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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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How the Boston Gazette Spun a Riot

Just as the Boston News-Letter was already a reliable supporter of the royal government in Massachusetts in 1765, as discussed yesterday, Benjamin Edes and John Gill’s Boston Gazette was already the voice of the Boston’s government, merchants, and Whigs.

After the riot that destroyed Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson’s house, the 2 September Gazette did its best to portray Boston in a positive light. Its report started, “Such horrid Scenes of Villainy as were perpetrated last Monday Night it is certain were never seen before in this Town, and it is hop’d never will again.”

Having swiftly described the destruction, the Gazette insisted:
The true Causes of this notorious Riot are not known, possibly they may be explored hereafter.——Most People seem dispos’d to differentiate between the Assembly on the 14th of the Month, and their Transactions, and the unbridled Licentiousness of this Mob; Judging them to proceed from very different Motives, and their Conduct was most evidently different
No matter that the crowd on 14 August damaged stamp agent Andrew Oliver’s house almost as thoroughly as the mob on 26 August damaged Hutchinson’s. The paper moved swiftly on to how Boston and its respectable citizens had reacted to the disorder:
[“]The Town having an utter Detestation of the extraordinary and violent Proceedings of a Number of Persons unknown, against some of the Inhabitants of the same the last Night;

VOTED UNANIMOUSLY That the Selectmen and Magistrates of the Town be desired to use their utmost Endeavours, agreeable to Law, to suppress the like Disorders for the future, and that the Freeholders and other Inhabitants will do every Thing in their Power to assist them therein.”

Altho’ not above two Hours Notice was given, there was as full a Meeting at Faneuil Hall as has been ever known.

In Consequence of the above Resolve the Selectmen Magistrates, and other Gentlemen of the Town, together with the Cadet Company several Companies of the Militia, and the Company of the Train of Artillery, have kept Night Watch, to prevent any such further Proceedings.

It is hoped that the Goldsmiths, and other Persons to whom Plate may be offered for Sale, will be at this Time exceeding careful of whom they purchase.
Likewise, the Gazette offered a different take on the day when Boston’s Whigs named Liberty Tree.

TOMORROW: A respectful ceremony honoring a respectable riot.

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