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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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Annapolis Commemorates the Stamp Act Protests, 19-25 Oct.

On 26 Aug 1765, the same day that Bostonians tore apart Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson’s home in the North End, Annapolis saw its first public protest against the Stamp Act.

Following the model of the widely reported demonstration in Boston on 14 August, Marylanders built an effigy of their colony’s stamp agent, Zachariah Hood, and then ritually destroyed it. This is the account from the Maryland Gazette, published by Boston native Jonas Green:
Monday morning last, a considerable number of people, assertors of British American privileges, met here to show their detestation of, and abhorrence to, some late tremendous attacks on liberty, and their dislike to a certain late-arrived officer, a native of this Province. They curiously dressed np the figure of a man, which they placed on a one horse cart, malefactor-like, with some sheets of his paper in his hands before his face.

In this manner they proceeded through the streets of town till noon, the bells at the same time tolling a solemn knell, when they proceeded to the hill; and after giving it the Mosaic law [i.e., thirty-nine lashes] at the whipping-post, placed it in the pillory, from whence they took it and hung it to a gibbet erected for that purpose, and then set fire to a tar-barrel underneath, till it fell into the barrel. By the many significant nods of the head while in the cart, it may be said to have gone off very penitently.
Among the people who led that event was twenty-four-year-old lawyer Samuel Chase. The next year, members of the local political establishment called him “a foul-mouthed and inflaming son of discord and faction.” Chase went on to be a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Chief Justice of Maryland, and an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, surviving impeachment in 1805.

Zachariah Hood himself wasn’t in Annapolis to see his effigy. He arrived from London a few days later, met by an angry crowd. In September another mob burned one of his warehouses. Meanwhile, other Maryland towns—Baltimore, Elk Ridge, Fredericktown—burned him in effigy. Hood fled to New York City, then Flushing. Tracked down by local activists in a show of continental solidarity, he finally resigned as Maryland’s stamp agent on 28 November.

Historic Annapolis will commemorate those events with Sons of Liberty Week on 19-25 October. The schedule includes:
  • Lecture and panel discussion on “Freedom of the Press Then and Now,” with historian Glenn Campbell and several present-day journalists.
  • Revolutionary Annapolis Walking Tour.
  • Reenactment march up Main Street on Sons of Liberty Day, 25 October.
  • Revolutionary Festival at the William Paca House and Garden.
  • Exhibit of the Maryland Gazette at the Historic Annapolis Museum.
  • Hand-printed broadsides from the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.
In addition, the organizers promise “Public Outbursts” throughout the week: “costumed re-enactors will appear at random throughout the Annapolis historic district in October to exhort townspeople and visitors to join the rebellion.”


DCC said...

My apologies if you mentioned this in one of your posts, but have you seen anything definitive about who selected and appointed the stamp distributors? Wikipedia indicates it was Prime Minister Grenville, but I have a hard time believing Grenville would have had time to review and select the stamp distributor candidates. I think it would have been more likely that the Secretary of the Southern Department (later the American Department) would have overseen the selection process. I curious because I wonder whether there any similarities with the process for selecting stamp distributors and the process used eight years later to select the tea consignees for the East India Co. The tea consignees were supposedly selected by the EIC, but based on the level of loyalty, the ministry probably had a heavy hand in the selections.
Dan Cornette

J. L. Bell said...

Jared Ingersoll (Connecticut’s stamp agent) said most of the recommendations came from London alderman Barlow Trecothick. He was a leader among the London merchants doing business with North America and had worked in Boston under Charles Apthorp, whose daughter he married. Ingersoll said that Trecothick had opposed the Stamp Act, and that he was asked to suggest men who would be acceptable in each colony as members of the merchant community rather than as men already seen as dependent on the royal establishment. Ingersoll left unstated how much lobbying he and some others did for the job while they were in London.