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, August 13, 2015

The Flight of the Stampmen in the Boston Gazette

In preparation for the next two days of Stamp Act sestercentennial events in Boston, I looked up the issue of the Boston Gazette for Monday, 12 Aug 1765.

That was the last issue published before effigies appeared on the big South End elm. It’s easily read on the Massachusetts Historical Society’s online collection of the newspapers of Harbottle Dorr.

On page 3, the local news included these items:

Early on Monday Morning last departed this Town, after a short Stay, for his native Place the Colony of Connecticut, the most reputable STAMPMAN [Jared Ingersoll], attended by his Brother Functioner of this Province [Andrew Oliver, shown above], amidst the Exclamations of the People—And we hear they were bewildered and lost their Way in going thro’ Roxbury; but by the Help of Sambo an innocent Negro Man, they were convey’d through Sheep-Alley into the great Road again, leading to Watertown.

We hear from Providence, in the Colony of Rhode Island, that the Freemen of that Town being lately called, to confer on such Measures as should appear to them necessary relative to the STAMP ACT,* whereby the Liberties, the darling Boast of the English North American Subject, which was once deem’d indefeasible, must be greatly abridg’d, if not totally annihilated; they according met for the aforesaid Purpose, and unanimously appointed a Committee to prepare Instructions suitable to be given their Representatives for their Conduct in the next general Assembly, on this truly alarming Occasion; and that they are to be laid before that Town for their Approbation To-Morrow; at which Time those Sons of Liberty are to convene again for the noblest of all Causes, their Country’s Good.—A Proceeding this, that conveys the most lively Idea of Principles nobly patriotic, and which will, it is to be wish’d, serve as an Example to other Towns, to exert themselves at this Crisis, and to remind them that they are entitled to all the Privileges of British Subjects, as long as they are denominated such, and to bear in utter Abhorrence the Name without the Substance.
Ironically, Jared Ingersoll, the Connecticut stamp agent who left Boston under a cloud, was also the man responsible for popularizing “Sons of Liberty” as the name of Stamp Act opponents.

As for that asterisk, it led readers to these lines of poetry:
———— Instead of voted Aid,
Free, cordial, large, a never failing Source,
The cumb’rous Imposition follow’d harsh.
THOM. Lib.
That was a quotation from Liberty by James Thomson (1700-1748). Specifically, it was from a passage about the tyranny of Charles I. You know, the king who was overthrown and executed by the Puritans.

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