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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Sunday, October 29, 2017

“The Devil and the Crown” at Faneuil Hall, Nov. 4

On Saturday, 4 November, Faneuil Hall will host a reenactment of the Boston town meeting I described yesterday, setting up a non-importation boycott against the Townshend duties.

Meanwhile, in the surrounding marketplace volunteers will reenact an outdoor public demonstration against the royal officials who came to Boston to collect those duties. That protest took place on 5 Nov 1767.

Boston 1775 readers will recognize the Fifth of November as when Boston youths enjoyed raucous processions, with giant effigies representing the British Empire’s Catholic enemies and the political scapegoats of the day.

By coincidence, on 5 Nov 1767 three new Customs Commissioners, including Henry Hulton, William Burch, and the already unpopular Charles Paxton, disembarked from London. Lord George Sackville, later Secretary of State Germain, described how that worked out:
They landed on the 5th of November, and the populace were then carrying in procession the Pope, the Devil, and the Pretender, in order to commit them to the flames in honour of Protestantism. Mr. Paxton’s name being Charles, it was fixed in large letters upon the breast of the Devil, and these figures met the Commissioners at the water side and were carry’d before them without any insult through the streets, and whenever they stopped to salute an acquaintance, the figures halted and faced about till the salutation was over, and so accompany’d them to the [Lieutenant] Governor [Thomas] Hutchinson’s door…
The combined reenactment will be called “The Devil and the Crown.” Here’s the full schedule:

11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.
Goods for Your Master, Taxes for Your King
Come try your luck as a young apprentice in this colonial marketplace game. Whether you buy, barter, or smuggle, the goal’s the same: bring all your goods back to your employer and get promoted! This drop in program is best for ages 6-10, Faneuil Hall, Education Space, basement.

1:00 to 4:30 P.M.
Talk of the Town
Meet reenactors portraying Bostonians of different social classes in Samuel Adams Park, directly in front of Faneuil Hall, and learn about why they are protesting the new laws.

2:30 and 4:00 P.M.
Revolutionary Town Meeting: Stand Up! Speak Out!
Join a lively meeting to debate Boston’s response to the hated Townshend Acts. Character cards are available. Free, 30 minutes, Faneuil Hall, Great Hall, second floor.

4:30 P.M.
Join a rowdy street protest and process around Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market to the Old State House.

5:30 to 6:30 P.M.
Museum Open House
Dive into Boston’s Revolutionary past and explore the galleries inside the Old State House. Admission is free to all.

The program will thus explore the formal politics of a town meeting and the informal politics of the street, the economy of transatlantic trade and the choices of local consumers, particularly women. (Recall how the list of goods that Bostonians were supposed to boycott included a lot of women’s garments and household items.)

This reenactment is being organized through Revolution 250, the coalition of local organizations commemorating the sestercentennials of events in Massachusetts leading up to the break with Britain. In this case, the sponsoring organizations are Boston National Historical Park, Minute Man National Historical Park, The Bostonian Society, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.

I started pushing for this event last year, saying that Revolution 250 shouldn’t miss the anniversary of a big political event involving giant puppets. But Jim Hollister of Minute Man Park really got the wagon rolling, along with such dedicated reenactors as Niels Hobbs, Matthew Mees, Ruth Hodges, and many others. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime anniversary!

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