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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Thursday, December 07, 2017

“Patriotick Ladies, at Edenton in North Carolina”

Starting in late 1774, the British publishers Robert Sayer and John Bennett issued a series of five satirical prints about the political turmoil in North America.

The mezzotint engravings are unsigned, but in 1908 R. T. H. Halsey identified the artist as Philip Dawe (1745?-1809?). He might have trained under William Hogarth, but by the 1770s Dawe was on his own, engraving prints based on several artists’ paintings.

The five cartoons are:
The last was no doubt inspired by the London Morning Chronicle’s January report that fifty-one women from Edenton had signed a statement declaring that they would adhere to the North Carolina Provincial Congress’s exhortation not to buy imported goods.

The women’s statement didn’t actually mention tea, but the provincial congress did. Dawe therefore emphasized tea, with women dumping their tea in a bag for disposal, a baby playing with a tea set on the floor, and a dog urinating on a tea caddy. Dawe portrayed several of the female figures as laughably masculine, drinking from a punchbowl and wielding a gavel.

That print shows one woman signing a sheet that says:
We the Ladys of Edenton do hereby solemnly Engage not to Conform to that Pernicious Custom of Drinking Tea, or that we the aforesaid Ladys Promote the use of any Manufacture from England, until such time that all Acts which tend to Enslave this our Native Country shall be Repealed.
That statement has since been ascribed to the women of Edenton themselves. But those words don’t appear in the statement printed by the Morning Chronicle. It therefore seems likely that Dawe created that sentence as part of his caricature of the Americans.

TOMORROW: An even more dubious quotation linked to the “Edenton Tea Party.”

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