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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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gossip from Daniel Leonard, part 2

Yesterday I quoted from John Adams’s diary entry from 20 Jan 1766, as he gossiped with Daniel Leonard. But enough, those men apparently decided, about what Boston lawyers think about each other! What do other people think about Boston lawyers?

Here’s the rest of Adams’s notes, as Leonard described his recent visit to Rhode Island:

Leonard gave me also a Relation of his going to Providence Court and Spending an Evening with the Political Clubb there. The Clubb consists of Governor [Stephen] Hopkins, Judge [Daniel] Jenks, [Silas] Downer, [John] Cole and others. They were impatient to have the Courts opened in this Province not choosing to proceed in Business alone.
As in Boston, the big legal issue of early 1766 in Providence was the Stamp Act. That tax law required all legal proceedings to be submitted on stamped paper. Colonists responded by closing their courts until judges agreed not to enforce that part of the law. These Rhode Island attorneys and judges wanted to start holding court sessions again, without stamped paper, but wished to do so alongside the jurists in the bigger colony to their north rather than stick their necks out alone.
Were very inquisitive concerning all our Affairs. Had much to say of [Lt. Gov. Thomas] Hutchinson, [James] Otis, &c. Admired the answer to the Governors [Francis Bernard’s] Speech. Admired the Massachusetts Resolves. Hopkins said that nothing had been so much admired there through the whole Course of the Controversy, as the Answer to the Speech, tho the Massachusetts Resolves were the best digested and the best of any on the Continent. Enquired who was the Author of them.
The man who wrote the Massachusetts legislature’s resolves against the Stamp tax was Samuel Adams—the first time his political activity attracted notice outside the province.

Then the Rhode Islanders’ talk turned to less elevated forms of argument: satirical poems published in the newspapers.
Enquired also who it was that burlesqued the Governors Speeches? Who wrote jemmybullero [about Otis], &c. Thought Hutchinsons History [of Massachusetts] did not shine. Said his House was pulled down [on 26 Aug 1765], to prevent his writing any more by destroying his Materials. Thought Otis was not an original Genius, nor a good Writer, but a Person who had done, and would continue to do much good service.

Were very inquisitive about [Ebenezer] McIntosh [the shoemaker who led Boston’s public protests against the Stamp Act]. Whether he was a Man of Abilities, or not? Whether he would probably rise, in Case this Contest should be carried into any Length.

Jo[seph]. Green, [Samuel] Waterhouse and [Benjamin] Church were talk’d of as capable of Bullero and the Burlesques.
So gentlemen in Rhode Island had a good idea of which Bostonians were in the habit of writing satirical verse. Local consensus settled on Waterhouse as the author of the “Jemmibullero” attack on Otis, with Church responsible for “These Times,” attacking Bernard.

1 comment:

The Barrister Blog said...

Thanks for your ver incisive comment Mark. Perhaps Barack Obama's quotation will raise awareness of this important man. Very best wishes, Tim Kevan