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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Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Losing Sight of William Molineux—Live Chat

From the Transactions of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts:
A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at the house of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, No. 28 Newbury Street, Boston, on Thursday, January 28, 1926, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Samuel Eliot Morison, Ph.D., in the chair.

The Records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.

Mr. George P. Anderson spoke on William Molineux (1717–1774), a militant Boston Patriot, giving a biographical account of him and pointing out his connection with the political activities of the time.

[FOOTNOTE: Mr. Anderson’s paper will be printed in the Transactions of a future meeting.]
Alas, no such paper was ever published by the Colonial Society or elsewhere.

According to this finding aid from the University of Vermont, Anderson also “collected transcripts, chronology, notes, photocopies, articles, and other research on Thomas Young, an important figure in the American Revolution and the early history of Vermont, for a biography that was never published.” Again, alas.

Other scholars have studied Young, but Molineux has kept out of focus, in large part because he didn’t leave a body of written work. Indeed, when his public-works spinning venture prompted one of those long, drawn-out newspaper arguments in the early 1770s, someone else (maybe Young) wrote the articles on Molineux’s side. 

But we can’t understand Boston politics between 1767 and the end of 1774 without factoring in Molineux. I had a very long chapter about him and his untimely death in The Road to Concord, but it overloaded the book, so I took it out. Hopefully, it will evade the curse of Anderson’s paper and pop up somewhere else.

Tonight I’m scheduled to chat about Molineux with Jason on the Founder of the Day livestream, going live on Youtube at 8:15 Eastern time. We’ll see if I can control myself. Molineux couldn’t always do that.


Roger Fuller said...

How about a whole book devoted to Will Molineux, because of his important, but now almost forgotten role? But is there enough material available on him?

Katie Turner Getty said...

I hope your excised chapter on Molineux finds a home somewhere!

J. L. Bell said...

I think there’s enough about Molineux to fill more than a chapter, but less than a book. He just didn’t leave a lot of writing to give us insight into his thinking or his personal life, which is a shame because he had some big, unorthodox thoughts I’d love to read him explaining. The early part of Molineux’s life is also a nearly complete mystery.

Mike said...

You had me for a minute - I had to go back to my copy of The Road To Concord because I couldn't remember a chapter about Molineux.

J. L. Bell said...

The original manuscript also had a long chapter on an attempted assassination in Boston in the fall of 1774. It involved Royal Artillery officers but not the nascent New England artillery, so it didn’t really fit, either. One day I’ll find a home for it.