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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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Paula Bagger with More on Marlborough

After my series of postings about Revolutionary conflict in Marlborough, Paula Bagger of the Hingham Historical Society filled me in on some details about the household of Loyalist merchant Henry Barnes. She has researched that family in the course of making important discoveries about the enslaved artist Prince Demah.

In particular, Paula identified the little girl whom Dr. Samuel Curtis quizzed about the two undercover British army officers who visited the house in March 1775. So I’m sharing Paula’s information as a “guest blogger” posting.


The “child” was undoubtedly Christian (“Chrisy”) Arbuthnot, the daughter of Christian Barnes’s brother William Arbuthnot from Hingham. Born in 1765, Chrisy would have been ten years old whereas the other young women who lived with the Barneses from time to time (Catharine Goldthwait and several Murray nieces of Elizabeth Inman) were older. The Barneses became Chrisy’s guardians when William Arbuthnot, a widower, died in the late 1760s.

Chrisy decamped to England with the Barneses in 1776 and died in 1782 in Bristol.

As for Catharine Goldthwait (1744-1830), who remained in Marlborough trying to preserve the estate in 1775, she traveled to England in the late ’70s or early ’80s. She spent time with her parents, Thomas and Catherine (the latter Henry Barnes’s sister), who had settled in Walthamstow outside London. But she seems to have spent some time with the Barneses in Bristol as well.

In July 1795, Catherine wrote Deborah Barker of Hingham to tell her that Christian Barnes had died in April. Henry Barnes died in London in 1808.

In England, Catharine Goldthwait met and married eighty-year-old Dr. Silvester Gardiner, a wealthy Loyalist widower [shown above]. They returned to America together. After Gardiner died, she married the merchant William Powell of Boston, a wealthy Patriot widower. She had no children of her own but adopted a niece and then two great-nieces.

Thanks, Paula!

One of the oddities I came across while researching this extended family is that Catharine Goldthwait’s sister Mary (1753-1825?) married Francis Archibald in Maine, was widowed, and fell into mental illness—the reason her teen-aged daughter came to live with Catharine Powell in Boston and eventually take her aunt’s last name. Mary Archibald lived on relief in the homes of various Maine householders, including now-famous Revolutionary War veteran Joseph Plumb Martin for several years.


COMING UP: Gossip about Marlborough’s Dr. Curtis.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

“I will take your Body and I will Tar it”

When I was posting about Henry Barnes’s conflict with his Marlborough neighbors in the summer of 1770, I looked for the text of the anonymous threatening letter he reported receiving in late June.

But I couldn’t find that text and had to settle for quoting the proclamation Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson issued about it.

Later I came across the text of that letter in E. Alfred Jones’s The Loyalists of Massachusetts, so I’ll quote it today.

Henry’s wife Christian had already told her friend Elizabeth Smith about the local protesters:
the first thing that fell a Sacrifice to their Mallace and reveng was the Coach which caused so much desention between us they took the cushings out of and put them in the Brook and the next night Cut the Carraig to Peices.
I first interpreted that “desention” to be between the Barneses, perhaps arguing over the expense of the coach. But in another letter Christian Barnes told Smith about “the Person that cut your Coach to Peices,” meaning that vehicle had first belonged to Smith or her late husband. So now I’m wondering if there had been some disagreement between the two ladies over that coach—perhaps Smith insisting that the Barneses take it as she left for Britain and Christian Barnes trying to resist.

The anonymous letter referred to the coach as a “booby hut,” a New England term for a carriage or coach body put on sleigh runners, as John Hancock’s coach has been preserved. Was that just a pejorative reference, or had the Smith carriage been left on runners since the winter?

In any event, Henry Barnes’s public complaints about the destruction of that vehicle spurred the anonymous writer:
I understand you are about carrying your Old dam’d Booby Hutt to the General Court and from thence Home to England to get recompence for all the damage you have sustained since you have been an infamous Importer or a common Enemy to the Country—

Therefore if you only want recompence for the damage you have done the Country in Importing goods contrary to the Agreement of Body of Merchants on this Continent I will recompence you without going there or any where else for I am determined to fetch you to terms even if I do it at the expence of my own Soul, or the Coat of a Sore Back or any other punishment in this World only for the good of my Country, for I stile myself a Son of LIBERTY,

therefore if you will Shut up your Store and Sell nothing out, nor Import any goods till the Importation takes place you shall sustain no more damage

But if not I will Fire your House and Store and destroy all your substance you have on the earth, And I will take your Body and I will Tar it, and if nothing else will do but Death you shall have it certainly, and so you will have no more Notice and if you do it by the 20th June 1770 Good and well, and if not you may depend upon my being as good as my word and so I will never write no more and so I stile myself Inspector General
I find it striking that this letter doesn’t speak in the voice of the community as Whig missives usually did. Instead, the writer emphasizes himself as an individual—willing to sacrifice for the country, to be sure, but speaking and acting on his own. That makes me inclined to think it didn’t come from Alpheus Woods or another member of the Marlborough town committee to enforce non-importation but from someone riled up by the conflict and perhaps not in his right mind.

Monday, August 10, 2020

“My succeeding to the post he holds from the crown”

Almost three years after Nathaniel Rogers died suddenly, he was back in the news.

Rogers was the author of one of the “Hutchinson Letters” that Benjamin Franklin leaked to the Boston Whigs in the spring of 1773.

Gov. Thomas Hutchinson wrote only six of those letters. Another six came from his friends and political allies (four from Andrew Oliver, shown here, and one each from Charles Paxton and Robert Auchmuty), and the last from his nephew, Rogers.

Those letters were collected by Thomas Whately, a Member of Parliament interested in the administration of the American colonies. Many of the writers discussed the challenges of governing Massachusetts, with some hints or recommendations about changing its constitution.

In contrast, Rogers’s letter was all about wanting the job of provincial secretary. It reveals just how such appointments were negotiated in this period, with a lot of discussion about money and little about the public interest or policy.
Boston, Decem. 12th 1768.

My Dear Sir,

I wrote you a few days ago, and did not then think of troubling you upon any private affair of mine, at least not so suddenly; but within this day or two, I have had a conversation with Mr. [Andrew] Oliver, secretary of the province, the design of which was my succeeding to the post he holds from the crown, upon the idea, that provision would be made for governor [Francis] Bernard, and the lieutenant governor [i.e., Uncle Hutchinson] would succeed to the chair, then the secretary is desirous of being lieutenant governor, and if in any way, three hundred pounds a year could be annexed to the appointment.

You are sensible the appointment is in one department [i.e., the Colonial Office], and the grant of money in another [the Treasury, funded by Customs revenue under the Townshend Act]; now the present lieutenant governor has an assignment of £200 a year upon the customs here; he has not received any thing from it as yet, and is doubtful if he shall; he has no doubt of its lapse to the crown, if he has the chair; if then by any interest that sum could be assigned to Mr. Oliver as lieutenant governor, and if he should be allowed (as has been usual for all lieutenant governors) to hold the command of the castle, that would be another £100. This would compleat the secretary’s views; and he thinks his public services, the injuries he has received in that service, and the favorable sentiments entertained of him by government, may lead him to these views, and he hopes for the interest of his friends.

The place of secretary is worth £300 a year, but is a provincial grant at present, so that it will not allow to be quartered on: And as I had a view upon the place when I was in England, and went so far as to converse with several men of interest upon it, tho’ I never had an opportunity to mention it to you after I recovered my illness—I hope you will allow me your influence, and by extending it at the treasury, to facilitate the assignment of the £200 a year, it will be serving the secretary, and it will very much oblige me.——

The secretary is advanced in life, tho’ much more so in health, which has been much impaired by the injuries he received, and he wishes to quit the more active scenes; he considers this as a kind of otium cum dignitate, and from merits one may think he has a claim to it.

I will mention to you the gentlemen, who are acquainted with my views and whose favourable approbation I have had. Governor [Thomas] Pownall, Mr. John Pownall, and Dr. Franklin.—My lord Hillsborough is not unacquainted with it—I have since I have been here, wrote Mr. [Richard] Jackson upon the subject, and have by this vessel wrote Mr. [Israel] Mauduit.

I think my character stands fair—I have not been without application to public affairs, and have acquired some knowledge of our provincial affairs, and notwithstanding our many free conversations in England, I am considered here as on government side, for which I have been often traduced both publickly and privately, and very lately have had two or three slaps. The governor and lieutenant governor are fully acquainted with the negociation and I meet their approbation; all is upon the idea the governor is provided for, and there shall by any means be a vacancy of the lieut. governor’s place.

I have gone so far, as to say to some of my friends, that rather than not succeed I would agree to pay the secretary £100 a year out of the office to make up £300, provided he could obtain only the assignment of £200—but the other proposal would to be sure be most eligible.

I scarce know any apology to make for troubling you upon the subject; the friendship you shewed me in London, and the favourable expressions you made use of to the lieut. governor in my behalf encourage me, besides a sort of egotism, which inclines men to think what they wish to be real. I submit myself to the enquiries of any of my countrymen in England, but I should wish the matter may be secret ’till it is effected.

I am with very great respect and regard, my dear sir,

Your most obedient, and most humble servant,

NATH. ROGERS.
Rogers thus privately lobbied for annual payments to Oliver as lieutenant governor that would be equal to the secretary’s salary and thus make it worthwhile for him to vacate that post. If those arrangements couldn’t work out, Rogers even promised to pay Oliver £100 a year himself until the man (already “advanced in life”) died. These days we’d consider this scheme a kickback, a sinecure, and taxation without representation. In the British patronage system of the eighteenth century, it was common.

Rogers’s planning helps to explain why, despite his Whiggish political philosophy, he accepted the Townshend Act and resisted the non-importation effort to stop it. And his string-tugging worked. When Rogers died, the London government was preparing a commission to make him provincial secretary. Instead, in his absence the job went to Thomas Flucker.

After this letter became public in 1773, the Boston radicals interpreted it as more evidence of the Hutchinson circle scheming to take powerful positions and Customs revenue for themselves. John Adams judged that Hutchinson and Oliver had been among “the original Conspirators against the Public Liberty, since the Conspiracy was first regularly formed, and begun to be executed, in 1763 or 4,” but “Nat. Rogers, who was not one of the original’s,…came in afterwards.”

Sunday, August 09, 2020

The Life and Death of Nathaniel Rogers

Nathaniel Rogers was born in Boston in 1737. His mother was a sister of Thomas Hutchinson, who later that year was chosen to be both a selectman and the town’s representative to the Massachusetts General Court.

Young Natty was orphaned as a small boy, and his Uncle Thomas raised him, treating him as another son. He didn’t attend Harvard College, but he nonetheless gained a degree by getting a master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and then asking Harvard to recognize that with a reciprocal (ad eundem) bachelor’s.

While Rogers was in Britain, he came across a copy of New-England’s Prospect by William Wood, a guide to joining the new Massachusetts Bay Colony published in 1634. This was just the sort of historical source his uncle liked. Rogers arranged for it to be reprinted in Boston in 1764, adding a long introduction that fit the founding of Massachusetts into the overall Whig history of Britain.

The political philosophy Rogers expressed in that introduction fit well alongside the arguments James Otis, Jr., was making in his pamphlets about recent Crown laws violating long established rights. In fact, James Bowdoin apparently assumed Otis wrote the introduction, writing his name into a copy.

Rogers saw himself as a Whig and a proponent of American interests. On a trip to London in 1767, he wrote to his uncle about former prime minister George Grenville:
Mr Greenville seems our most bitter enemy, & takes every opportunity to render us obnoxious. The only motion this session upon American matters was made by him, that an Enquiry should be entered into by the House upon a certain Boston paper of Octo. 5. containing the most virulent aspersions & insinuations . . .

As far as I can judge from the very short time I have been here, nothing like threatning will do here, it will serve to enflame minds already much agitated but representations supported by facts & strong reasoning will be attended to. America appears of Consequence, & the Nation in general seems interested, the Manufacturers & commercial people so far as their Interest is Affected are on our side, but all the Landed Interest are against us.
He also blamed the Customs service for having “stretched their Authority to the utmost,” which was “one great cause of their ill usage.”

Nonetheless, as Rogers’s warning against “threatning” suggests, he opposed the political methods of the Boston Whigs: public demonstrations, boycotts, harsh rhetoric in the newspapers, legislative confrontations with the governor, and of course riots. He was pleased when the Crown cracked down on his home town, writing, “We were grown into a most wretched state before the arrival of the troops. . . . the firmness of parliament will be the only cure of these Evils.”

Ultimately, Rogers was invested in the imperial patronage system. He used his connections with Lt. Gov. Hutchinson in business and in seeking royal appointments. He married into the extended Wentworth family that supplied New Hampshire with its governors, and he adopted his wife’s Anglicanism. In London he tried to line up support for himself to succeed Andrew Oliver, his uncle’s brother-in-law, as royal secretary of Massachusetts.

In the fall of 1769, Customs house records revealed that Rogers had continued to ship in goods from Britain in defiance of the non-importation agreement. A 4 October Boston town meeting condemned him along with a few other importers. That same day Hutchinson wrote to the absent governor:
Rogers…thinks himself in immediate danger and desired to know if I could protect him. I told him that if he could pitch upon any particular person he might go & make oath before a Justice of peace & he would bind him to keep the peace &c. I could do no more for him. He will not be able to hold out unless he quits the Town.
In early January 1770, William Molineux led a polite but ominous crowd to Rogers’s door. He still refused to yield—unlike his cousins, the Hutchinson brothers. Hosting British army officers in his house might have helped. But in May, with the regiments removed and the Whigs ramping up pressure, Rogers left for New York.

By then, however, Nathaniel Rogers’s name had become notorious. The Sons of Liberty paraded his effigy around the city, then hanged and burned it. He left Manhattan in the middle of the night. A few days later, another effigy appeared outside his inn on Long Island. Back in Boston in June, he found people “repeatedly breaking his windows and in a most beastly manner casting tubs of ordure at his door.” He tried New Hampshire but turned down a seat on that colony’s high court because he still held out hope for an appointment in Massachusetts.

Returning in Boston, on 9 August Rogers visited Justice Edmund Quincy to swear out a complaint against someone for harassing him. Hutchinson wrote:
As he held up his hand to swear that he had grounds to suspect the person the Justice observed a Tremor and asked if he was not well and advised him not to give himself so much concern. He had got but a few steps from the Justices door by the Post Office when he complained of being ill to a woman who stood at her shop door and who asked him in where he remain’d near half an hour fancying he should grow better but an apoplectic fit came on, his countenance changed to black instantly and before I could get to him after notice given to me he was in the Agonies of death.
Nathaniel Rogers died at the age of thirty-three, 250 years ago today.

TOMORROW: Posthumous notoriety.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

The Marriage of John Fleeming and Alice Church

The 17 Aug 1770 issue of the New Hampshire Gazette of Portsmouth included this announcement:
Last Week was Married in this Town, by the Rev. Dr. HAVEN, Mr. JOHN FLEMING, of Boston, Printer, to Miss. ALICE CHURCH, Daughter of Mr BENJAMIN CHURCH, of the same Place, Merchant,----an agreeable young Lady, adorn’d with the Qualifications requisite to render that honorable State happy.
Records of the Rev. Samuel Haven’s meetinghouse specify that the couple were married on 8 August—250 years ago today.

Boston newspapers reprinted that news in the following week, with the 21 August Massachusetts Spy (cramped for space) leaving off the encomium to the bride but identifying her father as an “Auctioneer.”

Alice’s father, Benjamin Church, Sr., was indeed well known in Boston for his vendue-house. He wasn’t a native of the town but had been born in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1704. His father died when he was two, and he grew up mostly in the household of his paternal grandfather, also named Benjamin Church, famous in New England for leading guerrilla war against Native nations in the late 1600s.

After graduating from Harvard College in 1727, the younger Benjamin Church went into business in Newport. He married Elizabeth Viall that October, and they had two children before she died in 1730. Church married again in 1732, to Hannah Dyer of Boston. He continued to develop his auction house in Newport.

Around 1740, Church moved his business and family to Boston. He owned various real estate, invested in the Land Bank, and established a new vendue-house in the South End. He specialized in selling cloth and other goods just off the ships. Church also served in public posts: as a minor town official and a deacon in the Rev. Mather Byles’s Hollis Street Meetinghouse. He penned Latin poems and a biography of his grandfather.

Benjamin and Hannah Church had eight children. Benjamin, Jr., was the first boy, born in 1734 and graduating from Harvard twenty years later. He became a physician and, by the late 1760s, one of the leaders among Boston’s Whigs, known for his genteel manners and satirical verse. In March 1770 Dr. Church performed an autopsy on the body of Crispus Attucks.

Alice Church was one of Benjamin and Hannah’s younger girls, baptized at the Hollis Street Meetinghouse in 1749. That meant she was around twenty-one years old when she married printer John Fleeming. He was older, but we don’t know by how much, only that he had been in business since arriving in Boston from Scotland in August 1764.

There are some mysterious aspects of this wedding. First, John Fleeming had been partner to John Mein in printing the Boston Chronicle. In that newspaper and subsequent political pamphlets, Mein sneered at Dr. Church the “Lean Apothecary.” Some have interpreted that to mean Dr. Joseph Warren, but Mein’s own handwritten “Key” to the pamphlet (now in the Sparks Manuscripts at Harvard) states he meant Church and further described him as:
One of the greatest miscreants that walks on the face of the Earth who has cheated & back bitten every Person with whom he ever had the least Connection—Father Mother & friend & more than once foxed his Wife &c &c &c
So right away we can ask how John Fleeming and Alice Church ever became friendly.

The next big question is why did they get married in New Hampshire. Massachusetts couples went over the border if they were eloping or needed to marry quickly because a baby was on the way. There’s no evidence to confirm either of those possibilities, but we know little about the Fleemings.

Church researcher E. J. Witek noted a possible third factor. John Fleeming had taken refuge on Castle Island at the end of June after shutting down the Chronicle, so he might not have felt safe going to a church in Boston. Still, I think he could have found a minister closer to home than Portsmouth.

John Fleeming was connected to the Sandemanian sect while Alice Church had been raised in the Congregationalist faith. They were married by a Congregationalist minister. But the Fleemings had a daughter named Alicia baptized at King’s Chapel, an Anglican church, on 17 July 1772 (and Dr. Benjamin Church was one of the baby’s sponsors). Again, questions but no answers.

The family link between John Fleeming and Dr. Benjamin Church became an issue of state in 1775 when Gen. George Washington and his staff realized that Church had tried to send a ciphered letter into Boston via his mistress, Mary (Brown) Wenwood. Deciphered, that letter turned out to be to Fleeming. In his defense, Church turned over a letter he had received from his brother-in-law. It said things like:
Ally joins me in begging you to come to Boston. . . . your sister is unhappy under the apprehension of your being taken and hanged for a rebel . . . If you cannot pass the lines, you may come in Capt. [James] Wallace, via Rhode Island, and if you do not come immediately, write me in this character, and direct your letter to Major [Edward] Cane on his Majesty’s service, and deliver it to Capt. Wallace, and it will come safe. . . . Your sister has been for running away; Kitty has been very sick, we wished you to see her; she is now picking up. I remain your sincere friend and brother…
That reads like a genuine familial friendship even though the men were on opposite sides of the war. And the link was forged 250 years ago today.

(While researching the Church genealogy, I realized that Dr. Church’s older half-sister Martha was stepmother to the teen-aged assistant teacher at the South Writing School in 1774, Andrew Cunningham. Both Dr. Church and young Cunningham, his step-half-nephew, are players in The Road to Concord, one helping to conceal the Boston militia train’s stolen cannon and the other helping Gen. Thomas Gage hunt for them.)

Friday, August 07, 2020

The Launch of the Massachusetts Spy

On Tuesday, 7 Aug 1770, 250 years ago today, the second issue of the Massachusetts Spy appeared.

The very first issue, dated 17 July, was a test to drum up subscriptions, distributed for free. The printers had projected regular publication to start at the end of the month. That schedule slipped, and the 7 August issue was their first attempt to publish on a steady schedule.

The men behind the Massachusetts Spy were twenty-one-year-old Isaiah Thomas and his former master, Zechariah Fowle.

Since Thomas had ended their initial relationship unilaterally—i.e., he ran away to Nova Scotia in 1765 and to North Carolina the next year—one might expect Fowle to be leery of a becoming partners with him.

But Thomas had settled down a bit during his second stint away from Boston, which he spent mostly in Charleston, South Carolina. There he had worked steadily as a journeyman for a printer and bookseller named Robert Wells.

Thomas had also gotten married to a woman from Bermuda named Mary Dill. Their first child (and perhaps the reason for their marriage) was stillborn, but they were having more. Thus, when Thomas returned to Boston in the spring of 1770, he was no longer a headstrong apprentice but a practiced printer with a family to support.

Boston already had more weekly newspapers per capita than any other port in British North America, but the closing of Mein and Fleeming’s Boston Chronicle on 25 June appeared to open space for something new.

Thomas later described his business strategy like this:
The Massachusetts Spy was calculated to obtain subscriptions from mechanics, and other classes of people who had not much time to spare from business. It was to be published three times a week, viz. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Twice in the week it was to be printed on a quarter of a sheet, and once on a half sheet. When published in this way, news was conveyed fresh to subscribers, and the contents of a Spy might with convenience be read at a leisure moment.
All the other Boston papers appeared only once a week—three of them on Monday and the Boston News-Letter on Thursday. The Chronicle had issued two full issues each week, but Mein and Fleeming had the financial backing of the Customs office and a subscriber base drawn from the friends of the royal government. Three issues a week, even if they used no more paper than one weekly, would be a strain.

Thomas and Fowle announced their price as “Five Shillings, Lawful Money per Annum.” In contrast, the Boston Chronicle charged 6s.8d. in 1767, as did the Salem Gazette in 1768 and the Norwich Packet in 1773. The Massachusetts Spy was thus a discount paper—smaller price, smaller sheet, maybe a little less news, but more often.

The July preview invited people who wanted to subscribe to visit Fowle “in Back-Street” or Thomas “in School-House-Lane, near the Latin School”—i.e., School Street. By August, the partners were issuing the paper from “the New Printing-Office, in Union-Street,” near the center of town.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

“Two floating batteries came up Mystic River”

Back in June, we left the town of Malden worrying in mid-1775 about being attacked by British forces out of Charlestown, across the Mystic River.

The town had ended up with two cannon from Newburyport. Locals built earthworks near the landing of the Penny Ferry from Charlestown and strengthened the buildings there. (A comment on that June posting reminds us the ferry landing was near what’s now the Encore Casino in Everett.)

To guard that site, the Massachusetts army assigned a company of Malden men to their home town. Their leader was Capt. Naler Hatch (1731-1804), who had learned to command at sea. Locals remembered him as “a stout built man, rather rash in temper, and fiery in zeal.”

Deloraine Pendre Corey’s history of Malden says that on 23 July Christian Febiger, the Denmark-born adjutant of Col. Samuel Gerrish’s regiment in the Continental Amy, wrote of the situation at Malden:
Capt Hatch of Colo. [Thomas] Gardners Regiment is there with one Company & has to mount 20 men on Guard every Day without Officers, three Relieves is 20 men privates mounting every Day & then they have no Sentries on the River which by the Description and the Situation of the place wants at least 4 Centries every Night.
Gerrish moved Capt. Eleazer Lindsey and his company from Winnisimmet in Chelsea to strengthen that spot in Malden. Lindsey was a 59-year-old veteran of the last war from Lynn. His men had signed up from several Essex County towns.

On Sunday, 6 August, the British finally came. Lt. Benjamin Craft of Manchester, stationed at Winter Hill, wrote in his diary:
Just after [morning] meeting two floating batteries came up Mystic River and fired several shots on Malden side, and landed a number of regulars, which set fire to a house near Peny ferrys which burnt to ashes.

One Capt. Lyndsly who was stationed there, fled with his company, and got before the women and children in his flight.

We were all alarmed, and immediately manned our lines, and our people went down to Temple’s Point with one field piece, and fired several shot, at the regulars, which made them claw off as soon as possible. Gen. Gage, this is like the rest of your Sabbath day enterprises.
“Temple’s Point” was no doubt part of Robert Temple’s farm in what is now Somerville.

Katie Turner Getty described this fight in detail from the perspective of Lt. Col. Loammi Baldwin, then stationed in Chelsea, for the Journal of the American Revolution. Baldwin reported directly to Gen. George Washington:
I proceeded to Malding as quick as possable found that Capt. Lindsey was gone home, & his Company dispersd, all but a few with the Lieut. was down at the House that was Burnt[.] I went to him and enquired into the matter who Informd me that the Capt. was gone Home & near one half the Company was fled & where they were gone he could not tell, I ordred him to Rally his Company & Guard his Post which he Seem’d willing & ready to preform as far as Lay in his Power.
It appears that the lieutenant was Daniel Galeucia (also spelled Gallusia and Galushe, 1740-1825). In an odd twist, he was married to Capt. Lindsey’s daughter.

By this time the British were back over in Charlestown, parading on shore in triumph. Inside Boston, though, selectman Timothy Newell noted in his diary “several Soldiers brought over here wounded.”

COMING UP: More fighting and a court-martial or two.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

How Salem Welcomed William Molineux

Yesterday I described how on 31 July 1770 the “Body of the Trade and Inhabitants” of Boston authorized a committee of five men to go to Salem and other towns in Essex County to urge their business communities to stick to the non-importation agreement.

The committee—or, as it turned out, four of the five—traveled north the next day. On 7 August those men were back at the public meeting in Boston, reporting that their discussions had gone very well.

But that wasn’t the full story. On 20 August the Boston Gazette ran a dispatch from Salem that indicated there had been some anxious moments:
…four respectable Gentlemen; being Part of the Boston Standing Committee, came to this Town on the 1st Instant [i.e., of this month], and put up at the King’s Arms.

Late in the Evening, William Luscomb, of this Place, entered the House, and enquired for Mr. [William] Molineux, &c. and being told that the Gentlemen had retired to Bed, he searched for and found their Apartment, and being admitted, represented to them, in hideous Colours, 30 or 40 People were assembled at the Long-Wharf, had agreed to beset them at one o’Clock, tar and feather them, &c. unless they immediately departed the Town.—

After this Information, Luscomb went away: Directly after a Letter was found in the Entry, conceived in the following base and insolent Terms, viz.——

“General Molineaux

Understanding yt. You are come into this Town (who are at present in a peaceable State) to Raise a Spirit of Sedition; As a Friend to Mankind in general, I would Advise you immediately to depart this Place, with all those that have enlisted under your Piraticle Banners, otherwise. Be assurd You will suffer the like Fate, with the poor Mc.Masters whom you treated with such Unparrallell’d Barbarity

Two hours are only allow’d You to Consider of this matter, and You are Surrounded with Spys to know the Effect.

Philanthrop

P S, Removing Your Logings can’t possibley secreet You

Salem 12 oClock”

As the Gentlemen were Strangers in the Town, they sent, as well for their own Satisfaction, as to quiet the Family where they put up, to a Gentleman near by, who was one of the Committee for this Town, to know whether he could account for this odd Adventure: He came, and assured them, as his Opinion, that there was no Foundation for what had been told them, and that they and the Family might rest perfectly easy.—

The Gentlemen having the next Day conferred with our Committee on the Business they came upon, and receiving Satisfaction, went out of Town, well assured, we doubt not, that this Town will steadily adhere to the Measures now pursuing for the common Good of America.

The Selectmen of the Town have preferred repeated Complaints to one or more Justices of the Peace against the said William Luscomb, praying that a Warrant might be issued for apprehending him, that he may answer for this Conduct as the law directs; but their Endeavours, it is said, has not yet proved successful. Mr. [William] Goodhue, Keeper of the King’s-Arms Tavern, has also exhibited a Complaint for the same Purpose.
In his copy of the Boston Gazette, Harbottle Dorr noted that the four Bostonians who made the trip to Salem were Molineux, William Phillips, William Cooper, and William Greenleaf. The innkeeper and the man apparently making threats were also named William. I hold out hope that the Salem committee-man had the same first name.

I’ve found out little about William Luscomb. There was a line of craftsmen in Salem with that name. This one was probably the housewright (1717-1783), which would make him fifty-three years old in 1770. But it’s possible he was that man’s namesake son (1747-1827), a housewright and later painter, or a cousin of that line.

Both William Luscombs, father and son, contributed to the building of a new Congregationalist meetinghouse in 1772, so they weren’t Anglican. There’s no evidence they were importers and wanted to break up the boycott for business reasons.

This William Luscomb had obviously heard about how a Boston crowd had attacked Patrick McMaster and threatened to tar and feather him in June. He blamed Molineux, known for leading the Boston crowds but not publicly implicated in that incident. But there’s no sign of any close tie between the Luscombs and the McMaster brothers.

So it’s possible that this William Luscomb just didn’t like the thought of a Boston merchant coming north and leaning on locals with his big-town ways. Ironically, the people of Essex County had used tar and feathers to punish Customs officers a couple of years before the practice came to Boston.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

“Assertions that Salem, Marblehead and Newbury had departed”

On 31 July 1770, Faneuil Hall hosted another meeting of “The Trade and Inhabitants of the Town of Boston.” The group of people invited to participate had widened again to include not just businessmen but all “Inhabitants.”

Per the report in the 13 August Boston Gazette, the spur for this meeting appears to have been “some very positive Assertions that Salem, Marblehead and Newbury had departed from the Non-Importation Agreement.”

In his copy of that newspaper, Harbottle Dorr wrote that those assertions came from the merchant John Amory (1728-1803, shown here courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts).

Amory and his brother Jonathan (1726-1797) had a mercantile house together. They hovered in the political middle—not taking strong stands, signing the non-importation agreement but not following it strictly, protesting against too much protest. Eventually John would be a Loyalist exile while Jonathan remained in America.

At this juncture, it appears, John Amory was telling his colleagues in the Boston business community that other ports in the province would soon be bringing in goods, so they might as well drop their boycott.

The meeting responded by appointing a committee of William Molineux, William Phillips, William Cooper, William Greenleaf, and, for diversity, Ebenezer Storer ”to repair forthwith to the Towns above said and Haverhill” and find out what was going on.

In addition, the Body named a larger group of top Whig politicians—John Hancock, Phillips, Samuel Adams, Molineux, Greenleaf, Dr. Joseph Warren, Dr. Thomas Young, John Adams, Josiah Quincy, Richard Dana, Henderson Inches, Thomas Cushing, and Jonathan Mason—“to consider what may be proper to be done toward strengthening a Union of the Colonies.”

On 7 August, the Molineux committee returned from Essex County and “reported that the Conduct of our Brethren in said Towns was honorable and sincere.” The Boston meeting that day “VOTED UNANIMOUSLY” to express their “utmost satisfaction” and “sincere Respect” for their colleagues to the north.

That gathering then appointed a similar committee—Molineux, Cooper, William Whitwell, Thomas Boylston, and Mason—to take the same message to “Providence and New Port in Rhode Island.”

Only after that 7 August meeting—two weeks after the initial 31 July response to Amory—did Edes and Gill report on these proceedings. The Boston Whigs had evidently been sitting on the story until they had good news to announce. It wouldn’t have helped the non-importation movement for other port to read any hint that some Massachusetts towns were dropping out.

TOMORROW: What really happened in Salem?

Monday, August 03, 2020

“The Cryer proclaiming at every Corner”

Yesterday I quoted John Rowe’s brief and disapproving description of a political parade in Boston on 24 July 1770.

A more detailed and positive account appeared in the 13 Aug 1770 New-York Gazette, an extract of a letter from Boston dated 26 July:
The Sons got a Union [flag], on which they inscribed, Immediate Exportation without Exception, on Royal Paper [19" x 24"]: This was preceeded by the Cryer [probably Thomas Webber], and a French-Horn, and immediately followed by two Drums; the most reputable North-End Sons being principal Tradesmen, &c.

To these succeeded two Pair of Colours, and two more drums, and thus proceeded the whole Length of the Town, the Cryer proclaiming at every Corner, The Voice of the Trade and the People will be attended to this Afternoon at 3’Clock.——Now is the Crisis---Will you be enslaved by a Handful of Importers. Yea, or Nay? The Answer, NO! with the loudest Acclamations.—

The Meeting was very full, and a unanimous Vote passed, That whereas the Committee of Merchants had received a Letter from four Gentlemen in New-York, taking upon them the Stile of the Committee of Merchants of New-York, and that there was not sufficient Reason to believe, that the Contents of the said Letter (which was read in my Absence) were the Sentiments of the Committee of Merchants in New-York, the said Letter be torn to Pieces in the most indignant Manner, and committed to the Winds; and a Standing Committee was directed to write a respectful Letter to the remaining Seventeen Members, acquainting them with the above Vote, and a subsequent one, which obtained unanimously for supporting the [non-importation] Agreement.

A Committee was then appointed to wait upon all the Importers in the late Vessels, and take their Orders to the Truckmen, to take the Goods on board, and the Meeting was adjourned to Wednesday. Yesterday the Committee reported they had made great Progress in the Business, and did not doubt it would be happily effected in a short Time. Thus stands mercantile Matters here.
This correspondent urged colleagues in New York to go back to the boycott, insisting that they were hurting their trade relations with Connecticut and New Jersey, and that doing so would produce major results in Britain. “On Boston, my Friend, you can depend,” the letter promised.

To be sure, the same letter also reported this news from the shipmaster who had carried Boston’s Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre and other documents to London:
Capt. [Andrew] Gardner says, there were not less than a Thousand Scotchmen in London, who had come there with Design to embark for America, to take Possession of the forfeited Estates. What fine pickings this would be; but how sad the Disappointment! No wonder these honest Fellows hate us for behaving in such a Manner as to defeat such glorious Prospects!
Rumors of outsiders coming to take your property were a powerful political weapon, then and since.

The same day this merchant sent his letter to New York, the Whigs announced in the Boston News-Letter that all the importers who had stored their goods had indeed agreed to “Immediate Exportation.” I’m dubious—the letter said the committee had only “made great Progress.” But the Whigs had to maintain a public show of unanimity.

TOMORROW: Defections north and south?

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Non-Importation to the End

In the summer of 1770 the Boston Whigs were dealing with the challenge of mixed results. As young printer John Boyle recorded in his chronicle of events on 10 June 1770:
An Act of Parliament is received for repealing part of an Act for granting Duties upon Glass, Paper, Painters Colours, &c

The Duty on Tea is to be continued.
Was this partial repeal of the Townshend Act enough of a victory to call off the non-importation boycott? The Whigs decided it wasn’t. One aspect of Whiggish thinking is a fear that any compromise with an oppressive government could start a society on a slide into political slavery. So they couldn’t accept taxation without representation on a commodity like tea, even though enjoying it depended on the global reach of the British Empire.

But New York merchants could accept that compromise. As I discussed yesterday, despite heavy criticism from that city’s radicals and from nearby towns, the leaders of non-importation in New York voted to end their pact on 9 July. That not only made the North American boycott less effective, but it also meant New Yorkers would be the first to profit from pent-up demand for British goods.

Bostonians still had hope of a further repeal by Parliament, but on 22 July more news came. Merchant John Rowe (shown above) wrote in his diary:
Capt. Smith of the Nassau arrived from London & gives an accot. of the Prorogation of the Parliament the 20th of May without Repealing the Duty on Tea—the people I hope will have Virtue enough never to make use of it as Long as the Duty is demanded.
The Boston Whigs called a public meeting on the afternoon of 24 July. This wasn’t an official town meeting, nor a meeting of the merchants like Rowe, but a gathering of “the Body of the Trade”—anyone doing business in Boston.

But first, Rowe reported, the Whigs started with a public demonstration:
just before some of them Proceeded through the streets with Dr [Thomas] Young at their head, with Three Flags Flying, Drums Beating & a french Horn—Thos. Baker carried one of them, for which he is much Blamed by me—The meeting today will I believe prove very Prejudicial to the Merchants & Trade of the Town of Boston.
As usual, Rowe was trimming back and forth politically. That month he had a private meeting with Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson, who offered Rowe a commission. Two days later Rowe met with Samuel Adams, William Molineux, Dr. Joseph Warren, and Dr. Young, the most radical Whig leaders, who were recruiting for another committee. Rowe kept away from both offers, still not choosing a side.

The Whigs’ own description of their event appeared first in the 26 July Boston News-Letter:
THERE was as full a Meeting of the Trade Tuesday last, at Faneuil-Hall, as ever was known, to take into Consideration the Reports relative to the Defection of New-York, and what Measures were necessary to be pursued for re-shipping the Goods which had been stored as being imported contrary to the Merchants Agreement.——

At this Meeting a Letter was read from four Persons in New York,…informing that a Majority of the Inhabitants of New-York were for an Importation of Goods, and that many Orders had been actually forwarded; but as this Intelligence was not sufficiently authenticated, as the said four Persons had not even declared themselves to be authorized to be this Information either by the standing Committee or any other Body, said Letter was regrad as designed to impose upon this and the other American Colonies, and to induce them to break through the most salutary Plan of Non Importation, upon which the Security of our invaluable Rights and Privileges so much depend.——

It was therefore Voted unanimously, that the said Letter in just Indignation, Abhorrence and Detestation, be forthwith torn into Pieces and thrown to the Winds as unworthy of the least Notice: Which Sentence was accordingly executed.
In essence, the Boston Whigs shouted, “Fake news!” No one should believe that report from New York, they suggested. To be sure, they also voted to send a message to New York’s committee exhorting them to make people countermand any orders sent to Britain, so the Whigs must have believed at least some of this news.

The Body then agreed to stick to the non-importation agreement “against all Opposition and every Discouragement whatever.” Organizers claimed that local merchants who had agreed to store their goods until the boycott ended “have already given Orders for their being immediately trucked to the Vessel provided for that Purpose,” so they were in for the long haul.

The report for the News-Letter concluded by declaring, “There never was greater Unanimity or more Spirit discovered for the general Interest of America than at this Meeting.”

TOMORROW: Protesting too much.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Non-Importation from the Beginning

On 1 Aug 1768, the merchants of Boston agreed to non-importation as a way to pressure London into repealing the Townshend duties.

Their agreement stated:
The merchants and traders in the town of Boston, having taken into consideration the deplorable situation of the trade and the many difficulties it at present labours under on account of the scarcity of money, which is daily decreasing for want of the other remittances to discharge our debts in Great Britain, and the large sums collected by the officers of the customs for duties on goods imported; the heavy taxes levied to discharge the debts contracted by the government in the late war; the embarrassments and restrictions laid on the trade by the several late Acts of Parliament; together with the bad success of our cod fishery this season, and the discouraging prospect of the whale fishery, by which our principal sources of remittances are like to be greatly diminished, and we thereby rendered unable to pay the debts we owe the merchants in Great Britain, and to continue the importation of goods from thence:

We, the subscribers, in order to relieve the trade under those discouragements, to promote industry, frugality, and economy, and to discourage luxury and every kind of extravagance, do promise and engage to and with each other as follows:

That we will not send or import from Great Britain this fall, either on our own account, or on commission, any other goods than what are already ordered for the fall supply.

That we will not send for or import any kind of goods or merchandise from Great Britain, either on our own account, or on commissions, or any otherwise, from January 1, 1769, to January 1, 1770, except salt, coals, fish-hooks and lines, hemp, duck, bar lead and shot, wool-cards, and card-wire.

That we will not purchase of any factors, or others, any kind of goods imported from Great Britain from January 1, 1769, to January 1, 1770. That we will not import on our own account, or on commission, or Purchase from any Who shall import from any other colony in America, from January 1, 1769, to January 1, 1770, any tea, glass, paper, or other goods commonly imported from Great Britain.

That we will not, from and after January 1, 1769, import into the province any tea, paper, glass, or painters’ colours, until the Acts imposing duties on these articles have been repealed.
The Townshend Act actually taxed lead as well, but that was such an important commodity for manufacturing and military defense that this agreement specifically allowed importing it.

There were a lot of disputes in 1769 over other details of that agreement. Did merchants have to follow it to the letter if they adhered to its spirit? What about goods for the army? What about goods that non-signatories in other towns asked someone to ship in? What about, say, books?

Generally the merchants of Boston stuck to these terms, though printer John Mein was happy to point out exceptions, especially any taken by the merchants who promoted the boycott.

As the end of the year 1769, and the end of the formal agreement, approached, the Boston Whigs added pressure on all merchants to renew. In the new year they singled out importers as “obstinate and inveterate Enemies of their Country.” The large public meetings became clear that the elite merchants who had first drawn up the agreement in August 1768 were no longer in charge.

In the spring of 1770, the North American colonies got word that Parliament was repealing the Townshend Act—mostly. The tariff on tea was to remain, and that alone brought in enough revenue to provide salaries for lots of Customs officers and other royal appointees in the colonies.

The merchants of the major ports started to discuss whether they should keep up non-importation, modify the terms, or go back to business as usual. Philadelphians met in April and May 1770 and decided to send a letter to Boston opening up the idea of change. Newport’s merchants went ahead and dropped the boycott in May. New York’s committee of inspection started polling the business community in June and suggested a “General Conference of the Merchants on the Continent” to come up with terms everyone could live with.

Boston’s merchants, or at least a group speaking for them, met on 7 June and declared that any change to non-importation would show “a levity of disposition probably injurious to the common cause.” They pressured the merchants of Portsmouth and Newport to renew their commitments to the boycott.

That campaign was undercut by a letter from London claiming that in the first six months of the year £150,000 worth of goods had been shipped to Boston. A writer in the 14 June Pennsylvania Gazette wrote, “the conduct of the Boston people was not as consistent as could be wished.” Nonetheless, the merchants of Newport rescinded their previous rescinding.

In New York, the merchants’ committee circulated a survey or ballot with one question:
Do you approve of a general importation of goods from Great Britain, except tea and other articles which are or may be subject to a duty on importation, or do you approve of our non-importation agreement continuing in the manner it now is?
Reportedly, most respondents wanted change. The committee sent that news to Philadelphia and Boston, asking for the response of the committees there. Meanwhile, New York’s Sons of Liberty protested any idea of change, but they weren’t in charge as in Boston. Communities around New York also supported continuing non-importation.

On 9 July, the New York committee took these responses in mind and organized a vote, ward by ward. The result was a victory for relaxing the boycott. Immediately the city’s merchants sent orders for everything but tea off on the London packet ship, the Earl of Halifax. Then they sent letters to the other ports, breaking the news. As far as the second-largest port in British North America was concerned, general non-importation was over.

TOMORROW: Boston’s reaction.