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, January 04, 2009

“Kissed Him, Before All the Company in the Room”

After last week’s postings on Boston’s Sandemanian congregation and the theological debate they inspired, a longtime Boston 1775 reader asked me, “So there was all this fuss over kissing?”

It wasn’t just the kissing, I tried to explain. The Sandemanians irked the descendants of Puritans by challenging their claim to worship properly according to the Bible. The congregation’s political loyalty to the Crown made them suspect in another way. The kissing was just the issue that people chose to argue over.

Then I happened across this passage from John Adams’s diary. On this date, 6 June 1771, he was at Stafford Springs, Connecticut, drinking some of the mineral water there for his health. Adams kept bumping into people he knew from Boston and his travels on the legal circuit:

In the afternoon [Sandemanian merchant] Colburn Barrell and his Wife and Daughter came, and took Lodgings at our House. Drank Tea and spent the Evening with them. When the Dr. [William McKinstry of Taunton] took his Hat to go out to a Neighbours to lodge, Colburn sprung out of his Chair and went up to the Dr., took him by the Hand And kissed him, before all the Company in the Room. This is Sandemanianism.
So, yeah, I guess it was about the kissing.

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