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, May 09, 2010

Henry Hulton in Print at Last

While I was at the Colonial Society of Massachusetts on Friday, I got a glimpse of its latest publication, Henry Hulton and the American Revolution: An Outsider's Inside View, edited by Neil Longley York. The publisher’s copy explains this book’s significance:

Henry Hulton was an Englishman who moved to Boston in 1767 as a member of the new American Board of Customs Commissioners. The board was supposed to curtail smuggling and bring greater efficiency to the administration of empire. It failed, and Hulton fled Massachusetts in 1776, joining an exodus of the politically displaced.

Hulton eventually wrote a never-published history of the American rebellion as he experienced it. Although his complaints about the “demagogues” who dominated Massachusetts politics echo those made by other Loyalists, Hulton adds another dimension to our understanding. As an Englishman, he could be more detached from the problems of empire than Loyalists who had been driven from their native land. . . .

Hulton’s history, his letters, and the letters of his sister, Ann, who lived with him outside Boston—all of which are reproduced here—provide an unusual glimpse into the onset of the Revolution in Massachusetts.
Back in 2006, Boston 1775 discussed why the manuscript of Hulton’s history, in the collection of Princeton University, has the bookplate of a man named Thomas Preston. (Here’s another book with the same bookplate.) Was this the army captain tried for murder after the Boston Massacre? No, it was probably Hulton’s son, who took his mother’s family name to gain an inheritance.

I took notes on that manuscript a few years ago, and on letters from Hulton in libraries around here, and it’s great to see those sources in print. The book isn’t a casual purchase—a small print run and high production values raise the price—but I probably won’t be able to resist saving up for a copy. After all, a used copy of Ann Hulton’s book alone costs significantly more.

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