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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Sunday, May 17, 2015

How Hutchinson Learned Latin and French

This is Thomas Hutchinson writing in the third person about himself as a young man:
When he left College [1727] he went into his father's counting house, and became a Merchant Apprentice, from 17 years to 21. He saw how much he had neglected his studies at College, and applied to his schoolmaster, (…whose tuition he was under about five years), and desired he would allow him to spend two or three evenings in a week in going over some of the Latin Classicks, which he readily consented to. In a short time he acquired a relish for the Latin tongue, which he never lost.

Soon after he put himself under M. [Andrew] Le Mercier, the French Minister, and then began to learn the French tongue; but Monsieur [Louis] Langloiseier, arriving at Boston soon after, in Gov. [William] Burnet's family, & Mr [John Henry] Lidius of Albany, who had lived and married in Canada, and Mr [Peter] Chardon, a young gentleman of fortune from London, being also in Boston, a French Club was formed, of which the three gentlemen above named were members, and Mr [Jeremiah] Gridley, the Lawyer, Mr Jo[seph]. Greene, [John] Lovell, and two or three more New England young gentlemen were members, & the whole conversation was to be in French.

In these ways he acquired a competent knowledge of the Latin & French, accustoming himself to reading authors in both languages, and at length he found very little difficulty in either.
Le Mercier, a native of Caen educated in Geneva, was minister of the Huguenot church in Boston, which faded after his death. Eventually that building on School Street became the town’s first Catholic church.

As Hutchinson noted, Langloiserie arrived in Boston with the new governor in 1728, but left for London on the sudden death of his patron. He came back, opened a French school in 1730, and started tutoring Harvard students in the language in 1733.

Lydius was a Dutch-born dealer in western lands, not always equipped with legal titles.

Chardon was a merchant of Huguenot ancestry whose name remains in New Chardon Street.

Gridley, Green, and Lovell were all New England-born Englishmen like Hutchinson, learned and upper-class. Gridley became the province’s leading lawyer and leader of the Freemasons. Greene was a merchant also known for his satirical verse. Lovell was the master of the South Latin School for decades.

Of these men, all who survived until the Revolution became Loyalists. (Well, Lydius was already in Britain in 1776, either seeking to validate his land claims or hiding out from the many people who had bought deeds from him.)

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