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, October 31, 2018

“The Negroes shall be free, and the Liberty Boys slaves”?

As I described back here, on the night of 28 Oct 1768 Capt. John Willson of the 59th Regiment was reportedly heard “to persuade some Negro servants to ill-treat and abuse their masters, assuring them that the soldiers were come to procure their freedoms.”

The next day and again on Monday, 31 October, the Boston selectmen’s official business included “Taking Depositions relative to Capt. Willson & Negros.” Selectman John Rowe’s diary confirmed that “they were all present” for the Saturday discussion.

One result of those meetings was officially that “The Several Constables of the Watch [were] directed by the Selectmen, to be watchful of the Negros & to take up those of them that may be in gangs at unseasonable hours.” Or as the Boston Whigs interpreted it for newspaper readers in other ports:

In consequence of the late practices upon the Negroes of this town, we are told that orders have been given by the Selectmen to the town watch, to take up and secure all such Negro servants as shall be absent from their master’s houses, at an unseasonable time of night.
It’s notable that the selectmen’s directive specified “those of them that may be in gangs” while the report for other colonies referred to “all such Negro servants.” In practice the watchmen probably were stopping all black people, in groups or alone, enslaved or free. Not that there was any real evidence for an incipient uprising.

The selectmen also took action in the court system. The Whigs’ “Journal of Occurrences” reported on 31 October, 250 years ago today:
The following complaint was regularly made this day, viz

to the worshipful Richard Dana and John Ruddock, Esqrs. two of his Majesty’s justice of the peace for the county of Suffolk, and of the quorum.

The subscribers Selectmen of the town of Boston, complain of John Willson, Esq; a captain in his Majesty’s 59th Regiment of foot, a detachment whereof is now quartered in the said town of Boston, under his command, that the said John, with others unknown, on the evening of the 28th day of October current, did, in the sight and hearing of divers persons, utter many abusive and threatening expressions, of, and against the inhabitants of said town, and in a dangerous and conspirative manner, did entice and endeavour to spirit up, by a promise of the reward of freedom, certain Negro slaves in Boston aforesaid, the property of several of the town inhabitants, to cut their master’s throats, and to beat, insult, and otherwise ill treat their said masters, asserting that now the soldiers are come, the Negroes shall be free, and the Liberty Boys slaves—to the great terror and danger of the peaceable inhabitants of said town, liege subjects of his Majesty, our Lord the King, and the great disturbance of the peace and safety of said town.

Wherefore your complainants, solicitous for the peace and wellfare of the said town, as well as their own, as individuals, humbly requests your worship’s consideration of the premises, and that process may issue against the said John, that he may be dealt with herein according to law.

Joshua Henshaw
John Rowe
Joseph Jackson
Sam. Pemberton
John Hancock
Henderson Inches
Boston elected seven selectmen, but only six signed this complaint to the magistrates. Who was the seventh? None other than John Ruddock, one of the magistrates who took the complaint. Bostonians must have known that he’d been in the discussion that led to that legal action before him. But people in other American ports wouldn’t have spotted that maneuver.

The next day, 1 November, the Whigs reported:
In pursuance of a complaint made to Mr. Justice Dana, and Ruddock, relative to Capt. Willson and others, a warrant was issued by those justices for taking up said Willson and bringing him before them, which was delivered to Benjamin Cudworth [1716-1781], a deputy sheriff of the county, who being opposed in the execution of it, applied to the high sheriff [Stephen Greenleaf], who with divers constables went to apprehand him; at first he also met with opposition from one of the officers, but the said Willson soon after surrendered himself to the sheriff, who brought him before the justices at Faneuil-Hall, which was crowded with people; and after the examination of divers witnesses upon oath, the complaint, was so well supported, that the justices ordered him to become bound with sufficient sureties for his appearance at the Superior Court in March next, to what shall then be alledged against him, touching the matters complained of, as also for his good behaviour in the mean time.
Sheriff Greenleaf had tried to seize the Manufactory for the Crown earlier in the month, but here he was taking Capt. Willson before the law. In both cases, Greenleaf was doing his main job to serve legal papers. (He wasn’t a peace officer the way we picture sheriffs in the Old West.)  The magistrates held their hearing in Faneuil Hall, “crowded with people,” which only a couple of days before had been crowded with troops.

John Rowe recorded the 1 November action in his diary, “Capt. Willson was carried before Justice Dana for some Drunken Behaviour & bound over to the Sessions.” Rowe had signed that formal complaint, of course. But privately he referred to Willson’s alleged incitement to bloody rebellion merely as “some Drunken Behaviour.”

As usual, Rowe was playing both sides. He spent part of that evening socializing with James Otis, William Molineux, and other Whiggish merchants and the rest at a gathering with Gen. Thomas Gage, Col. James Robertson, Col. William Dalrymple, Col. Maurice Carr, and other high-ranking army officers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Hagist on the Soldiers of the Boston Garrison, 1 Nov.

On Thursday, 1 November, Don Hagist will visit the site of Gen. George Washington’s main headquarters in Cambridge to speak about Washington’s adversary: “The Boston Garrison, 1775-1776.”

The event description:
We all have an image of the “embattled farmers” who served in the Continental Army, but who were the British soldiers? What sort of men filled the ranks of the regiments that fought for the King? Far from ruffians or conscripted criminals, the British army of the era was largely a force of career soldiers who had voluntarily enlisted after trying their hands at other trades.

This talk will look at the demographics of a typical British regiment serving in Boston in 1775 and 1776, presenting the nationalities, ages, background and experience of the common soldiers that served in it. It will show the diversity of the army by detailing the careers of several individual soldiers. The real stories of these professional soldiers are sure to be surprising.
Don Hagist is the author of British Soldiers, American War, collecting the few surviving first-hand accounts of British soldiers fighting in America, and of his similarly-named blog, British Soldiers, American Revolution. He’s also the managing editor of the Journal of the American Revolution.

This lecture is free, but to reserve a seat call 617-876-4491 or email reservationsat105@gmail.com. It will start at 6:30 P.M. in the carriage house at the back of the Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge. Parking on site is limited to a couple of spots for handicapped drivers, but after 6:00 P.M. the street-parking regulations in the neighborhood loosen up.

Monday, October 29, 2018

“Fanueil-Hall was cleared of the troops”

Back on 1 Oct 1768, the selectmen of Boston told Lt. Col. William Dalrymple that he could house His Majesty’s 14th Regiment of Foot in Faneuil Hall.

(The picture of Dalrymple here is a caricature from 1804 after he had retired from the army and gone into politics.)

Of course, Dalrymple had asked for that lodging only “till Monday following, promissing upon his honor to quit said Hall at that time.”

And then on 4 October, the day after he’d promised to leave, the colonel “asked the favor of having the further use of Faneuil Hall till Wednesday next, when he would withdraw his Troops from thence.”

Then the next day he sent word “that it was not in his power To remove the Soldiers from Faneuil Hall” until barracks were ready.

Since most of Boston’s politicians were determined to force all the soldiers into the barracks on Castle Island, and Col. Dalrymple and Gov. Francis Bernard were determined to keep them in Boston proper as the Crown had ordered, that stalemate remained.

On 21 October, Boston’s seven selectmen voted to order this letter sent to Dalrymple:
I am directed by the Board of Selectmen to address you by Letter, Requesting that Faneuil Hall which is now occupied by part of your Regiment, and was to be cleared agreeable to your assurances when desired, may be delivered up this Day or to Morrow

By Order of the Selectmen.
William Cooper Town Clerk
It took almost another week, until 27 October, before the Cooper could log in a response:
The Selectmen received this Day a Message from Collo. Dalrymple, by Mr. [John] Rowe, acquainting them, that the Hall should be cleared & delivered this Evening agreeable to their requirement
The Boston Whigs happily reported in their “Journal of Occurrences” for that day: “This day Fanueil-Hall was cleared of the troops and delivered up to the Selectmen by Col. Dalrymple.”

In Boston Under Military Rule, a 1936 compilation of that “Journal,” Oliver M. Dickerson noted that the same item was dated 26 October, or one day earlier, when it was eventually reprinted in the Boston Evening-Post. He concluded that that was the correct date for the troops’ move.

But actually the move appears to have taken longer—until 29 Oct 1768, or 250 years ago today. On that day selectman Rowe, the liaison to the army command, finally wrote in his diary: “This day the Troops went from Fanewill Hall into the Barracks.”

The next day the Whigs reported more news in their “Journal”: “Last evening the encampment on the Common broke up, and the soldiery [of the 29th Regiment] retired into winter quarters in this town, but by whom they have been quartered remains yet to be enquired.” So all the soldiers were under roofs for the winter.

COMING UP: Where had all the troops gone?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

“They should be able to drive all the Liberty Boys to the devil”

Back on 12 October, I quoted the Boston Whigs’ complaint about Capt. John Willson of the 59th Regiment of Foot keeping a man confined for enticing a soldier to desert.

On the evening of 28 Oct 1768, 250 years ago today, Capt. Willson offered Bostonians a new reason to complain about the royal government’s decision to station troops in their town.

In a dispatch dated the next day, the Boston Whigs declared:
…the most atrocious offence and alarming behaviour was that of a captain, the last evening, who in company with two other officers, endeavoured to persuade some Negro servants [i.e., slaves] to ill-treat and abuse their masters, assuring them that the soldiers were come to procure their freedoms, and that with their help and assistance they should be able to drive all the Liberty Boys to the devil; with discourse of the like import, tending to excite an insurrection.

Depositions are now taking before the magistrates, and prosecutions at common law are intended, the inhabitants being determined to oppose by the law such proceedings, apprehending it the most honourable as well as the most safe and effectual method of obtaining satisfaction and redress; at the same time they have a right to expect that General [Thomas] Gage will not remain an unconcerned spectator of such a conduct in any under his command.—

Here Americans you may behold some of the first fruits springing up from that root of bitterness a standing army. Troops are quartered upon us in a time of peace, on pretence of preserving order in a town that was as orderly before their arrival as any one large town in the whole extent of his Majesty’s dominions; and a little time will discover whether we are to be governed by the martial or the common law of the land.
As a society with slaves, Boston feared the prospect of rebellions—probably not in the form of a town-wide insurrection, since the black population was so relatively small, but within households. White slaveowners remembered examples of people poisoned by servants kept in bondage.

The Boston Whigs also knew that the cities to the south receiving their newspaper dispatches had larger enslaved populations and thus even more fear about those people rebelling. As with the stories of white soldiers scourged on the Common by black drummers, publicizing the case of Capt. Willson would bring them sympathy from other colonies.

[Image above from the 1 Sept 1768 Boston News-Letter via the Adverts 250 Project’s compilation of every newspaper advertisement mentioning slavery in colonial America.]

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Events to Remember Abigail Adams

Earlier this week I attended the launch of the “Remember Abigail” commemoration, a yearlong series of events honoring Abigail Adams.

We’re in the midst of some dates related to Adams: her wedding anniversary (25 Oct 1764), her death (28 Oct 1818), and her husband’s birthday (30 Oct 1735, N.S.). In addition, her own birthday was 22 Nov 1745, N.S.

The launch took place at the Massachusetts State House, and the Massachusetts Historical Society, home of the Adams Family Papers, was a host. But a lot of the participating organizations are on the South Shore where Adams lived most of her life: the Abigail Adams Historical Society, First Church, and public library in Weymouth; Adams National Historical Park, the Thomas Crane Public Library, and United First Parish Church (“Church of the Presidents”) in Quincy; and the Hingham Historical Society.

The first public events are scheduled for this weekend, but with today’s poor weather report they’re now all slated for Sunday, 28 October.

10:00 to 11:00 A.M.
Commemoration of Abigail Adams’s Death
Join the Abigail Adams Historical Society, stewards of the Abigail Adams Birthplace, as we mark the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Abigail Adams’s death with a special service and readings commemorating her remarkable life. The First Church in Weymouth is one of the oldest continuing congregations in the United States and the church where Abigail Adams's father, Reverend William Smith, served from 1734 to 1783.
At the First Church in Weymouth, 17 Church Street in North Weymouth; cosponsored by the Abigail Adams Historical Society. No reservations necessary.

10:00 A.M. to 12:00 noon
Adams Family of Boston Walking Tour
Follow the words and history of four generations of Adamses. John, Abigail, and their descendants were prolific writers. The trove of documents they left behind intimately describe their lives, public service, and Boston from the eve of the Revolution to the turn of the twentieth century.
Tickets from Boston By Foot; $15, or $5 for B.B.F. members.

1:00 to 3:00 P.M.
Boston Women’s Memorial 15th Anniversary
Join us as the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail celebrates the 15th anniversary of the Boston Women’s Memorial on the Commonwealth Mall. Festivities will include the reflections by Mercy Otis Warren, Arbour Tanner, and Elizabeth Brown Blackwell on their friendships with the memorial’s figures: Abigail Adams, Phillis Wheatley, and Lucy Stone.
On Commonwealth Mall between Fairfield and Gloucester.

Check the RememberAbigail.org website for upcoming events through November 2019.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Merriams of Mason, New Hampshire

Yesterday we left Sarah and Abraham Merriam in Lexington at what might have been a low period of their marriage.

Their son Jonas died in 1772. In 1773 the confession of Levi Ames, hanged for burglary, suggested that Abraham had given Ames all the information he needed to rob Sarah’s father, Daniel Simonds. In 1774 Abraham Merriam was assessed as one of Lexington’s poorest men.

In 1775, of course, the first fatal shots of the Revolutionary War were fired in Lexington. Over the next few years, Abraham Merriam or his namesake eldest son, born in 1757, served several stretches in the army and Massachusetts militia, often as substitutes for other men. That was one way poor men could support themselves.

In April 1776 Daniel Simonds died, followed two months later by Abraham’s father, Jonas Merriam. The couple may have inherited some property, or might simply have been relieved of the burden of caring for an elderly relative.

That same year, Sarah gave birth to the couple’s last recorded child, Zadock. That offers our first evidence that the Merriams were still together as a couple.

Sarah Merriam’s older sister Mary was mother to Benjamin Mann of Woburn. In the early 1770s he moved just over the province’s northern border to Mason, New Hampshire, which is celebrating its sestercentennial this year. Mann returned to Massachusetts as a captain in the Col. James Reed’s Continental regiment, seeing action at Bunker Hill, and he stayed in the Continental Army through 1776. Back in Mason, he served in many town offices.

Over time many of Mann’s relatives joined him in Mason. His 1773 house, shown above, remains the town’s anchor, home of the selectmen’s offices, historical society, and library.

About 1780 Sarah and Abraham Merriam and their children moved to Mason as well. Abraham’s last military service was linked to that town. The family settled “on the Wilton road” on part of the land granted to Mann. Most of the Merriam children married in Mason, though the youngest, Zadock, appears to have gone to Boston.

According to the Mason town records, “Mr. Abraham Merriam” died in that town on 26 Nov 1797. Sarah, “Widow of Abraham Merriam, [aged] 69 y.”, died there on 12 Sept 1807. Their life doesn’t seem to have been easy, but they did stick together, and they appear to have found a measure of stability in post-independence New Hampshire.

(Bonus trivia: Benjamin Mann was both an uncle of John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman and the father-in-law of Samuel “Uncle Sam” Wilson.)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Abraham Merriam and “envy against his father-in-law”

Yesterday I noted Sarah McDonough’s recent blog post for the Lexington Historical Society about how the notorious Levi Ames had robbed the house of the Rev. Jonas Clarke in the spring of 1773.

Alexander Cain, who knows more than a bit about Lexington, also wrote about Ames’s nefarious activity in that town last March at Historical Nerdery.

Cain drew particular attention to this passage from Ames’s autobiographical confession:
I stole ten or eleven dollars from Mr Symonds, of Lexington, whose son-in-law, Mr. Meriam, while I was in prison, informed me where the money was and how to get it, but he never received any of it; I supposed he gave me this information through envy against his father-in-law, through whose means he was then confined for debt.
Naturally, I was curious about the family dynamics there. Who were “Mr Symonds” and “Mr. Meriam”? Did a man put his son-in-law in jail for debt? Did the debtor just grouse about all the money his wife’s father had at home, or was Ames accurate about his fellow prisoner wanting him to rob a particular house?

Cain quoted a line from Clarke’s diary offering one lead: “Mr. Joseph Simond’s House broke open his watch stolen &c.” However, the only Joseph Simonds I could find in town that year, a militia lieutenant during the siege of Boston, was too young to have had a son-in-law. In addition, Ames was clear about robbing “ten or eleven dollars from Mr Symonds,” not a watch.

Instead, I think Ames’s victim was Daniel Simonds (1693-1777), whose daughter Sarah (1739-1805) married Abraham Merriam (1734-1797). There were a lot of Simondses and Merriams in and around Lexington at the time, but this family seems like the best candidate for that tale.

Ames spoke of two stretches in jail (or “goal,” as New Englanders then spelled it) before his final one. Once he was jailed “at Cambridge,” and once he was “in Concord goal.” Ames didn’t specify dates or when he met “Mr. Meriam,” but both those jails served Middlsex County, which included Lexington and its neighbors.

Though born in Lexington, Alexander Merriam was listed as “of Concord” when he married Sarah Simonds on 22 Apr 1756. The couple had children on a regular schedule: Abraham (1757), Ezra (1760), Silas (1762), Sarah (1766), Jonas (1769), Abigail (1772), and so on.

Notably, two of the last three children were listed in the Lexington town records as having been born in Woburn. The Merriams were living in one town while attending church in another. For a farmer to do that suggests that Abraham didn’t own enough land to support himself and was working for someone else.

Indeed, in a 2012 report for the Lexington Historical Society titled Research for the Re-Interpretation of the Buckman Tavern, Lexington, Massachusetts: Conceptions of Liberty, Mary B. Fuhrer discussed Abraham Merriam among the “Truly Poor Men in Lexington’s 1774 Valuation.” She wrote:
Abraham Merriam, 40, was one of six sons. His father Jonas was still alive in 1774, but appears to have sold his land. Since all of Abraham’s brothers moved away by 1774, it is probable that his father sold his estate and divided it equally among his many sons to allow them to purchase frontier estates elsewhere. . . . This appears to be a case where there were simply too many sons to allow any one to be favored with the homestead and still have enough resources left to provide for all the others.
We get another glimpse of Abraham Merriam’s financial situation in this document owned by the Lexington Historical Society and nicely digitized for our enjoyment. It’s a bond dated May 1771, by which Merriam borrowed £100 from Benjamin Waldo of Boston, promising to pay that sum back with interest within a year or be liable for £200. Waldo was a well established merchant captain and fireward. One of the witnesses to that bond was Daniel Simonds, Merriam’s father-in-law.

On the back of that document are notations of the payments Waldo received. None came from Abraham Merriam (at least directly), and none came on time. Instead, the first payments starting in 1774 were from Nathaniel Simonds, Sarah Merriam’s brother.

Was this the debt that landed Abraham Merriam in jail? Or was this big loan an attempt to consolidate debts after a jail term and start over? What responsibility did Daniel Simonds bear for that debt—did he push his son-in-law into taking out that loan, or was his son-in-law simply upset that the older man didn’t dip into the pile of cash in his house to repay it? Did Jonas Merriam sell his son Abraham’s inheritance to get him out of debtor‘s prison? Barring more family documents, we won’t know.

And how did that situation appear to Sarah Merriam? In 1772 her son Jonas died, but she still had five children to care for, including a newborn. Abraham had evidently been in debtor’s prison at least once. And then in 1773 Levi Ames’s confession was published, airing the accusation (no doubt easily deciphered by folks in Lexington) that her husband had set up her father to be robbed.

TOMORROW: Can this marriage be saved?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Levi Ames and the Clarke Family’s Silver

The Revolution250 coalition has a Twitter account and a Facebook page. I’m one of the people who contributes to those feeds, promoting upcoming events and celebrating past ones, like the “Boston Occupied” reenactment earlier this month.

Last year, I started posting a “resource of the day,” sometimes an upcoming event exploring Revolutionary Massachusetts but more often a website or quotation pegged to a past happening on that date. I figured that would keep the accounts active even when we don’t have a big commemoration to crow about. Sometimes the challenge is coming up with a proper event and link; sometimes it’s choosing among several possibilities.

In August the news of the day was the capture of a young criminal named Levi Ames in 1773. Then, drawing on the notes kept by Boston printer John Boyle, the Rev250 feeds noted each milestone in Ames’s legal journey through trial, sentencing, and hanging. For his story in detail, visit Anthony Vaver’s Early American Crime.

Those Rev250 postings caught the eye of Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager at the Lexington Historical Society. This week on the society’s staff blog she shared a local link to the story that Boyle didn’t mention:
It wasn’t until May 22nd of 1773 that Ames made it to Lexington. He went straight for homes with money, starting with Reverend Jonas Clarke. While the family was asleep, recovering from a measles outbreak, Ames broke into the home and stole Lucy Clarke’s wedding silver, including a tankard, pepper box, and sugar tongs. The spree continued over the next few months, until the burglar was caught in August with stolen goods belonging to a man named Martin Bicker.
And that was when Rev250 took up the tale. But another strand of Ames’s story leads back to the Clarke house in Lexington (shown above):
After hearing of the sentencing, Reverend Clarke travelled to Boston to convince Ames to repent before his execution. We now know Clarke as a dynamic public speaker, but this was one of his greatest achievements – not only did he convince Ames to confess to stealing the family silver, but Ames also revealed where it was hidden, and Clarke happily returned home with his stolen goods that same day.
Richard Kollen discusses Clarke’s perspective on events in the biography The Patriot Parson of Lexington, Massachusetts.

TOMORROW: More digital detection about Ames in Lexington.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Call for Papers at 2019 Book History Conference in Amherst

The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (S.H.A.R.P.) will hold its 27th annual conference in Amherst, Massachusetts, from Monday, 15 July, to Thursday, 18 July 2019.

The conference theme is “Indigeneity, Nationhood, and Migrations of the Book,” and here is the call for submissions:
What is the role of place in book history: from “native tongue” to “Native writing,” author’s homeland to author’s house, sites of reading to websites? Print capitalism has been adduced as a factor in the consolidation of vernaculars and national literatures and the rise of the national imaginary from Europe to its colonial regimes. Rather than viewing the relation between indigenous and European communication practices as a hierarchical and sequential one of center and periphery—“literacy” replacing “illiteracy” (whether dismissed as “inferior” or eulogized as “authentic”)—what could we learn by instead exploring it as one of encounter and continuing evolution?

Consider the setting for SHARP19: New England—the very name connoting old and new “worlds”—was at once native land for the original inhabitants, with their established social and communication systems, and a site in which European settlers, rather than simply replicating the homeland (making a “new” England), created out of many sources and influences a different, distinctly American culture. Successive generations of arrivals—from captive Africans and indentured Asians to voluntary, if often unwelcome, immigrants—writing in their mother tongues or in English, transformed the very notion of an “American” language and literature. Alfred Kazin, son of Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Russia, provocatively entitled his pioneering 1942 study of modern American prose, On Native Grounds. How have literacy and print functioned here and around the world on a spectrum including oppression, resistance, assimilation, and dialogue?

We invite book historians to train their eyes on indigenous cultural practices, national literatures, colonized and colonizing texts, landscapes and sites of literary life, and textual migration and exchange in a global context.
S.H.A.R.P. sessions are generally ninety minutes long, consisting of three 20-minute papers and a discussion period. Proposals must include a title, abstract (250 words maximum), and short biography of the presenter (100 words). Proposals for full panels must also include a panel title and abstract (250 words) as well as information about each paper in the panel. The organizers welcome “lightning talks, posters, and digital project demonstrations,” with the same requirements as paper proposals. The submissions window closes on 1 December. For more details, see the call page.

Monday, October 22, 2018

“The Soldiers were withdrawn”

On 22 Oct 1768, 250 years ago today, the Boston Whigs had a surprise to report:
This morning we are told that the sheriff [Stephen Greenleaf], whom to carry on the allusion we will call the General, has raised the siege of the Manufactory, with the trifling loss of all his honour and reputation—the troops were withdrawn under cover of the night, and it is hoped as the season is now advanced, that they will be soon ordered into winter quarters at Castle Island; sufficient supplies have however been sent into the Manufactory to serve in case the attack should be renewed
Gov. Francis Bernard explained the action in a report to the Secretary of State in London. First he blamed his Council, but then he acknowledged:
…the building not being immediately wanted, The Soldiers were withdrawn on the Evning of the Second day. Thus this building belonging to the Government & assigned by the Governor & Council for his Majesty’s Use, is kept filled with the Outcast of the Workhouse & the Scum of Town to prevent it’s being used for the Accommodation of the Kings Troops[.]
Thus the big confrontation over the Manufactory came to an end.

To be sure, army sentries remained in the cellar of the building, causing some difficulty for the Brown family of weavers. Those soldiers would not be pulled out until 4 November. John Brown filed his lawsuit against Sheriff Greenleaf on 24 October, and that would linger in the courts for the rest of the year. But the threat to the families inside the Manufactory was over.

Bostonians had stood up against the royal officials’ demands. Those officials shied from going beyond the widely accepted bounds of British law and from provoking violence. The result was that the local Whigs felt they had won a round. So of course they felt encouraged to do it again.

The town retained the memory of that confrontation—in a way. In August 1785, a former overseer of the Manufactory died at the age of sixty-five. The Massachusetts Centinel called him “An honest man—the noblest work of God.” The 15 September Independent Chronicle went on at length about his virtues. And his gravestone in the Granary Burying Ground read:
who in Octr 1769, during 17 days
inspired with
a generous Zeal for the Laws
bravely and successfully
opposed a whole British Regt.
in their violent attempt
to FORCE him from his
legal Habitation.
Happy Citizen when call’d singley
to be a Barrier to the Liberties
of a Continent.
That was, of course, the wrong date for the Manufactory siege.

(Elisha Brown’s gravestone above photographed by Wally Gobetz, via Flickr.)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

“The siege of the Manufactory House still continues”

Yesterday we left the Manufactory building (shown above in its role as the Massachusetts Bank in the 1790s) under siege by British troops, who themselves were surrounded by townspeople. The crisis over where those soldiers would spend the winter had come down to that one big building beside the Common.

Dr. Thomas Young’s dispatch for the Boston Gazette reported:
Friday morning bread and butter were denied, and no person allowed to speak to them for several hours. The sick were denied the visits of their physicians, and Dr. [Benjamin] Church’s apprentice in the afternoon had several pushes with a bayonet as he was attempting to convey them medicines.
For outside consumption the Boston Whigs described the next moves:
The siege of the Manufactory House still continues, and notwithstanding one of their bastions has been carried by assault; the besieged yet shew a firmness peculiar to British Americans:

The children at the windows crying for bread this morning, when the baker was prevented supplying them by the guards, was an affecting sight. Some provision and succours were however afterwards thrown into the Castle with the loss of blood, but no lives.
Back to Dr. Young in the Gazette:
Some gentlemen deploring the imminent ruin of their country, & fearing some ill consequences from the resentment of the people, who had been insulted by the guards, kept with them to moderate ’em, while others laid before the members of his Majesty’s council the distress & danger they conceived the people subjected to by the unprecedented actions of the sheriff.
The Whigs provided this account of the Council meeting:
The Council met in the forenoon at the G——rs, those of them who were in the late vote greatly disturbed, that such an illegal method should be taken by the G——r to carry it into execution, they were still more disturbed at the treatment received. Council met in the afternoon at their own chamber, and are to meet again on the morrow. The C——l have been really in a most uncomfortable situation for some time past, tho’ very frequently called together by the G——r, it is rather to give a colour and countenance to what he had done or is projecting, than to receive their information and advice.
Dr. Young:
The council assembled, and after some deliberations waited on his Excellency, and signified that their advice to clear the factory intended no more than to clear it by law. His Excellency said it appeared to him to empower him to clear it as he most conveniently cou’d:
Gov. Francis Bernard described that discussion this way: “some of the Council declaring that it was not intended to use Force, altho’ they knew that it could not be done without.”

Evidently the Council’s majority now said that they had authorized the governor to evict the Brown family and others from the Manufactory by law, taking them to court if necessary, but not by physical force. Of course, that would hardly have solved the army’s immediate need for housing. But it cast a little more doubt on the legality of the sheriff’s and army’s actions the previous afternoon.

So the royal government eased back a little. Dr. Young reported, “it seems the consequence of this meeting was a recall of the troops about 7 that evening, leaving only a small guard in the cellar, and one or two at the window.” The Whigs claimed: “In the evening terms of accomodation were proposed to Mr. [John] Brown of the Manufactory, but rejected with disdain.” The siege continued, just less intensely.

Meanwhile, “Col. [William] Dalrymple was required by the Selectmen to remove from Faneuil-Hall this day or on the morrow, agreeable to his word of honour, the troops which have occupied it for too long a time already.”

TOMORROW: But where could all those troops go?

Saturday, October 20, 2018

“This day the Sheriff got into the Factory House”

On 20 Oct 1768, 250 years ago today, John Rowe wrote in his diary:
This day the Sheriff got into the Factory House.
That line left out a lot of drama, I have to say.

According to the Boston Whigs, the day began with the royal governor pressing yet another set of officials—this time the men he and his predecessors had appointed as magistrates—into using their authority to find quarters for army regiments:
This morning the justices of the town were called upon to meet the Governor [Francis Bernard], General [Thomas] Gage, and King’s-Attorney [Jonathan Sewall], at the Council Chamber; when met the Governor required of them to provide quarters for the troops in this town, but received for answer, that they apprehended that this application did not then come properly before them.
Out at the Manufactory, the Boston Gazette reported, Sheriff Stephen] Greenleaf was observing the building with a neighbor who supported the royal government, Dr. Silvester Gardiner (shown above). Those men noticed that, as I wrote yesterday, some workers in the Manufactory’s cellar were leaving a window open so they could go out to the courtyard easily.

Sometime after noon, the sheriff made his move. After “one of the workers had just gone out,” Greenleaf hurried over to follow him inside. The young man “turned hastily” and tried to close the window. The sheriff “attempted to get his fingers under the sash.” In the struggle, “a square of glass [was] being bent in.” In a little while Sheriff Greenleaf’s “much superiour strength and formidable appearance,” with “drawn sword, menacing speech and actual violence,” scared the worker away.

The Gazette report went on:
the sheriff returning to the sash, forced it up, and entered feet foremost with sword in hand. Mr. Brown then at some distance in the cellar hearing the scuffle and the glass break, hastened to the window, but a loom intervening, the sheriff had fully forced entry before mr. Brown could oppose him. A small scuffle happened between them, in which neither party received much harm.

Two of the sheriff’s deputies with his servant following, he sent one of the deputies to the officer of the piquet with a written order to come with his guard to the factory immediately. On his arrival the sheriff ordered him to place two centinels at each door, two or more at the gate, and ten in the cellar, then read him a paper, giving him full possession of the yard, charging him to let any one come out of the house, but none go in.

Finding the people gather fast about the gate, he issued orders for another company, the posting of which gave the compleat idea of a formal blockade.
According to Harbottle Dorr, that account came from Dr. Thomas Young. That radical physician might have actually been inside the Manufactory at the time, as he had been the day before.

Gov. Bernard put more blame on the people inside the building:
Upon a third attempt The Sheriff finding a Window open entered: upon which the people gather’d about him & shut him up; he then made a signal to an Officer without, who brought a party of soldiers who took possession of the yard of the building & releived the Sheriff from his Confinement.
On the other hand, the Boston Whigs emphasized the sheriff’s violence:
About noon the inhabitants were greatly alarmed with the news that Mr. Sheriff Greenleaf, accompanied by the soldiery, had forced an entry sword in hand, into one of the cellars in the Manufactory-House; Mr. Brown one of the inhabitants, in attempting to disarm him, received several thrusts in his cloaths, the sheriff’s deputy entered with him; he then gave possession of the cellar to some of the troops:
In a legal complaint dated four days later, the weaver John Brown named the men taking over his rented home as “Stephen Greenleaf of Boston aforesaid, Esq; and Joseph Otis of said Boston, gentleman, together with divers other malefactors and disturbers of the peace of our said Lord the King.” Otis was the keeper of the jail and courthouse. Like Greenleaf, he was appointed, not elected. Unlike Greenleaf, he kept his position after the Revolutionary War began.

The Whig report continued:
A large number of soldiers immediately entered the yard, and were placed as centinels and guards at all the doors of the house, and all persons were forbid from going in and out of the same, or even coming into the yard. The plan of operation being as it is said to terrify or starve the occupants out of their dwellings.—

Great numbers of the inhabitants assembled to be eye witnesses of this attack of the sheriff, upon the rights of citizens, but notwithstanding they were so highly irritated at his conduct, there was no outrageous attempts made upon him or his abettor, the people having had it hinted to them, that our enemies in advising to this step, had flattered themselves with the hopes that some tumults and disorder would arise, which might be improved to our further prejudice.
Gov. Bernard’s version was: “This occasioned a great Mob to assemble with some of the Cheifs of the Faction. They were Very abusive against the Soldiers, but no Mischeif was done.”

And of course there was a legal argument going on in the midst of it all, per the Whigs:
The sheriff refused giving Mr. Brown a copy of his warrant or orders for this doing, and only referred him to the minutes of Council for his justification, a copy of which was also refused him. We now see that the apprehensions of the people respecting an ill improvement of the late vote of Council was not without just grounds.

This night the sheriff procured guards of soldiers to be placed at his house for his protection, a measure that must render him still more ridiculous in the eyes of the people.
All the while, Brown complained, he and his family had been “expelled, amoved, and put out” from their home.

Well, not the whole building. Though that “large number of soldiers” held the cellar, courtyard, and doors, there were still civilians inside the upper floors of the Manufactory, determined to stay. And “Great numbers of the inhabitants” surrounded the soldiers and the site.

TOMORROW: Would this stand-off lead to more violence?

Friday, October 19, 2018

“His honour the Lieut. Governor, condescended to come”

And speaking of Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson, on 19 Oct 1768—250 years ago today—he entered the conflict over the Manufactory House in Boston.

Even before the regiments arrived, some army officers had scouted that big, province-owned building for use as barracks. On the 14th Regiment’s first night in town, they had gathered outside it before moving to Faneuil Hall. Later, the young printer John Boyle pegged the news “The 29th. Regt. have laid Seige to the Manufactory-House for several days” to 12 October, though he may have set those words down years later and inaccurately.

Everyone knew the army wanted that building, and the royal authorities wanted them to have it. Everyone knew that the people inside, supported by local radicals, wanted to keep possession.

The Boston Whigs wrote in their “Journal of Occurrences” about 19 October:
The people dwelling in the Manufactory House, again secured themselves with bolts and bars. His honour the Lieut. Governor, condescended to come with Sheriff [Stephen] Greenleaf, and to use many arguments and devices in order to effect their removal; but he was plainly told, that it was their opinion and that of others, that they could not be legally turned out of doors in consequence, of the vote of Council, which was not an act of the General Court, and that it surely could not be intended that they should be ousted in any other way; to which his honour replied, that the remaining part of Government had given the order.
The 24 Oct 1768 Boston Gazette reported that this conversation took place with Brown and other people leaning out of the building’s hall windows and calling down to the royal officials. The sheriff also rapped on the east door of the building but got no answer.

In lieu of a warrant, Sheriff Greenleaf read out the minutes of the relevant Council meeting. Brown asked for a copy of that document. The sheriff said he would have to obtain one from the province secretary, Andrew Oliver. But that of course would mean Brown would have to leave the building.

In 1770 the Whigs brought up Hutchinson’s actions on that day, and he replied with a more detailed description of what he did and why:
The governor had for some days been endeavouring to prevail on the council to join with him in providing quarters for the troops: at length, the council advised that a house belonging to the province should be cleared, in part whereof one Mr. [Elisha or John] Brown remained a tenant at sufferance, and into other parts whereof, certain persons, some of them of bad fame, had intruded. The governor had been informed that these people had been instigated to keep possession of the house by force, notwithstanding the advice of council.

On Wednesday the 19th of October, he desired me to go to the house and acquaint the people with the vote or advice of council, and to warn them of the consequences of their refusal to conform to it; and he said he thought it probable they might be prevailed on to remove, and all further trouble would be prevented. The sheriff was directed to attend me.

I went and acquainted Mr. Brown with the determination of the governor and council, and told him that, in my opinion, they had the authority of government, in the recess of the general court, to direct in what manner the house should be improved, and advised and required him to remove without giving any further trouble.

He replied, that without a vote of the whole general court, he would not quit the house.

I told him he made himself liable for the damage which must be caused by his refusal, and he and his abettors must answer for the consequences.

I remember that two persons were in the house, and, whilst I was speaking to Mr. Brown, came into the yard. One of these persons, whose name I afterwards found to be Young, inserting himself in the business, I asked him what concern he had in the affair. His reply was, that he came there as a witness. Nothing material passed further, nor was anything said of my appearing as chief justice.

I returned to the governor, and informed him of the refusal of the people to quit the house; and upon his asking my opinion what was the next proper step, I acquainted him that the superior court was to be held at Cambridge, the Tuesday following, and that I thought it advisable to let the affair rest, and I would then consult with the other justices of the court upon it. I supposed it would rest accordingly, and went the same day to my house in the country [i.e., Milton]…
The man named Young was Dr. Thomas Young, one of the most radical of the Boston Whigs. He had come to Boston from the Albany region in the fall of 1766, attracted by the bigger, more politically active community. According to Harbottle Dorr, he wrote the Boston Gazette’s description of this day. In the next several months Young would rise to the top echelon of the Whigs, one of the two gentlemen seen as closely linked to the crowds in the streets.

It’s striking how the dispute over the Manufactory building was still hinging on a minute point of constitutional law: When the lower house of the General Court was not in session (because the governor had closed it early), could the governor and Council speak for the whole provincial government?

Brown the weaver said no; according to the Gazette, he stated that “his counsel were of the ablest in the province, and he should adhere to their advice be the consequences what they would.” Hutchinson the chief justice (though not a lawyer) said yes, but even then he planned to “consult with the other justices of the court” on how to proceed.

Meanwhile, the Gazette stated, Brown “kept his doors and windows shut.” However, some of the men who worked in the Manufactory cellar decided to “keep one of the lower [window] sashes moveable, to pass from the cellar to the yard.” Perhaps they needed to get to the outhouse.

TOMORROW: The sheriff returns.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Maneuvers Around the Manufactory

When Gov. Francis Bernard finally convinced his Council to agree to let the army use the Manufactory building as barracks, he knew that wouldn’t be the end of the issue.

He reported to London:
The next thing to be done was to clear the Manufactory-House, the preventing of which was a great Object of the Sons of liberty. For this purpose about 6 or 7 weeks before, when the Report of Troops coming here was first Confirmed, All kinds of people were thrust into this building; and the Workhouse itself was opened & the people confined there were permitted to go into the Manufactory-House. This was admitted to be true in Council by one of the board who is an Overseer of the poor and a principal therein.
Royall Tyler (father of the playwright who took the same name) was the one member of the Council who was also a Boston Overseer of the Poor. He was a strong Whig and a canny politician. Tyler and his colleagues later insisted that he’d never said anything about moving poor people around. But that wouldn’t be the last time a royal appointee claimed Tyler had said something inflammatory in a Council meeting and he indignantly denied ever saying it.

Bernard continued:
And after the Order of the Council was known Sevral of the cheifs of the Faction went into the Manufactory-house, advised the people there to keep possession against the Governors order & promised them support. And when some of them signified their intention to quit the House, they were told that if they did so they must leave the Town; for they would be killed if they staid in it.
Bernard didn’t specify the source of his information on what the Whigs were doing and saying. I’ve seen no evidence to support the governor’s claim that poor families were moved into the Manufactory building in September and intimidated into staying. The only tenants to speak out were from the Brown family of weavers, who had rented their space for years.

As for the Whigs themselves, on 18 Oct 1768 they reported the Council’s vote and added: “Notwithstanding the restrictions of the above vote, it proves very disagreeable to the people, who are not a little apprehensive that the G——r who it was thought, in a manner dragooned them into the same, will not fail to improve [i.e., use] it to their disadvantage.”

The Whigs did repeat a veiled threat, not to the people inside the Manufactory but to anyone who might lay out money to help the army fix up barracks and expect to be repaid by the province:
At the above Council a worthy member in reply to what the G——r had observed to Gen. [Thomas] Gage, respecting the vote of the 5th inst. for billetting the troops, told the General, that the proviso in that vote, viz. “That the person nominated to provide billetting must risque his being repaid therefor by the next General Court,” was made with great deliberation and with express design to prevent such person from being deceived by that vote into an apprehension, that it was in their power to procure a reimbursement for such advancements, but that it must be wholly left to the next General Assembly to do thereon as they might think proper.

If the troops quartered themselves upon us, directly contrary to an act of Parliament, can it be thought then, that any Assembly will ever defray the charge of billetting such troops.
In other words, the lower house of the General Court would get around to reimbursing such expenses right after they approved paying Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson for the damage to his house in 1765.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

“The whole was a Scene of perversion”

On 17 Oct 1768, 250 years ago today, Gov. Francis Bernard and Gen. Thomas Gage teamed up in the Town House to force the issue of where the king’s troops in Boston would live.

The governor later sent this report on their effort to the Secretary of State in London, Lord Hillsborough:
On Monday I called a Council in the Morning & introduced the General. He told them that He was resolved to quarter the two regiments now here in the Town & demanded quarters; and that he should reserve the barracks at the Castle for the Irish Regiments or such part of them as they would contain…
There were two more regiments on their way from Ireland. Bostonians called those units the “Irish Regiments,” but legally they were no different from other regiments of the British army. Most of their soldiers probably were ethnically Irish, but so were most of the soldiers and officers of the 29th Regiment, already in town.
After the General left the board I sat at it untill 8 o’clock at night, 2 hours at dinner time excepted. The whole was a Scene of perversion, to avoid their doing any thing towards quartering the troops, unworthy of such a body.

In the Course of the questions I put to them, they denied that they knew of any building belonging to the province in the Town of Boston that was proper to be fitted up for Barracks; and they denied that the Manufactory-House was such a building. This was so notoriously contrary to truth, that some Gentlemen expressed their concern that it should remain upon the minutes. And to induce me to consent to its being expunged, a Motion was made in writing that the Governor be desired to order the Manufactory-house to be cleared of its present inhabitants that it might be fitted up for the reception of such part of the two Irish Regiments as could not be accommodated in the Castle Barracks. This was Violently Opposed but was carried in the affirmative by 6 to 5: upon this I allowed the former Answers to be expunged.

This Resolution amounting to an Assignment of the Castle Barracks for the Irish Regiments effectually put an End to the Objection before made that no Quarters were due in Town untill the Castle Barracks were filled.
The Council thus narrowly agreed to the governor’s demands to turn over the Manufactory to the army. Its members were under pressure of several sorts:
  • The demand to support the troops with barracks was coming not just from Bernard but from Gen. Gage, commander-in-chief for North America.
  • The 14th Regiment had taken over the Town House and Faneuil Hall and, despite promises, showed no signs of leaving.
  • Winter was approaching, making the 29th Regiment’s tents on the Common less tenable.
  • Boston would soon be required to house four regiments plus a couple of additional companies.
Legally the Manufactory belonged to the province of Massachusetts. Legally the governor and Council together controlled that property (with the lower house of the legislature, which the governor had conveniently sent home back in June), so they had the aurhority to turn it into barracks.

But just because those men said the army could go into the Manufactory didn’t mean that everyone in Boston agreed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Upcoming Events of Interest in Salem and Taunton

Sometimes it’s good to get away from the crowded Boston Common of 1768, so here are a couple of interesting historical events taking place elsewhere in Massachusetts.

On Wednesday, 17 October, and then again on Wednesday, 24 October, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site will offer a special talk titled “Smuggling Stories from Captain Derby’s Wharf.” Richard Derby, Sr. (shown here), was a prominent Salem merchant captain whose sons Richard, Jr.; Elias Hasket; and John all played important roles in Massachusetts’s Revolution.

Drawing on recent research, park rangers will share real tales from the Salem waterfront, including:
  • The Crown’s seizure and auction of Fayal wine from the Derby warehouse in 1771.
  • The accidental sinking of the Crown’s Customs boat in the Salem harbor.
  • John Derby’s smuggling adventure on the Quero.
This free hourlong program is scheduled to start at 7:00 P.M. on Derby Wharf, 173 Derby Street in Salem. The park urges people to bring lawn chairs and blankets because the talk will be delivered outdoors near the water. (If the weather is particularly poor, though, I understand there’s an indoor site at the ready.)

On the weekend between those talks in Salem, Taunton is celebrating its “Liberty and Union” Festival, inspired by the British flag with that motto sewn onto it that local Patriots raised in 1774.

On Thursday, 18 October, public historian and landscape architect Tom Paine will speak at the Old Colony History Museum about “That Spark of Liberty: Robert Treat Paine and America’s D.N.A.” Tom is a sixth-generation descendant of Robert Treat Paine, the Taunton lawyer who became one of Massachusetts’s signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Tom will delve into the Paine family stories that inspired descendants of the Civil War Generation. He will discuss Paine’s years as the first Attorney General of Massachusetts, including his roles in crafting the world’s oldest modern constitution and the legal abolition of slavery in the state.

This talk is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 P.M. with the talk to begin at 7:00. The museum is at 66 Church Green in Taunton.

The town’s “Liberty and Union” celebration has already reportedly gotten under way with middle-schoolers sticking flags into people’s lawns. But the big day is Saturday, 20 October. There will be a walking tour of historic downtown Taunton starting at 11:00 A.M. at the Old Colony History Museum. At 11:30 a procession from the statue of Robert Treat Paine to the museum will end with the raising off a “Liberty and Union” flag. Meanwhile, there will be music and dance, games and pumpkin-decorating for kids, crafts demonstrations and historical reenactors. The complete list of activities is here.

Monday, October 15, 2018

“This afternoon General Gage arriv’d from New York”

The Boston Whigs’ dispatch for 15 Oct 1768 reported that the British army’s hunt for deserters had achieved results:
A deserter from the 14th Regiment was brought in the last evening by one of the decoy parties, sent into the country, also a labouring man from Roxbury, with a soldier’s regimentals on his back, he was confined for some time in a tent, without lawful warrant, and afterwards committed to prison by Mr. Justice [Foster] Hutchinson,—
Imagine the tyranny of the army confining a local farmworker for doing something as unsuspicious as wearing a soldier’s uniform!

But the big news 250 years ago today was that Gen. Thomas Gage had arrived from New York to see how the soldiers under his command were settling in. The Boston Whigs were actually glad to see him, or at least said they were:
This afternoon the troops were drawn up, on the Common, on the appearance of General Gage; at sunset there was 17 discharges from the field cannon; he passed the front of the battalion in his charriot, preceded by a number of aid de camps on horseback.—The arrival of this gentleman from N. York at this time, is a very agreeable circumstance, to the friends of their country; as his mild and judicious behaviour in that province, has been justly applauded; and he comes here determined to see and judge for himself.
Some New Yorkers would have disputed that judgment, though the biggest conflicts between soldiers and civilians there were still to come.

Deacon John Tudor wrote about the day:
This afternoon General Gage arriv’d from New York just before sunset when the Troops where drawn up in the common to receive him & his Retennu, 17 discharges from the field cannon was fir’d to honour him, who came in his Chariot & 4, his Aid de camps on Horseback, all together with the Regiments made a gallant Show; Many disputes arose between the Governor Council, Justices & Selectmen aboute Quartering & Biliting the Troops. 
Local elected officials were still pushing for the troops to be moved out to Castle William.

Merchant and selectman John Rowe had his own take:
General Gage arr’d from New York at Major [Robert] Byards at Roxbury. The regiments were under arms & made a Good Appearance. The General with his attendants came into Town abo. four P.M. The Artillery saluted with 17 Guns. They passed & marched along the Front of both Regiments & Capt. [John] Wilsons two Companies who were formed in the Center.
Robert Bayard, who appears to have hosted Gen. Gage the night before he came into Boston, was from a New York mercantile family. He had been a captain in the Royal American Regiment during the French & Indian War under Gen. James Wolfe. Bayard married Rebecca Apthorp, the youngest surviving daughter of Charles and Grizzell Apthorp, who had been Boston’s wealthiest couple. The Bayards had a daughter baptized in Boston in 1768, but Rebecca died four years later. Robert Bayard appears to have then returned to New York and married Elizabeth McEvers, who was both the widow of a partner in his family firm and another Apthorp daughter, thus his sister-in-law. The Bayards moved to Britain during the war, their New York properties confiscated. Elizabeth died in 1800, Robert in 1819, said to be the last British officer surviving from the Battle of Québec. But I digress.

Rowe’s diary entry for the next day says:
This morning I waited on Colo. [James] Robertson who came with Gen. Gage. He received me very Politely. I had a full hour’s discourse with him abo. the troops. I find him to be a Gentleman of Great Abilities & very cool & dispassionate. I took a walk & met Gen. Gage & Colo. [William] Dalrymple. Gen. Gage engaged me to wait on him tomorrow morning.
Robertson was deputy quartermaster general for the army in North America, the man in charge of ensuring the troops were housed and fed. Rowe was one of the Boston selectmen disputing about where those troops should live. But he was already renting space to army officers, pleased to meet with Robertson, and, as his diary reveals, eager to socialize with Gen. Gage.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Soldiers “scourged in the Common”

On 14 Oct 1768, 250 years ago today, the Boston Whigs renewed their ongoing complaint about the royal army taking over the seats of local government, and they highlighted another grievance:
The troops still keep possession of Faneuil Hall, the Court House, Representatives Chambers, &c, guards placed at the passage way into the town, near the Neck. Patrolling companies near the ferry ways, and parties sent into the country to prevent desertions:

In the forenoon one Rogers, a New-England man, sentenced to receive 1000 stripes, and a number of other soldiers, were scourged in the Common by the black drummers, in a manner, which however necessary, was shocking to humanity; some gentlemen who had held commissions in the army, observing, that only 40 of the 170 lashes received by Rogers, at this time, was equal in punishment to 500, they had seen given in other regiments.
As I discussed [gulp] eleven years ago, those “black drummers” came from the 29th Regiment. In 1759 its colonel received a batch of black teen-aged boys as a gift from his brother, an admiral. Being sent off to the army was probably a lucky break for those young men, given that they were already enslaved. It got them out of the death traps of Caribbean plantations, and they earned freedom and even a measure of status from their military service.

In eighteenth-century European armies, drummers were a crucial part of a regiment’s training and maneuvers, and military musicians could earn extra money through their unusual skills. The British army assigned another responsibility to each regiment’s musicians: they carried out corporal punishment on enlisted men.

Of course, in North America’s slave society, most people saw a black man whipping a white man as a dangerous inversion of proper order. The Boston Whigs had already complained, “to behold Britons scourg’d by Negro drummers, was a new and very disagreeable spectacle.” Writing for an audience in New York and points south, where slavery was a bigger institution and the enslaved population larger, the Whigs knew that this report would be provocative.

Another element of their complaint was the number of lashes that Rogers had to suffer. As strict as Puritans were, they adhered to Deuteronomy 25:3’s prohibition against giving a man more than forty strokes. In the king’s army and navy, however, a thousand lashes was not unusual (though they weren’t all applied on one day). And the Boston Whigs claimed this particular whipping was harsh even for the army.

Naturally, I was curious to know more about Rogers, the unfortunate soldier. Alas, the 29th Regiment was lousy at filing its muster rolls in this period. That paperwork was supposed to be done monthly. Instead, the commander’s company supplied one roll to cover all the time from 16 July 1765 to 24 Apr 1769, or “1379 Days.” Other companies were similarly lax. That makes it much harder to track individual men.

However, in the spring of 1769 the Boston Chronicle and several other New England newspapers ran an advertisement dated 23 May over the signature of brigade major Capt. Charles Fordyce. It announced that Gen. Alexander Mackay would pardon deserters who returned to the army by the end of June. However, the same ad promised three guineas to anyone who apprehended eighteen specified men “whose crimes are of such a nature, as to oblige him to exclude them from any promise of PARDON.”

One of the deserters beyond pardoning was Daniel Rogers of the 29th Regiment. He therefore looks like the best candidate for being the “New-England man” whipped on Boston Common seven months before. Perhaps he’d been convicted of theft or some other crime, or had already tried to desert. Either way, the whipping doesn’t appear to have kept him from leaving by May. As a New Englander, he had a better chance of finding sympathetic help and blending back into civilian society.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Halifax Reacts to the Occupation of Boston

In 1768 the royal governor of Nova Scotia, which included modern-day New Brunswick, was Lord William Campbell, shown here.

According to Emily P. Weaver’s 1904 paper “Nova Scotia and New England During the Revolution,” as of 1766 the royal government counted only 9,789 subjects in the whole province. This page from Statistics Canada gives the number 11,779. Either way, that was considerably smaller than Boston on its own.

That number didn’t include the soldiers stationed in the province or the crews of the Royal Navy ships that stopped at Halifax. Those men, and their families, were seen as transient. With such a small local population, however, they shaped the society greatly. Though Halifax had seen some anti-Stamp Act protests, it stayed close to the royal authorities through the Revolutionary turmoil. The Nova Scotia legislature ignored Massachusetts’s Circular Letter, for example.

On 25 June 1768, Gen. Thomas Gage sent important orders to the highest-ranking army officer in Halifax, Lt. Col. William Dalrymple of the 14th Regiment. Dalrymple was to consolidate all forces in the province and prepare them to sail to Boston. Gage wrote:
There is now at Halifax, one entire Regiment, and five Companies of another, and if you have Time to put the Orders in execution, which are transmitted to you, concerning the withdrawing the Troops from Louisbourg, St: Johns Island, and Fort Frederick, before any Requisition is made for the Aid of the King’s Forces; you will then have under your Command, and ready for immediate Service, a number of Troops equal to two Regiments, and three Companys.

You will embark therefore, if your Assistance is required, with the Whole, or any Part of those Troops, as Governor [Francis] Bernard shall demand, and if the Governor should be of Opinion, that it wou’d be requisite you should bring Artillery with you, the Detachment of the Royal Regiment of Artillery at Halifax, will be embarked at the same time, with such a Number of Pieces of Artillery, as they shall be Able to manage.

You will pay no Regard, in effecting this Service, to the leaving Halifax without Troops: it will be sufficient, that you leave there one Company, or a Detachment equal to a Company.
Gov. Bernard managed to slip out of demanding troops as Gage wanted him to do. Thus, he could claim to the Massachusetts Council that the decision to station soldiers in Boston came entirely from the Secretary of State in London, Lord Hillsborough, and he was merely following orders.

On 13 October, 250 years ago today, the Boston Whigs shared their understanding of how Halifax had experienced that redeployment:
A private letter from Halifax contains some particulars relative to the Boston expedition, not known before, viz. “That in consequence of orders received Sept. 11th, from this place, all the workmen in the King’s yard, necessary to equip the ships, were set to work on Sunday; a strict embargo laid, and guard vessels sent to the mouth of the harbour to prevent intelligence being sent, and more caution used than when fixing out for the Louisbourgh expedition; the embargo so strict, that an open shallop going a mackerel catching, was stopt and sent back to town; and that the troops embarked in as great hurry as was ever known in time of war.[”]—

What a tragi-commick scene is here presented! and how must it be viewed by European politicians?—

Another letter mentions, that as Halifax must sink without the support of troops and ships of war, some of their patriots were about erecting a liberty pole, and employing some boys to sing the Liberty Song through the streets, in hopes it may procure the return of those ships and forces or a larger number from Britain, in order to quell such disturbances.
If anyone from Halifax made such a remark, it was a joke. But the local economy really did depend on supplying the army and navy. On 12 September, the day after Dalrymple received his orders to sail, Lord William Campbell wrote to Hillsborough asking him to send those regiments back north as soon as possible. The royal governor warned that Nova Scotia’s “chief dependence was the circulating cash spent by the troops.”