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, October 15, 2018

“This afternoon General Gage arriv’d from New York”

The Boston Whigs’ dispatch for 15 Oct 1768 reported that the British army’s hunt for deserters had achieved results:
A deserter from the 14th Regiment was brought in the last evening by one of the decoy parties, sent into the country, also a labouring man from Roxbury, with a soldier’s regimentals on his back, he was confined for some time in a tent, without lawful warrant, and afterwards committed to prison by Mr. Justice [Foster] Hutchinson,—
Imagine the tyranny of the army confining a local farmworker for doing something as unsuspicious as wearing a soldier’s uniform!

But the big news 250 years ago today was that Gen. Thomas Gage had arrived from New York to see how the soldiers under his command were settling in. The Boston Whigs were actually glad to see him, or at least said they were:
This afternoon the troops were drawn up, on the Common, on the appearance of General Gage; at sunset there was 17 discharges from the field cannon; he passed the front of the battalion in his charriot, preceded by a number of aid de camps on horseback.—The arrival of this gentleman from N. York at this time, is a very agreeable circumstance, to the friends of their country; as his mild and judicious behaviour in that province, has been justly applauded; and he comes here determined to see and judge for himself.
Some New Yorkers would have disputed that judgment, though the biggest conflicts between soldiers and civilians there were still to come.

Deacon John Tudor wrote about the day:
This afternoon General Gage arriv’d from New York just before sunset when the Troops where drawn up in the common to receive him & his Retennu, 17 discharges from the field cannon was fir’d to honour him, who came in his Chariot & 4, his Aid de camps on Horseback, all together with the Regiments made a gallant Show; Many disputes arose between the Governor Council, Justices & Selectmen aboute Quartering & Biliting the Troops. 
Local elected officials were still pushing for the troops to be moved out to Castle William.

Merchant and selectman John Rowe had his own take:
General Gage arr’d from New York at Major [Robert] Byards at Roxbury. The regiments were under arms & made a Good Appearance. The General with his attendants came into Town abo. four P.M. The Artillery saluted with 17 Guns. They passed & marched along the Front of both Regiments & Capt. [John] Wilsons two Companies who were formed in the Center.
Robert Bayard, who appears to have hosted Gen. Gage the night before he came into Boston, was from a New York mercantile family. He had been a captain in the Royal American Regiment during the French & Indian War under Gen. James Wolfe. Bayard married Rebecca Apthorp, the youngest surviving daughter of Charles and Grizzell Apthorp, who had been Boston’s wealthiest couple. The Bayards had a daughter baptized in Boston in 1768, but Rebecca died four years later. Robert Bayard appears to have then returned to New York and married Elizabeth McEvers, who was both the widow of a partner in his family firm and another Apthorp daughter, thus his sister-in-law. The Bayards moved to Britain during the war, their New York properties confiscated. Elizabeth died in 1800, Robert in 1819, said to be the last British officer surviving from the Battle of Québec. But I digress.

Rowe’s diary entry for the next day says:
This morning I waited on Colo. [James] Robertson who came with Gen. Gage. He received me very Politely. I had a full hour’s discourse with him abo. the troops. I find him to be a Gentleman of Great Abilities & very cool & dispassionate. I took a walk & met Gen. Gage & Colo. [William] Dalrymple. Gen. Gage engaged me to wait on him tomorrow morning.
Robertson was deputy quartermaster general for the army in North America, the man in charge of ensuring the troops were housed and fed. Rowe was one of the Boston selectmen disputing about where those troops should live. But he was already renting space to army officers, pleased to meet with Robertson, and, as his diary reveals, eager to socialize with Gen. Gage.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Soldiers “scourged in the Common”

On 14 Oct 1768, 250 years ago today, the Boston Whigs renewed their ongoing complaint about the royal army taking over the seats of local government, and they highlighted another grievance:
The troops still keep possession of Faneuil Hall, the Court House, Representatives Chambers, &c, guards placed at the passage way into the town, near the Neck. Patrolling companies near the ferry ways, and parties sent into the country to prevent desertions:

In the forenoon one Rogers, a New-England man, sentenced to receive 1000 stripes, and a number of other soldiers, were scourged in the Common by the black drummers, in a manner, which however necessary, was shocking to humanity; some gentlemen who had held commissions in the army, observing, that only 40 of the 170 lashes received by Rogers, at this time, was equal in punishment to 500, they had seen given in other regiments.
As I discussed [gulp] eleven years ago, those “black drummers” came from the 29th Regiment. In 1759 its colonel received a batch of black teen-aged boys as a gift from his brother, an admiral. Being sent off to the army was probably a lucky break for those young men, given that they were already enslaved. It got them out of the death traps of Caribbean plantations, and they earned freedom and even a measure of status from their military service.

In eighteenth-century European armies, drummers were a crucial part of a regiment’s training and maneuvers, and military musicians could earn extra money through their unusual skills. The British army assigned another responsibility to each regiment’s musicians: they carried out corporal punishment on enlisted men.

Of course, in North America’s slave society, most people saw a black man whipping a white man as a dangerous inversion of proper order. The Boston Whigs had already complained, “to behold Britons scourg’d by Negro drummers, was a new and very disagreeable spectacle.” Writing for an audience in New York and points south, where slavery was a bigger institution and the enslaved population larger, the Whigs knew that this report would be provocative.

Another element of their complaint was the number of lashes that Rogers had to suffer. As strict as Puritans were, they adhered to Deuteronomy 25:3’s prohibition against giving a man more than forty strokes. In the king’s army and navy, however, a thousand lashes was not unusual (though they weren’t all applied on one day). And the Boston Whigs claimed this particular whipping was harsh even for the army.

Naturally, I was curious to know more about Rogers, the unfortunate soldier. Alas, the 29th Regiment was lousy at filing its muster rolls in this period. That paperwork was supposed to be done monthly. Instead, the commander’s company supplied one roll to cover all the time from 16 July 1765 to 24 Apr 1769, or “1379 Days.” Other companies were similarly lax. That makes it much harder to track individual men.

However, in the spring of 1769 the Boston Chronicle and several other New England newspapers ran an advertisement dated 23 May over the signature of brigade major Capt. Charles Fordyce. It announced that Gen. Alexander Mackay would pardon deserters who returned to the army by the end of June. However, the same ad promised three guineas to anyone who apprehended eighteen specified men “whose crimes are of such a nature, as to oblige him to exclude them from any promise of PARDON.”

One of the deserters beyond pardoning was Daniel Rogers of the 29th Regiment. He therefore looks like the best candidate for being the “New-England man” whipped on Boston Common seven months before. Perhaps he’d been convicted of theft or some other crime, or had already tried to desert. Either way, the whipping doesn’t appear to have kept him from leaving by May. As a New Englander, he had a better chance of finding sympathetic help and blending back into civilian society.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Halifax Reacts to the Occupation of Boston

In 1768 the royal governor of Nova Scotia, which included modern-day New Brunswick, was Lord William Campbell, shown here.

According to Emily P. Weaver’s 1904 paper “Nova Scotia and New England During the Revolution,” as of 1766 the royal government counted only 9,789 subjects in the whole province. This page from Statistics Canada gives the number 11,779. Either way, that was considerably smaller than Boston on its own.

That number didn’t include the soldiers stationed in the province or the crews of the Royal Navy ships that stopped at Halifax. Those men, and their families, were seen as transient. With such a small local population, however, they shaped the society greatly. Though Halifax had seen some anti-Stamp Act protests, it stayed close to the royal authorities through the Revolutionary turmoil. The Nova Scotia legislature ignored Massachusetts’s Circular Letter, for example.

On 25 June 1768, Gen. Thomas Gage sent important orders to the highest-ranking army officer in Halifax, Lt. Col. William Dalrymple of the 14th Regiment. Dalrymple was to consolidate all forces in the province and prepare them to sail to Boston. Gage wrote:
There is now at Halifax, one entire Regiment, and five Companies of another, and if you have Time to put the Orders in execution, which are transmitted to you, concerning the withdrawing the Troops from Louisbourg, St: Johns Island, and Fort Frederick, before any Requisition is made for the Aid of the King’s Forces; you will then have under your Command, and ready for immediate Service, a number of Troops equal to two Regiments, and three Companys.

You will embark therefore, if your Assistance is required, with the Whole, or any Part of those Troops, as Governor [Francis] Bernard shall demand, and if the Governor should be of Opinion, that it wou’d be requisite you should bring Artillery with you, the Detachment of the Royal Regiment of Artillery at Halifax, will be embarked at the same time, with such a Number of Pieces of Artillery, as they shall be Able to manage.

You will pay no Regard, in effecting this Service, to the leaving Halifax without Troops: it will be sufficient, that you leave there one Company, or a Detachment equal to a Company.
Gov. Bernard managed to slip out of demanding troops as Gage wanted him to do. Thus, he could claim to the Massachusetts Council that the decision to station soldiers in Boston came entirely from the Secretary of State in London, Lord Hillsborough, and he was merely following orders.

On 13 October, 250 years ago today, the Boston Whigs shared their understanding of how Halifax had experienced that redeployment:
A private letter from Halifax contains some particulars relative to the Boston expedition, not known before, viz. “That in consequence of orders received Sept. 11th, from this place, all the workmen in the King’s yard, necessary to equip the ships, were set to work on Sunday; a strict embargo laid, and guard vessels sent to the mouth of the harbour to prevent intelligence being sent, and more caution used than when fixing out for the Louisbourgh expedition; the embargo so strict, that an open shallop going a mackerel catching, was stopt and sent back to town; and that the troops embarked in as great hurry as was ever known in time of war.[”]—

What a tragi-commick scene is here presented! and how must it be viewed by European politicians?—

Another letter mentions, that as Halifax must sink without the support of troops and ships of war, some of their patriots were about erecting a liberty pole, and employing some boys to sing the Liberty Song through the streets, in hopes it may procure the return of those ships and forces or a larger number from Britain, in order to quell such disturbances.
If anyone from Halifax made such a remark, it was a joke. But the local economy really did depend on supplying the army and navy. On 12 September, the day after Dalrymple received his orders to sail, Lord William Campbell wrote to Hillsborough asking him to send those regiments back north as soon as possible. The royal governor warned that Nova Scotia’s “chief dependence was the circulating cash spent by the troops.”

Friday, October 12, 2018

“A general disposition to desert from the regiments here”

When the Boston Whigs wrote their “Journal of Occurrences” dispatches for newspapers in other American ports, their main theme was how badly the presence of the British troops was damaging the fabric of Boston society.

But an important secondary theme was how stationing those regiments in Boston was also harming the British army, constitution, and state.

In the report dated 12 Oct 1768, 250 years ago today, the Whigs highlighted the desertions by British sailors and soldiers:
The rumor of Castle William being delivered up by the G——r to the King’s troops, arose from his having permitted a number of mariners from the ships of war, to land at Castle Island, six of whom it is said went off in a boat the last night.

Reports of great desertions and a general disposition to desert from the regiments here, which it is said left Halifax under great dejection of spirits; about 21 of the soldiers absconded the last night, and parties from the troops with other clothing, instead of their regimentals, are sent after them.—

Some of the consequences of bringing the troops into this town, in direct violation of the act of Parliament, and disregard to the advice of his Majesty’s Council, instead of quartering them in the barracks on Castle Island, are like to be the scattering proper tutors through the country, to instruct the inhabitants in the modern way of handling the firelock and exercising the men, and also in the various manufactures which the ingenuity and industry of the people of Great Britain have hitherto furnished us with.—
According to Don Hagist of British Soldiers, American Revolution, army records consistently show a rise in desertions just before and just after regiments made a major move. Soldiers may have been reluctant to leave a post where they had forged ties, so they maneuvered to stay behind or to return. Alternatively, they may have noticed that it was easier to desert when commanders were preoccupied, didn’t know the local ground, or couldn’t send anyone back to the old station to hunt men down.

It’s therefore not surprising to see sailors and soldiers releasing themselves from the royal military on their own recognizance in these weeks. It’s startling to see American Whigs talking about how army deserters would make “proper tutors” for the local militia, with an unstated threat underneath. In 1774 and 1775 New England Patriots did indeed recruit soldiers for that purpose and boasted of their militia’s strength. But in 1768 political leaders were trying to tamp down calls for resistance by force.

As this additional item shows:
This night a surgeon of one of the ships of war being guilty of very disorderly behaviour was committed to gaol by Mr. Justice [Edmund] Quincy, as was also a person not belonging to this province, by Mr. Justice [Foster] Hutchinson, on complaint of a soldier, that he had been enticing him to desert; said stranger was first taken and confined by Captain [John] Willson, in the Town House for some time, without warrant or authority from any magistrate—If the oaths of soldiers who are promised 10 guineas for such discoveries, are to be taken as sufficient proof, we know not what proscriptions may take place.
The Boston Whigs thus made a point of blaming “a person not belonging to this province” for encouraging desertion, not a local.

Of course, those Whigs also complained that an army captain had confined that suspect outside of civil authority based on questionable evidence. Worse yet, that confinement happened inside the building that normally housed the provincial legislature, still occupied by troops!

We’ll have to keep a watch on Capt. Willson.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Call for Papers on “Children, Youth & Labor on the Eve of Independence”

Robin P. Chapdelaine and Lara Putnam have issued a call for papers on “Children, Youth & Labor on the Eve of Independence.” Chosen scholars will present their papers at a workshop in Pittsburgh in March 2019, with a selection published in an edited volume or journal.

The call says:
The aim of the project is to reflect the various ways in which adults and children interpreted the work performed by children and youth throughout the colonies.

In recent years, scholarship on children, youth and labor throughout the ‘Empire’ has increased substantially. Often, discussions about child labor, in a colonial context, focus on child slavery, child trafficking and exploitation. While it is true that various forms of colonial labor forcibly incorporated children, what is unclear is how children and adolescents related their work to the colonial state.

Taking into consideration that children were indoctrinated to become productive and patriotic citizens through engaging in social activities, clubs, schooling and religion-how then did they understand their labor as a form of (imperialistic) nationalism? Or did their work represent autonomy, agency and perhaps anti-imperial efforts? In what other ways was child labor understood?
The organizers define “labor” and the temporal and geographic parameters of their topic broadly. They encourage “analyses that focus on class, gender, and masculinity” and any “re-consideration/articulation of patriotism, nationalism, citizens, subjects and labor.”

Proposals should include a 400-word abstract and curriculum vitae for each author, sent to duqyouthlabor@gmail.com by 2 Nov 2018. The organizers will accept up to twenty proposals for the workshop. Papers must be submitted by 22 Feb 2019.

Those papers will be pre-circulated to participants in the workshop scheduled for 29-30 March at Duquesne University. The event will be hosted by the university’s Department of History and Center for African Studies and co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of History. Selected papers will be prepared for publication through editing and peer review.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

“Unintimidated by all the obloquy cast upon me”

As described yesterday, in the late 1760s Timothy Pickering, newly appointed an officer in the Essex County militia, took up the cause of halting the tradition of “firing,” or discharging muskets (without balls) at or near officers or other people for fun.

He addressed that crusade in a characteristically long newspaper essay published in the 30 Oct 1770 Essex Gazette. Here’s a taste:
The practice appeared to me so foolish and unreasonable, that, young and inexperienced as I was with the manners of men, I had no conception of any difficulty attending the execution of my design. Yet I had no sooner begun to exert myself for that end, than I had, not the soldiers only, but almost the whole town upon my back. I was reproached with being a stiff, obstinate, severe, precise fellow, afraid of gun-powder, a coward, and I know not what. Many who did not approve, but condemned the firing, thought, as it had been the practice time out of mind, that I was to blame in opposing it. “But none of these things moved me.” [Echoing Acts 20:24.]

Unintimidated by all the obloquy cast upon me, I still persevered in my design. I found the practice I was endeavouring to eradicate was condemned by many thinking, judicious people: that strengthened my hands; and by degrees I learned to bear unmerited reproach without uneasiness. And at length my endeavours, seconded by some of my brethren, have been crowned with success, to the no small comfort and quiet of the town.

That I have not relaxed in my endeavours to form an orderly, well disciplined militia, maugre [i.e., despite] all opposition, the whole town is witness. And the last training-day affords a fresh proof that I have not sought-----that I do not seek---popularity, by falling in with the prevailing humour and inclination of the people, when that humor and inclination militates with truth, with reason, and, in the instance referred to, with the rules of the military art.
There are at least three notable things about Pickering’s essay. First, the articles he was replying to didn’t actually say anything about how he led the militia. They complained that he was too close to friends of the royal government. He got onto the militia topic on his own.

Second, at the end of this quoted passage Pickering added, “What happened on that day is well known in the town, and need not be related.” So what happened on that day? His son suggested that might refer to when he hit a man for firing at his feet, but we’ll never know.

Finally, for all of Pickering’s efforts to ward off accusations of being “a stiff, obstinate, severe, precise fellow,” his critics got that absolutely right.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

“Some would fire at all sorts of persons”

Yesterday I posted a Boston Evening-Post advertisement from 1768 asking the public to identify the militiaman who “discharge[d] his Musket against the Legs of a Gentleman then passing thro’ the Town-House” on 22 September.

That was, Boston 1775 readers may recall, the same date that the Massachusetts Convention of Towns opened in Faneuil Hall. The town’s Whigs were complaining about the imminent arrival of British regiments. They were using a short-lived scare about war with France to justify talk of strengthening local self-defense. So how did musket fire in the Town House fit into the routine of the Massachusetts militia?

Unfortunately, it was pretty standard. Timothy Pickering, a vociferous critic of shenanigans during militia drills, reported that startling citizens with musket fire was a common prank on training days. Writing as “A Military Citizen” for more than a page in the 21 Jan 1769 Essex Gazette, Pickering complained:
Did any awkward, or uncommon Figure of a Man unfortunately come in Sight of these Heroes,—by a sudden Excursion, they surprized, surrounded, and for a while buried him in Fire and Smoke, then, with self-approving Shouts, and Breasts glowing with the Thoughts of their valourous Deeds, they made a gallant Retreat, and again joined the main Body.
Writing under his own name in the 30 Oct 1770 Essex Gazette, Pickering said the prank was so institutionalized there was even a name for it:
I will instance in the article of firing. It had been the custom in Salem from my earliest remembrance, and for 50 or perhaps 100 years before, to fire at the officers, under the senseless notion of doing them honour. And not content with this, some would fire at all sorts of persons; and it gave them singular satisfaction to make women the objects of their dangerous diversion. Nor did strangers escape the hazard and inconvenience of their inhuman, inhospitable sport. This base custom I set myself to oppose and destroy.
Pickering’s son Octavius later said in a biography: “On some occasion a soldier in Mr. Pickering's company saluted him by firing at his feet; whereupon Mr. Pickering struck him with the flat of his sword.” Commissioned a lieutenant in 1766 and a captain in 1769, Pickering was determined to wipe out that “dangerous diversion.”

TOMORROW: And how did that go, Capt. Pickering?

Monday, October 08, 2018

Boston’s Well-Regulated Militia

From the 26 Sept 1768 Boston Evening-Post.
Whereas a Person belonging to the Militia in this Town did, on Thursday last [i.e., 22 September], about 2 o’Clock P.M. designedly and maliciously, as appeared to several By-standers, discharge his Musket against the Legs of a Gentleman then passing thro’ the Town-House, and thereby hurt him so much as to occasion his Confinement:

This is to give Notice that if any Person then present, or any other, will discover to the Printers the Name and Abode of the above Offender, so that he may be apprehended, he shall receive of the said Printers One Guinea, and no Use shall be made of his Name.

Boston, Sept. 25, 1768.
TOMORROW: What’s up with that?

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Renting Property “for the quartering of troops”

The longer the 14th Regiment of Foot bunked inside Faneuil Hall and the Town House, the harder Boston’s selectmen found it to get those soldiers out again.

The Whigs kept making that an issue. On 5 October, for example, their “Journal of Occurrences” complained: “The Council now met, and were obliged to pass the guards placed in the passage way, entering their chamber.” And the next day they added:
This day, by order of Governor [Francis] Bernard, the south battery was delivered up to Col. [William] Dalrymple. If this people had not more patience and loyalty, than some others have tenderness and sound policy; what a scene would soon open!
At the same time, the Whigs objected to any hint that supporters of the royal government might solve that problem by providing other places for the soldiers to stay. Back on 4 October their “Journal” had sneered:
Report, that James Murray, Esq; from Scotland, since 1745, had let his dwelling house and sugar houses, for the quartering of troops, at £15 sterling per month, and that Mr. [James] Forrest from Ireland had let them a house lately purchased for about £50 sterling, at the rate of £60 sterling per annum.
Murray (shown above) was Scottish by birth. The reference to “since 1745” was a reminder of that year’s Jacobite rebellion—no matter that Murray had settled in North Carolina ten years before that. Forrest was likewise not a New England native and known for Loyalist politics.

As it worked out, Murray did rent a large sugar-distillery on Brattle Street to the army. It wasn’t actually his property, though. He was agent for his sister Elizabeth and her second husband, James Smith. That building thus became known as both Murray’s barracks and Smith’s barracks.

As for Forrest, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that he rented a house out for barracks.

Meanwhile, another property owner who did rent to the army was selectman John Rowe. On 7 October, 250 years ago today, he wrote in his journal: “Let one of my houses to Capt. [Brabazon] Ohara yesterday & the other this day to Major [Jonathan] Furlong—both at £20 Ster’g per annum.”

Capt. O’Hara of the 14th was a witness to the fight between James Otis, Jr., and Customs Commissioner John Robinson in 1769. According to one document, he testified about the Boston Massacre in 1770. The regiment was transferred to the West Indies after that, and he died on the island of Saint Vincent in 1773.

Maj. Furlong of the 14th had a less eventful time in Boston. The start of the war found him in St. Augustine, Florida, commanding a small garrison there. He died in 1782, having attained the rank of colonel.

Back in October 1768, O’Hara and Furlong weren’t looking for homes for their men. They were renting genteel accommodations for themselves, paying out of their own money. After all, we shouldn’t expect British military gentlemen to share quarters with ordinary soldiers. Many Bostonian householders rented rooms to officers like that, and it wasn’t as controversial as supplying buildings for barracks.

That said, the Boston Massacre trial testimony refers to “Rowe's Barracks,” otherwise unidentified. So it’s likely that Selectman Rowe did rent a large building to the army as well.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

A Portrait Vandalized at Harvard

On 26 Nov 1765 the Harvard Corporation made the following decision:
Whereas Governr. [Francis] Bernard, as we are inform’d by our Treasr. hath offer’d to give his Picture to the College, Thereupon unanimously Voted, That We thankfully accept it.
Bernard was already fairly unpopular in the midst of the Stamp Act protests, but he was an influential benefactor for the college. And hey—it was a free painting.

The record doesn’t state who made that portrait, but if it was done locally the artist was almost certainly John Singleton Copley, Boston’s most accomplished and fashionable portraitist in the 1760s. The Swiss artist Pierre Eugène Du Simitière saw Gov. Bernard’s portrait at Harvard when he passed through Massachusetts in 1767.

On 6 Oct 1768, 250 years ago today, the “Journal of Occurrences” that the Boston Whigs wrote and sent to the New-York Journal stated:
From Cambridge we learn, that last evening, the picture of ———— ————, hanging in the college-hall, had a piece cut out of the Breast exactly describing a heart, and a note—that it was a most charitable attempt to deprive him of that part, which a retrospect upon his administration must have rendered exquisitely painful.
Lest there be any doubt about which picture that was, John Tudor wrote in his private diary the same day:
Last evening the picture of Governor Bd. hanging in College Hall had a piece cut out of the Breast like a Heart & a Note left, giving the Reason.
Notably, no Boston newspapers reported this vandalism at the time, though some reprinted the item from the New York paper a few weeks later.

The next month, the Harvard Corporation agreed to frame Bernard’s painting and display it in the college’s Philosophy Chamber, which was more secure. The board moved portraits of two other benefactors, Thomas Hancock and Thomas Hollis, into that room as well. Left unstated was the college was going to spend money to repair the damaged canvas of the governor.

On 14 Mar 1769, “Journal of Occurences” reported:
G—r B—d’s picture has been lately returned to Harvard-College to be hung up in the Library: Our American Limner, Mr. Copely, by the surprising art of his pencil, has actually restored as good a heart as had been taken from it; tho’ upon a near and accurate inspection, it will be found no other than a false one.—

There may it long remain hanging, to shew posterity the true picture of the man, who during a weak and w[icke]d Ad[ministratio]n, was suffered to continue in the S[ea]t of G[overn]m[en]t, a sore scourge to the people, until he had happily awakened a whole continent to a thorough sense of their own interest, and thereby laid the foundation of American greatness.
By then Bernard was thoroughly unpopular, and he left Massachusetts for good a few months later.

The painting of Bernard is no longer in Harvard’s inventory. It might have disappeared during the war, when the college became a barracks for the Continental Army, or in the following years. It’s also conceivable that the painting quietly went back to Bernard and is the same Copley portrait that he presented to his alma mater, Christ Church College at Oxford.

I see scholars writing two different things about that painting (shown above). Some Copley experts date the Christ Church portrait to the mid-1770s, saying it was made in Britain after the artist had moved there for good.

Others suggest that Bernard donated that painting in 1772 when he received an honorary degree at Oxford, meaning Copley must have completed it in the 1760s before the governor sailed. I don’t know if that canvas has been examined for repairs in the chest area. Of course, Copley could have supplied Gov. Bernard with two copies of his portrait to give away.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Digging the Soldiers out of Faneuil Hall

On 5 Oct 1768, Boston’s selectmen assembled again to discuss what to do about the soldiers of the 14th Regiment of Foot bedding down in the rooms of Faneuil Hall.

Selectmen John Rowe, who had been born in England and played both sides of the political divide, was evidently acting as the town government’s emissary to the military authorities. He left little about this in his diary, but the selectmen’s official minutes say:

Mr. Rowe acquainted the Selectmen that he had seen Collo. [William] Delrimple, who informed him that it was not in his power To remove the Soldiers from Faneuil Hall, but that Barracks were provided and as soon as they were ready the Troops would be removed to them —
Once again, 250 years ago today, nothing changed. So what to talk about today?

Well, it’s Massachusetts Archaeology Month. Among the many special programs at sites around the state are these.

Saturday, 6 October, 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.
Underwater Archaeology of the Whydah
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, 869 Main Street, Chatham
Learn about pirates on Cape Cod with the true story of the Whydah! Hear about the tale of “Black Sam” Bellamy and his treasure. Discover the exciting world of underwater archaeology and uncover your own pirate treasure. Children will have the opportunity to excavate like an underwater archaeologist. (Excavations can be messy.)
Wednesday, 10 October, 4:00 P.M.
Parker’s Revenge: The New Evidence
Minute Man Visitor Center, Route 2A in Lexington
Archaeologist Meg Watters will share details about the Parker’s Revenge Archaeology Project, which was successful in locating a key Revolutionary War battle site from April 19, 1775. Following the presentation, Park Ranger Jim Hollister, joined by His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot, will lead a walk out to the scene of action. The re-enactors will demonstrate how we believe the battle was fought, based on the results from the excavations. This program will feature musket firing.
Thursday, 25 October, 12:00 noon to 2:00 P.M.

Archaeology Live: Harvard College Life in Colonial Times
Between Weld and Matthew Halls in Harvard Yard, Cambridge
Peer into an active archaeological excavation and learn about the oldest section of North America’s first college, founded in 1636. Harvard archaeology students will answer your questions, demonstrate archaeological methods, and display recent finds from the seventeenth century that reflect how Harvard College students—centuries ago—ate, dressed, and amused themselves, among other experiences. Drop by any time during this two-hour event. The site is steps away from the famous John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Soldiers Underfoot, Treasures Afoot

Three days ago, we left Col. William Dalrymple and his 14th Regiment of Foot on their first night in the unfriendly town of Boston. They were locked out of the Manufactory building but finally found refuge in Faneuil Hall.

The next day, 2 October, was a Sunday, and Bostonians took the Sabbath off from political protests. Dalrymple was busy complaining to Gov. Francis Bernard about his soldiers’ inadequate and cramped accommodations. Bernard replied:

When I went to town this morning to attend the Service at the King’s Chappel I learned that you had been put to Difficulties in providing a temporary Shelter for your men and I, of my own accord, inclosed in a Letter to you an order to the doorkeeper of the Courthouse [i.e., the Town House, now the Old State House] to open that building and all the spare rooms in it for the accommodation of the Men untill they could be encamped and quartered.
The 14th Regiment thus took over the seats of both the town and provincial governments.

Col. Dalrymple had promised the selectmen “upon his honor to quit said [Fanueil] Hall” on Monday, 3 October. But at the end of that day, his men were still inside.

On the 4th, John Rowe came to his fellow selectmen and told them
that Collo. Delrimple sent his Compliments to them, & asked the favor of having the further use of Faneuil Hall till Wednesday next, when he would withdraw his Troops from thence—

to which request the Selectmen consented —
So 250 years ago today, nothing changed. What to talk about then? Hmmm. How about a book-signing?

On Saturday, 6 October, the William Hickling Prescott House in Boston will host Kimberly S. Alexander, author of Treasures Afoot: Shoe Stories from the Georgian Era. The publisher’s description:
Presenting a series of stories that reveal how shoes were made, sold, and worn during the long eighteenth century, Alexander traces the fortunes and misfortunes of wearers as their footwear was altered to accommodate poor health, flagging finances, and changing styles. She explores the lives and letters of clever apprentices, skilled cordwainers, wealthy merchants, and elegant brides, taking readers on a colorful journey from bustling London streets into ship cargo holds, New England shops, and, ultimately, to the homes of eager consumers.
Alexander teaches museum studies, material culture, and American and New Hampshire history at the University of New Hampshire.

The signing will take place from noon to 2:00 P.M. at the Prescott House, 55 Beacon Street in Boston. One could visit that event and attend the “Boston Occupied” reenactment on the Common and downtown Boston in one fun afternoon.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Craig Bruce Smith on American Honor, 3-5 Oct.

This week Craig Bruce Smith will speak at multiple sites around Boston about his new book, American Honor: The Creation of the Nation's Ideals During the Revolutionary Era.

The publisher’s description the book says:
The American Revolution was not only a revolution for liberty and freedom. It was also a revolution of ethics, reshaping what colonial Americans understood as “honor” and “virtue.” As Craig Bruce Smith demonstrates, these concepts were crucial aspects of Revolutionary Americans’ ideological break from Europe and shared by all ranks of society. Focusing his study primarily on prominent Americans who came of age before and during the Revolution—notably John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington—Smith shows how a colonial ethical transformation caused and became inseparable from the American Revolution, creating an ethical ideology that still remains.

By also interweaving individuals and groups that have historically been excluded from the discussion of honor—such as female thinkers, women patriots, slaves, and free African Americans—Smith makes a broad and significant argument about how the Revolutionary era witnessed a fundamental shift in ethical ideas. 
Smith earned his doctorate at Brandeis and is now a professor at William Woods University in Missouri.

His talks in the region will start with what looks like a basic book talk and then branch into more specialized presentations.

3 October, 6:00 P.M. (reception starts at 5:30)
“American Honor: The Creation of the Nation’s Ideals during the Revolutionary Era”
Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston
$10 admission; free to members, fellows, and E.B.T. cardholders; register here.

4 October, 1:00 P.M.
“Honor and Ethics: The Foundation of George Washington’s Leadership”
Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, 60 Turner Street, Waltham
Open to Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute members.

Smith’s next project focuses on Washington.

4 October, 7:00 P.M.
“Riots, Boycotts, and Resistance: Honor, Boston, and the Coming of the American Revolution”
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, Boston
$10 admission; more information here.
By far the most generally accepted method of resistance was through non-violent boycotts of British goods; these boycotts united American men and women in a common cause. However, more extreme elements in society, largely led by the Boston-based Sons of Liberty, exacerbated this movement by using violence against Crown officials and sympathizers to seek retribution. These dual visions of reclaiming honor became a point of contention among the American founders, from Samuel Adams to John Adams, and marked a considerable ideological and ethical struggle for the budding Revolutionary movement.
5 October, 7:00 P.M.
“‘Open Violation of Honor’: Concord, Lexington, and the Ethics of the Revolutionary War”
Wright Tavern, Concord Museum
Free but registration required here.
Smith will explore how the eruption of gunfire during the Battles of Lexington and Concord affirmed to the American patriots (in the words of Mercy Otis Warren) that the United Kingdom was “lost to that honour and compassionate dignity which had long been the boast of Britons.” To Americans, Concord’s “shot heard ‘round the world” and the resulting war were moral responses to Britain’s “open violation of honor.” In just over a year, the echoes of April 19, 1775 culminated in the Declaration of Independence and its pledge of “sacred honor.”
Books will no doubt be available at each event.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

“Boston Occupied,” 6-7 Oct., and the “Hub History” Podcast

The arrival of royal troops in 1768 leads us to “Boston Occupied,” the sestercentennial commemoration of that historical event on this upcoming weekend.

On Saturday and Sunday, there will once again be redcoats in the streets of Boston, as well as civilian reenactors portraying the local response to those soldiers. These events are organized by the Revolution 250 coalition that I’m part of. Here’s what you can see when.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

9:00 A.M.
Hearing rumors of the landing of the soldiers, colonial Bostonians gather on Long Wharf.

9:30
Landing of the British troops at Long Wharf.

10:45
“Insolent Parade” of redcoats steps off from Long Wharf. (See the route of the parade through downtown Boston here.)

10:50
Governor’s levee in the Council Chamber at the Old State House (paid admission to the museum required): Col. William Dalrymple appears before Gov. Francis Bernard and his Council demanding quarters for troops.

11:00
Arrival of the troops at the Old State House.

12:00 noon
Welcoming of the troops at the reviewing stand in Downtown Crossing: Commanding officers warn those soldiers against the temptation to desert; town officials, led by selectman John Hancock, express their views on having the soldiers in town.

12:30 P.M.
Arrival of the troops on Boston Common.

1:30 – 5:30
Living History at the Old State House, Boston Common, the Old South Meeting House, and Downtown Crossing area.

2:00
The Boston militia company drills on Boston Common, disturbing the regular soldiers.

2:00
Regimental Tea: The Roche Bros. market at 8 Summer Street hosts the redcoats and colonial citizens for tea and seasonal refreshments.

3:00
Firing demonstration by the redcoats on Boston Common.

4:00
Grand Review & Trooping of the Colors by the redcoats on Boston Common.

5:30
A sentry detail runs into members of the town watch at the Old State House; an argument ensues over who has jurisdiction over the streets.

8:00
Sons of Liberty are accosted by soldiers, a disturbance begins, and Sheriff Stephen Greenleaf arrives to read the Riot Act. At Democracy Brewing, 35 Temple Place.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

10:00 A.M.
A church service in the Old South Meeting House is disrupted by the regulars changing a sentry post.

10:00 – 12:00 noon
British soldiers patrol throughout downtown Boston.

10:00 – 12:00 noon
British soldiers occupy Boston Common for drills, parade, &c.

11:30 A.M.
The siege of the Manufactory building outside Suffolk University Law School’s Sargent Hall on Tremont Street.

1:00 P.M.
The troops break camp on Boston Common.

I had the honor of talking about the history behind these events on the 100th episode of the Hub History podcast with Jake Sconyers and Nikki Stewart. They know the breadth of Boston’s past, exploring its most interesting episodes and not shy about discussing its less flattering sides. I hope you’ll enjoy listening to that discussion, either as preparation for this busy weekend or in case you can’t make it.

Monday, October 01, 2018

“All the Troops Landed under cover of the Cannon”

On the morning on 1 Oct 1768, 250 years ago today, Sheriff Stephen Greenleaf and a deputy started “pressing carts, &c. for the use of the troops.” Boston Whigs indignantly reported that detail to sympathetic newspaper readers in other North American ports.

The Whigs surmised that Greenleaf was borrowing equipment to help the soldiers land from the Royal Navy ships in the harbor. Indeed, that move started in the early afternoon, as described by Deacon John Tudor:
At aboute 1 O’clock Satterday all the Troops Landed under cover of the Cannon of the Ships of War; The Troops drew up in King Street and marched off in a Short time into the Common with Muskets charged, Bayonets fixed (perhaps Expecting to have met with resestance as the Soldiers afterwards told the inhabitants) their Colours flying, Drums beating & museck playing, In short they made a gallant appearance, makeing with the Train of Artillery aboute 800 Men. 
Col. Dalrymple told the Boston selectmen that the troops under his command actually numbered about 1,200. He had heard warnings that the locals might resist their landing with force. As a careful commander, he not only had his men ready with their bayonets but asked the warships to train their artillery on the town. Fortunately, there was no violence.

The 29th Regiment of Foot marched to Boston Common and camped there. The Whigs complained that this was “in hopes of intimidating the magistrates to find them quarters, which they cannot force until the barracks are filled, without flying in the face of a plain act of Parliament.” The selectmen continued to insist that the barracks on Castle William fulfilled the letter of the law even if the London government had been explicit about stationing at least one regiment inside Boston.

The 14th Regiment “had not a sufficient number of Tents,” Col. William Dalrymple told the selectmen. According to the Whigs:
In the afternoon it is said an officer [Lt. David Cooper] from the Col. went to the Manufactory House, with an order from the Governor, and requested Mr. Brown and the other occupiers to remove within two hours, that the troops might take possession; instead of a compliance the doors were barr’d and bolted against them. 
Elisha Brown was a weaver who leased part of the big Manufactory building from the province. He and his family lived inside amongst their looms and spinning wheels. With support from local elected officials, the Browns were determined the stay.

Part of the 59th Regiment of Foot had also come from Halifax, and it found quarters “at Robt. Gordons Stores,” according to merchant John Rowe. That businessman probably leased his property to the army for hard cash. A contingent of the Royal Artillery arrived as well, but it was small enough that no one noted where they bunked.

Late in the afternoon Col. Dalrymple went to the selectmen and “entreated of them as a favor the use of Faneuil Hall for one Regiment to lodge in till Monday following, promissing upon his honor to quit said Hall at that time.” According to Tudor, “about SunSett the 14 Regemt Marched from the Common down to Faneuil Hall.”

But Faneuil Hall was the center of democracy in Boston. It was the site of town meetings and of the town clerk’s and selectmen’s offices. It was the storage place of “a large number of stands of the towns arms” for militia use. Would the selectmen give up that space? Politically, could they?

For about two hours the 14th Regiment stood in the center of town as the night grew cooler. Finally two factors swayed the selectmen:
  • “The next day being the Sabbath, on which all confusion should be avoided”
  • “the hardship of the Troops must be exposed to while remaining in the open air”
At nine o’clock the troops were allowed into Faneuil Hall to bed down. 

In their newspaper dispatches the Whigs made claimed a moral victory: “Thus the humanity of the city magistrates permitted them a temporary shelter, which no menaces could have procured.”

TOMORROW: Remembering that history this week.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

“Boston Surrounded with aboute 14 Ships”

On 30 Sept 1768, Deacon John Tudor wrote in his diary that the Royal Navy’s transport ships were now approaching Boston’s wharves:
At 3 O’Clock P. M. the Lanceston of 40 Guns, the Mermaid of 28, Glasgow of 20, Keven [Beaver, wrote John Rowe] of 14, Senegal 14, Bonnetta 10, several armed schooners, which with the Romney of 50 Guns (which had been hear most of the Summer) & the other Ships of War before in the Harbour, Capt. [James] Smith in the Mermaid Comadore, all came up to town bringing with them the 14th Regiment Col. [William] Dalrymple & 29th Regt. Col. [Maurice] Care.

So that now we See Boston Surrounded with aboute 14 Ships, or Vessells of war. The greatest perade perhaps ever seen in the Harbour of Boston.
Boston’s selectmen had been expecting those troops as far back as 10 September. After that, they met on the 11th, 12th, 13th (twice), 14th (twice), and 15th (twice). Most of those meetings produced no official decisions, the exceptions being typical small tasks such as admitting a person to the poorhouse or setting the price of rye bread.

On the 18th, the selectmen went to the Council Chamber in the Town House and received official word that four regiments were on their way, two from Halifax and two later from Ireland. Those thousands of soldiers would need a place to stay, the Council relayed. Three days later, the selectmen returned to the Council and said the only place for the soldiers was in Castle William.

The selectmen met again on the afternoon of the 21st, the 23rd, 26th, 28th, 29th, and 30th (twice). Again, most of those meetings officially resulted in nothing. The record of the afternoon meeting on the 30th even says: “A number of His Majestys Justices were present, but nothing transacted, matter of minuting.”

(On 26 September a cloth dyer named Thomas Mewse alerted the selectmen that he had come to Boston from Norwich, England, with his son. Mewse would go into “the Weaving Business” with William Molineux, a partnership that broke down in mutual recriminations, lawsuits, and newspaper essays. I wrote a long chapter about how that dispute connects to Molineux’s sudden death in October 1774 for The Road to Concord, and then I cut it for length. But it was nice to see Mewse make his entrance.)

The reason for the selectmen’s frequent meetings, and the magistrates’ presence on the 30th, is that Gov. Francis Bernard was trying to make the Manufactory building near the Common available as barracks. He told Col. Dalrymple that the Manufactory “is a building belonging to the Province and at present not leased or appropriated to any Person or Purpose.”

In fact, there were a few families in that large building weaving cloth or stockings or making buttons on a small scale. Moving them out would require a legal eviction, hence the justices of the peace—but most of those appointees stood with the selectmen in opposing the troops’ presence in town.

As much as Gov. Bernard wanted to turn the Manufactory over to the army, he didn’t want to take all the responsibility for doing so. He had spent almost two weeks trying to get his Council to agree with the idea. Those elected officials refused, also siding with the Boston selectmen.

In his letter to Col. Dalrymple, the governor wrote, “you have requested of me the Use of the building called the manufactory house.” So far as I know, Dalrymple had never been in Boston, but the governor wanted the request to come from the army.

On 30 September, Gov. Bernard finally bit the bullet and acted on his own authority—but he turned all the hard work over to Dalrymple:
as it is my Duty to preserve the Peace of the Town by all means in my Power, for which it is necessary to prevent an intermixture of the Soldiers and the People, as it must certainly give frequent occasions for the breaking the Peace, I do hereby assign & appoint the Manufactory house being a building appropriated to no use, & belonging to the Province; & I do authorise you to take possession of the same as & for a Barrack for the quartering the King’s Troops.
Until that building was available, the governor said, he had no objection to the regiments camping on Boston Common. As for straw for that camp, he would speak with the Council—the same uncooperative Council that didn’t want the troops in Boston in the first place.

TOMORROW: The landing.

(The picture above, courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society, is one version of Christian Remick’s painting of the fleet in Boston harbor as seen from Long Wharf.)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

“To sit till the troops come”

There’s practically no record of discussions at the Massachusetts Convention of 1768. The gathering issued formal documents in the first couple of days and at the end, but no internal proceedings survive.

The closest we come is a 27 Sept 1768 letter from the Rev. Andrew Eliot to an English supporter of Massachusetts, Thomas Hollis. Eliot wrote:
Their chairman (Mr. [Thomas] Cushing) assures me their determinations will be moderate, and their session short; and that they will not attempt any acts of government. But if the troops arrive before they break up, I will not be bound for their moderation. The people have, at present, great confidence in them.

A gentleman well acquainted with the secrets of the times, just now informed me, that there were three parties in the convention. One, who were fearful of the legality of their proceedings, and would gladly break up without doing any thing. Another party would willingly leave the people to themselves, and not lay any restraints upon them. A third desire to sit till the troops come, and to take the direction of affairs into their own hands. Which party will prevail is uncertain.

I just returned from a journey into the country. I find the people through this Province, are ripe for almost any thing. But how it is with other Provinces, I cannot say. They write well, but do nothing.

I fear we must stand the brunt of ministerial vengeance, unless there is some great change at home. What can we do! Tamely to give up our rights, and to suffer ourselves to be taxed at the will of persons at such a distance, and to be under military government, is to consent to be slaves, and to bring upon us the curses of all posterity; and yet how unable to cope with Great Britain! How dreadful the thought of a contest with the parent country, in whose calamities we have always borne a part, and in whose peace we have enjoyed peace.

Whatever distresses come, we shall not suffer alone; whatever evils come on the Colonies, Great Britain will sensibly feel; and our increase is so great, that time will be, when we shall be free. How impolitic to precipitate a disunion!
The possibility of a severe breach between Massachusetts and Britain was high enough that London stock market suffered a decline. However, like Eliot, the leaders of the Convention thought such a “disunion” would be a calamity, and they worked to make sure that didn’t happen, issuing firm verbal protests to keep the situation from turning violent.

On 28 September, troop transports started to arrive in Boston’s outer harbor. The merchant John Rowe wrote in his diary:
This forenoon came to anchor in Nantasket Roads six sail of Men of War supposed to have the 14th Regmt. & 29th Regmt. on board.
The next day, or 250 years ago today, Deacon John Tudor wrote that the ships were closer:
The Fleet came to Anchor near Castle Willm.
The next issue of the Boston Gazette, dated 3 October, included this one-sentence item of local news:
Thursday last [i.e., 29 September] the Convention, having finish’d their Business, dispersed.
The Massachusetts Convention thus came to a close. You can read its final formal complaint here.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Mixed Reactions to the Massachusetts Convention

The Boston Whigs weren’t surprised there was pushback against their Convention from Massachusetts towns where friends of the royal government dominated local politics—such as Hatfield, as I quoted yesterday.

But they may have hoped for a positive response from Marblehead and Salem, two of the largest towns in the province with a mercantile communities also hit by the Townshend Act and stricter Customs enforcement. Instead, both those towns were in political turmoil, so they didn’t make a clear response.

Salem’s representatives to the Massachusetts General Court in the spring of 1768, William Brown and Peter Frye, had both voted to rescind the body’s Circular Letter. Neither would be reelected. The new representatives for May 1769 were strong Whigs Richard Derby, Jr., and John Pickering. But the Convention came in the midst of that shift.

Likewise, of Marblehead’s representatives, Jacob Fowle had voted to rescind and William Bourne had sat out that vote; neither would be reelected. Richard Brown found that Marblehead didn’t even meet to consider Boston’s invitation. George A. Billias suggested that the loss of several fishing vessels that summer gave the town bigger things to worry about.

Another notable result came from Northampton, to the west. That town regularly sent Joseph Hawley, a respected lawyer and strong Whig, to the General Court. But its citizens voted overwhelmingly—66 or 65 to 1—not to send Hawley or anyone else to the Convention. At the same time, little Montague, which often sat out the regular legislature, sent Moses Gunn to the Convention.

Cambridge was a politically active town, and so close to Boston that it wouldn’t have been much expense to send a delegate. But it also had a relatively large and very wealthy Anglican community, and those citizens kept the town from responding quickly.

The citizens of Cambridge didn’t meet about Boston’s invitation until 26 September, four days after the Convention had started. Katie Turner Getty kindly shared her notes on that meeting, which show that attendees chose Samuel Whittemore, a septuagenarian militia captain from the western part of town, as moderator. But the meeting’s only recorded action was to adjourn “to Tuesday next at three of the clock in the afternoon.”

That would seem to put the next session of the meeting in early October, but that same Monday the Boston Gazette reported:
The Torries [sic] in Cambridge have had the Address, with the Aid of a veering Whig, to get the Town Meeting adjourned to Thursday next.
That would be Thursday the 29th, which is indeed when the men of Cambridge came together again. By then the Convention was nearly over, but Lucius Paige’s town history said the meeting considered
whether it be the mind of the inhabitants of this town to proceed on the article in the Warrant, relating to the choosing a person to join with the committees of Convention of the other towns in this Province, now sitting in Boston, and it passed in the afiirmative.
The town voted to send two delegates to the Convention—more than it had sent to the last General Court. The local Whigs may have been trying to make up for lost time.

Cambridge’s first choice was Andrew Bordman, who had represented the town in that last legislature. He “declined the service.” The town asked Deacon Samuel Whittemore (1721-1784), son of the meeting moderator. He also declined. The town then asked Capt. Whittemore, who said yes. Finally the town chose Thomas Gardner as the second delegate, and he agreed as well.

But neither Whittemore nor Gardner arrived in time to be listed among the Convention attendees by Robert Treat Paine. Both remained politically active, with Gardner taking over for Bordman in the General Court. Whittemore is famous for being wounded during the Battle of Lexington and Concord; Gardner died of wounds suffered at Bunker Hill.

Getty and I are both curious about the identity of the “veering Whig” who delayed Cambridge’s response. Was it Bordman, who had been one of the “Glorious 92” but didn’t want to attend the unofficial Convention? Was it old Samuel Danforth, a Council member who lived in Cambridge and was voting with Gov. Francis Bernard on a couple of issues that week? (Another Council member from Cambridge, William Brattle, voted firmly against Bernard and therefore hadn’t started “veering” yet.) Whittemore as moderator might have had the influence to adjourn the meeting, but he probably wouldn’t have been chosen as delegate after that. Absent a more revealing local source, we’ll never know.

(Read Katie Getty’s Journal of the American Revolution article about Samuel Whittemore here.)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Contrasting Reactions to the Massachusetts Convention

Massachusetts towns had a range of responses to Boston’s invitation in September 1768 to come to a Convention in Faneuil Hall and discuss the province’s grievances.

The 26 Sept 1768 Boston Gazette proudly ran a dispatch from Petersham in Worcester County. On 19 September, the town’s “Sons of Liberty” had met to choose Theophilus Chandler to attend that Convention. But they didn’t stop there.

The following day, those men of Petersham had a ceremony to “dedicate a Tree to that most amiable Goddess,” Liberty, choosing the Wilkesite time of “45 Minutes past two o’Clock, P.M.”
Accordingly they met at the Time appointed, and having made Choice of a beautiful young Elm, they cut off 17 useless Branches (leaving 92 thereon) and one of them taking hold of the Tree uttered the following Words, “O Liberty! thou divine Goddess! may those that love thee flourish as the Branches of this Tree! but those that hate thee be cut off and perish as these 17, which we are now about to commit to the Flames?[”] And a Pile of condemn’d Shingles being instantly set on Fire, the amputated Branches, together with the Effigies of the 17 strong Asses were cast therefore and consum’d, while the well known Song of Liberty was sung; and having scatter’d their Ashes towards the four Winds of Heaven, they gave three Cheers, and then walked back in Procession, where a Dish of Barley Coffee was prepared for them:
The 92 branches and the 17 lopped off referred to the Massachusetts assembly’s vote not to rescind the Circular Letter. The “Barley Coffee” might have been an early example of eschewing taxed tea.

The Petersham celebrants then drank thirteen “constitutional Toasts,” starting with the royal family and moving on to “Lord Chatham—[John] Wilks,…The brave Corsicans…our glorious intrepid Ancestors,” John Dickinson, James Otis, and “A speedy Repeal of all unconstitutional Acts.”

In contrast, the Connecticut River town of Hatfield met on 22 September, “calmly and fully deliberated and considered” Boston’s invitation, and voted unanimously not to participate.

What’s more, the next day Hatfield approved a long reply to Boston. This document was written mainly by Israel Williams (1709-1788), a wealthy landowner and militia officer who strongly supported the royal government. In the House he had been one of the 17, not one of the 92.

Williams and his neighbors produced a detailed rebuttal to Boston’s points about the danger of the army regiments being stationed in town. They expressed confidence that the regular process of petitioning Parliament would resolve Massachusetts’s problems. Hatfield’s reply ended:
Suffer us to observe that in our Opinion the Measures the Town of Boston are pursuing and proposing to us and the People of this Province to unite in, are unconstitutional, illegal, and wholly unjustifiable, and what will give the Enemies of our Constitution the greatest Joy, subversive of Government, destructive of that Peace and good Order which is the Cement of Society, and have a direct Tendency to rivet our Chains, and deprive us of our Charter Rights and Privileges, which we the Inhabitants of this Town desire may be secured to us, and perpetuated to our latest Posterity.

Thus we have freely expressed our Sentiments, having an equal Right with others, tho’ a lesser Part of the Community, and take this first Opportunity to protest against the proposed Convention;—and hereby declare our Loyalty to His present Majesty, and Fidelity to our Country; and that it is our firm Resolution, to the utmost of our Power, to maintain and defend our Rights in every prudent and reasonable Way, as far as is consistent with our duty to GOD and the KING.
The town clerk who signed off on that message on behalf of Hatfield, Oliver Partridge, was appointed a county judge in October. Every town had its own story.

TOMORROW: Politicking in Cambridge.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Running the Numbers on the Massachusetts Convention

On Monday, 26 Sept 1768—250 years ago today—the Massachusetts Convention returned to Faneuil Hall after taking the Sabbath off.

Gov. Francis Bernard reported that on that Monday the gathering declared itself to be in committee, which by eighteenth-century standards meant that all the participants could meet together in private. He also noted a late arriving participant, writing:

The 3 days last week they kept open doors; [James] Otis was then absent. The two days this week they have kept the doors shut; Otis is with them.
In The Otis Family, John J. Waters wrote that the Convention was Samuel Adams’s idea and Otis was wary of it. But Otis had chaired the Boston town meeting that proposed it, as well as reportedly helping to plan that meeting.

Waters’s description of the situation appears to be an interpretation of Otis’s absence, not based on public statements from him or his colleagues. I wonder if this might be an example of reading politics into actions that were actually driven by bipolar disorder. We’ll never know.

In any event, Otis wasn’t the only man who showed up at the Convention after its opening days. Boston’s invitation had gone out to other towns only on 14 September. That didn’t leave much time for the news to travel, for towns to meet about the unusual request, and for any chosen delegates to journey to Boston. The counties closest to Boston had the most representation, naturally. No one came from Berkshire County, in the far west; Lincoln County, in the northeast (Maine); or the islands.

The official record of the Convention’s first days, published in the 26 September Boston Evening-Post and other newspapers, said that on the 22nd there were “a number of Gentlemen upwards of Seventy” representing “Sixty-Six Towns, besides Districts.”

The 26 September Boston Gazette stated, “We hear there is already arrived Committee-Men form [sic] 90 Towns in the Province.” And the next day, the Rev. Andrew Eliot wrote: “The Committees from the several Towns are now met in convention, between 80 and 90.”

The final published record of the Convention reported 96 towns and 8 districts participating. And even that might be an undercount. Robert Treat Paine of Taunton drew up a list of attendees with the towns or districts they represented—evidently the only surviving document that named names. This list was first published by Richard D. Brown in the William and Mary Quarterly in 1969. Furthermore, Brown added seven towns whose own local records say they sent delegates but weren’t on Paine’s list.

Now I can’t make the numbers in Brown’s footnote add up exactly with that list. To increase the confusion, some attendees represented multiple towns (“Leicester and Spencer and Paxton,” “Lunenburg and Fitchburg”) while a few towns sent two people. But it’s clear that about a hundred jurisdictions were represented.

How did the Convention compare to a typical lower house of the Massachusetts General Court? The shortened 1768 legislative session had representatives from over 200 towns, so the Convention was significantly smaller. (In contrast, when the Massachusetts Provincial Congress met in 1774, more towns participated than in the previous session of the Crown-recognized legislature.) The big secondary ports of Marblehead and Salem sent no one, and a few towns made a public point of not participating, as I’ll discuss later.

On the other hand, the Convention attracted participants from several towns that hadn’t bothered to send representatives to the General Court. The smaller ports of Newburyport, Gloucester, Plymouth, and Dartmouth were there, along with most of the big farming towns in Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk Counties (which would supply militia companies in a military emergency). Some men from Maine did come. All in all, the Convention should have alerted Crown officials that Boston wasn’t alone in feeling aggrieved.

TOMORROW: How two towns responded.