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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Friday, October 09, 2015

“I have had the honor of seeing miss Hutchinson”

Among the creepier items in the Massachusetts Archives is this letter to Gov. Thomas Hutchinson from 1771:

The various methods there are of writing on the following subject, makes me rather at a loss which to take, as I am a stranger to you,—but as the nature of it requires plain dealing, I shall take the liberty to consider you as a friend, and write to you as such:—

You will prehaps Sir think it rather strange, and be much surprised at the receipt of this letter; particularly as I am going to ask a great favor;—no less Sir than the honor of an alliance to your family;—

I have had the honor of seeing miss Hutchinson, but never in my life spoke to her—I need not tell you I admire her, when I say I wish to call her mine;—on seeing her the first time, I determin’d to endeavour to cultivate her acquaintance, but have not been so happy as to succeed;—therefore I should wish as the most honorable method of proceeding, to get acquainted with her through the means of her Father; and I should be happy in obtaining your permission Sir to visit her:—

I would more on the occasion, but yet not near so much as what I could say to you in person;—therefore Sir if you’ll favor me with a line, directed to me at Mr Perkins near the old Brick meeting House, I will do myself the honor of waiting on you, any time you’ll apoint.

You will find me act, from beginning to end, as a man of honor, and I am very certain that you, on your part, will do the same:

I have the honor to remain with the utmost esteem and respect
Your very obedient and
most hble Sert.
Wm. Fitzwilliam

April ye. 6th 1771
“Miss Hutchinson” was the governor’s favorite daughter, Peggy, born in 1754 and thus only in her late teens. What were Hutchinson’s thoughts as he read this young man’s expression of interest in marrying her when he’d never even spoken to her?

Complicating matters was Fitzwilliam’s social standing—he was the son of a British peer, and thus an enticing prospect for a colonial politician with social ambitions.

TOMORROW: The governor’s reply.

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