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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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

More Maneuvering about the Manufactory

Boston 1775 readers might remember the conflict over the Manufactory House that occurred in October 1768, soon after the British regiments arrived in Boston.

The soldiers’ “siege” of the building was surprisingly short, given all the attention it received in Whig writing. But the legal and political argument over that event was still going on months later.

With all the soldiers in rented barracks, the argument shifted to the legality of royal appointees’ attempts to move the Brown family of weavers out of the Manufactory. And had the Massachusetts Council authorized those efforts in any way? Here’s the Boston Whigs’ report on a Council meeting on 28 Dec 1768:
The C——l met this day, and the G[overno]r renewed his request, that they would agreeable to the petition of Sheriff [Stephen] Greenleaf, indemnify said sheriff as to his conduct at the Manufactory-House, in the action brought against him by Mr. William Brown, and in order to shew the reasonableness of this requirement, he was pleased to tell the C——1, that in this business Mr. Greenleaf pursued their vote and did not act as sheriff ut as their bailiff, he having commissioned him so to do.
This is the first time I’ve seen the name “William Brown” linked to the Manufactory. Previous reports had referred to the weaver who was suing the sheriff as John Brown. This might be just an error, or this might be another member of the Brown family not previously heard from.

The writer of this newspaper dispatch got so caught up in describing this confrontation that he forgot to disguise the word “Council” in the next bit:
The Council were the more surprised at this demand, and G——rs assertion to support it, as he could not but remember, that when they first heard of the sheriff’s extraordinary procedure respecting the Manufactory-House; they were so alarmed as to have a meeting among themselves on the 22d of October last, when seven of the eleven of the Council, (six of whom, by continual application were drawn into the unhappy vote,) which were all whose presence could then be procured, waited upon the G——r and acquainted him that it was their unanimous opinion, that the whole procedure of the sheriff was expressly contrary to their intention in said vote, which was only general for the clearing the Manufactory-House for the reception of the troops after the barracks at the Castle should be full; and that they never had an idea of the sheriff’s making a forceable entry contrary to law; and that notwithstanding this application, the siege of the Manufactory was continued for about twelve days after:
I quoted Gov. Francis Bernard’s account of the Council meetings on those days here.
One of the C——l then asked the G——r whether the sheriff acted as bailiff when he sent for a number of the regulars to assist him when he forceably entered the said house, as part of the posse-comitatus, or whether a bailiff could legally do it; and it was then observed that this could not be done; the presumption, was that Mr. Greenleaf had acted only as sheriff in that business:

All that was offered by the C——1 did not discourage the G——r from exerting his influence in support of this officer, he insisted upon the question being put, and it was according put in words of the following import, viz. Whether the C——1 would take upon themselves the defence of said action on the part of the sheriff, or indemnify said sheriff.—To which question the C——1 replied in a manner that has brought as much credit upon themselves as it has cast reproach upon the G——r.

That they would not at present determine that question, the C——1 being of opinion that for them to do any thing that might give a bias, either to court or jury, would be extremely wrong: That for the C——1 now to determine, whether they would indemnify Sheriff Greenleaf, or would not indemnify him might give such a bias, and therefore they desire to be excused from giving any answer till the cause shall be determined in a court of justice.

It is said that the G——r was greatly mortified by the foregoing vote of C——1, and could not forbear expressing his resentment, by telling them that if he was in their place he should be ashamed of looking the sheriff in the face, and that their conduct would make an ill appearance on the other side the water, where they might depend it would be properly represented, and where he apprehended measures might be taken to procure justice to that officer.
Like so many times before, Gov. Bernard and the Council were at a stalemate.

This newspaper item also shows us how people used the phrase “on the other side the water” to mean over in Britain.

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