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 23, 2015

“We have now the Stamped Papers in our own Hands”

As related yesterday, on the evening of 5 Nov 1765, Lt. Gov. Cadwallader Colden handed New York’s supply of Stamp Act paper over to the city government.

Colden reported:
They were carried to the City Hall, and remained safe with a very triffling Guard indeed upon them. The Mob dispersed immeadiately and remain quiet. Can anything give a stronger suspicion who they were that composed the Mob, and under whose direction they acted?
That was the same building (shown here) where the Stamp Act Congress had met the previous month.

Colden’s remark about the crowd was a typical assumption of friends of the royal government, seeing “the Mob” as raised and directed by local politicians rather than the people having wills of their own.

In fact, the city’s political activists were hustling to make sure the populace accepted the compromise they had made with Colden and kept the peace. The next morning, this note was posted at the city’s main coffee house:
To the Freeholders & Inhabitants of the City of New York


We have now the Stamped Papers in our own Hands, so that there is a Prospect of our enjoying Peace once more; all then that we have to do is to promote this Peace; to do which we are under many Obligations; of which what follows will be a Proof;

1st We have entirely accomplish’d all we wanted in rescuing the Stamps from the Hands of our inveterate Enemy; to proceed any farther then would only hurt the good Cause in which we are engaged.

2dly As we have promised, both for ourselves & by our Representatives whom we ourselves have chosen, that if the Stamps were lodged in the Hands of these our Representatives (as they now are) we would be quiet & no Harm should be done, the Honour & Credit of the City lie at Stake, & shall we ruin our own Credit? I am persuaded no one would be so infatuated as to attempt it.

Let us then as we have joined Hand in Hand in effecting the Peace that now subsists also join in preserving it. This will shew that we have Conduct as well as Courage, prove that we have acted, not as a Mob, but as Friends to Liberties & be as strong an Argument as we can use to obtain a Repeal of the Stamp Act.
At the end of the day, that paper was taken down and delivered to Colden, who then sent it with his report to London. But it had done its work.

One week later, on 13 November, Sir Henry Moore, the long-expected new royal governor, arrived in New York from Britain. Colden “had the pleasure of delivering up the Administration,” and the attending headaches, to Moore “in as much quietness as could be expected in the present situation of the public affairs.”

There were, however, two new complications. Moore’s ship had also brought:
  • nine more big boxes of stamped paper for New York and Connecticut.
  • Colden’s grandson Peter De Lancey, Jr., with the proud news that the royal government had appointed him stamp inspector for Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Hampshire.
So I expect we’ll be coming back to New York for more sestercentennial updates.

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