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 19, 2018

Booth on Jeremiah Lee in Marblehead, 3 Oct.

On Wednesday, 3 October, Robert Booth will speak about “Col. Jeremiah Lee of Marblehead: First Leader to Die for Independence.” This event is cosponsored by the Marblehead Museum and the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati.

The event description explains:
Jeremiah Lee (1721-1775) was among the most successful American shipping merchants, drawing his wealth from the exportation of salt codfish and the importation of commodities from the Caribbean and southern Europe, with plenty of illicit commerce along several coasts.

In the 1750s and 1760s Lee, owner of the town’s grandest house as of 1766, and his brother-in-law Robert “King” Hooper were friendly rivals for the social and business leadership of Marblehead, then second only to Boston as the largest and richest town in Massachusetts. As Britain cracked down on the wide-open trade of the American merchants, Hooper and Lee diverged: Hooper cultivated the royal authorities and gained preference for his shipping, while Lee, believing that his business would be destroyed, became the leader of the anti-British faction, at the risk of all that he had amassed.

By the 1770s war seemed inevitable, and Lee, the colonel of the large militia regiment of Marblehead, prepared his men by bringing in a drill instructor. He imported munitions and weapons through his overseas contacts and traveled in Maryland and Virginia to arrange for supplies and to encourage his counterparts there toward rebellion.

Col. Jeremiah Lee became an outspoken rebel politician and served as the chairman of the Essex County rebel congress in fall 1774, which issued its own demands similar to Boston’s Suffolk Resolves. In the councils of the Massachusetts rebel congress, formed in October 1774, Lee stood very high. By the spring of 1775 he was a leader of the rebel movement intent on driving the British army out of Boston.
Lee died in May 1775, not in battle but from an illness contracted in the stress of 19 April. In the following months, some of his ships ferried Col. Benedict Arnold’s men up to Maine while others became some of Gen. George Washington’s fleet of armed schooners.

Robert Booth is a Marblehead historian, author most recently of the books The Women of Marblehead (2016), a feminist history of the town in the 19th century; Mad for Glory (2015), about Americans in the Pacific in 1813; and Death of an Empire (2011), on the 1820s demise of Salem as a worldwide center of trade.

This talk is free, though donations to support the museum will be welcome. It will start at 6:00 P.M. in the rooms of the Marblehead Museum, 170 Washington Street, across the street from Lee’s own home. Reserve tickets through this page.

Following the talk, the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati will host a buffet dinner at the Boston Yacht Club, 1 Front Street in Marblehead. The price for the dinner is $46. People who wish to attend both the lecture and the dinner must make reservations in advance. Use this page to reserve seats before Sunday, 23 September.

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