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, September 19, 2006

Henry Hulton Meets the Locals

Henry Hulton was an English bureaucrat who arrived in Boston as one of the new Commissioners of Customs in 1767, responsible for collecting the Townshend duties. He happened to debark on 5 November, known in Boston as "Pope-Night" because of the raucous anti-Catholic processions that consumed the day and night. Lord George Sackville (later Germain, and minister in charge of the colonies during the Revolutionary War) recorded this secondhand description of the Commissioners' reception:

They landed on the 5th of November, and the populace were then carrying in procession the Pope, the Devil, and the Pretender, in order to commit them to the flames in honour of Protestantism. . . . these figures met the Commissioners at the water side and were carry’d before them without any insult through the streets, and whenever they stopped to salute an acquaintance, the figures halted and faced about till the salutation was over, and so accompany’d them to the Governor Hutchinson’s door, where the Devil, &c. took their leave with loud huzzas from the mob...
That quote is from a letter printed in the 49th volume from the UK's Historic Manuscripts Commission. I quoted a bit more in my essay on Pope-Night in the Dublin Seminar's Worlds of Children volume.

According to Hulton's sister Ann, whose reports were published in 1927 as Letters of a Loyalist Lady, "the Mob carried twenty Devils, Popes, & Pretenders, thro the Streets, with Labels on their breasts, Liberty & Property & no Commissioners," but Commissioner Hulton "laughed at 'em with the rest."

Hulton became less pleased with the locals' attitudes as time went on. This is from a letter he wrote in February 1770, now kept at the Houghton Library at Harvard:
The servant will not call the person he lives with, Master; and they have the utmost aversion to wearing anything in the shape of a livery, or performing any office of attendance on your person, or table; We have however a Coachman, who had the fortitude to drive us in spite of the ridicule of his Countrymen, who point & look at him, with contempt, as he passes by.

The people are very inquisitive, and what we should call impertinent; they never give one a direct answer, but commonly return your question, by another; and if you fall in with them on the road, or at a public house, they will directly inquire of you, who and what you are and what is your business.

One day I overtook a country man on the road; and after saying something to him about the weather, he began, Are you from Boston? what is the news? Are you a Merchant? me hap you are going into the Country to get in your debts? Can you lend a body a hundred or two of pounds? no. you can if you would.

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