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, September 02, 2020

“Poor are the Boston-Poor indeed”

In May 1774, Gen. Thomas Gage arrived in Boston with the news that he was the new royal governor and that Parliament had ordered the port closed to most shipping.

Anticipating increased unemployment, the town of Boston began what we’d call public-works programs to create more jobs, such as mending the roads with more cobblestones.

The committee of correspondence also started a continent-wide campaign asking for contributions from other ports and colonies, helping to make Boston’s cause into America’s.

On 29 Aug 1774, Hugh Gaine (shown here) favorably highlighted one response to that campaign in his New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury:
We hear that last Monday morning as two of the Gentlemen appointed a Committee to collect for our suffering Bretheren in Boston, set out upon that Business, the first Gentleman they called upon was Mr. D—e, who generously presented them Ten Pounds in Cash, and the best Pipe of Brandy in his distillery, called at twenty eight pounds; observing, at the same time, that the generosity of the Virginians and Carolinians, &c., was great and honourable with respect to food, but he thought such glorious sufferers for the common Good ought to drink as well as eat.
The Loyalist printer James Rivington took note. In his 2 September issue he named the donor as “Mr. [Richard] Deane, an eminent Distiller at the North River.”

Then Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer added a poetic comment on the situation:
On a late spirited SUBSCRIPTION.

’Twas an happy Device, I thought then, and think still,
For if Brandy won’t save them, we know Nothing will.

On the POOR of BOSTON being employed in paving the Streets.

In spite of Rice, in spite of Wheat,
Sent for the Boston-Poor—to eat,
In spite of Brandy, one would think,
Sent for the Boston-Poor---to drink;
Poor are the Boston-Poor indeed,
And needy, tho’ there is no Need:
They cry for Bread; the mighty Ones,
Instead of Bread, give only Stones.
  • RISUM teneatis? ha! ha! he!
The bit of Latin meant “Can you help laughing?” Some printers were taking the situation less seriously than others.

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