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, March 16, 2020

“Not to trust the said boy out of his sight”

After young Charles Bourgate accused both his master, Edward Manwaring, and his master’s alibi witness, John Munro, of participating in the Boston Massacre, as I related here, Manwaring summoned “a third person who happened to be that Evening in company with them.”

That person was the traveling actor and singer Michael Angelo Warwell.

On 15 Mar 1770, Warwell gave a long and detailed recollection of the night of the Massacre to Justices Richard Dana and Edmund Quincy, the magistrates who had quizzed Charles. It stated:
On Monday the 5th of this present March, 1770, about three o’Clock, afternoon, I called upon Mr. Edward Manwaring, at his lodgings in back-street Boston, and immediately proceeded with him and mr. John Monroe, to the house of mr. Brown in Charlestown, to settle an affair between the said Brown and one doctor Brown in Boston, relative to a horse, which the last mentioned Brown had hired of the aforementioned Brown in Charlestown, where we staid ’till something after six in the evening, and returned to Mr. Manwaring’s lodgings about seven, and sat ourselves down to spend the evening with him, which we accordingly did.
(You just know I tried to find out more about that horse. I regret to say I’ve learned no additional information.)
About an hour and half after our arrival at the said Manwaring’s lodgings, we heard the cry of fire in the street, and thereupon ran to the windows to be informed where it was, when some person under made answer at the south-end; others in the street were also enquiring where it was, and they were answered that they would soon see, and other expressions to the same purpose, which made us conclude, that something more was than in the case than fire alone; on which we came to a resolution not to [go] from the said Manwaring’s apartment, soon after this determination we were confirmed more in our former opinion by a noise in the street, and some people saying four out of five were killed, which words tho’ we did not know the meaning of, fully satisfied us there was something more than fire.

On this occasion Mr. Manwaring’s boy, several times attempted to go into the street to join the multitude, and once had got as far as the gate next the street, when Mr. Monroe fetched him back, and shut the gate after him. After this Mr. Manwarring kept the said boy, in his the said Manwaring’s own room, being determined not to trust the said boy out of his sight.

Then we the said Edward Manwaring, John Monroe, myself and Mrs. [Elizabeth] Hudson the Landlady of the House, who was afraid to stay in her own apartment alone; I say we the aforesaid persons sat over a bottle or two of mull’d wine ’till half an hour after Ten, when the tumult seemed to be subsided, and Mr. Monroe proposed to go to his own lodgings, which Mr. Manwaring would have persuaded him from, apprehending there might be danger in so doing; but he persevered in the resolution of going, and went accordingly, but told us at parting, that if any tumult still remained he would immediately return, but if he did not return we might depend upon it all was quiet, and he did not return that night.
Elizabeth Hudson’s wife John was “a custom-house clerk,” according to a Whig writing in the 8 Apr 1771 Boston Evening-Post. He was “out of town that evening,” she testified. She might have been nervous about an angry crowd mobbing her house because of its ties to the Customs service.
After this, myself, Mr. Manwaring and Mrs. Hudson (and the boy still in company) remained together ’till about twelve the same night, when she left us to go to her own bed. After this, myself, Mr. Manwaring and his boy sat up together about three hours longer; it being then too late for my returning to my own lodgings, Mr. Manwaring proposed my sleeping with him, which I accordingly did in the same bed, and, the boy was ordered to go to his bed, which he accordingly did, it being in the same room. These particulars I could not suppress, in justice to Mr. Manwaring and Mr. Monroe.
Warwell’s testimony prompted Justice Dana to dismiss the accusation against Manwaring and Munro, and to order Bourgate to be taken back to the Boston jail. Despite supporting the Whigs politically, Dana refused to have anything more to do with that charge.

On 16 March, 250 years ago today, Manwaring wrote a triumphant letter to the printers of the Boston Gazette, which had first reported the accusation against him:
Messieurs EDES & GILL,


As the villainy of my servant (who is a Boy under age without principle, sense or education, and indeed unacquainted with our language) has subjected myself and one of my friends to a suspicion that we were concerned in the unhappy transaction of Monday the fifth instant. I thought it necessary to publish the following affidavit as an additional (till further) proof of my innocence, and the extreme injury done my sentiments and reputation.

I am, Gentlemen,
Your humble Servant,
In their 19 March issue, Edes and Gill apologized for just not having enough space to print Warwell’s deposition. They finally got around to publishing it on 26 March. Later this month, we’ll see what effect it had.

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