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, December 08, 2011

A Chance to Be on TV (kind of)

C-SPAN is recording William M. Fowler’s talk about his new book, An American Crisis: George Washington and the Dangerous Two Years After Yorktown, 1781-1783, at the Social Law Library tonight. The event runs from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M., and organizers ask people to arrive promptly so as not to disrupt the recording. But hey, if you want to be a blurry shoulder crossing in front of a camera halfway through the event, here’s your chance.

Bill Fowler is also host of this New England Quarterly podcast from last summer discussing Richard Brown’s article “‘Tried, Convicted, and Condemned, in Almost Every Bar-room and Barber’s Shop’: Anti-Irish Prejudice in the Trial of Dominic Daley and James Halligan, Northampton, Massachusetts, 1806.”

Prof. Brown is a very interesting historian of early America who organized one of the first history conferences I attended. This paper grew from the same research that led to The Hanging of Ephraim Wheeler, written with Prof. Irene Quenzler Brown, and he’s doing other research on the criminal justice system. Even on a topic that obviously means a lot to him, Dick Brown is somewhat dry as a speaker, thoughtful rather than effusive, so to liven up this recording there’s also…

Michael Dukakis!

The former governor, now a professor of government at Northeastern, comes into the conversation because he issued a proclamation acknowledging the injustices of the Daley and Halligan trial, modeled on a similar proclamation about the Sacco and Vanzetti case. Tell me he doesn’t sound loose, casual, and still very smart about government.

An interesting aspect of the discussion, not fully explored, is that Brown concluded that anti-Irish sentiment was not a factor in Daley and Halligan’s conviction, though their defense counsel raised that issue. The prosecuting attorney, James Sullivan, was only one generation removed from Ireland himself, and Massachusetts would elect him governor the next two years. Other Irishmen were acquitted in similar trials at the same time. On the other hand, the rules of the court in 1806 were not what any of us would consider fair today.

3 comments:

Peter Ansoff said...

The Procrastinators' Society of America staged a tounge-in-cheek demonstration at the Whitechapel Foundry, where the Liberty Bell was originally cast, in 1976. They demanded that the foundry honor their warranty on the defective bell. The Foundry agreed to replace the bell, but only if it was returned in the original packaging.

I heard this story many years ago and assumed that it was an urban legend, but it's reported as fact on the Foundry's own web site:
http://www.whitechapelbellfoundry.co.uk/liberty.htm

J. L. Bell said...

That story also shows up in Gary B. Nash’s Liberty Bell book. Back in 1976, I think, more Americans had a sense of humor about American icons. But only in England would we find a firm that’s still in business from the 1750s and can respond to a tongue-in-cheek protest with an even cheekier answer.

(I believe this comment was intended for one of the recent Liberty Bell postings, but I can’t transfer it.)

Peter Ansoff said...

Guilty as charged -- sorry about that!