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 03, 2015

Norwich’s Protest Against the Stamp Act

In order to discuss the anti-Stamp Act demonstration and riots in Newport in time for its reenactment last Saturday, I completely skipped over developments in Connecticut. Which had, in fact, come earlier in August 1765. So let’s catch up!

As I quoted back here, one letter describing Boston’s 14 August protest against the new law, with stamp-tax collector Andrew Oliver hung in effigy, included this passage:
It was Observd that a Connecticut Man very attentively viewd the Image and at length took off the Lines on which some one asked him what he was about. He replied, that as he was going home he was only taking a Sample of the Fruit of that Tree, it would be seen more; for he was satisfied that some their Trees would bear the like.
The 23 Aug 1765 New-London Gazette showed that Connecticut Whigs had indeed adopted the Boston method of protest:
NORWICH, August 22.

The noble patriotic Fire which has lighted up in one Place and another, and of late shone so conspicuous at Boston, blazed here, with all the vehemence and splendor of a Comet, guided by the dictates of Prudence and Decorum.

’Twas last Night [i.e., 21 August] our reputable STAMP-MASTER, in Effigie, made his public Appearance in this Town, clad in a Suit of White, trim’d with Black, the Gift of his Native Country, both as an Emblem of his Purity and Innocence, and his sorrow and tender Concern for this unhappy People: On his right Hand stood the restless Father of Mischief [i.e., the Devil] with the Stamp Act in his Hand, giving Credentials to his all attentive Pupil; the malignity of his Heart was lively portray’d by the expressive Cardinal Knave at Cards on his Breast, accompanied with a cautious Memento to all Place Men, that
“When Vice prevails & impious Men bear Sway,
“The Post of Honour is a private Station.”
Their Appearance was Becoming, and Procession Glorious, attended by such Invectives, Huzza’s, & disdainful Music as are the pure emanations of injured Freedom: After passing thro’ Town, our Hero with his Companion, was conducted “In all the Majesty of Greece” to the height of a loft Hill, perhaps the highest Summit he will e’er ascend, and there in Complaisance to his Fellow, committed to the Flames; and a few loyal and constitutional Healths crown’d the Night.
I'm not sure why Norwich was the first Connecticut town to host such a demonstration. That colony’s designated stamp master, Jared Ingersoll, had received several letters from men hoping to be his deputies for particular towns. Dr. Daniel Lathrop (1712-1782) appears to have been the sole hopeful from Norwich, but there’s no sign that his neighbors knew of his offer to help collect the tax. If he was smart, he kept quiet.

TOMORROW: Protests spread.

1 comment:

J. L. Bell said...

My colleague Tony Lathrop alerted me to how Dr. Daniel Lathrop and his brother Joshua trained their young cousin, Benedict Arnold, in the valuable profession of pharmacy and helped him to set up his shop in New Haven. Norwich still has a bed and breakfast and a preserved one-room school named after Dr. Daniel Lathrop. So clearly he maintained the affection of the community.