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 27, 2015

More Trouble for the American Stamp Agents

So far Boston 1775 has recounted the resignations of the stamp tax collectors in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, and Maryland. What was going on in Britain’s other North American colonies in 1765?

In Nova Scotia, Archibald Hinshelwood (d. 1773) applied for the position and continued to inquire about it even after reading what happened to Andrew Oliver in Boston on 14 August.

The stamps and stamped paper for that northern province arrived in early October. On Sunday, 13 October, Hinshelwood was hanged in effigy. A printed copy of the law was burned in the town of Liverpool. But no other protests took place before the law went into effect on 1 November. Just to be safe, a small guard of dragoons was posted at Hinshelwood’s house.

The stamp agents for Pennsylvania (including Delaware) and New Jersey owed their appointments to Benjamin Franklin (shown above), then working as a lobbyist in London. Franklin had campaigned against the Stamp Act, but once it passed he, like Jared Ingersoll, decided to make the most of it. He recommended friends for the job of stamp agent, which seemed both prestigious and lucrative. That turned out to be a bad idea for all concerned.

In New Jersey, the unlucky designee was William Coxe (1723-1801). In late August, he reportedly tried to rent a house and was told he’d need to buy insurance, lest it be attacked by a crowd. He got the message and resigned on 2 September. Gov. William Franklin told his father that he thought Coxe had resigned precipitously and was sure he could find a replacement.

For Pennsylvania, Franklin got the job for his political colleague John Hughes (1711-1772). On 8 September, Hughes wrote back:
there is scarce a Day goes over my Head, but many People call upon me to resign, and say I am an Enemy to North America if I do not. But since I am now dipt, and must abide by Consequences be they what they will, I shall be exceedingly oblig’d to you, if it is consistent with your Judgment, to recommend my Son Hugh for Mr. Coxe’s Successor.
That looks like a triumph of hope over experience.

TOMORROW: Things get worse for John Hughes.

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