Mayor Charles Crowley…said that Taunton is qualified because it has a “rich history” in its role as a bellwether for rebellion leading up to the Revolutionary War. He also discussed how Taunton’s industrial development was remarkable, especially when it came to silver.So take that, all those cowards everyone else in the colonies—only Taunton raised the flag!
Crowley started by detailing the totality of events that occurred in what he called the “theater” of downtown Taunton, including Church Green and the Taunton Green, where the Liberty and Union flag was raised. The flag was raised in 1774 by the revolutionary group the Sons of Liberty in the lead-up to the war against the British, according to historians.
Crowley said that the original pole that to hold up the flag in Taunton is missing, but the the Taunton green nonetheless served as a theater that hosted many of Americans founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin. . . .
Crowley noted the Sons of Liberty of Taunton embodied American values by going against the grain, refusing to act like cowards like most of the subjects in the colonies. He said they displayed their bravery by raising the Liberty and Union flag, impressing their fellow revolutionaries in Boston.
Except it wasn’t only Taunton. Towns everywhere in New England were hoisting flags on Liberty Poles that season. It was the thing to do in the fall of 1774.
A report about Taunton did indeed get noticed in Boston, in the 24 Oct 1774 Boston Evening-Post:
We have just received the following intelligence from Taunton—that on Friday last [i.e., 21 October] a Liberty Pole 112 feet long was raised there on which a vane, and a Union flag flying with the words Liberty and Union thereon.That motto was unusual, but a Union flag on a tall pole was not. When Isaiah Thomas took note of Taunton’s Liberty Pole in the Massachusetts Spy, he also reported on poles erected in Concord, Middleborough, Barnstable, Granville, Vineyard Haven, and Hanover, Massachusetts. Already the 3 October Newport Mercury had reported that “most of the towns” in Connecticut had erected Liberty Poles, with heights ranging from 100 to 170 feet.
And how did the town’s “theater” host Benjamin Franklin? On 10 Nov 1775, Sally Paine wrote to her husband, the Taunton lawyer and Continental Congress delegate Robert Treat Paine:
I had the happiness of seeing Doctor Franklin on his return to Philadelphia. He was so kind as to call at our house for letters or anything else that I wanted to send you. He made but a short stay with us and we would have been glad for more of his company.Franklin was simply doing a favor to a colleague (and taking the opportunity to visit a pleasant woman—always a favorite activity). “He made but a short stay” in Taunton.
As the article explains, to support a new park the N.P.S. wants a site to be of national influence and not to duplicate the stories told in other parks. (There are also important factors of feasibility, budgets, and congressional support.) Clearly Taunton’s citizens took part in the regional Revolutionary movement, but I don’t see it standing out greatly from other New England towns.
(The conjectural recreation of Taunton “Liberty and Union” flag above is available from Flags Unlimited. Thanks to Rob Velella at the American Literary Blog for his tip about this news story.)