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, December 29, 2015

Decoration for a Dormitory Wall

Josiah Quincy, Jr., sailed to Great Britain in September 1774, hoping to make connections with London Whigs and convince them to help overturn the Coercive Acts. Quincy didn’t succeed, and he died on 26 Apr 1775 near the end of his return voyage.

Quincy left behind one child, his namesake son born in 1772. That Josiah Quincy attended Harvard College from 1786 to 1790. According to his descendants, “almost the sole ornament” in his dorm room was a print that his father had probably bought in London on that trip.

The mezzotint was titled “A Political Lesson,” created by John Dixon and published by John Bowles on 7 Sept 1774. It shows a gentleman being thrown from a horse on the road from Boston to Salem, his hard head cracking the milestone.

Eliza Susan Quincy understood the rider to be Lord North, whose government had decreed in early 1774 that the Massachusetts General Court should be convened in Salem instead of Boston. The British Museum’s curator thought the man might be Gen. Thomas Gage, who was tasked with carrying out that policy; the man isn’t wearing a general’s uniform, though. I don’t think the face looks like either man, but quite possibly a politically aware viewer in 1774 London would have recognized immediately who he was supposed to be.

Josiah Quincy’s copy of the print is at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The image above comes from the Library of Congress.

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