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, January 13, 2011

Eye to Eye with Josiah Quincy, Jr.

Through 22 January, the Massachusetts Historical Society hosts an exhibit titled “Josiah Quincy: A Lost Hero of the Revolution.” This coincides with the publication of the final two volumes of Portrait of a Patriot: The Major Political and Legal Papers of Josiah Quincy Junior by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts.

The exhibit includes materials from what the website calls “the Society’s enormous archive of Quincy family papers, letters, diaries, drawings, artifacts, and paintings that document eight generations of this extraordinary family,” an unusual number of whom were named Josiah Quincy.

This one (1744-1775) was a young lawyer among the Boston Whigs. He defended Ebenezer Richardson on murder charges, and helped to defend Capt. Thomas Preston and his soldiers after the Boston Massacre, thus providing a clear exemplar of the modern dictum that all accused deserve a professional legal defense. Outside the courtroom, Quincy wrote strident newspaper essays, though at times he called for curbing public demonstrations.

Some authors credit Quincy with this statement, which appeared in his 1774 “Observations on the Boston Port-Bill”:

It is much easier to restrain liberty from running into licentiousness than power from swelling into tyranny and oppression.
However, he put quotation marks around that sentence, having taken it from a Parliamentary committee report in 1735.

The M.H.S. exhibit is open to the public on Monday through Saturday, 1 to 4 P.M.

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