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, January 30, 2019

“We have advice from New-York…”

The dispute over the Manufactory in Boston in late 1768 was so controversial that it managed to spark a secondary dispute in New York.

That city was already the British army’s main base of operations in North America, with tensions between soldiers and local working men. Its politicians argued with the royal authorities not over barracks (because those were already built) but over firewood that the Quartering Act required the local government to provide. So New York’s more radical Whigs were primed to support Boston in its resistance.

On 17 Nov 1768, John Holt’s New-York Journal, or the General Advertiser squeezed in this item at the end of its local news. And by “squeezed in,” I mean that this story was set in smaller type so it could fit into the column.
On Monday last a Report prevail’d that the Effigies of Governor [Francis] Bernard, and Sheriff [Stephen] Greenleaf of Boston, were to be exhibited that Evening:

At 4 o’Clock in the Afternoon, the Troops in this City appear’d under Arms, at the lower Barracks, where they remained till after 10 o’Clock at Night, during which Time Parties of them, were continually patrolling the Streets, in order it is supposed to intimidate the Inhabitants, and prevent their exposing the Effigies;

Notwithstanding which, they made their appearance in the Streets, hanging on a Gallows, between 8 and 9 o’Clock, attended by a vast Number of Spectators, who saluted them with loud Huzzas at the Corner of every Street they passed; and after having been exposed some Time at the Coffee-House, they were there publickly burnt, amidst the Acclamations of the Populace, who testified their Approbation by repeated Huzzas, and immediately dispersed, and returned to their respective Homes.—

The Affair was conducted with such Regularity and good Order, that no Person sustained the least Damage, either in his Person or Property.
Holt added a pointing finger and a line in italic type: “A Postscript to this Paper was intended, but could not be got ready.”

The Boston Whigs happily reported in December:
We have advice from New-York, that on the 14th inst. [i.e., of this month] there was exposed and burnt in that city, the effigies of G.B. and S. G. in resentment at the parts they acted in endeavouring to get the troops quartered in the town; contrary to the letter and spirit of the act of Parliament relative to billetting troops in America, as also to the advice of His Majesty’s Council.
But that celebration may have been premature.

TOMORROW: Government crackdown.

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