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, March 30, 2021

A Funeral Procession for Andrew Oliver

I started this month reviewing the events of early March 1774: the return of the Massachusetts Spy, the death of Lt. Gov. Andrew Oliver (shown here), John Hancock’s Massacre oration, and the second Boston Tea Party.

That wasn’t all. Lt. Gov. Oliver had to be interred. And that funeral was scheduled for the day after the tea destruction.

In his diary, merchant John Rowe wrote one line about the tea, showing how such news had become ho-hum. But he left a long description the funeral:
This afternoon his Honour the Lieut. Governour Andrew Oliver Esq was Buried as Follows.

Colo. Hancock with his Company of Cadets & Colo. [John] Erving with the officers of his [militia] Regimt. preceded the Corps—Colo. Hancock’s Compy. under Arms.

The Bearers were Judge [Samuel] Danforth, Judge [Shrimpton] Hutchinson, Treasurer [Harrison] Gray James Russell Esq, Mr. Secretary [Thomas] Flucker, Foster Hutchinson Esq.

Then Followed the Family,…
That family contingent was smaller than normal.

The late lieutenant governor’s brother Peter Oliver was chief justice, and in February the legislature had impeached him for accepting a Crown salary—raising his public profile, and not in a good way. On the day of the funeral, Chief Justice Oliver wrote, he thought
his Risque of his Life was too great, for him to pay his final Visit to the Death Bed of an only Brother; & his Friends advised him not [to] pay his fraternal Respect to his Brother’s Obsequies—the Advice was just; for it afterwards appeared, that had he so done, it was not probable that he ever would have returned to his own home. Never did Cannibals thirst stronger for human Blood than the Adherents to this Faction…
Gov. Thomas Hutchinson also stayed away to avoid rousing the crowd. The governor’s son Thomas, Jr., had married one of Andrew Oliver’s daughters. But his friends told him that they did “not think it safe for me to attend the funeral.”

The rites didn’t go smoothly. In his history of the province, Hutchinson wrote about his late friend and colleague:
Even his funeral afforded opportunity for the spirit of party to shew itself. The members of the house of representatives, who were invited, being in one house, and the admiral, general [sic], and other officers of the navy and army, in another, the latter first came out, and followed the relatives of the deceased, which was so resented by some of the representatives, as to cause them to refuse to join in the procession, and to retire in a body.
Rowe’s version of that was:
next in order should have the Council & house of Assembly but thro some Blunder the Admirall [John Montagu] & his Core followed the Family & Relations, next them Colo. [Alexander] Lesly of the 64 Regiment & his Core, then the Gentlemen of this & the Neighboring Towns which were very few. . . .

Thro some misunderstanding or Blunder the Gentlemen of the Councill did not attend this Funerall & very few of the House of Representatives.
And that was just the start of the trouble.

TOMORROW: Three volleys and three cheers.

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