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, August 22, 2006

Henry Bass Spills the Beans on a Political Protest

In December 1765, merchant Henry Bass sent his father-in-law a remarkably candid letter describing how he and his political comrades had just organized an anti-Stamp Act protest:

Boston 19 Decr 1765.

Hon’d Sir,—

On seeing Messrs. Edes & Gills last mondays Paper [i.e., the Boston Gazette of 16 Dec, which hinted that Andrew Oliver had not gone through with his promise to resign as London's Stamp distributor in Boston, which he had made under threats in August], the Loyall Nine repair’d the same Evg. to Liberty Hall [Chase and Speakman's rum distillery in the South End of Boston, shown above], in order to Consult what further should be done respecting Mr. Oliver’s Resignation, as what had been done heretofore, we tho’t not Conclusive and upon some little time debating we apprehended it would be most Satisfactory to the Publick to send a Letter to desire him to appear under Liberty tree at 12 oClock on Tuesday, to make a publick Resignation under Oath:—the Copy of which the Advertisement, his Message, Resignation and Oath you have Inclos’d.

The whole affair transacted by the Loyall Nine, in writing the Letter, getting the advertisements Printed, which were all done after 12 oClock Monday Night, the Advertisements Pasted up to the amount of a hundred was all done from 9 to 3. oClock.

You also have a Copy, of what he said to the Publick as near as we can Recolect: he thank’t the Gentlemen for the Polite Letter and treatment he Received The Copy of what you have Inclos’d, was last Evg sent to Messrs. Drapers to be put in to days Paper [i.e., the Boston News-Letter, published on Thursdays] wh. Directions not to print any of the transactions, without they did the whole; if the[y] could not wt. propriety as being the Government’s Printers [i.e., being paid by the royal government of Massachusetts to publish official notices] to send it to the Patriots of Messs. Edes & Gill, for whom we have the greatest respect. The whole was Conducted to the General Satisfaction of the Publick.

And upon the Occasion we that Evg. had a very Genteel Supper provided to which your very good friends Mr. S— A— [Samuel Adams] and E— & G— [Edes & Gill, who had a "Long Room" over their print shop often used for private Patriot gatherings] and three or four others and spent the Evening in a very agreable manner Drinkg Healths etc.

Dr. Sir,—I must desire you’d keep this a profound Secret and not to Let any Person see these Papers, and should be glad when you come to town youd bring them with you, as we have no other Coppys, and choose to keep them as Archives. We do every thing in order to keep this and the first Affair Private: and are not a little pleas’d to hear that [shoemaker Ebenezer] McIntosh has the Credit of the whole Affair. We Endeavour to keep up the Spirit which I think is as great as ever.

I give you joy in the Custom house being Opened, & hope soon to advise you of the Courts of justice doing the same, I am wh. my best wishes for you and Familys health and Happiness Your affe. friend

[Henry Bass]

P.S. I have Recd. a Letter from Billey he Begs you’d send him down his Jackets and Breeches, as he Stands in great need of ‘em. I should be glad you’d write me more perticular what Sort of Plank you want faiths tells me two Inch: Let me know in your next and about the Boards etc.
The Loyall Nine had "the greatest respect" for printers Edes & Gill because Benjamin Edes was a member of the Loyall Nine. Also in the small group was vegetarian japanner Thomas Crafts, Jr. Ebenezer Mackintosh, though highly visible at protests as captain of the South End gang, was not a member of this socially and politically ambitious group, and Bass was glad of that.

This letter appears in the forty-fourth volume of the Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings.

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