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.

Follow by Email

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Preserving New England’s Church Records

Yesterday’s New York Times had a front-page article about an ongoing search for old New England church records. Many churches still have those records, but in less than ideal conditions.

The region’s Congregationalist heritage means two things. First, every town’s meetinghouse kept its own records, and New England towns have a tradition of not giving up such things to a central authority. Second, with the number of Congregationalists diminishing, there aren’t that many people left to keep track of these documents.

The article follows Prof. James Fenimore Cooper, Jr., of Oklahoma State University, and Margaret Bendroth, Executive Director of the Congregational Library in Boston, as they seek out those documents and seek to convince churches to send them to the library for digitization and safekeeping.

Here’s one vignette:
A few hours later, Dr. Cooper and Dr. Bendroth visited an evangelical congregation in Hopkinton, Mass. Faith Community Church is the successor of the original Congregational church in town, founded in 1724, and had the original records carefully cataloged, boxed and stored in a locked basement room, alongside an early pastor’s 1740 Queen Anne side chair with a bullet hole in the back.

The documents included a list of excommunicants and notification of a fine levied against a local man who resisted joining the Army during the Revolution, as well as multiple “relations” — letters describing faith journeys. They include one from Benjamin Pond, who described how, despite being raised in a Christian home, he had fallen “into a state of stupidity and wickedness” until, after multiple deaths in his family, including of his child, he had a conversion experience. “That’s the first time that’s been heard in 200 years,” Dr. Bendroth said after reading Mr. Pond’s relation. “I just think that’s really amazing.”
The Times article doesn’t say it, but the researchers’ work leads to the Congregational Library’s New England Hidden Histories project, discussed in this Religion News article last year.

The Times illustrated its story with a photograph from those Hopkinton records, showing a church decision on a delicate matter:
February 26th. 1773. The Church met at the meeting-house (pursuant to adjournment) and unanimously Voted, That the Charge brought against Mrs. Seaver, appear’d to them to be Sufficiently prov’d; and that therefore they could not Consent to her owning the Covenant, and receiving Baptism for her Child.
So immediately I wondered what that was about.

TOMORROW: Tracking down Mrs. Seaver.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tree Rings Under the Trade Center

I first mentioned dendrochronology—the new science of matching up the thicknesses of tree rings to identify the age and source of a piece of wood—back in 2007. It’s usually applied to buildings, and especially to determining whether they’re as old as tradition says.

This week there was a remarkable example of “dendro” in action, applied to a remarkable bit of wood: a small ship’s hull found in 2010 during the excavation for the new World Trade Center in Manhattan.

As Live Science reported, a paper in Tree-Ring Research says a dendrochronology team led by Dario Martin-Benito was able to identify the ship’s wood as white oak. They further matched up the ring pattern in one timber to white oak timbers found in Independence Hall, suggesting that the wood had been hewn in eastern Pennsylvania in 1773.

In addition to the rings, the timbers showed holes bored by worms from the Caribbean, indicating the ship spent considerable time in those waters. The research team estimates that this ship was in use for two or three decades, meaning that it sailed through the Revolutionary War and into the early American republic before coming to rest on what was then the Manhattan shore.

Above is one of the photos from the Live Science report showing a cross-section of the keel with a common modern profile portrait of George Washington for scale. I suspect the holes at the top are from the worms. Here’s the abstract for the paper, “Dendrochronological Dating of the World Trade Center Ship, Lower Manhattan, New York City.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Meeting the Younger William Hunter

The Summer 2014 issue of the Colonial Williamsburg magazine includes an interview with William Hunter, as portrayed by Sam Miller. Hunter was one the the town’s Loyalists. Though he remained in town through the late 1770s, he gave up his role in the Virginia Gazette newspaper and eventually left town with the British military because he couldn’t support an independent America.

However, the Colonial Williamsburg podcast about Hunter is a lot more interesting since it goes into his backstory. He was born out of wedlock to the Williamsburg printer William Hunter and Elizabeth Reynolds. In 1761, when the boy was about seven, his father died suddenly, acknowledging in his will “my natural Son William Hunter who now lives with Benjamin Weldon.” Some scholars interpret this to mean that most people in Williamsburg hadn’t known about the boy before.

The elder Hunter had been well connected and financially successful; he shared the job of deputy postmaster in North America with Benjamin Franklin, and his Virginia Gazette newspaper was the colony’s leading news source. He left a half-interest in that business to his son and the other half, plus the responsibility of running it, to his brother-in-law Joseph Royle.

In the mid-1760s young Billy was sent to the Franklin family in Philadelphia for education and training. Since Benjamin was in London for much of that time, scholars say that his son William (also born out of wedlock) was the real mentor for the Virginia youngster. Accounts show Billy boarded with Benjamin’s older brother Peter Franklin, and in 1768 he wrote back to Benjamin’s wife Deborah with friendly regards and requests for textbooks.

After more schooling in Virginia, in 1774 the younger William Hunter became an active partner in the Virginia Gazette with one of its two recent proprietors, John Dixon. Dixon had married Joseph Royle’s widow, and was thus also Hunter’s uncle. The new partners promised subscribers “good Paper and new Type,” probably because they now had to compete with the other recent proprietor, Alexander Purdie, who was starting his own Virginia Gazette (making three in all).

Hunter married, and in June 1777 he and his wife deeded some land near the printing office to his mother, still Elizabeth Reynolds. He also supplied her with a small house, an annuity of £40, and a “servant maid fit & able to serve wait & attend” her. His father’s bequests and connections had allowed him to become an established young businessman in the Virginia capital. But he just didn’t agree with the way the colonies were heading.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Next Month’s Drums Along the Mohawk Drama

Last month I noted a bus tour that will end with a performance of the Drums Along the Mohawk outdoor show in Mohawk, New York. That tour is sold out, but tickets for the show are still available.

The Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama is a two-act play based on Walter D. Edmond’s novel about life in the region leading up to the Battle of Oriskany on 6 Aug 1777. Its cast of characters includes such historical figures as Joseph Brant, Nicholas Herkimer, Benedict Arnold, and Sir John Johnson.

There are four performances scheduled, on the first two Saturdays of August at 5:00 P.M. and the first two Sundays at 2:00 P.M. The venue is the amphitheater on the Gelston Castle Estate overlooking the Mohawk Valley.

Drums Along the Mohawk is scheduled to last about two hours with an intermission. The producers recommend that attendees arrive at least an hour before the shows to have time to walk from the parking lot to the amphitheater, set up a place on the lawn with blankets or lawn chairs, and perhaps enjoy a picnic meal. (Bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages; plan to take everything out with you at the end.) From 4:00 until showtime on Saturdays there will be eighteenth-century music, and a Benjamin Franklin interpreter will interact with the new arrivals.

Tickets are $15, or $10 for seniors, children under thirteen, and active-duty military personnel. You can buy tickets in advance through this website, or pay in cash at the gate. The parking fee is $10 per car.

The show will be performed even during a light rain, and no one can open umbrellas during the performance, so check the forecast and dress accordingly. If the weather’s worse, the performance might be delayed for half an hour. If it’s so bad a performance has to be cancelled, the producers will offer rain checks for a future performance this season, if there is one. There will be no refunds.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Abigail Adams and the Hand of Friendship

I started this series with Abigail Adams’s first impression of Gen. Charles Lee in early July 1775: she called him “a careless hardy veteran” who showed little personal elegance.

On 24 July, her husband John wrote to a friend about that side of Lee:
You observe in your Letter the Oddity of a great Man—He is a queer Creature—But you must love his Dogs if you love him, and forgive a Thousand Whims for the Sake of the Soldier and the Scholar.
That wasn’t really a complaint of the sort that Adams wrote the same day about John Dickinson and other colleagues in the Continental Congress, but it also wasn’t what one gentleman was supposed to say about another. Especially one who had just risked a fortune to offer his expertise to your army. And who had a history of dueling.

Those lines became public in August 1775. Fortunately for Adams, Lee laughed them off when he got around to addressing them on 5 October:
As you may possibly harbour some suspicions that a certain passage in your intercepted letters have made some disagreeable impressions on my mind I think it necessary to assure You that it is quite the reverse. Untill the bulk of Mankind is much alter’d I consider the reputation of being whimsical and eccentric rather as a panegyric than sarcasm and my love of Dogs passes with me as a still higher complement. I have thank heavens a heart susceptible of freindship and affection. I must have some object to embrace. Consequently when once I can be convincd that Men are as worthy objects as Dogs I shall transfer my benevolence, and become as staunch a Philanthropist as the canting Addison affected to be.

But you must not conclude from hence that I give into general misanthropy. On the contrary when I meet with a Biped endow’d with generosity valour good sense patriotism and zeal for the rights of humanity I contract a freindship and passion for him amounting to bigotry or dotage and let me assure you without complements that you yourself appear to me possess’d of these qualities. I give you my word and honour that I am serious, and should be unhappy to the greatest degree if I thought you would doubt of my sincerity. Your opinion therefore of my attainments as a Soldier and Scholar is extremely flattering. Long may you continue in this (to me) gratissimus error. But something too much of this.
Lee added in a postscript: “Spada sends his love to you and declares in very intellegible language that He has far’d much better since your allusion to him for He is carress’d now by all ranks sexes and Ages.” Spada was, of course, Lee’s favorite dog.

It came back to Abigail to cement that new bond between Gen. Lee and her husband. Toward the end of the year, John wrote from Philadelphia to urge her to pay a social call on Mary Morgan, wife of the new head of the Continental Army medical corps. Mrs. Morgan was staying with quartermaster general Thomas Mifflin and his wife in the William Brattle house in Cambridge.

On 10 December, Abigail reported back on her visit there, including another encounter with Washington, Lee, and their companions:
I was very politely entertaind and noticed by the Generals, more especially General Lee, who was very urgent with me to tarry in Town and dine with him and the Laidies present, at Hob Goblin Hall [the Isaac Royall house], but I excused my self.

The General was determined that I should not only be acquainted with him, but with his companions too, and therefore placed a chair before me into which he orderd Mr. Sparder to mount and present his paw to me for a better acquaintance. I could not do otherways than accept it.—That Madam says he is the Dog which Mr. . . . . . has renderd famous.
Almost certainly Lee had said “Mr. Adams,” reminding Abigail of her husband’s remarks. So of course she had no choice but to shake Mr. Spada’s paw and look like she was pleased to do so.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

“An object of nearly universal detestation”

After the royal authorities published the private letters they had captured on Benjamin Hichborn in August 1775, what was the fallout for the men who had written those letters?

Unfortunately for unabashed gossips, there aren’t a lot of good sources on Benjamin Harrison’s reaction. We can imagine that he quickly wrote another letter to Gen. George Washington promising that his earlier one had never really hinted that they might both enjoy a pretty washerwoman’s daughter. (If so, that follow-up letter doesn’t survive.)

It’s conceivable that Harrison volunteered to be part of the Continental Congress committee that met with Washington in Cambridge in October in order to confirm their personal relationship.

In November, Harrison was very insistent on having a ball in Philadelphia to honor Martha Washington, passing through the city on her way north. Was he so passionate because he wanted to make up for embarrassing her? That’s possible, but it’s also possible that Harrison had laughed off the publication of the falsified letter and just liked parties.

As for John Adams, the letters published over his initials had managed to denigrate most of the Congress in general, John Dickinson (shown above) in particular, and Gen. Charles Lee in passing. Printers in Philadelphia chose not to reprint the letters from the Boston News-Letter, but things were still pretty bad for a while. On 16 September Adams wrote in his diary:
Walking to the Statehouse this Morning, I met Mr. Dickinson, on Foot in Chesnut Street. We met, and passed near enough to touch Elbows. He passed without moving his Hat, or Head or Hand. I bowed and pulled off my Hat. He passed hautily by. The Cause of his Offence, is the Letter no doubt which Gage has printed in Drapers Paper.
And Dickinson wasn’t the only one snubbing Adams, according to the memoir of his friend Dr. Benjamin Rush:
It exposed him to the execrations of all the prudent and moderate people in America, insomuch that he was treated with neglect by many of his old friends. I saw this profound and enlightened patriot…walk our streets alone after the publication of his intercepted letter in our newspapers in 1775 an object of nearly universal detestation.
A British spy in Philadelphia named Gilbert Barkly reported that local Quakers had decided that Adams was dangerous to America; he also planned to push that sentiment along by circulating his own copies of the letters.

Adams might have told people he hadn’t written exactly what was published. In his autobiography decades later he said: “Irritated with the Unpoliteness of Mr. Dickinson and more mortified with his Success in Congress, I wrote something like what has been published. But not exactly. The British Printers made it worse, than it was in the Original.” And the originals are gone, so there’s no proof one way or the other.

But historians generally think that the Boston News-Letter quoted Adams accurately. Unlike the Harrison letter, there are no copies without the embarrassing lines. Adams never identified what bits he hadn’t written, but instead tried to justify one of the more controversial parts (as I quoted yesterday). Most tellingly, Adams had written quite similar things in previous letters, including two he’d sent the previous day.

Looking back, Adams claimed that the publication of his letters had actually benefited him, and he may have been right. For one thing, he liked to think of himself as unpopular because of his principled stands. At times he exaggerated the criticism and downplayed the support he received to justify that feeling. But in the summer of 1775, he could feel that way naturally.

Furthermore, the publication of the letters opened a public discussion on the possibility of independence, and raised his profile as an advocate for it. In his autobiography Adams even wrote that Joseph Reed had told him, “Providence seemed to have thrown these Letters before the Public for our good.”

Meanwhile, events were bending Adams’s way. Before copies of his letters arrived in London, the royal government had already declared all the colonies at the Congress to be in rebellion and rejected the Olive Branch petition. Thus, by the end of the year Dickinson’s moderate position had lost some credit and Adams’s advocacy of independent governments seemed smart.

In fact, on 1 Jan 1776, while Adams was back home in Massachusetts, the Boston Gazette reprinted the letters. Obviously, printer Benjamin Edes, working out of his temporary quarters in Watertown, didn’t view those documents as too awkward or scandalous to share with the world.

But there was still that comment about the “Oddity” of Gen. Lee.

TOMORROW: Abigail Adams extends the hand of friendship.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dr. Hope and the Patriots’ “cruel oppressive sentiments”

Last month I wrote about a small collection of letters in the U.K. National Archives from army surgeon Richard Hope to relatives back home in England.

Among those letters is one dated 20 Aug 1775, which Dr. Hope sent with a page from the Boston News-Letter that printed three intercepted messages from Continental Congress delegates. That document is interesting in showing how that disclosure affected one observer inside Boston, and how he spread the word about evidence of the American Patriots’ true designs.

Hope wrote:
I inclose you a Boston news paper containing three letters there were intercepted in going from the Continental Congress at Philadelphia to the rebels headquarters at Cambridge in this province. The two last are from Mr. John Adams a violent son of liberty, an inflammatory seditious demagogue and leader of the infatuated people, and one of the Boston Delegates to the grand Congress.
I suspect the doctor had John Adams mixed up with his second cousin Samuel. In 1775 Samuel was known as an inflammatory popular leader while John’s profile was smaller. In fact, these intercepted letters probably went a long way to establishing John Adams’s reputation as a radical.

Hope continued:
The General [Thomas Gage] has above two hundred more of these letters in his hands which I suppose will be sent to the Ministry for their inspection; the two gentlemen who were bearing them we have prisoners. You will remark how cheap they hold poor old England, as she is not once mentioned; the universal opinion they entertain and propagate, is that Britain can not support the contest for six months, and look on the King’s troops here as their prisoners at will. I doubt not but they make a grand mistake in the reckoning, for should they attempt to force our lines, they will find so warm a reception and their losses so heavy as will make them heartily sick of the undertaking.

In the fifth paragraph of the last letter one may form a judgement of their cruel oppressive sentiments and resolves should success attend their arms.
That last comment referred to Adams’s questions to James Warren about a reestablished new Massachusetts government: “Will your new Legislative and Executive feel bold, or irresolute? Will your Judicial hang and whip, and fine and imprison, without Scruples?”

Decades later Adams (shown above about 1816) complained in his manuscript autobiography that this passage had been misread:
There were a few Expressions which hurt me, when I found the Ennemy either misunderstood them or willfully misrepresented them. The Expressions were Will your Judiciary Whip and hang without Scruple. This they construed to mean to excite Cruelty against the Tories, and get some of them punished with Severity. Nothing was farther from my Thoughts. I had no reference to Tories in this. But as the Exercise of Judicial Powers without Authority from the Crown, would be probably the most offensive Act of Government to Great Britain and the least willingly pardoned, my Question meant no more than “Will your Judges have fortitude enough to inflict the severe punishments when necessary as Death upon Murderers and other capital Criminals, and flaggellation upon such as deserve it.” Nothing could be more false and injurious to me, than the imputation of any sanguinary Zeal against the Tories, for I can truly declare that through the whole Revolution and from that time to this I never committed one Act of Severity against the Tories. On the contrary I was a constant Advocate for all the Mercy and Indulgence consistent with our Safety.
Of course, that line appeared in the same letter that said, “We ought…to have arrested every Friend to Government on the Continent and held them as Hostages for the poor Victims in Boston.” So one can see why Dr. Hope and others in 1775 didn’t perceive Adams to be full of “Mercy and Indulgence.”

TOMORROW: The fallout in Philadelphia.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

“Genuine Copies of the Intercepted Letters” in the Press

For the royal authorities in Boston, the letters that Benjamin Hichborn had carried from Philadelphia were the equivalent of today’s intercepted radio communications.

Those papers contained some sensitive information about the enemy’s army—for example, Virginia delegate Benjamin Harrison hinted that Gen. George Washington wasn’t fully impressed by his chief engineer, Col. Richard Gridley. And they laid bare the Continental Congress’s secret factionalism.

The British authorities decided to get even more value out of the documents by publicizing them. There was one newspaper left in Boston, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter published by Margaret Draper and John Howe (shown above, over four decades later). Its 17 August issue printed all three “Intercepted Letters,” noting that the first was signed by Harrison while the second was unsigned but in the same handwriting as the third, to Abigail Adams from her husband.

The documents offered Loyalists and British observers evidence to confirm the most dire warnings about the American radicals: Adams’s clear statement that he believed his side should already have “arrested every Friend to Government on the Continent and held them as Hostages.”

There were also hints of private misdeeds. On the way to the press, someone apparently juiced up the Harrison letter by adding lines about an interrupted dalliance with “pretty little Kate the Washer-woman’s Daughter over the Way,” and a hint that Harrison was happy to share her with Washington himself. I discussed that passage back here. It was probably included to embarrass and discredit the commander-in-chief.

Finally, the published letters let everyone in America see John Adams writing about his colleagues with contempt, especially “A certain great Fortune and piddling Genius.” I don’t know if folks in Massachusetts realized that meant John Dickinson, but politicians in Philadelphia certainly did. And the British evidently didn’t have to change a word of Adams’s prose to get that point across.

TOMORROW: Dr. Hope shares the news with the folks back home.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

“Treason! Rebellion! Massacre!”

To be fair to Benjamin Hichborn, there’s no evidence that he’d read the letters he was delivering to Massachusetts for John Adams and Benjamin Harrison (and delivered right into the hands of the Royal Navy on 31 July 1775).

Hichborn no doubt hoped those documents were important, because that would make himself more important. But he probably thought their rhetoric was typical for American Patriots in mid-1775.

Hichborn was therefore shocked by Capt. James Ayscough’s reaction to what he’d been carrying. Here’s how he described it months later [with paragraph breaks thrown in]:
My first interview with Ayscough, after his discovery of the Letters, I think worth relating—(if I had been subject to fits, I am sure he wou’d have thrown me into the most violent Convulsions)— “Oh the damn’d, black, hellish, bloody Plots contained in these Letters!

Pray Capt. Ayscough what do they contain?

Oh too shocking to relate! Treason! Rebellion! Massacre! (then beating his breast, with the most unnatural distortions of his face and body) O my God! It makes my blood run cold to think on it.

For God’s sake, Capt: Ayscough, if you have any compassion for my feelings, tell me what you mean.

Oh! (beating his breast again) it chilled the very blood in my veins when I read them. There is a plan laid to seize and massacre all the Officers and Friends of Goverment and all the Churchmen [i.e., Anglicans] upon the Continent in one Night. Pray Gentlemen is it a fair question, to ask if you are Churchmen?

(Mr. [Anthony Walton?] White said he was, I told him I was not.)

Such cruel, black designs, never before entered the heart of Man!

But Capt. Ayscough, are you not mistaken?

Oh I read them over and over again.

I am not disposed to question your veracity, but if I had read it myself I woud not believe it. Pray Sir, whose signature do they bear?

They are all signed John Adams.
In fact Adams had not written about a plan “seize and massacre all the Officers and Friends of Goverment and all the Churchmen upon the Continent in one Night.” He had merely written that the Patriots should “have arrested every Friend to Government on the Continent and held them as Hostages for the poor Victims in Boston.” So the captain did have a reason to feel alarmed.

Ayscough brought Hichborn around Cape Cod and into Boston harbor (shown above in 1764). On 5 August 1775, Gen. George Washington wrote to the Continental Congress:
I have this Morning been alarmed with an Information that two Gentlemen from Philada [(]Mr Hitchbourn & Capt. White) with Letters for General [Charles] Lee & mylf have been taken by Capt. Ayscough at Rhode Island, the Letters intercepted & sent forward to Boston with the Bearers as Prisoners. That the Captain exulted much in the Discoveries he had made & my Informer who was also in the Boat but released understood them to be the Letters of Consequence. . . . I shall be anxious till I am relieved from the Suspence I am in as to the Contents of those Letters.
Alas, I don’t know who Washington’s informant “also in the Boat but released” was.

In fact, the letters Ayscough turned over to his superiors weren’t that important, in the sense of containing vital orders or intelligence that Washington needed. But they did have consequences.

TOMORROW: Mrs. Draper’s press.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“By such a mere accident as this”

Yesterday we left Benjamin Hichborn on the Royal Navy ship Swan, commanded by Capt. James Ayscough, on the way to Rhode Island. Hichborn had taken it upon himself to carry letters to Massachusetts for two Continental Congress delegates, and he didn’t want the British authorities to find them.

Of course, Hichborn had already passed by opportunities to keep quiet about those letters, to travel more safely by land, and to toss the letters overboard at the first sign of trouble. But he didn’t want to let go of those letters, which would be proof of how reliable he was.

At first, Hichborn later wrote, things seemed to be all right. Capt. Ayscough treated him and his traveling companion, Anthony Walton (?) White, with polite deference. But the next day, the captain had become suspicious and hostile. Hichborn guessed that another traveler, clerk to a Loyalist merchant, had reported that he and White were traveling to aid the rebel cause—which they were, and had probably boasted about. By the second evening, the captain put a guard over those two young men.

Hichborn could still have kept the letters secret. Nobody had yet searched him or his belongings. He came up with what he thought was a clever ruse:
my plan I thought was compleat and ensured me success; I had provided a couple of blank letters directed to General [George] Washington and Coll. [James] Warren, which in Case [the clerk] Stone shoud acknowledge himself the Informer and confront me with his declaration, I intended to deliver them up with seeming reluctance and pretend I had concealed them through fear.
But he never put that plan into action.

Instead, Capt. Ayscough rendezvoused with H.M.S. Rose under Capt. James Wallace, which was patrolling Narragansett Bay. As Ayscough prepared to transfer his two prisoners and their baggage onto Wallace’s ship, Hichborn had another brainstorm:
Just as the boat was preparing to carry our baggage on board Capt. Wallace for examination a Gentleman who came passenger with us from New York sent on board for a trunk which we thro’ mistake had taken for our own, this circumstance looked so favourable that I coud not avoid seizing [it] to get the letters on shore. I opened the trunk with my own key, put the letters in the folds of the Gentlemans Linen and with some difficulty locked it again, when the trunk came upon deck the Lieutenant mistook it for mine put it into the boat with the rest of our things and rowed off immediately on board the other Ship. By such a mere accident as this did the letters fall into their Hands.
Simply because Hichborn had claimed that trunk as his own, had control of it belowdecks, and even had a key that opened it, the naval officers wouldn’t just send it off to the man from New York as Hichborn asked them to. Really the whole situation was unforeseeable.

Soon naval officers searched that trunk and found letters from two Continental Congress delegates, one from Benjamin Harrison speaking in detail about troops, gunpowder, and fighting in Virginia and one from John Adams saying:
We ought to have had in our Hands a Month ago, the whole Legislative, Executive and Judicial of the whole Continent, and have compleatly moddelled a Constitution, to have raised a Naval Power and opened all our Ports wide, to have arrested every Friend to Government on the Continent and held them as Hostages for the poor Victims in Boston.
Not surprisingly, the British authorities thought that was treasonous. They put Hichborn under arrest and confined him to a warship in Boston harbor.

TOMORROW: And royal officials decided to make use of those letters.