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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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Samuel Waterhouse Gets Personal

Having expressed his strong opinions about a newspaper essay signed “H.” in the 6 Jan 1766 Boston Evening Post, as I quoted yesterday, Samuel Waterhouse went on to write of the essayist:

It would, doubtless, be a very kind, a very timely office, in some of this man’s real friends, to advise him to consideration, and a steady, and thorough reviews of himself.—To consider his real character and situation; and instantly, by all fit means, to purge his boiling, malignant passions; and heal his distemper’d soul!——The man is truly pitied; and all but his base intention is forgiven!—

But yet, it must be added, that should ever this rude, and younger grammarian, usher into public notice any more of his curious and most astonishing pieces, and should he be found in the same active voice, and indicative mood; the invited freedom will be taken, particularly, and pleasantly to remark him: and, at the same time, to scrutinize his very notable performance, on the feminine GENDER, and the CONJUGATION copulative.
Waterhouse’s phrases “younger grammarian” and “usher,” and his references to various grammatical terms, hinted at who he thought “H.” was. John Adams (above, courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society) picked up those hints with dismay, writing in his diary on 7 Jan 1766:
Sam. Waterhouse and has made a most malicious, ungenerous, Attack upon James Lovell Jur. the Usher of the Grammar school, and insinuated about feminine Gender and Conjunction Copulative—as Y.Z. and H. had attacked him, about Idleness and familiar Spirits, and Zanyship, and Expectancy of a Deputation &c.

This Way of reviling one another is very shocking to Humanity and very dangerous in its Consequences. To pry into a Mans private Life, and expose to the World, all the Vices, and Follies of Youth, to paint before the Public Eye, all the Blotts and Stains, in a Mans private Character, must excite the Commisseration of every Reader, to the Object, and his Indignation against the Author of such Abuse.
James Lovell was the usher, or assistant teacher, at the South Latin School, working under his father, John Lovell. The younger Lovell is thus the connection between this series of newspaper essays and the paper I read at the New England Historical Association meeting last Saturday, about that school in 1765-75. I had a little bit about this controversy in the long version of my paper, which I had to cut, so you’re getting that and more. Lucky you.

Though Adams noted that charges had been flying in both directions, he didn’t get upset until the mud started to land on one of his political allies. He then expressed the hope of many critics of “negative campaigning,” that criticism perceived as unfair ends up hurting the “Author of such Abuse” most of all.

TOMORROW: The moderators finally step in.

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