succeeding the battle of Lexington, witnessed Capt. William Thomas and his young kinsman as they ascended to the summit of the hill, and saw him discharge the three alarm guns while his attendant beat the drum, which was the concerted signal to acquaint the surrounding inhabitants of the commencement of hostilities.

He saw the burning of the obnoxious tea on the height which yet bears its name, and saw the torch touched to the fire fated pile by that devoted Whig, Jeremiah Low.
That tea-burning happened in December 1773, shortly after the Tea Party.
He was fond of relating descriptions of the olden school room.
Surely ’twas a rustic school-room
All unplastered there it stood,
Broad and deep its ancient hearthstone
Where they rolled the logs of wood;
Coarse the furniture within it,
Diamond lattices for light,
Cross-legged table for the master
Where he did the copies write.
I haven’t found a source for those lines aside from Isaac Thomas.

TOMORROW: Withdrawal from Marshfield.