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 20, 2019

Amos Lincoln at the Tea Party

Back in 2006, I posted the first list of men who participated in the Boston Tea Party, published at the back of Traits of the Tea Party in 1835, followed by my best guess about who came up with that list.

I posited that those names came from Benjamin Russell (shown here), a Boston newspaper publisher and politician who came of age during the Revolution.

A lot of the names on that first list were members of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, which Russell headed. Items in his newspapers in the early 1830s showed someone in those offices was keeping track of Tea Party veterans as they died out.

Amos Lincoln, however, tests that hypothesis. He died on 15 Jan 1829, and two days later this notice appeared in Russell’s Columbian Centinel:

In Quincy, on Wednesday, Capt. AMOS LINCOLN, aged 75, formerly of Boston, and uncle of the Governors of Massachusetts and Maine,—a patriot and a soldier of the Revolution, he was one of the intrepid band who consigned the Tea to the ocean, in 1773,—commanded a company of Artillery during the first years of the Revolution, and sustained through life the character of an undeviating disciple of Washington, and that of an honest, useful man. His funeral will be this afternoon at 3 o’clock, from the residence of Mr. Nathan Josselyn, in Quincy.

Mr. Ezra Lincoln, aged 72, brother of the above, died suddenly at Hingham, on the preceding Sabbath.
Lincoln had also been a member of the Mechanic Association before moving out of Boston and letting his dues drop. The chronicler of that organization, Joseph T. Buckingham, even stated that Russell and Lincoln were friends.

Yet Lincoln does not appear on that first list of Tea Party members in 1835. Whoever compiled it must have missed or forgotten his Centinel obituary. Does that suggest Russell was not the source of that first list? Perhaps, although he could just as easily have forgotten the name of a man no longer living in town as anybody else.

In any event, Amos Lincoln was publicly identified as someone who helped to destroy the tea in 1829, when people who witnessed the furor of 1773 were still around. That recognition seems quite reliable.

It wasn’t until decades later that the more dramatic details of the Amos Lincoln story came out.

TOMORROW: The master carpenter’s prayer.

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