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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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Momentous Day for Samuel Adams

A couple of days ago, I listed Boston’s three representatives to the Massachusetts General Court as of 25 Sept 1765.

Under the pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts constitution, Boston could elect four representatives. (That still left its population underrepresented compared to the much smaller rural towns.) But one of the men Bostonians had elected in May, the young attorney Oxenbridge Thacher, had died unexpectedly on 9 July.

On the morning of 27 September, therefore, Boston had a special election in Faneuil Hall to fill Thacher’s seat. The town records say that the meeting began with a prayer by the Rev. Samuel Checkley. The selectmen then asked for all white male Bostonians who met the higher property requirements for a General Court election to vote by noon.
the Inhabitants withdrew & brought in their Votes for a Representative, and upon counting and sorting them it appeared that the number of Votes were 572 of which

Note that Adams did not yet have the wealth to be accorded the honorific “Esq.” Nor did he have a mathematical majority, though he had a clear plurality.

The selectmen then organized a second round of voting. That time Adams received 265 votes out of 448 and “was duly Elected.”

Thus, four days after Adams had drafted Boston’s special instructions to its legislative representatives, he became one of those representatives. He made the short walk over to the Town House where the General Court was meeting and was sworn in that afternoon.

Whereupon Gov. Francis Bernard announced that sadly this legislative session was conflicting with important court dates and keeping some gentlemen away, so he had no choice but to adjourn the Massachusetts General Court until 23 October. That would be after the Stamp Act Congress in New York, and only about a week before the Stamp Act was supposed to take effect.

Thus ended Samuel Adams’s first day as a Massachusetts legislator.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Gov. Bernard’s Instructions to the General Court

As soon as the lower house of the Massachusetts General Court reported that it had a quorum on 25 Sept 1765, Gov. Francis Bernard summoned that body up to the Council Chamber in the Town House (now the Old State House) for a serious talk.

Since Bernard was the governor, he got to do all the talking. He delivered a long address about the legislature’s response to the Stamp Act—what it had done wrong and what it should do right. Early on, Bernard said, “I shall not enter into any Disquisition of the Policy of the Act.” Once Parliament passed the law, he said, the province had to obey it.

Bernard made four principal points to the legislators:

  • The House’s call for a Stamp Act Congress was not in the spirit of loyalty to the Crown that its authors professed.
  • Closing the courts and the ports so as not to have to use stamped paper would cause great damage to the economy and society.
  • All branches of the government had to respond with unity and firmness to the “violences which had been committed in this town.”
  • In particular, the legislature should provide “a Compensation to be made to the Sufferers of the late Disturbances.”

The members of the lower house listened to the governor. They had the speech read to them again the next morning. Then they debated it and named a committee to respond to Bernard. They did not repudiate the idea of the congress or start to work on compensating Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson for the destruction of his house.

The next day, Gov. Bernard notified the legislature that a ship had arrived with stamped paper for Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. With Andrew Oliver no longer acting as the province’s stamp agent, Bernard wanted the legislature to come up with a plan for keeping that paper safe, it “being the King’s Property.”

The assembly’s committee, which included Thomas Cushing, Artemas Ward, and others, soon responded that since the stamped paper had been sent to Massachusetts without the involvement of its legislature, keeping it safe was not the business of the Massachusetts General Court. This was not the cooperation the governor had been hoping for.

TOMORROW: A special election in Boston.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Massachusetts Towns Line Up Against the Stamp Act

Two hundred and fifty years ago, representatives to the Massachusetts General Court were heading home after a very short legislative session.

Gov. Francis Bernard had called the lower house of the Massachusetts legislature to convene on Wednesday, 25 September, in Boston. Most of the representatives summoned to that meeting had been elected back in May, and their towns had given them instructions about how to vote on the big issues of the day. But the Stamp Act, and New England’s forceful response to it, had produced a bigger confrontation than anyone imagined. Many towns therefore held another meeting to come up with additional instructions for their legislators.

On 23 September, Boston’s town meeting approved its special instructions, reiterating its opposition to the Stamp Act and anything that looked like compromise about that new law. That argument came out of a committee, but the man who gets the most credit for drafting it is Samuel Adams. Though the instructions didn’t use the phrase “taxation without representation” (not coined until 1767), that idea was the philosophical basis for Boston’s objection to the stamp tax.

When Boston created its instructions, its representatives in the House were:
  • James Otis, Jr., the fiery attorney who a few years before had resigned his royal appointments and started to represent the interests of the Boston merchants.
  • Thomas Cushing, one of those merchants. His late father had employed Samuel Adams in his mercantile house as a young man, with results that convinced both of them that Adams’s talents didn’t lie in business.
  • Thomas Gray (1721-1774), also the province’s auditor. As a sign of how cozy the political class was then, the province treasurer whose accounts he checked was his older brother, Harrison Gray.
And there was a player to be named later.

Other Massachusetts towns came up with similar instructions for their representatives. In Braintree, Samuel Adams’s second cousin John was the principal drafter. John Adams later claimed that his draft had been adopted nearly without editing (there was a moderate amount of editing), and that it was the model for many other towns’ instructions (other towns were already making the same arguments). Braintree’s protest did use an impressive amount of legal jargon, however.

TOMORROW: The governor’s opening speech.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Two Talks by Ray and Marie Raphael

Ray Raphael has a new history of the American founding, written with his wife Marie, and they’re coming to Massachusetts to talk about it in the next week.

The book is The Spirit of ’74: How the American Revolution Began. It builds on Ray’s The First American Revolution, published in 2002, filling out the argument that America’s political shift to republican rule was well under way in New England before the actual shooting started in 1775 and well before independence in 1776.

On Wednesday, 30 September, at 7:00 P.M., Ray and Marie Raphael will speak and sign books at the Worcester Historical Museum. This free event is sponsored by the Worcester Revolution of 1774, the consortium commemorating the local events that played a big role in the Spirit of ’74 story. The museum is at 30 Elm Street in Worcester, and there’s free parking off Chestnut Street.

On the next night, Thursday, 1 October, at 7:30 P.M., the Raphaels will speak at the Minute Man National Historical Park visitor center in Lexington. That park is of course where the war began in earnest, but also the site of crucial Massachusetts Provincial Congress sessions earlier. Again, there will be a book-signing after the talk.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Alderman Wooldridge and an Unfortunate Young Woman

Last month I introduced the figure of Thomas Wooldridge, an alderman of London who started the war as spokesman for the London merchants doing business with America and ended going bankrupt for the second time before dying in distant Boston.

While he was still a respectable magistrate in London, Wooldridge showed up in this story in the May 1777 London Magazine alongside a list of prisoners the American army took at Trenton:
Saturday 3 [May].

Yesterday two inhabitants of the parish of St. Mary Abchurch, made application to Mr. Alderman Wooldridge, at Guildhall for a warrant against the keeper of an infamous house, agreeable to the particular directions of the act of parliament; a warrant was granted, and Mr. Payne the constable immediately went to execute it; he presently came with the prisoner, a woman so big with child that she was on the eve of delivery; with her a pretty young woman, who, it afterwards turned out, was a nymph of the house.

Being closely interrogated by the alderman about her situation, she burst into a flood of tears, and a scene ensued that was extremely affecting: she said that she had lived in many reputable families, which she named, till being debauched by an attorney’s clerk, by whom she was with child, she was compelled to leave service and go to her father; but her mother-in-law [i.e., stepmother] turning her out of doors, she had no other resource to fly to than seeking that dissolute way of life which she now followed: every person present felt for the unfortunate girl, though nobody so much as herself, for her story was accompanied with the most evident emotions of contrition.

The alderman, in very severe terms, reprehended the keeper of the brothel, for to such characters, he justly observed, girls in general owed their ruin; but as the prisoner’s situation made her a very unfit object for a jail, she was permitted to return home, on a promise to discontinue the practice for which she was apprehended.

The young woman was sent by a constable to her father, who is a man of reputation; and we trust he will exercise tenderness, and not severity to a girl who appears to be more unfortunate than abandoned.
No word about how to deal with her stepmother.

See the In the Words of Women for an analysis of the print shown above.

Friday, September 25, 2015

“Pewter Dish (?) with Handle”

Smithsonian Magazine’s website featured this object back in August, saying:
An 18th-century bedpan isn’t all that different from one today. Then, it was round and made of pewter with a handle. In an era before plumbing and bathrooms, the bedpan could be gently heated and slipped under the covers of a sickbed.

The elderly, ill, and women recovering from childbirth could use the bedpan without having to risk further injury by leaving their bed. While healthy adults could use a chamberpot, which might be kept in a cabinet or attached beneath a hole in a chair seat, the bedpan was designed for the immobile.

This particular bedpan was made by a New York pewterer named Frederick Bassett in the late 18th century.
Why did it merit that attention? Because this particular bedpan can be traced to George and Martha Washington.

Or at least to the descendants of Martha’s granddaughter Britannia Wellington Peter Kennon. Around 1900 they inventoried and numbered all the household items that family lore said had come from Mount Vernon after Martha Washington’s death in 1802. This was identified as a “pewter dish (?) with handle.” In the 1930s one heir sold it to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association as a “plate warmer.”

Apparently, however, no one used this container in any commemorative banquets before a material-history expert recognized it as a bedpan. And that’s how it’s been catalogued and occasionally displayed at Mount Vernon ever since.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Early American History Schedules at the M.H.S.

The Massachusetts Historical Society has announced its schedule of seminars for the upcoming academic year. These come in four series: on early America, environmental history, urban history, and the history of women and gender.

I’ve picked out those that relate to colonial and federal America. Except for the one noted otherwise, every session starts at 5:15 P.M. at the society’s building on Boylston Street in Boston.

Tuesday, 6 October
Jane Kamensky, Harvard University, Copley’s Cato or, The Art of Slavery in the Age of British Liberty”
Comment: David L. Waldstreicher, Graduate Center, C.U.N.Y.

Thursday, 8 October
Jen Manion, Connecticut College, “Capitalism, Carceral Culture, and the Domestication of Working Women in the Early American City”
Comment: Cornelia Dayton, University of Connecticut
This session takes place at the Schlesinger Library in Cambridge starting at 5:30 P.M.

Tuesday, 3 November
Owen Stanwood, Boston College, Peter Faneuil’s World: The Huguenot International and New England, 1682-1742”
Comment: Wim Klooster, Clark University

Tuesday, 10 November
Elizabeth Hyde, Kean University, “André Michaux and the Many Politics of Trees in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World”
Comment: Joseph F. Cullon, W.P.I./M.I.T.

Tuesday, 1 December
Rachel Walker, University of Maryland, “Faces, Beauty, and Brains: Physiognomy and Female Education in Post-Revolutionary America”
Comment: Robert A. Gross, University of Connecticut

Tuesday, 19 Jan 2016
Sara Georgini, Adams Papers, “The Providence of John and Abigail Adams
Comment: Chris Beneke, Bentley University

Tuesday, 2 February
Wendy Roberts, University at Albany, S.U.N.Y., “Sound Believers: Rhyme and Right Belief”
Comment: Stephen A. Marini, Wellesley College

Tuesday, 1 March
Abigail Chandler, University of Massachusetts–Lowell, “‘Unawed by the Laws of Their Country’: The Role of English Law in North Carolina’s Regulator Rebellion”
Comment: Hon. Hiller Zobel, Massachusetts Superior Court

Tuesday, 5 April
Jared Hardesty, Western Washington University, “Constructing Castle William: An Intimate History of Labor and Empire in Provincial America”
Comment: Eliga H. Gould, University of New Hampshire

Tuesday, 3 May
Joanne Jahnke-Wegner, University of Minnesota, “‘They bid me speak what I thought he would give’: The Commodification of Captive Peoples during King Philip’s War”
Comment: Kate Grandjean, Wellesley College

In these seminars, the author of the paper doesn’t read it aloud. Instead, subscribers are invited to download that paper in advance. Discussions begin with comments by the author and commenter, and then any other attendees who have questions can join in. A subscription to three of the four series can be purchased for $25 through this site. (That doesn’t include the 8 October session, in the women’s history series.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Saturday Events at Minute Man Park and the Wayside Inn

On this Saturday, 26 September, Minute Man National Historical Park is hosting open houses at its Battle Road Homes in Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord.

At the Captain William Smith House, the Lincoln Minute Men will conduct drill and musket-firing programs between 10:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. As I noted a year ago, the group helped to refurnish the house in genteel fashion.

At Hartwell Tavern, members of the Hive will demonstrate methods of food preservation: pickling; making relishes and ketchups; stringing beans; and potting, brining, and smoking meats. And of course, they’ll review of what every housewife knew about using her root cellar.

Other open-house sites in the park will include the Whittemore House in Lexington, the Merriam House in Concord, and the Col. James Barrett House in Concord.

Meanwhile, Saturday is also the date of the Sudbury Colonial Faire & Muster at the field across from Longfellow’s Wayside Inn. As sponsored by the Sudbury Companies of Militia & Minute and the Sudbury Ancient Fyfe & Drum Companie, this event will feature dozens of fife & drum bands, demonstrations of musket fire and contra-dance, farm animals, and games for kids. Admission is $2 for adults.

(I’ll be at the Wayside myself, speaking to a private group about the events of 1774.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Hasty Claim about the Adamses

Recent news about the Hasty Pudding Club at Harvard College included the detail that it claimed Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams as alumni. And indeed it does, listing at the head of its list of notable past members:
John Adams, 1775
Attended First Continental Congress; Signed Declaration of Independence; First US Vice President, 1789; Second US President, 1796

John Quincy Adams, 1788
US Senator; Secretary of State under President James Monroe; Sixth US President, 1825-1829; US Representative
The two President Adamses’ portraits appear also prominently on the club’s overview page.

That seemed odd to me. The Harvard and Massachusetts rules against theatricals in the Adamses’ time weren’t the issue since the Hasty Pudding Club’s activities didn’t coalesce around theater until the mid-1800s.

Rather, it’s the question of dates. John Adams was at Harvard College from 1751 to 1755 and later earned an M.A. in 1758 while teaching school and studying the law. His son attended the college from 1784 to 1787 and received his M.A. in 1790. (M.A.’s were pretty informal back then.) So right away there’s a question of how those dates for the Adamses’ inductions match their careers at Harvard College.

And those dates match the society’s history. The Hasty Pudding Club was founded in 1795. So it couldn’t have inducted members, even honorary ones from the college alumni, twenty and seven years before.

As an undergraduate in the class of 1787, John Quincy Adams did join a speaking club that eventually became known as the Institute of 1770, after its founding date. That merged with the Hasty Pudding Club in 1925, so the combined organization can claim that President as an alumnus—if its history acknowledged that he was actually in the speaking club. But his father, John Adams, still doesn’t even appear on the rolls of the Institute.

I found a catalogue of Hasty Pudding members from 1867 which does indeed list John Adams and John Quincy Adams. However, those young men were both less distinguished grandsons of the Presidents with the same names:

Monday, September 21, 2015

“Succeeded with Liberty and Property and three Cheers”

After being surrounded by five hundred men on horseback, detained in a Wethersfield tavern for three hours, and warned by the crowd leader that he wasn’t sure he could contain them any longer, Connecticut stamp agent Jared Ingersoll finally reached his limit.

“I now thought it was Time to submit,” he wrote a few days later.

Ingersoll spoke to that local militia officer:
I told him I did not think the Cause worth dying for, and that I would do whatever they should desire me to do. Upon this I look’d out at a front Window, beckoned the People and told ’em, I had consented to comply with their Desires; and only waited to have something drawn up for me to sign. We then went to Work to prepare the Draught. I attempted to make one myself; but they not liking it, said they would draw one themselves, which they did, and I signed it.

They then told me that the People insisted on my being Sworn never to execute the Office. This I refused to do somewhat peremtorily; urging that I thought it would be a Prophanation of an Oath. The Committee seemed to think it might be dispensed with; but said the People would not excuse it. One of the Committee however said, he would go down and try to persuade them off from it. I saw him from my Window amidst the Circle, and observing that the People seemed more and more fixt in their Resolution of insisting upon it, I got up and told the People in the Room, I would go and throw myself among them, and went down, they following me.

When I came to the Circle, they opened and let me in, when I mounted a Chair which stood there by a Table, and having pulled off my Hat and beckoned Silence, I proceeded to read off the Declaration which I had signed; and then proceeded to tell them, that I believed I was as averse to the Stamp-Act as any of them; that I had accepted my Appointment to this Office, I thought upon the fairest Motives; finding, however, how very obnoxious it was to the People, I had found myself in a very disagreeable Situation ever since my coming Home; that I found myself, at the same Time, under such Obligations that I did not think myself at Liberty peremtorily to resign my Office without the Leave of those who appointed me; that I was very sorry to see the Country in the Situation it was; that I could nevertheless, in some Measure, excuse the People, as I believed they were actuated, by a real though, I feared, a misguided Zeal for the Good of their Country; and that I wished the Transactions of that Day might prove happy for this Colony, tho’ I must own to them, I very much feared the Contrary;—and much more to the same Purpose.
Remarkably, this rehash of Ingersoll’s arguments for the past month combined with new chidings and warnings didn’t get the crowd all angry again. I have to assume those men were tired of waiting around. Or maybe they just stopped listening after a while. They were clearly more interested in seeing Ingersoll go through rituals of crowd deference and patriotism:
When I had done, a Person who stood near me, told me to give Liberty and Property, with three Cheers, which I did, throwing up my Hat into the Air; this was followed by loud Huzzas; and then the People many of them were pleased to take me by the Hand and tell me I was restored to their former Friendship.

I then went with two or three more to a neighbouring House, where we dined. I was then told the Company expected to wait on me into Hartford, where they expected I should publish my Declaration again. I reminded them of what they had before told me, that it might possibly ensnare the Assembly for them to have an Opportunity to act, or do any Thing about this Matter. Some inclined to forego this Step, but the main Body insisted on it.

We accordingly mounted, I believe by this Time to the Number of near one Thousand and rode into Hartford, the Assembly then sitting. They dismounted opposite the Assembly House, and about twenty Yards from it. Some of them conducted me into an adjoining Tavern, while the main Body drew up Four abreast and marched in Form round the Court House, preceeded by three Trumpets sounding; then formed into a Semi-circle at the Door of the Tavern. I was then directed to go down and read the Paper I had signed, and which I did within the Presence and Hearing of the Assembly; and only added that I wisht the Consequences of this Day’s Transaction might be happy. This was succeeded with Liberty and Property and three Cheers; soon after which the People began to draw off, and I suppose went Home. I understand they came out with eight Days Provision, determined to find me, if in the Colony.
Those were some very determined citizens.

And what about Connecticut’s officeholders? The legislature that had sent Ingersoll to London to represent the colony in 1764, the governor he had consulted with the day before, the delegates who had ridden past the tavern where the crowd was holding him as he called to them from a window? They had more natural sympathy with Ingersoll, but they hadn’t been any help to him at all.
I am told the Assembly were busy in forming some Plan for my Relief, the lower House thinking to send any Force, was it in their Power, might do more hurt than good to me, agreed to advise the sending some Persons of Influence to interpose by Persuasion, &c. and communicated their Desire to the upper Board, in Consequence whereof certain Gentlemen of the House were desired and were about to come to my Relief, it being about half an Hour’s Ride; but before they set out they heard the Matter was finished.

Had they come, I conclude it would have had no Effect.
With Ingersoll’s unconditional, written, publicly repeated resignation on 19 Sept 1765, there were no stamp agents left in New England or New York. Protests on the Boston model were spreading to the Middle and Southern Colonies.

But in six weeks, at the start of November, the Stamp Act was still supposed to take effect.

(The photo above shows the Old State House in Hartford. It wasn’t built until 1796, three decades after Ingersoll’s experience. But it’s a handsome building.)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

“The Sight of me seemed to enrage the People”

Yesterday we left Jared Ingersoll on 19 Sept 1765 in the middle of a circle of five hundred club-bearing men on horseback in Wethersfield, Connecticut. (That’s the handsome Wethersfield meeting-house, built in 1761, and burying-ground in the photo.)

For anyone following these sestercentennial posts, it should come as no surprise what those men wanted Ingersoll to do: resign from his job collecting the Stamp Tax. He insisted that he had “always declared that I would not exercise the Office against the general Inclinations of the People.” Which those men were no doubt attempting to express.

Ingersoll went on to say that he “had given Orders to have the stamp’d Papers stopt at New-York” and not shipped to him in New Haven unless the colonial legislature would “plainly shew their Minds and Inclination to have the stampt Paper brought into the Colony.” He also warned the crowd “that the Governor, would have Power and Instructions to put in another if I should be removed” from office.

That led to this open-air exchange, as Ingersoll reported it a few days later:
They said, Here is the Sense of the Government, and no Man shall exercise that Office.

I askt if they thought it was fair that the Counties of Windham and New-London should dictate to all the rest of the Colony?

Upon this one said, It don’t signify to parly—here is a great many People waiting and you must resign.

I said I don’t think it proper to resign till I meet a proper Authority to ask it of me; and added, What if I won’t resign? what will be the Consequence?

One said Your Fate.

Upon which I looked him full in the Face and said with some Warmth, MY FATE you say.

Upon which a Person just behind said, The Fate of your Office.

I answered that I could Die, and perhaps as well now as another Time; and that I should Die but once.

Upon which the Commandant (for so, for Brevity sake, I beg Leave to call the Person who seemed to have the principal Conduct of the Affair) said we had better go along to a Tavern (and which we did) and cautioned me not to irritate the People.
Ingersoll went to the tavern but didn’t refrain from irritating people. Instead of dismounting, he told the men that they should tell him all they had to say and he’d ride on to Hartford. “They said No, You sha’n’t go two Rods from this Spot, before you have resigned; and took hold of my Horse's Bridle.” Though Ingersoll “was told repeatedly that they had no Intentions of hurting me or my Estate; but would use me like a Gentleman,” he understood that was on condition that he cooperate. So he got off his horse and went into the tavern with the crowd leaders.

In the discussion that followed, Ingersoll perceived a gap between those designated spokesmen and the men outside:
Upon the whole, This Committee behaved with Moderation and Civility, and I thought seemed inclined to listen to certain Proposals which I made; but when the Body of the People come to hear them they rejected ’em, and nothing would do but I must resign.

While I was detained here, I saw several Members of the Assembly pass by, whom I hailed, acquainting them that I was there kept and detained as a Prisoner; and desired their and the Assembly’s Assistance for my Relief. They stopt and spoke to the People; but were told they had better go along to the Assembly where they might possibly be wanted. Major [Elihu] Hall also finding his Presence not altogether agreeable, went away; And Mr. [Yale] Bishop, by my Desire, went away to let the Governor and Assembly know the Situation I was in.

After much Time spent in fruitless Proposals, I was told the People grew very impatient, and that I must bring the Matter to a Conclusion; I then told ’em I had no more to say, and askt what they would do with me?

They said they would carry me to Windham a Prisoner, but would keep me like a Gentleman.

I told them I would go to Windham, that I had lived very well there, and should like to go and live there again.

This did not do. They then advised me to move from the front Window, as the Sight of me seemed to enrage the People. Sometimes the People from below would rush into the Room in great Numbers, and look pretty fierce at me, and then the Committee would desire them to withdraw.
Ingersoll and the committee spent three hours in this sort of back-and-forth. Finally the militia leader Ingersoll called the Commandant came up to warn “that he could not keep the People off from me any longer; and that if they once began, he could not promise me where they would end.”

TOMORROW: Where they ended.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

“About Five Hundred Men, all on Horseback, and having white Staves”

When Boston 1775 last left Connecticut stamp agent Jared Ingersoll, he’d been hanged and burned in effigy in half a dozen towns, a crowd had surrounded his New Haven home, and he’d promised not to carry out the Stamp Act if it proved unpopular. Which, frankly, it already appeared to be.

On 10 September, Ingersoll wrote a long letter to the Connecticut Gazette pointing out that he owed his post to the recommendation of London alderman Barlow Trecothick, known as a friend to American interests. Both he and Trecothick had argued against the Stamp Act. So surely they couldn’t have conspired to pass that law just to enrich themselves, right?
Again, when the measure of making ye Appointments in America was thus general [i.e., non-partisan], & come into as generally, will any body think that any one of the persons concerned Imagined he betrayed his Country by falling in with the measure? Perhaps at this time, when popular rage runs so very high, some may think the friends of America mistook their own & their Countrys true Interest, when they listened to these overtures, but who can think their intentions were ill?
And wasn’t it better for American colonists if other Americans collected the tax, rather than some appointee from Britain?

That didn’t convince Ingersoll’s opponents. An item in the 16 Sept 1765 Boston Gazette referred to him as “Gared Negrosoul,” rhetoric sinking low enough to cause collateral damage.

Ingersoll hoped that the Connecticut legislature could give him some cover before symbolic violence gave way to real damage. In yet another long letter, written 23 September, he reported:
Having received repeated and undoubted Intelligence of a Design formed by a great Number of People in the eastern Parts of the Colony to come and obtain from me a Resignation of the above mentioned Office, I delivered to the Governor [Thomas Fitch], on the 17th, at New-Haven, in his way to meet the General Assembly at Hartford on the 19th, a written Information, acquainting him with my said Intelligence, and desiring of him such Aid and Assistance as the emergency of the Affair should require. On the 18th I rode with his Honour and some other Gentlemen, Members of the Assembly, in hopes of being able to learn more particularly the Time and Manner of the intended Attack.

About eighteen Miles from hence, on the Hartford Road, we met two Men on Horseback with pretty long and large new made white Staves in their Hands, whom I suspected to be part of the main Body. I accordingly stopt short from the Company, and askt them if they were not in pursuit of me, acquainting them who I was, and that I should not attempt to avoid meeting the People. After a little Hesitancy they frankly owned that they were of that Party, and said there were a great Number of People coming in three Divisions, one from Windham through Hartford, one from Norwich through Haddam, and one from New-London, by the way of Branford, and that their Rendezvous was to be at Branford on the Evening of the 19th, from thence to come and pay me a Visit on the 20th. These Men said they were sent forward in order to reconnoitre and to see who would join them.

I desired them to turn and go with me as far as Mr. [Yale] Bishop’s the Tavern at the Stone House, so called [in Meriden]. One of them did. Here I acquainted the Governor and the other Gentlemen with the Matter; and desired their Advice. The Governor said many Things to this Man, pointing out to him the Danger of such a Step, and charging him to go and tell the People to return Back; but he let the Governor know, that they lookt upon this as the Cause of the People, & that they did not intend to take Directions about it from any Body.
Ingersoll wrote that he feared those men would go to New Haven, the local militia would turn out as “an Opposition to their Designs,” and “some Lives might be lost.” Given that the people of New Haven had already turned out against him, that looks like wishful thinking. In any event, he decided to meet the crowd at Hartford. But he also sent a letter to his family in New Haven “that they and my House might be put in a proper state of Defence and Security.”

On Thursday, 19 September, Ingersoll proceeded toward Hartford with his host and legislator Elihu Hall of Wallingford.
we went on together until we come within two or three Miles of Weathersfield, when we met an advanced Party of about four or five Persons. I told them who I was, upon which they turned, and I fell into Conversation with them, upon the general Subject of my Office, &c.

About half a Mile further we met another Party of about Thirty whom I accosted, and who turned and went on in the same Manner.

We rode a little further and met the main Body, who, I judge, were about Five Hundred Men, all on Horseback, and having white Staves, as before described. They were preceded by three Trumpets; next followed two Persons dressed in red, with laced Hats; then the rest, two abreast. Some others, I think, were in red, being, I suppose, Militia Officers.

They opened and received me; then all went forward until we came into the main Street in the Town of Weathersfield, when one riding up to the Person with whom I was joined, and who I took to be the principal Leader or Commandant, said to him, We can’t all hear and see so well in a House, we had as good have the Business done here; upon this they formed into a Circle, having me in the Middle, with some two or three more, who seemed to be the principal Managers, Major Hall and Mr. Bishop also keeping near me.

I began to speak to the Audience, but stopt and said I did not know why I should say any Thing for that I was not certain I knew what they wanted of me…
Which by this point seems remarkably obtuse.

TOMORROW: A parley in Wethersfield.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Woody Holton on the Stamp Act’s Origins

Boston 1775 isn’t the only website running material on the Stamp Act this season. Humanities magazine shared this article by Prof. Woody Holton of the University of South Carolina.

Holton is reliable for contrarian takes, usually from a populist perspective, and in this article he says in part:
Contrary to popular myth, which has the British government adopting the Stamp Act to force Americans to pay down their share of its staggering debt, the real reason for the Stamp Act was to help fund a garrison of ten thousand British soldiers who remained in North America at the conclusion of an Anglo-French war in 1763. This was a sizable force: about the same number of troops Washington would have at Valley Forge fifteen years later.

Why weren’t these men sent home to Britain with their comrades? Thomas Gage, commander in chief of British forces in North America, explained in a December 1765 report to Lord Barrington, the secretary at war, that the redcoats had stayed behind because of “the Numerous Tribes of Savages who joined the French during the War, and over run our Frontiers.” . . .

At the close of the Seven Years’ War, the British government adopted two major policies aimed at appeasing the Indians. On October 7, 1763, the king-in-council issued a proclamation drawing an imaginary line along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains. All of the land west of this so-called “Proclamation Line” would be reserved for the Indians. . . .

the single most important reason for the British government’s unprecedented decision to leave ten thousand troops in North America after the Seven Years’ War was not to guard the colonists against Indian incursions. Just the opposite. It was to protect the Indians from the colonists.
See the full article for more of this argument, and Holton’s Forced Founders for even more.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

“Fixed their Standard upon the Tree of Liberty”

It took until 16 Sept 1765 for Edes and Gill’s Boston Gazette to report on the ceremony that gave a name to Liberty Tree. And by then the paper had to respond to the earlier report in the Boston News-Letter (full title: Massachusetts Gazette and Boston News-Letter).

Here’s the Boston Gazette spin:
The Great Tree at the South End of the Town, upon which the Effigies of a Stamp Master was lately hung, was honour’d last Wednesday with the Name of, THE TREE OF LIBERTY; a large Plate of Copper, with that inscription, in Letters of Gold, being fixed thereon.

Upon the News of the Change of the Ministry [in London], a Number of Persons well affected to Liberty and their Country, met together, and fixed their Standard upon the Tree of Liberty—being the Union Flag, inscribed, PITT THE SUPPORTER OF LIBERTY AND THE TERROR OF TYRANTS—On the other Side,
To B—te and G—n—e, mark the Event,
Both Heaven and Earth are Foes,
While Curses on each Wretch are sent
By every Wind that blows.
GOD Save the KING.
Twenty-one Chambers were planted upon the Square under the Tree, which they now call Hanover Square, and after discharging several Rounds, and drinking his Majesty’s and other loyal Healths, they struck their Flagg and dispser’d, and the Street was clear an Hour before Sun set, having agreed among themselves so to do, that no Occasion of Disorder in the Night might be taken from their assembling. 
The Boston Gazette thus portrayed the Stamp Act protesters as the epitome of British patriotism—flying the flag, naming the crossroads after a “decidedly Whig” square in London, hailing the popular wartime prime minister William Pitt, and of course praising King George III.

(As to those “Chambers,” the Royal Dictionary of 1728 defined that plural word as “a Sort of Fireworks.”)

There was still the matter of an accusatory paragraph in the rival newspaper:
Notwithstanding the low, sneering Misrepresentation in the [Massachusetts] Gazette of Thursday last, the Captain of the Train of Artillery had proper Orders from his superior Officer to discharge his Cannon on the joyful News of the Change of the Ministry, however disagreeable it might be to the Commander in Chief: And there was no Design to Insult the Governor and Council as a certain Person was pleas’d to suggest, and seems slyly insinuated by the EXCELLENT Writer of that Paragraph.
The word “EXCELLENT” looks like the Boston Gazette’s own sly insinuation about His Excellency, Gov. Francis Bernard.

As Alfred F. Young argues in Liberty Tree, town leaders thus moved to seize control of public anger. They elevated the daytime demonstration of 14 August as honorable and patriotic while discouraging any repetition of the 26 August house-mobbings. Liberty Tree was both a symbol of resistance to tyrannical new measures and a tool for channeling that resistance into acceptable forms.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How the Boston Gazette Spun a Riot

Just as the Boston News-Letter was already a reliable supporter of the royal government in Massachusetts in 1765, as discussed yesterday, Benjamin Edes and John Gill’s Boston Gazette was already the voice of the Boston’s government, merchants, and Whigs.

After the riot that destroyed Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson’s house, the 2 September Gazette did its best to portray Boston in a positive light. Its report started, “Such horrid Scenes of Villainy as were perpetrated last Monday Night it is certain were never seen before in this Town, and it is hop’d never will again.”

Having swiftly described the destruction, the Gazette insisted:
The true Causes of this notorious Riot are not known, possibly they may be explored hereafter.——Most People seem dispos’d to differentiate between the Assembly on the 14th of the Month, and their Transactions, and the unbridled Licentiousness of this Mob; Judging them to proceed from very different Motives, and their Conduct was most evidently different
No matter that the crowd on 14 August damaged stamp agent Andrew Oliver’s house almost as thoroughly as the mob on 26 August damaged Hutchinson’s. The paper moved swiftly on to how Boston and its respectable citizens had reacted to the disorder:
[“]The Town having an utter Detestation of the extraordinary and violent Proceedings of a Number of Persons unknown, against some of the Inhabitants of the same the last Night;

VOTED UNANIMOUSLY That the Selectmen and Magistrates of the Town be desired to use their utmost Endeavours, agreeable to Law, to suppress the like Disorders for the future, and that the Freeholders and other Inhabitants will do every Thing in their Power to assist them therein.”

Altho’ not above two Hours Notice was given, there was as full a Meeting at Faneuil Hall as has been ever known.

In Consequence of the above Resolve the Selectmen Magistrates, and other Gentlemen of the Town, together with the Cadet Company several Companies of the Militia, and the Company of the Train of Artillery, have kept Night Watch, to prevent any such further Proceedings.

It is hoped that the Goldsmiths, and other Persons to whom Plate may be offered for Sale, will be at this Time exceeding careful of whom they purchase.
Likewise, the Gazette offered a different take on the day when Boston’s Whigs named Liberty Tree.

TOMORROW: A respectful ceremony honoring a respectable riot.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Friends of the Royal Government on Liberty Tree

I want to go back to that first report of the naming of Liberty Tree in Boston on 11 Sept 1765. That happened on a Wednesday, which meant the first newspaper to carry the story was Richard Draper’s Boston News-Letter—which supported the Crown.

Knowing that political perspective helps in interpreting some details of its description:
on the Body of the largest Tree was fixed with large deck Nails, that it might last (as a Poet said, like Oaken Bench to Perpetuity) a Copper-Plate with these Words Stamped thereon, in Golden Letters, THE TREE OF LIBERTY, August 14. 1765. A Report of these Decorations collected a great many of the Inhabitants who were at Leisure, where they were saluted with the Firing of a Number of Chambers, and regaled with a Plenty of Liquor.
The line “like Oaken Bench to Perpetuity” first appeared in a mock ballad titled “A Full and True Account of How the Lamentable Wicked French and Indian Pirates Were Taken by the Valiant Englishmen,” published A Collection of Poems by Several Hands (Boston: 1744). The verse containing that line was popular enough that John Randolph of Roanoke quoted it in a letter in 1820.

The “Poet” has been identified as either the Rev. Mather Byles or the merchant Joseph Green (shown above, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts), both men known for their wit and their support of the Hutchinson-Oliver party. The newspaper report’s emphasis on the protesters being “at Leisure” and its mention of “Plenty of Liquor” likewise show that this wasn’t a positive description of that demonstration. It was a sneering complaint.

Indeed, the newspaper went on to complain:
It should have been mentioned above, that after 1 o’Clock some of the Train of Artillery brought down some Cannon, placed them before the Town-House and fired several Rounds; but we hear that this was done without any Order or Leave from the Commander in Chief [i.e., Gov. Francis Bernard], or even giving Notice to the Governor and Council, who were then sitting in the Council-Chamber, of their Intention.
That would indeed have been startling for Bernard and his advisors to suddenly hear cannon go off right outside. After all, it was only a month since the the first anti-Stamp Act rally had led to a march through the ground level of that same building.

TOMORROW: The Boston Gazette responds on Monday.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fine Tailoring at Old South and Old North, 18 and 30 Sept.

This month there are two events at Boston’s historic houses of worship exploring the clothing of the eighteenth century.

On Friday, 18 September, at Old South Meeting House, Henry M. Cooke IV will deliver an illustrated talk titled “William Waine: Tailor to the Common Man.” Cooke has studied the account book of Waine’s South End business, in addition to himself being one of the premier historic tailors in America. He will discuss “the tailor’s craft as a window into economy, social stratification, and everyday life in the 1770s.”

Part of the site’s “Midday at the Meeting House” series, Cooke’s talk will run from 12:15 to 1:00 P.M. Tickets are $6, free for Old South members, and available with an extra fee through this site. (This event was originally scheduled for this past February, but this past February intervened.)

Up in the North End, the Old North Church is now recruiting sponsors for its event “Founding Fashions: Clothing from the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783”:
Step back in time to experience a runway show featuring the clothing and uniforms of the men, women, and children of the Revolutionary War. You will see British regulars and Continental soldiers, ball gowns and riding habits, sailors and farmers, and everything in between! See 240-year-old fashions outside of museums and on real-life models. With commentary from experts in Revolutionary Period textiles, you will learn about the materials, construction, origin, and functionality of the garments on display. 
This event is part of Boston Fashion Week, which some might consider a contradiction in terms. But if we’re admiring 235-year-old fashions, we’re not being too forward.

There are different levels of sponsorships available, ranging from $250 to $5,000. All sponsors will receive preferred seating and an invitation to the private reception following the show, and larger gifts will bring more visibility for a donor or organization.

The advisory committee for this event includes Henry Cooke (see above), Hallie Larkin and Stephanie Smith from At the Sign of the Golden Scissors, and Michelle Tolini Finamore, Penny Vinik Curator of Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, among other notables.

A limited number of general-admission and student tickets for “Founding Fashions” will go on sale through Old North in mid-September. The show will start at 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday, 30 September, in Old North’s Bigelow Courtyard.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Preemptive Resignation from New York’s Stamp Agent

After Parliament enacted the Stamp Act in early 1765, Treasury Department officials asked London alderman Barlow Trecothick for recommendations about which American gentleman to appoint as stamp agent for each colony.

Trecothick had started out working for the rich Boston merchant Charles Apthorp, married an Apthorp daughter, and then settled in London as a merchant doing business with North America and the Caribbean. He had argued against the Stamp Act, so officials hoped that other opponents of the law would accept his choices as fair.

The stamp agents would have to be reliable for the imperial government, of course. Trecothick figured it would help if they were established in American business or legal circles. And since selling the stamped paper and stamps would bring in a steady income, he wanted to reward his own connections—that’s just how the Empire worked.

For New York he chose the merchant James McEvers (1705-1768, shown here). McEvers was another brother-in-law of Charles Ward Apthorp, whose move from Boston to New York in the early 1760s turned out to be a major blow to Boston’s economy.

Everything seemed to be going along fine until the newspapers brought word of the demonstration and riot in Boston on 14 August. Twelve days later, McEvers wrote to Jared Ingersoll in Connecticut about his correspondence with the Treasury Department’s “Secretary to the Stamp-duties”:
I rec’d a Letter from John Brettel Esq. Forwarded by you, Inclosing a Bond to Execute for the Due Performance of the Office of Stamp Master for this Province, which I Readely Did (and Return’d it per the Last Paquet that Sail’d from hence) as there was then Little or no Clamour here about it, and I Immagin’d I Should be Able to Transact it; but since Mr. [Andrew] Olivers Treatment att Boston has Been Known here and the Publication of a Letter from New Haven, the Discontent of the People here on Account of the Stamp Act Publickly Appears, I have Been Threaten’d with Mr. Olivers Fate if not Worse, to Prevent which I have Been under a Necessity of Acknowledgeing I have Wrote for a Resignation which I have Accordingly Done, and have Been Inform’d you have Done the Same, of Which I Beg you’l Advise me, and if you have not should be Glad to Know how you Purpose to Act, as it may be some Government to me in Case I Cant Procure a Release.
On the same day McEvers also wrote to Trecothick, explaining that he wanted to be relieved of the office.

The New York merchant worried that backing out would cost him respect in London, but local Whigs insisted that he would benefit in America. A letter from New York published in the 6 Sept 1765 Pennsylvania Gazette said:
We congratulate our Countrymen upon the late Resignations of the Stamp Officers - ------ and especially the Friends and Well wishers of the Gentleman appointed to that Office in this City. The Number of his Friends and Well wishers, which was considerable before, is greatly increased by this Resignation; which has entirely cleared his Character from the Imputation of joining in the Design to enslave his Country; for we are well assured, as his Appointment was without his Solicitation or Knowledge, so his Resignation was voluntary, and not the Effect of any Menace or Disturbance, nothing of which has yet appeared in this Place.
Thus, the 14 August demonstration and riot in Boston not only caused Massachusetts’s stamp agent to resign, but also inspired the New York stamp master to do the same.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Portsmouth’s Anti-Stamp Protest

As I related yesterday, the Stamp Act administrator for New Hampshire, George Meserve, resigned his post immediately after he arrived in Boston on 10 Sept 1765 and realized how unpopular it would make him. But it took time for that news to reach Portsmouth.

Therefore, exactly 250 years ago on 12 September the people of that town hanged and burned Merserve in effigy. That was just what one did with stamp agents that fall.

I’ve previously quoted from Charles W. Brewster’s description of that event in Rambles About Portsmouth (1859), but a look at the New-Hampshire Gazette for 13 Sept 1765 shows me that account isn’t complete or accurate. (Likewise, the image above dates from the nineteenth century, alas.)

So here’s the first report of what happened, datelined “PORTSMOUTH, Sept. 13”:
YESTERDAY Morning by Day-Light, was exhibited to public View, at the Haymarket of this Town, the EFFIGIES of a S—p M—r, the D—l, and a Boot between them—previous to which,——

On Wednesday [11 September], immediately after the Post came to Town and brought the News of the arrival of Capt. Daverson from London at Boston, a special Court for the Trial of a Person in an unpopular Office, was held here—

The Prisoner made his Appearance at the Bar by his virtual Representative---After being charg’d with the unnatural Crime of accepting a Promise of Reward from his Grandmother, for using his Endeavour to impoverish and starve his Mother and her Daughter, of whom she had conceiv’d a Jealousy of her Growth and suppos’d Riches---to which he plead, Not Guilty, and put himself on his Country for Trial; several Arguments were used in behalf of the Respondent, but the Evidence being so full, the Jury brought him in Guilty, without going off the Stand---

The Judges then sentenced the Prisoner to be carried from hence to the Place of Execution, and there to hang by the Neck till Dead; then his Remains to be taken down and burnt to Ashes, which was attended by the Grand Deceiver, who held this Label——
GEORGE my Son, you’re young in Station,
But yet may serve me in this Nation;
Seven Hundred Sterling may be lost;
Take this, ’twill amply pay your Cost—
Offering him an empty Purse.

On one Arm of the S—p M—r in Capitals were placed G. M. on the other S— M— Before him was his Answer;
My Heart misgives, ’tis not the Thing,
High in a Halter, thus to Swing—
Another Label from the D---l to B--e was,
Go on, bold B--te, compleat their Fall,
And hurl Destruction on them all.
His Answer,
I would, Great Sir, but ’tis a Notion,
To be thus hamper’d in Promotion.
On B--te was placed the St—p A--t, and over the A--t——
B–te and the Deel, believe it fact,
First bred, then hatch’d this cursed A--t.
On the Post which supported the whole, was wrote in large CAPITALS,


N.B. It was remark’d, that about Nine o’Clock Yesterday Morning, the Devil attempted to quit the Place assign’d him, and had like to have made his Escape, but was by the Dexterity of his Enemies made secure again.

Last Evening the above Effigies were consumed in the Presence of some Thousands of Spectators, on a Hill near the Town, amidst the loud Acclamations of all present; a large Bonfire having been prepared for that Purpose. The whole was conducted with the greatest Order that could be expected on such an Occasion.
What was all that about a “Grandmother”? My best guess is that that’s connected with the many references to the Earl of Bute, George III’s first Prime Minister, who was Scottish. Was Scotland (the grandmother) seeking to impoverish Britain (the mother) and America (the daughter) through the Stamp Act? Bute had actually been out of power for years when the law passed, but Americans continued to blame him as a secret corruptor of the king right up until the war.

TOMORROW: Meanwhile, in New York.

Friday, September 11, 2015

EXTRA: Brandywine Animated

This is the anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine in 1777, one of the largest and most consequential battles of the Revolutionary War—though, since the Continentals didn’t win the battle or the campaign, not a field preserved at the federal level.

Here is an animated map of the battle, which does a good job of showing how British general Sir William Howe flanked Gen. George Washington’s position by crossing the Brandywine River at little-known fords to the north.

Unfortunately, that map requires a web browser with the Flash plug-in, so not everyone will be able to see it easily.

If you can see the site, zoom in on the lower right corner where the blue symbols are clustered around Chadd’s Ford. Then run the animation. The sudden appearance of red symbols on the east side of the river is a nice approximation of Washington’s experience.

The Day Liberty Tree Got Its Name

Late on Tuesday, 10 Sept 1765, a ship reached Boston from London carrying three items of great political significance:
There was great rejoicing.

In fact, there was so much rejoicing that Meserve realized he’d made a terrible mistake in accepting the job of stamp agent. Before venturing off the ship, “he sent a Letter to a Friend to be communicated to the Public, signifying that as such an Office would be disagreeable to the People in general he should resign it.” And there was even more rejoicing.

That is, if we can count “a great Number of his Friends and other Gentlemen” who came to Long Wharf to watch Meserve disembark as being a celebration rather than a threat. Being no fool, he “confirmed what he before had wrote, and declared…[he was] determined never to act in that Capacity.” The crowd gave three cheers, “which were repeated at the Head of the Wharf, and again on the Exchange.” With Andrew Oliver, Augustus Johnston, and Jared Ingersoll’s announcements in August, that meant three and a half of New England’s four stamp masters had resigned. (I’m counting Ingersoll as going only halfway.)

According to the Boston News-Letter, “in the Evening many loyal Healths were drunk by Numbers of Gentlemen who met at several public Places for that Purpose.” But the big celebration came the next day,
for the Morning following (Wednesday) was ushered in with the Ringing of all the Bells in Town, and Joy and Gladness appeared in every Countenance; at the South Part of the Town the Trees for which many have so great a Veneration, were decorated with the Ensigns of Loyalty, and the Colours embroidered with several Mottos (which we have not been able to obtain—)

on the Body of the largest Tree was fixed with large deck Nails, that it might last (as a Poet said, like Oaken Bench to Perpetuity) a Copper-Plate with these Words Stamped thereon, in Golden Letters, THE TREE OF LIBERTY, August 14. 1765. A Report of these Decorations collected a great many of the Inhabitants who were at Leisure, where they were saluted with the Firing of a Number of Chambers, and regaled with a Plenty of Liquor.

Towards Evening a Guard of Men armed, belonging to the Militia, were posted near the Trees when the Colours were struck, to prevent any Disorders that might arise among such a Concourse.
Until this date, 250 years ago today, that big tree outside Deacon John Eliot’s in the South End was simply that big tree. For the next ten years it was known as “Liberty Tree” (or “Liberty-Tree,” but not “the Liberty Tree” in period sources) until it was cut down, and even after that Bostonians used “Liberty-Stump” as a landmark.

At the time Lord Adam Gordon happened to be in Boston. He was an army colonel and a Member of Parliament, and even though (or because) he was a Bute and Grenville supporter the town fathers wanted all inhabitants to be on their best behavior in front of him.

TOMORROW: Meanwhile, up in Portsmouth.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Anti-Stamp Protests Draw Nearer to Jared Ingersoll

Jared Ingersoll wrote his conditional resignation as Connecticut’s stamp-tax collector on 24 Aug 1765, and the newspapers published it soon after. But demonstrations against the new law continued, coming closer to his home in New Haven.

Lyme’s 29 August protest was written up as a “Tryal of J—d Stampman, Esq., before the Proctors of Liberty.” The defendant did allegedly “enter into a Confederacy with some other evil minded, wicked, and malicious persons, to kill and destroy his own mother, Americana. . . . The Weapon he obtain’d was called a Stamp.” After the guilty verdict, the court pronounced this punishement:
That he should be forthwith tied to the tail of a Cart, and drawn thro’ all the principal streets in Town, and at every Corner and before every House should be publicly Whip’d; and should be then drawn to a Gallows erected at least 50 feet high, and be there hanged till he should be dead, and then cut down by the common Hangman, and buried at the meeting of three Roads and a Monument erected over him, shewing the Cause of his ignominious Death, that the infamy of his Crime might be perpetuated to after Generations.
That sentence was reported to be carried out, presumably on an effigy.

Sometime during the first week of September, Ingersoll’s New Haven neighbors surrounded his house and demanded he resign. He answered that “having accepted the Office in Person he did not think he had Power to Resign.” The crowd asked if, when the stamped paper arrived, he preferred to hand it over for a bonfire “or to have his House pull’d down.”

Ingersoll pleaded that everyone should just wait until colonial legislature met in Hartford to take a stand on the issue. The crowd insisted on an answer sooner than that. Finally, Ingersoll promised to let the crowd do whatever they wanted with the stamped paper if it ever came. That was enough to avert an effigy-hanging and burning in New Haven.

But on the night of 10 September the neighboring town of West Haven saw:
a horrible Monster, or Male Giant, twelve Feet high, whose terrible Head was internally illuminated. He was mounted on a generous Horse groaning under the enormous Weight. This Giant seemed to threaten Destruction to every Person or Thing around him, which raised the resentment of a Number of stout Fellows, who constantly pelted him with Stones till he fled. The Assailants pursued and soon took him Captive, and triumphantly drove him about a Mile in the Town, attended with the discordant Noise of Drums, Fiddles, and taunting Huzzas.

The People then directed their Course toward a Hill called Mount Misery. There the Giant was accused, fairly tried and Condemned by a special Jury and Impartial Judge as an unjust Intruder, a Patron of Ignorance, a Foe of English Freedom, etc. and was sentenced to be burnt. The Sentence was accordingly executed, amidst the joyful Acclamations, of near three Hundred Libertines, Men, Women and Children.

It should be mentioned that, through the whole of this Raree show, no unlawful Disorder happened, as was the Case in the last truly deplorable and truly detestable Riot in Boston.
The 26 August attack on the house of Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson was already notorious, and this newspaper report insisted that Connecticut protesters wouldn’t follow that example. Which may not have been completely reassuring for Jared Ingersoll.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

“Since we are doomed to Stamps and Slavery”

As I wrote yesterday, Jared Ingersoll opposed the Stamp Act as one of the Connecticut colony’s agents in London, but once the law passed he gladly accepted the job of collecting that tax.

In the summer of 1765, other Connecticut men tried to get in on the same action by telling Ingersoll they were ready to be his deputies for their parts of their colony. One such plea came from William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819, shown above), who wrote on 3 June:
Since we are doomed to Stamps and Slavery, & must submit, we hear with pleasure that your gentle hand will fit on our Chains & Shackles, who I know will make them set easie as possible. . . . .

If you propose to have a Subaltern in every Town, I shall be at your service for Stratford if it be agreeable.
Johnson also delivered and endorsed a similar request from Nathaniel Wales, Jr., of Windham, dated 1 June:
Notwithstanding my small acquaintance yet as I understand you are betrusted with the afair of the Stamp Duty I beg Leave to hint that if in ye. plan you should want a person in Each County town to dispose of Blanks or paper I should be glad to be improved for ye purpose, if it should suit you & you can confide in me; and as I keep an office in the Center and dont practise Riding abroad can doubtless serve you. 
But those men and others wrote their letters before New Englanders heard (in exaggerated form) about the Virginia Burgesses’ resolutions against the Stamp Act, and before Bostonians had their first public protest and riot on 14 August. Public sentiment shifted from resignation to resistance.

Five days after the disturbances in Boston, Wales wrote to Ingersoll again:
I receved yours and observe its Contence, and for answer must say that I wrote my first to you without much Consideration and while matters were much undigested both in my and other peoples minds; but on further Consideration I am of opinion that the Stamp Duty can by no means be Justifyed, that it is an imposition quite unconstitutional and so Infringes on Rather destroys our Libertys and previlidges that I Cant undertake to promote or Encorage it without acting dirictly Contrary to my Judgment and the true Intrest of my own native Country; and tho I would be a Loyal Subject yet that I may be & not Endeavour to promote that Law which in my privit Judgment is not Right, as ye case may be, I must therefore on the whole refuse accepting—if offered—any trust relative to Distributing the Stamps, nor would I accept thereof had I thousand pounds annexed to the trust. So that what trouble I have given you I must beg your pardon for
Wales wrote that letter a week before the people of Windham hanged and burned Ingersoll in effigy. For all we know, Wales might even have been involved in that demonstration—he was an active Whig by 1768.

Likewise, Johnson went on to represent Connecticut at the Stamp Act Congress, formed to protest the law he had once offered to administer. He sought compromise at the start of the Revolutionary War, which his neighbors found suspicious, but over time regained enough influence to be sent to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

TOMORROW: The people of Connecticut are not satisfied.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Jared Ingersoll’s Non-Resignation as Stamp Master

Jared Ingersoll had an unusual relationship with the anti-Stamp Act movement in 1765 America. As the year began, he was an agent for the colony of Connecticut in London, and he lobbied officials there not to proceed with the plan.

Ingersoll’s 11 February letter describing the debate over the law in Parliament is our sole source for Isaac Barré’s speech celebrating American colonists as “Sons of Liberty.” That phrase (already established in British political rhetoric) inspired activists all along the North American coast.

But once the imperial government enacted the Stamp Act, Ingersoll lobbied to be named the collector for Connecticut, which would grant him an income and authority. He’d done his level best to stop the law, he reasoned; now he might as well make the most of the new situation.

But then came the events of late August. Ingersoll was reportedly hooted out of Boston. While he traveled home to New Haven, he might have heard similar grumblings in his own colony. On 22 August towns began burning Ingersoll in effigy, just as Bostonians had done to signal their disapproval of Massachusetts stamp master Andrew Oliver (before proceeding to ruin his house).

Ingersoll therefore penned a public letter on 24 August, printed in the colony’s newspapers over the following week:
To the Good People of Connecticut.

When I undertook the Office of Distributor of Stamps for this Colony, I meant a Service to you, and really thought you would have viewed it in that Light when you come to understand the Nature of the Stamp Act and that of the Office; but since it gives you so much Uneasiness, you may be assured, if I find (after the Act takes Place, which is the first of November) that you shall not incline to purchase or make use of any stampt Paper, I shall not force it upon you, nor think it worth my While to trouble you or my Self with any Exercise of my Office; but if, by that Time I shall find you generally in much Need of the stampt Paper and very anxious to obtain it, I shall hope you will be willing to receive it of me, (if I shall happen to have any) at least until another Person more agreeable to you can be appointed in my room.

I cannot but wish you would think more how to get rid of the Stamp Act than of the Officers who are to supply you with the Paper, and that you had learnt more of the Nature of my Office before you had undertaken to be so very angry at it.
There’s been a lot written in recent years about “non-apology apologies.” Ingersoll’s letter seems to be one, as well as a non-resignation resignation. He promised not to do the job of stamp master if people still didn’t want him to while chiding those same people for not already learning “more of the Nature of my Office before you had undertaken to be so very angry at it.”

Two days later, Oliver wrote to Ingersoll from Boston with the text of his own resignation, which was much more definite—and still wouldn’t prove to be enough to satisfy his neighbors. Nor did Ingersoll’s public letter win over many critics.

TOMORROW: Other Connecticut men who wanted to distribute the stamps.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Map Talk and Exhibit Updates at the Boston Public Library

On Tuesday, 8 September, the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library will host an event titled “Rebels, Redcoats, and Revolutionary Maps.”

It will start with a talk by Richard Brown and Paul Cohen about their book Revolution: Mapping the Road to American Independence, which “looks at the spectacular legacy and importance of early American cartographers.” Of course, some of the most accomplished mapmakers of that time were British.

After the talk there will be a book sale and author signing, and Dr. Ron Grim, Curator of the Leventhal Map Center, will offer a special tour of the “We Are One” exhibition.

That exhibit, which I reviewed back here, was recently revamped with four new items from the King George III Topographical Collection and other collections at the British Library. These include:
The British Library recently shared a blog post about the Williams images.

Also new to the exhibit are a cantonment map from the mid-1760s showing the deployment of British troops in North America, loaned by the Clements Library in Michigan; and one of Amos Doolittle’s hand-colored prints of the British soldiers in Concord in April 1775, loaned by the Connecticut Historical Society.

A lot of the other fine items in the B.P.L. display come from Richard Brown’s collection. His book talk with Paul Cohen is scheduled to start at 6:00 in the Abbey Room on the second floor of the Boston Public Library. It will be preceded by a reception at 5:30 P.M.