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.

Follow by Email


Friday, December 22, 2006

A Tour Through Part of the North Provinces

This morning I’m sharing a bit of travel literature: Patrick M’Robert’s A Tour Through Part of the North Provinces of America: Being, a Series of Letters Wrote on the Spot, in the Years 1774, & 1775, published in Edinburgh in 1776.

M’Robert planned to write a book on Britain’s North American colonies for prospective emigrants, but had the bad timing to arrive just before the Revolutionary War broke out. He had hoped to visit Boston in mid-1774, but with the port closed he went to Halifax instead. By the time M’Robert wrote his last letter, he had to acknowledge the war:

You may also be surprised that I say nothing of the unhappy contest now subsisting between this and the mother country: This I leave to politicians; but am afraid both parties will repent when too late their having launched so inconsiderately into it. When it will end, God only knows, I fear the ruin of one, if not of both countries.
Still, M’Robert does offer some useful advice for travelers, such as how to get service at a New England tavern:
They have been great adventurers in trade, and generally successful; they are very inquisitive, want to know every circumstance relating to any stranger that comes amongst them, so that a traveller lately in that country had been so pestered with their idle queries, that, as soon as he entered a tavern, he used to begin and tell them, he was such a one, telling his name, travelling to Boston, born in North Britain, aged about thirty, unmarried, prayed them not to trouble him with more questions but to get him something to eat: this generally had the desired effect.
And at the back of the book is this mileage chart for traveling by land to Boston from the city of New York, showing the distance between each town or stop and the next:
King’s-bridge — 15 miles
East Chester — 6
N. Rochell — 4
Rye — 5
Horse-neck — 6
Standford — 7
Norwalk — 10
Fairfield — 12
Stratford — 8
Milford — 4
New Haven — 10
Wallingford — 13
Durham — 7
M. [Middle]Town — 6
Weathers-field — 11
Hartford — 3
Windsor — 8
Enfield — 8
Springfield — 10
Kingston — 15
Western — 9
Brookfield — 6
Spencer — 8
Leicester — 6
Worcester — 6
Shrewsbury — 5
Marlborough — 10
Sudbury — 11
Water-town — 10
Boston — 10
Today I drive the reverse route, and beyond, so new postings might be spotty for the next week or so.


The Bizarre Jokester said...

fantastic blog! keep up the good work!

Tom Bailey said...

I am just in awe about the quality of the content you are posting here. Fantastic.

DigitalRich said...

Wow. That's all I can say. I am a HUGE fan of the American Revolutionary period, and have read all of Flexner's GW books, John Adams, and several other works. Your blog is now added to my blogroll, and will be read with each new post. Thanks!


Heidi on Vashon said...

Are you wearing the old English wig while you're doing all this, got the mutton chops going? Just trying to get the full effect here!

The Enforcer said...

This blog is awesome (I am a huge history nut from Massachusetts) and this site is so informative

Anonymous said...

Wow! I can't believe that you wrote so many books! I like writing about Ancient History 5000 B.C.E. - 345 A.D. I also like writing about daily life in the Ancient world. Please visit my ancient history blog at www.ancienthistorybuff.blogspot.com.

J. L. Bell said...

Wig: no. Muttonchop sidewhiskers: yes, actually. But the fashion of eighteenth-century British and American society was for men to be clean-shaven, so my sideburns would be even more anachronistic for those times as they are for these.

Chris Poust said...

May I congratulate you on a fantastically designed blog. Very different, aesthetic and informative.

Chris Poust Eurotemp