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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Saturday, August 22, 2015

“It was rumord about my turn would be next”

Yesterday I quoted Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson’s account of the anti-Stamp demonstration and riot on 14 Aug 1765. The next day, Andrew Oliver (Hutchinson’s brother-in-law) put out word that he was resigning as stamp master, though he made no public statement himself.

But that didn’t quiet the mob, as Hutchinson found out:
Towards the evening of the same day it was rumord about my turn would be next. Several of my friends were in pain & advised me to quit my house [shown here]. I sent my daughters [Sally (1744-1780) and Peggy (1754-1777)] & young son [Billy (1752-1780)] to lodge abroad & secured my doors & windows in the best manner I could.

About 9 sevral 100 came to the back part of my house & finding all fast the leader asked whether they should begin with the coach house or stables, but first attempting the gates they soon forced them & came up to the doors which finding well secured they moved round the body of them to the front of the house in another street & with furious knocks at the door demand entrance promising to do no damage they only wanted to speak to me or if I would come & declare to them I had never wrote to Engd. in favor of the stamp act they would not hurt a hair of my head. They could obtain no answer & some began to break the windows.

My neighbours were in distress for me one of them called out of his window & declared he knew I was not in town, at length one grave elderly tradesman went into the midst of them & seeing one of the mob lay hold of the pales asked what he was going to do

he replied to pull down the fence

he asked whether I had ever injured him & then begged them to be silent & being a noted speaker in town meetings he soon engaged their attention; he challenged every one of them to say I had ever done them the least wrong charged them with ingratitude in insulting a gentleman who had been serving his country all his days.

Their speaker acknowledged they had a regard for me in my private character but it was said I was in favor of the stamp act they knew I would not lye & if they could know from my own mouth that I was not they would be easy.

He replied he would answer for me. I was in favor of no act that would hurt the country but yet it was unreasonable in them to expect, if I was at home that I should be accountable to them & went on with his harangue until he brought them to give the word to move.

I was not a little pleased at the raising the siege which lasted near an hour for if I had been obliged to answer their questions I must either have enraged them or else given them a handle to justify their extravagant behaviour.
The next day Hutchinson took his children out to his country house in Milton.

In another letter written on 20 August, after he returned to Boston, Hutchinson gave a shorter version of the same event and said:
I live in the midst of neighbours who are friendly & some of them ventured into the midst of the mob & expostulated with them so that I escaped with the loss of a little glass. They had a notion that I had wrote to England in favor of the Stamp act; if I would declare I had not they would believe me but I did not like to be accountable to them.
Events might have turned out quite differently if the lieutenant governor had deigned to tell the crowd that he’d told his contacts in London that the Stamp Act was a bad idea. After all, he had. But he couldn’t bring himself to answer to popular demands like that. And the next time a crowd came to his house, they wouldn’t be dissuaded.

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