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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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gleanings from the Ipswich Journal

I recently stumbled across this webpage of items from the Ipswich Journal in 1775-76, maintained by the Foxearth and District Local History Society. It’s part of bigger series archiving items from newspapers the east of England.

There are a few dispatches from the American war, but most of the items are about local crime, wagon accidents, notable deaths, &c. Of course, without context it’s impossible to tell how typical that mix is.

The transcriptions have some glitches. For example, I suspect that the item for 1 July 1775 originally read:
We hear that the Senecas, one of the six Indian nations, are determined to supply the Americans against the arbitrary exactions of the British Parliament and if desired will lend their help in this day of distress expected if the Colonies are subjected. They shall also fall a sacrifice to Gt Britain.
The webpage concludes “fail a sacra file to Gt Britain.” The Seneca nation actually ended up supporting the Crown.

We can see the delay in news from North America. It took until 17 June for the Ipswich Journal to report this news of the siege of Boston:
Letter received by a family in Colchester from their son dated — Boston, April 23rd. Boston is now in a terrible situation and I am at a loss to describe the troubles, last Tuesday, the Governor ordered a party of men to March to Concord and seize a magazine that he had information on etc etc.
There was even significant delay within England. On 23 Aug 1775, George III officially proclaimed that “divers parts” of the colonies were in open rebellion. The Ipswich Journal stated on 9 September:
Yesterday the proclamation declared the Americans in open avowed rebellion and absolutely forbids all persons carrying on correspondence with them was read in Ipswich Market place.
But we can also see rural England becoming more modern—slowly:
At Farnham, Suffolk on Monday last a poor man suspected of being a wizard was swam (as tis called) in the river Deben in the presence of a great number of spectators who had assembled from different parts of the county of Suffolk on the occasion, he was put upon his watery trial about 7 in the evening with his feet and hands tied but to the surprise of the whole company he sunk to the bottom and had it not been for the assistance of a humane spectator the experiment would have terminated in a manner shockingly to it’s protectors, mortified and disappointed the company soon dispersed, ashamed of themselves and angry at their own weakness and credulity.
That crime report came from the Ipswich Journal for 20 July 1776. Andrew Clarke, one of the people maintaining the Foxearth Historical Society site, offered a link to A. R. Gomm’s detailed account of a similar event twenty-five years earlier at Tring, which ended in two deaths.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an alternately fascinating and frustrating resource. You're right to question the typicality -- my guess based on what they've posted is that they've only put online items that fell under the "Ipswich" heading, which would exclude most of the news about America. I'm not an expert on British newspapers, but based on what I know of American ones, those items would be more likely to appear either under an American town or London.