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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Monday, November 02, 2015

“There’s that Villain H—k”

On 1 Nov 1765, Bostonians hung two men in effigy from Liberty Tree. One was George Grenville, the prime minister who had sponsored the Stamp Act.

The other was identified in the newspapers as “J–hn H–sk–” or “J—n H—k” and in a word balloon in Paul Revere’s engraving (shown here) as “that Villain H—k.”

On that effigy hung this label:
Quest. What, Brother H—sk this is bad?
Ans. Ah indeed! I am a wicked Lad;
My Mother always thought me wild,
The Gallows is thy Portion Child
She often said, behold ’tis true,
And now the Dog must have his due;
For idle Gewgaws, wretched Pelf,
I sold my County—d–m’d my self;
And for my great unequal’d Crime,
The D——l take H—sk before his Time.
But if some Brethren I could Name,
Who shar’d the Crime, should share the Shame,
This glorious Tree tho’ big and tall,
Indeed would never hold ’em all.
Which doesn’t often a whole lot of clues.

But back on 9 Apr 1764, the Boston Evening-Post had published a letter sent from London that February which warned the ministry was planning “Stamp Duties” for North America. It went on to say:
What is most unlucky for us, is, there is one Mr. HUSKE, who understands America very well, and has lately got a seat in the House of Commons; but instead of standing an advocate for his injured Country (for he is an American born, and educated at Boston) he has officiously proposed in the House of Commons, to lay a tax on the Colonies, which will amount to £500,000 per ann. sterl. which he says they are well able to pay; and was heard by the House with great joy and attention.
We can thus identify “J–hn H–sk–” as John Huske (1724-1773), a Member of Parliament born in New Hampshire who had begun his career as a merchant in Boston. And some folks in Boston thought he was responsible for the Stamp Act.

TOMORROW: But what was Huske’s connection to the Stamp Act?

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