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, 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.

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