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, March 15, 2020

“Both he and the boy were at Home that Evening”

An anonymous letter now part of the Sparks Manuscripts at Harvard relates what happened when Justice Richard Dana (shown here) gave Customs surveyor Edward Manwaring a chance to respond to his young servant Charles Bourgate’s accusation.

That letter says:
a little French boy servant to Manwarring the tide Surveyor, declared that he at the Desire of his Master, and several other Gentlemen, who were that night in the board room, fired three guns from one of the windows & that a number more, were fired by other people——

Manwarring was Immediately summon’d before them, but on his proving by the evidence of Mr. [John] Munro that both he and the boy were at Home that Evening, he was acquitted, & the boy retracting every word he had said was committed to Jail—
Munro was a notary public. He died in January 1775 at age thirty-nine, so he didn’t get to be on any Loyalist lists.

Young Charles had another trick up his sleeve the next morning, though.
day on the boys declaring [i.e., One day on, the boy declaring] that both Manwarring & Munro were that night at the Custom House, both were Summon’d before the Justices & Munro’s affadavit set aside, he being now a party—
Munro couldn’t be an alibi witness for Manwaring because they were allegedly in on the crime together. But then Manwaring pulled out another name.
but a third person who happened to be that Evening in company with them, appear’d & Confirmed, what Munro had the day before advanced, & they were dismissed and the boy remanded back to prison.—
I’ll share that witness’s testimony tomorrow.

For now, we leave young Charles Bourgate back where we picked up his story yesterday: he was in jail and discredited. Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson wrote:
Mr. Dana, a Justice zealous for the cause of Liberty, had examined the boy and was so fully convinced of the falsity of his evidence that he would not issue a warrant for apprehending the persons charged.
Manwaring was free, and he set about writing to the Boston Gazette.

TOMORROW: Michael Angelo Warwell?

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