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, December 11, 2015

“I related to him the Disposition of the Inhabitants”

As we recall, late on the night of 1 Nov 1765, an anti-Stamp Act mob in New York destroyed the home of Maj. Thomas James of the Royal Artillery.

Lt. Gov. Cadwallader Colden and Gen. Thomas Gage sent James home to Britain to report on what had happened to him and to seek compensation.

Sometime in early 1766 the major wrote back to Colden explaining how his arrival had affected the debate over the next several weeks about how to revise the Stamp Act:
So soon as I arrived in London on the 10th December I waited on General [Henry Seymour] Conway [the Secretary of State in charge of North America, shown here] with the Dispatch you honourd me with

I related to him the Disposition of the Inhabitants before they ever knew of the Stamp Act having passd the House of Commons, and so lead him on untill I embarq’d and saild on the 8th of November

General Conway was astonish’d and would have taken me to the King that very Day had I been fit to have been seen—

I have gone through many Examinations; and it is impossible to conceive the pains and Trouble the Americans have taken to obtain a Repeal, no Stone has been left unturn’d, many Accusations have been laid to my Charge, all which I have answerd to His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester Privy Council, Lords and Commons; for I was two hours and a half at the Bar of the House—

The House were engaged in Reading American Letters being in Number 400!—with every paper from the American Press with all their Pamphlets &c from Tuesday Wednesday and Friday five in the afternoon.
James reported that Parliament called three other witnesses from North America besides himself: “Dr. Moffatt Mr. Howard and Col Mercer.” Which is to say:
All four men had suffered from anti-Stamp mobs in the preceding months (though only Mercer had been a designated stamp agent). Together they reported that there had been riots in most of the biggest colonies, and that when they had left North America it looked like several colonial governments would not be able to enforce the Stamp Act at all.

TOMORROW: A report from the American Customs service.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been viewing your blog this past year after catching a bug for this time period. Thank you so much for these posts. They are so informative, not to long, not too short. It must be great to live in that area. Consider me a little jealous. Anyways, thank you again. I love these posts. And the Huzzah button lol.