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, September 10, 2015

Anti-Stamp Protests Draw Nearer to Jared Ingersoll

Jared Ingersoll wrote his conditional resignation as Connecticut’s stamp-tax collector on 24 Aug 1765, and the newspapers published it soon after. But demonstrations against the new law continued, coming closer to his home in New Haven.

Lyme’s 29 August protest was written up as a “Tryal of J—d Stampman, Esq., before the Proctors of Liberty.” The defendant did allegedly “enter into a Confederacy with some other evil minded, wicked, and malicious persons, to kill and destroy his own mother, Americana. . . . The Weapon he obtain’d was called a Stamp.” After the guilty verdict, the court pronounced this punishement:
That he should be forthwith tied to the tail of a Cart, and drawn thro’ all the principal streets in Town, and at every Corner and before every House should be publicly Whip’d; and should be then drawn to a Gallows erected at least 50 feet high, and be there hanged till he should be dead, and then cut down by the common Hangman, and buried at the meeting of three Roads and a Monument erected over him, shewing the Cause of his ignominious Death, that the infamy of his Crime might be perpetuated to after Generations.
That sentence was reported to be carried out, presumably on an effigy.

Sometime during the first week of September, Ingersoll’s New Haven neighbors surrounded his house and demanded he resign. He answered that “having accepted the Office in Person he did not think he had Power to Resign.” The crowd asked if, when the stamped paper arrived, he preferred to hand it over for a bonfire “or to have his House pull’d down.”

Ingersoll pleaded that everyone should just wait until colonial legislature met in Hartford to take a stand on the issue. The crowd insisted on an answer sooner than that. Finally, Ingersoll promised to let the crowd do whatever they wanted with the stamped paper if it ever came. That was enough to avert an effigy-hanging and burning in New Haven.

But on the night of 10 September the neighboring town of West Haven saw:
a horrible Monster, or Male Giant, twelve Feet high, whose terrible Head was internally illuminated. He was mounted on a generous Horse groaning under the enormous Weight. This Giant seemed to threaten Destruction to every Person or Thing around him, which raised the resentment of a Number of stout Fellows, who constantly pelted him with Stones till he fled. The Assailants pursued and soon took him Captive, and triumphantly drove him about a Mile in the Town, attended with the discordant Noise of Drums, Fiddles, and taunting Huzzas.

The People then directed their Course toward a Hill called Mount Misery. There the Giant was accused, fairly tried and Condemned by a special Jury and Impartial Judge as an unjust Intruder, a Patron of Ignorance, a Foe of English Freedom, etc. and was sentenced to be burnt. The Sentence was accordingly executed, amidst the joyful Acclamations, of near three Hundred Libertines, Men, Women and Children.

It should be mentioned that, through the whole of this Raree show, no unlawful Disorder happened, as was the Case in the last truly deplorable and truly detestable Riot in Boston.
The 26 August attack on the house of Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson was already notorious, and this newspaper report insisted that Connecticut protesters wouldn’t follow that example. Which may not have been completely reassuring for Jared Ingersoll.

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