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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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Sea Captains Export Pope Night to Virginia

The diary of Nicholas Cresswell, published in a new edition this year, describes the spread of New England’s Pope Night tradition to the Potomac. This is Cresswell’s entry for 6 Nov 1775:

News that the Kings Ships had burned Falmouth in New Hampshire [actually modern Portland, Maine].

Some New England Masters [i.e., captains] of Vessels that lye here being the Anniversary of the Gunpowder plot, Had the Pope, Lord North, [Francis] Barnard, [Thomas] Hutchinson and the Devil, burned in Effigy, after Carting them through the town with Drums & Fifes.
Even six months after the war had begun, Patriots still saw their enemy as the politicians around George III rather than the king himself. Cresswell, a recent emigrant from England and a Loyalist, must nonetheless have found this celebration disquieting.

Ironically, while these New Englanders were bringing their Pope Night tradition to Virginia, a Virginian was doing his best to tamp down the same celebration in the Continental Army camps around Boston—for political reasons.

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