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 29, 2015

"This side Winter Hill": Cyrus Baldwin Tells his Story

Yesterday guest blogger Chris Hurley promised untold details about the dumping of a barrel of tea in Charlestown in January 1774. That incident was reported in Massachusetts newspapers with no names attached. This posting picks up the story.

From the Massachusetts Historical Society’s Miscellaneous Bound Manuscripts, a letter from Cyrus Baldwin to the Charlestown Committee of Correspondence:
Boston Jany 25 1774

Gentn.

On the 4th Instant I was sending a quantity of Goods to my brother Mr Loammi Baldwin at Woburn & pack’d a bag containing 26 lb. Bohea Tea into a Barrel not for secrecy but for safety of conveyance. In the evening the Team was stoped just on this side Winter hill and the driver interogated by three or four men who called themselves a Commitee of Suspiscion for Charlestown: what goods he had & whether any Tea? To which he answered generally that he knew nothing what goods were in the Cart. Upon which they insisted upon probing, & abused and drove off the Teamster, broke open the cask that contained the Tea, carry'd off the bag with the Tea—& some other articles are missing.
Cyrus Baldwin’s property had been stolen. But because his property was tea, who would be sympathetic to his complaint?
I cannot harbour the least suspicion that any Gentlemen of Charlestown, much less any of the respectable Committe of Correspondance were knowing to or any way incouraging such high handed Villany, yet as they assumed the character of a Committee from the Town of Charlestown I think it my incumbant duty to the Inhabitants of Charlestown to inform you of the above particulars, not doubting but you will properly resent such Wickedness perpetuated in the name of the Town, & if it is in your power, promise me satisfaction for my loss.
Why ask the Charlestown Committee for redress? Why not go to the Law?
I think it not proper or advisable to make a public stir about it just at present, least the Enemies to the good cause which we have imbarked in should triumph in our Divisions. But unless a speedy & intire stop be put to such attacks upon private property we shall fall into a greater Evil than we are endeavouring to avoid.

All which is submitted to your wisdom and confidence.

Your most respectfull and obediant Humble Serv't,
Cyrus Baldwin.

I shall inteem it a favour you'd return an answer as soon as convenience will permitt.
The Charlestown Committee did answer quickly.

TOMORROW: Cyrus Baldwin can’t get no satisfaction.

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