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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Friday, January 31, 2020

“Voted to proceed to the Business of the Meeting”

On 23 Jan 1770, as described yesterday, the Bostonians meeting about non-importation in Faneuil Hall received a letter from acting governor Thomas Hutchinson declaring their gathering to be illegal and ordering them to disperse.

In response, those men “unanimously voted to proceed to the Business of the Meeting.” Sheriff Stephen Greenleaf asked moderator William Phillips for a written message to take back to the governor. The meeting came up with this note, addressed to the sheriff:
It is the unanimous Desire of this Body, that you inform his Honor the Lieutenant-Governor, that his Address to this Body has been read and attended to, with all that Deference and Solemnity which the Message and the Times demand; and it is the unanimous Opinion of this Body, after serious Consideration and Debate, that this Meeting is warranted by Law: And they desire you to inform his Honor, that they had determined to keep Consciences void of just Offence towards God and towards Man.
In Smugglers and Patriots, John W. Tyler stated that letter was written in the fine hand of John Hancock (shown above). The previous week, he shied from leading a crowd to the governor’s house. Now Hancock was ready to stand at the front of the movement.

Before leaving, Greenleaf made sure to tell the people he wanted “to be considered in the Light only of the Bearer of his Honor’s Letter.” In other words, Hutchinson stood alone, his show of authority ending in a resounding defeat.

The “Body of the Trade” then proceeded through a series of votes. In response to accusations that someone had tried to burn down the store of importer William Jackson, the meeting offered a £100 reward for the arsonist. A further resolution suggested that an enemy of the community—Harbottle Dorr suggested it was Jackson himself—had planted the evidence of that crime.

Another resolution asked people “totally to abstain from the use of Tea upon any pretence whatever” since tea accounted for “the greatest Part of the Revenue” from the Townshend duties.

But the main business of the meeting was about naming and shaming the shopkeepers who were still defying the non-importation committee.

The first group was the merchants Jackson, Theophilus Lillie, John Taylor, and Nathaniel Rogers. The meeting deemed them “obstinate and inveterate Enemies of their Country, and Subverters of the Rights and Liberties of this Continent.” It declared that people should respond by “withholding not only all commercial Dealing; but every Act and Office of common Civility” from them. The resolution went on for a long time. You can read it here in the Boston Gazette.

Then the meeting turned to a second group of defiant businesspeople:
Most of those people were “strangers in this Country,” the meeting declared. They had “in the most insolent manner too long affronted this people, and endeavoured to undermine the liberties of this country.” Invoking Biblical language (Isaiah 51:1), the gathering declared “that they deserve to be driven into that obscurity, from which they originated, and to the hole of the pit from whence they were digged.”

The next day, Lt. Gov. Hutchinson wrote to Lord Hillsborough, the Secretary of State, about his attempt to stop the meeting. He said he’d spoken with Phillips, his Council, and the town’s justices of the peace about how such meetings would lead to “high treason,” but no one had agreed with him. He acknowledged his letter had failed to disperse the crowd. But Hutchinson insisted that “it made them more anxious to restrain all disorders.”

In the coming weeks, we’ll see how that worked out.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

An Order from the Governor: “seperate and disperse”

At ten o’clock on the morning of Tuesday, 23 Jan 1770, Boston’s “Body of the Trade” resumed meeting in Faneuil Hall. William Phillips was once again in the moderator’s chair.

The painter George Mason was present, not because he supported non-importation but because he was reporting on developments for Customs Collector Joseph Harrison. Mason wrote that the meeting
began with reading a long Letter from Philadelphia address’d to Mr. [John] Hancock, the purport of it was, that they generally adher’d to the non-importation Scheme. Extracts from this Letter has since been Publish’d in Edes & Gills Paper, but they have thought proper to omit the most material part, this was a proposal for a General Congress from all the Committees on the Continent
That would have been something like the Stamp Act Congress of 1765. It never happened. Instead, men in Faneuil Hall voted unanimously to have other parts of the letter published.

The gathering then took up the business of how to condemn four merchants who still refused to cooperate with the boycott: William Jackson, Theophilus Lillie, John Taylor, and Nathaniel Rogers. According to Mason, the proposed language went so far as to say, “those Gentlemen had commited hostilities against their Country, and were no aliens to the Commonwealth”—i.e., they were traitors.

In the midst of that pleasant discussion, Sheriff Stephen Greenleaf arrived with messages from Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson (shown above in his youth). The previous week, Hutchinson had surprised Phillips by saying that he would tell his sons to cooperate with the non-importation committee. Once he could no longer be accused of trying to protect his own kin, the acting governor felt he had more freedom to exercise his authority. So how was he bringing the hammer down?

First, Hutchinson told Phillips, “I send you a Paper herewith, and I expect from you that you forthwith cause it to be read.” Instead of obeying that instruction, the meeting “appointed a Committee of three Gentlemen, to peruse the Paper.” Only after that committee deemed the acting governor’s message worthwhile did Phillips read it to the whole crowd, exhibiting little deference to the authority of the Crown.

Hutchinson had written:
To the PEOPLE assembled at Faneuil-Hall.

I should be culpable if I should any longer omit to signify to you my Sentiments upon your Proceedings. Your assembling together for the Purposes for which you profess to be assembled, cannot be justified by any Authority or Colour of Law. Your going from House to House and making demands of the delivery of Property, must strike the People with Terror from your great Numbers, (even if it be admitted that it is not done in a tumultuous Manner) and is of very dangerous Tendency.

Such of you as are Persons of Character, Reputation and Property, expose yourselves to the Consequences of the irregular Actions of any of your Numbers who have been assembled together, altho’ you may not approve of them, and altho’ it may be out of your Power to restrain them.

Therefore as the Representative of his Majesty, who is the Father of his People, I must from a tender Regard to your Interest caution you: And as cloathed with Authority derived from his Majesty, I must enjoin and require you without Delay, to seperate and disperse, and to forbear all such unlawful Assemblies for the future, as you would avoid those Evils to which you may otherwise expose yourselves and your Country.
The governor of Massachusetts thus declared this gathering illegal and ordered the men inside Faneuil Hall to disperse. At the time there were still two regiments of the British army patrolling the town, answerable to Crown officials.

TOMORROW: The meeting’s response.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Ships, Fire, and Boston’s George Mason

In January 1770, as I mentioned back here, two sea captains were in Boston from Glasgow, trying to commission four new ships.

But because of the non-importation boycott against the Townshend duties, Boston’s business community wouldn’t let those Scotsmen sell the goods they had brought in to pay for those vessels.

On the morning of 20 January the two captains “set out for Newburyport to contract with the Mechanicks there for building their Ships.” Smaller ports didn’t have such strict non-importation movements.

The next morning brought an ominous discovery outside the building close to the Town House:
On Sunday early in the morning, several People observ’d a quantity of Charcoal lying under the Door of Mr. [William] Jacksons Shop, with some Chips that were partly burnt, the intent no doubt was to set his Shop on Fire, tho’ it very Providentially did not Succeed:

Their own Party say it was done by the Torys with a view to bring a Slur on the Characters of the Sons of Liberty, but I leave you to judge Sir, who are in reallity most capable of such a piece of notorious villainy.
Jackson was one of a handful of small merchants still defying the non-importation boycott. That said, trying to burn down his shop, or even just threatening arson by sticking burnt charcoal under his door, was especially ominous. As we learned from the Saga of the Brazen Head, the Jackson braziery (at a previous location) was where the town’s last huge blaze had started.

We don’t know the identify of the Crown informant whom I quoted about the non-importation meetings and other developments last week. But we do know who reported on the charcoal outside the Brazen Head. That man had arrived from Britain in late 1765 and placed this advertisement in the 18 November Boston Post-Boy:
George Mason, Limner, from LONDON, BEgs leave to inform the Public, That he draws Faces in Crayons, from one to two Guineas each; those Ladies and Gentlemen who are pleas’d to employ him, may depend on having a good Likeness. Specimens of his performance may be seen at Mrs Coffin’s Coffee-House, the bottom of King-street.
Neil Jeffares found Mason had advertised similar portraits plus art lessons in London the previous year (P.D.F. download).

Mason advertised again in the Boston Chronicle of June 7-11, 1768, still working out of Rebecca Coffin’s Crown Coffee-House:
George Mason, Limner, begs leave to inform the public (with a view of more constant employ) he now draws faces in crayon for two guineas each, glass and frame included. As the above mentioned terms are extremely moderate, he flatters himself with meeting some encouragement especially as he professes to let no picture go out of his hands but what is a real likeness. Those who are pleased to employ him are desired to send or leave a line at Mrs. Coffins near Green and Russel’s Printing Office and they shall be immediately waited upon.
In January 1769, a couple of months after the arrival of British army regiments, a South End innkeeper named Richard Silvester gave Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson a deposition accusing Samuel Adams, Dr. Benjamin Church, and other Whig leaders of saying and doing treasonous things. I don’t find Silvester’s stories completely convincing, but he also swore that “George Mason the Painter” could vouch for them.

Sometime that year, Customs Collector Joseph Harrison recruited Mason as a direct source of information. There’s no indication of whether Harrison was paying the painter, appealing to his patriotism as a native Briton, or calling on some other connection. But on 20 October Mason began a letter to the Customs official: “In compliance with your request; I now transmit to you, the proceedings that have happen’d in Boston since your departure…” More letters of that sort followed and are now in the Sparks Collection at Harvard.

It’s easy to understand why Customs officers cultivated informants in waterfront towns—so they could stop smuggling and tariff evasion. But Mason the pastel portraitist wasn’t privy to that sort of information. Instead, he, like Silvester and the unnamed informant, reported on Boston’s political developments. That shows how the Boston Customs office wasn’t just trying to enforce the taxes that Parliament had enacted. It was also tracking the political opposition to those taxes, and its men in London, such as Harrison, were trying to influence the Crown response to that opposition.

As for George Mason, he entered the Boston almshouse on 7 June 1773 and died on 21 June.

TOMORROW: Another public meeting.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Sampler of Bethiah Hastings

Yesterday Stacey Fraser at the Lexington Historical Society shared an image of a sampler from its collection and thoughts about its political significance.

“This sampler was completed by Bethiah Hastings of Lexington at age 8” in 1774, Fraser wrote. So how did the political boycotts of the era, leading up to the Continental Congress’s Association, affect her family’s ability to find silk thread and steel needles?

I got curious about what else Bethiah experienced. She was the seventh child of Samuel and Lydia (Todd) Hastings, who by that time were in their fifties and forties, respectively. A previous girl named Bethiah had died the year before she was born, and baby Thomas born in 1772 would die in late 1775.

Bethia’s father and her oldest brothers, Isaac and Samuel, Jr., were all members of the Lexington militia. Samuel, Sr., and Isaac were actually lined up on the town common when the British army columns arrived on 19 Apr 1775, the father said to have “stood at the right of the front line.” They survived.

Both men named Samuel Hastings saw duty during the siege of Boston. Samuel, Jr., enlisted in the Continental Army the following year and ended up in Gen. Charles Lee’s life guard before being wounded and captured along with the general. Isaac mobilized during Gen. John Burgoyne’s invasion from Canada and helped to escort the Convention Army of prisoners back to the Boston area.

The paterfamilias Samuel Hastings lived to be 99. His veteran sons also lived well into the nineteenth century.

In contrast, the daughter who made this sampler, Bethiah Hastings, died of consumption in 1786, shortly after turning twenty.

What’s more, within a two-year period all four of the other Hastings children who had survived to adulthood also died of consumption:
  • Lydia (1759-1788)
  • Hephzibah (1762-1789)
  • John (1764-1789)
  • Abigail (1768-1788)
That’s the pattern of unrelenting death that made a few New England families turn to disinterment and corpse-burning in a desperate attempt to ward off the disease, as I discussed earlier this month.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Elizabeth Powel and James McHenry Revisited

I’ve gotten some messages about this, so I might as well address it for posterity.

Back in March 2017, I wrote a series of postings about the anecdote of Benjamin Franklin telling a woman we the Constitutional Convention had established “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Some authors have been skeptical about that anecdote, but it appears at the end of the diary of convention delegate James McHenry, and he left enough notes to let us identify the woman as Elizabeth Powel. In his 2006 article “A Portrait of Elizabeth Willing Powell (1743-1830),” David W. Maxey quoted a letter Powel wrote about the anecdote in 1814.

That’s where I came in. By looking at newspapers, I identified why Powel was addressing the story—because McHenry had published it in the early 1800s during his political disputes with the Jeffersonian press. In fact, I discovered, McHenry had reshaped the anecdote for publication so that it reflected his Federalist fears about the republic falling to democracy rather than to monarchy.

Since then, I’ve gone to Philadelphia to look at Powel’s letter in full and determined that she was responding (in a roundabout way) to an inquiry from her nephew John. I didn’t find John Powel’s initial letter, which would show exactly what tale he was presenting to his aunt for her reaction. I hope to take another look.

In the meantime, McHenry’s use of the anecdote got some attention. In November, as I noted back here, Prof. Zara Anishanslin of the University of Delaware published an essay in the Washington Post citing the anecdote as an example of women participating in the American political discussion from the start. She couldn’t convince the Post editors to cite Boston 1775 by name, but she did include a link back to this posting. She alerted me by email and tweeted the original links.

Then the impeachment process heated up. Lots more people started quoting Frankin’s “A republic, if you can keep it.” On 18 December, the Post published a “factcheck” article by Gillian Brockell, staff writer for the paper’s history blog. It addressed the question, “Did Ben Franklin really say Impeachment Day’s favorite quote?” (Here’s a syndicated version in case the original is behind a paywall.)

In that article, Brockell cited what Zara Anishanslin wrote in her essay about McHenry’s publications. But the link back to my postings didn’t make the transition, leaving no way for readers to see the sources. Or, some observers noted, who had uncovered them.

Just last week I was wrestling with this same problem in newspapers from 1841, pondering whether Philadelphia’s Public Ledger was the first to publish a couple of anecdotes about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. One printer after another published those paragraphs without reporting where they’d come from. I found the Public Ledger only by using a newspaper database. And perhaps this posting will help someone track back the story of McHenry’s anecdote.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

An “Extraordinary Proposal” from Lt. Gov. Hutchinson

The political prospects of non-importation veered wildly back and forth in the middle of January 1770.

As I’ve been tracing, the month opened with the town’s initial public agreement not to import goods from Britain expiring, a few shopkeepers openly defying the boycott, and some wealthy merchants decidedly lukewarm on it.

Of the top merchants on the original non-importation committee, rumors said that John Hancock and John Barrett had become “cool in the cause.” Thomas Cushing and Edward Payne had “deserted” it. John Rowe had trimmed his sails so much he was dining with Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson.

To regain control, the town’s political organizers called a big public meeting, taking the movement away from the merchants and bringing in the wider public. In a show of popular support, hundreds of men massed outside one of the importers’ shops. At the end of 17 January, the acting governor’s sons, Thomas Hutchinson, Jr., and Elisha Hutchinson, told representatives of the meeting that they were once again willing to cooperate.

Just one day later, however, the Hutchinsons were back to being defiant. Their father told the crowd in the king’s name to disperse from outside his house. The people then visited six other importers, but they all refused to yield their goods. That evening, supporters of the royal government thought the boycott would soon fall apart.

But then the acting governor shifted his stance. On the morning of 19 January, according to a Crown informant, Hutchinson sent for William Phillips, the moderator of those public meetings (shown above), and a member of the merchants’ inspection committee. He “told them that upon consideration he was now ready to make his Sons deliver up to the Committee what they had in their store and the Cash for the part they had sold.”

The Crown source, who appears to have been reporting to Customs Collector Joseph Harrison, called the acting governor’s change an “extraordinary proposal,” a “sudden and unexpected step” that “struck every person with astonishment.” According to that observer:
it was well known that the most zealous partizans of the faction had given up all hopes of carrying their point the Night before, and that their only intention of meeting this day was to pass a few resolves to publish in the Newspapers as a justification of their Conduct to the other Collonies.
The informant might overstate how little hope the top Whigs had felt, but the governor’s cooperation was still an overnight reversal.

Bernard Bailyn’s Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson says nothing about this moment, which would soon be overshadowed by many other events of 1770. The best analysis seems to be in John W. Tyler’s Smugglers and Patriots.

It looks to me like Lt. Gov. Hutchinson felt that honor required his sons to cooperate with the non-importation committee for two reasons. First, Thomas, Jr., and Elisha had reached some sort of agreement on 17 January to turn over their tea. Their father reviewed the notes of that discussion. I suspect he felt that the young men were now duty-bound to stick to those terms.

Second, the acting governor knew he was vulnerable to charges of conflict of interest. If he took any steps to support the town’s importers, the Whigs could complain he was abusing his office to benefit his sons. Indeed, Hutchinson had invested a large chunk of money in his sons’ business. By taking Thomas, Jr., and Elisha out of the dispute, Lt. Gov. Hutchinson later explained, he had more leeway to protect the remaining importers.

Of course, the immediate effect the Hutchinsons’ cave-in was that the other importers got nervous. They saw the acting governor and his well-connected sons yielding to the Whigs. It was all very well for Lt. Gov. Hutchinson to say he would support them more strongly now—but would he really? Meanwhile, the “Body of the Trade” in Faneuil Hall continued to grow, amounting to “more than Twelve Hundred Persons” on 19 January, according to the Boston Gazette.

That morning, Nathaniel Cary sent the public meeting a letter to say he was turning over his imported goods to the committee. Late in the day Benjamin Greene followed suit. Deacon Phillips had moved quickly to take the Hutchinsons’ tea inventory. That left only four importers still in defiance: William Jackson, Theophilus Lillie, John Taylor, and Nathaniel Rogers.

The “Body of the People” and their leaders recognized victory. They quickly accepted those merchants’ offers and adjourned the meeting until Tuesday.

COMING UP: The battle rejoined.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Confrontation at Governor Hutchinson’s House

When we left the “Body of the Trade” in Faneuil Hall yesterday, Whig leader William Molineux had just threatened to storm out of the meeting and kill himself.

Molineux wanted to lead the body to Thomas Hutchinson’s mansion in the North End (shown here) and confront the lieutenant governor’s sons, Thomas, Jr., and Elisha, about their plan to leave the non-importation agreement.

Josiah Quincy, Jr., warned that marching on the acting governor’s house was tantamount to treason. Molineux’s radical colleagues disagreed, but the rich merchants and town officials—even John Hancock—were still reluctant. Or maybe they just disliked Molineux’s confrontational approach.

Molineux’s dramatic gesture was met by an equally dramatic response from the radical Dr. Thomas Young, according to a Crown report now in Harvard’s Houghton Library:
Dr. Young call’d out stop Mr. M[olineu]x stop Mr. M[olineu]x for the love of God stop Mr. M[olineu]x. Gentlemen, If Mr. M[olineu]x leaves us we are forever undone, this day is the last dawn of liberty we ever shall see.

Mr. M[olineu]x was upon this prevail’d upon to return and the following Persons agreed to serve on their Committee vizt. Mr. M[olineu]x Deacon [William] Phillips, [James] Otis, S[amuel]. Adams and Saml Austin
That group was still mostly politicians, not merchants, but they were all upper-class. And they weren’t going alone.
about 1/2 past 2 o’Clock the above persons attended by upwards of 1000 people of much the same stamp of those who waited upon [William] Jackson the day before, set out for the Lt. Govr’s house, when they came before the door the Lt. Govr. open’d one of his Windows and ask’d of them what they wanted;

M[olineu]x replied that it was not him but his Sons that they desired to see—

the Lt. Govr. addressing himself to the whole spoke to the following purport, Gent. do you know that I am the representative of the King of Great Britain the greatest monarch on earth, and in his name require you to desperse—
Which is of course the exact thing that Quincy had warned could happen. But Molineux wasn’t deterred.
about this time his Sons came also to the window when M[olineu]x read to them the vote No. 1 and the demand which immediately follows it [as quoted yesterday]—

the Sons answer’d that they had nothing to say to them—

the Lt. Govr. asked for a Copy of the vote but was told by M[olineu]x that he was intrusted with only the original and was not at liberty to give a copy.
That document could, of course, have been evidence in a trial.
The Lt. Govr. also observ’d to Otis that he was greatly surprised to see him there, who cou’d not be ignorant of the illegality of such proceedings, and further added that he had there in his Eye six or seven People who had been accessory to the pulling down of his house—
That was back in August 1765 during the Stamp Act riots. Hutchinson, who was also a historian, never forgot.

The crowd retired from that house but visited the other defiant importers: Jackson, Nathaniel Cary, Benjamin Greene, Theophilus Lillie, John Taylor, and the governor’s nephew Nathaniel Rogers. They “receiv’d no satisfactory answer from any one of them.” Most didn’t even open their doors. Lillie said that “he had nothing left but his Life, which he would deliver up if they pleas’d.”

Molineux and the “Body of the Trade” seemed to be stymied. According to the Crown informant:
This Evening the friends of Government thought they had gain’d a compleat victory, and numbers of the most considerable Merchts. in the British trade who had hitherto been silent could not help publickly declaring that they now hoped they were releas’d from their bondage as they were convinced should the Hutchinsons, Jackson, and others mention’d before, stand out for a few days that great numbers would join them
Was this the end of non-importation?

TOMORROW: A private deal.

Friday, January 24, 2020

William Molineux and “the legality of the proceedings”

On the morning of 18 Jan 1770, Boston’s Whigs thought that Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson’s sons, Thomas, Jr., and Elisha, had agreed to put their inventory of imported tea into the hands of the committee enforcing the non-importation boycott.

That would be a big win for the radicals who were pushing non-importation as a way to oppose the Townshend duties. It looked like their big public meeting in Faneuil Hall had worked.

But then the Hutchinsons shifted. According to an anonymous Crown informant, “This morning Trucks were sent down by the committee to the Governors house to bring up the Tea, but the sons by this time had alter’d their mind and refused delivering it up.”

Back in Faneuil Hall, the Whigs were continuing the previous day’s meeting by adjournment—“and the number was larger than before,” the Boston Gazette claimed. Around noon they heard about the Hutchinsons’ new stance. Other merchants were already defying the committee. This trend had to be stopped.

The radical leader William Molineux read a motion condemning the Hutchinsons and other merchants defying the boycott:
by this their unjustifiable and perfidious conduct, [they] have forfeited all confidence, esteem and favour, from the Merchants & others their fellow-citizens and countrymen,…[and] have acted in conjunction with placemen, pensioners, and other tools and dependants, upon a firm and settled plan to entail upon the present and future generations, BONDAGE, MISERY and RUIN.
The “Body of the Trade” approved that language unanimously.

The meeting then turned to appointing a committee to “orderly and decently repair” to those importers’ shops, read the resolution, and demand that they turn over their goods. And things got heated.

In 1770 Josiah Quincy, Jr. (shown above), was a rising young lawyer from Braintree. Just three months before, he  had married Abigail Phillips, daughter of the meeting moderator, William Phillips. Quincy was usually a strong advocate for Whig policy. But this afternoon he saw danger. According to that Crown informant:
[Quincy] stood up and declared that their going in a Body to the Lieut. Governors house to demand the Goods from his Sons was an Act of high treason and that the Hutchinsons whose name they had long had reason to dread had laid this trap in order to ensnare them.
Confronting the Hutchinsons at their father’s house was legally different from how Molineux had led men to the shop of William Jackson the day before, Quincy warned. Lt. Gov. Hutchinson was now the acting governor, and thus the representative of the king in Massachusetts. Confronting him in a crowd was tantamount to open rebellion against the Crown.

Other men at the meeting disagreed:
M[olineu]x and [Samuel] Adams insisted on the legality of the proceedings: the former observing that he could compare the Signers of the Non Importation agreement to nothing but a flock of sheep, six of whom had broke out of the fold, and that he was sorry to say that unless these were brought back all the rest were ready to follow their example, that they seem’d to wish for an opportunity—

[Town clerk William] Cooper next spoke as follows, that the people of New England had all along taken the lead, and should they now give up their name which had hitherto been highly esteem’d, not only throughout the Colonies but throughout the whole world, would be for ever detested & abhorred—

Quincy still persisted in his opinion, and offered to support what he had said by the best authorities in the Law—also appealing to Justice [Richard] Dana & Mr. [James] Otis; the former gave no answer, the latter made a speech upon the occasion, but no body could understand from what he said whether he condemned or approved of the measure—

M[olineu]x at last seem’d to give up the point of Law but insisted be that as it would, that as there was no other way of getting redress they ought therefore to prosecute their scheme—

Doctor [Thomas] Young next spoke to the follg. effect, that such people as counteracted the general measures should be depriv’d of existence, and that it was high time for the People to take the Govermt. into their own hands, to whom it properly belong’d.
The most aggressive Whigs thus insisted on confronting the Hutchinsons in the name of the people, whatever the legal niceties. But they still needed support from wealthy merchants and officials to look as respectable as possible. And those gentlemen were wary.
Quincy’s speech seem’d to alarm almost every person of the meeting insomuch that it was with the utmost difficulty they could get any person to serve on the committee to go to the Lt. Governors house—several persons were voted by the populace but declined acting: amongst these were John Hancock and Henderson Inches. Philips and Otis also at first refused but were afterwards perswaded to accept—

M[olineu]x who little expected this opposition, and finding matters likely to go against him, stood up upon a Bench an exclaim’d to the following effect, is this the way I am to be serv’d; I am surprised, greatly surprised to see you Gent. so backward, for my part I could spend the last Drop of my blood to save the liberties of my Country; but as I find those very People who were bound to support me now about forsaking me, I will no more interest myself with your Affairs; and jump’d down from the Bench on which he stood seemingly in a violent aggitation declaring he would go home, and he did not know what might be the consequences, insinuating that he would cut his throat:
Molineux had trouble distinguishing his own interests from the public good. This made him throw himself into what he thought were worthwhile causes. It also meant he took any opposition or obstacle to those causes as personal affronts, as on this afternoon. And he was apparently willing to suggest he might kill himself.

TOMORROW: Everybody calm down.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

“The whole Body consisting of about 1000 Men”

On 16 Jan 1770, the Boston Whigs circulated handbills for a new public meeting about non-importation. In Faneuil Hall, no less.

The town’s merchants had launched the non-importation boycott back in 1768, as a response to the Townshend duties, and kept it going all through 1769. However, this meeting wasn’t confined to the merchants—i.e., the men who traded with other ports.

Instead, the gathering on 17 January was open to “the Body of the Trade,” or everyone doing business in Boston. The Whigs’ Boston Gazette said the merchants needed to be “properly supported in their generous, self-denying and patriotic agreement,” so the meeting included “all others who were concerned in or connected with trade.”

The wealthy merchants were now well outnumbered by shopkeepers and craftsmen. A Crown informant attended and reported “the meeting was very numerous, but consisted chiefly of the lower sett of people.” Basically, this event was a town meeting without the name or official sanction—and with double the normal attendance because of public interest.

Business proceeded as in a town meeting. The first act was to elect a moderator: William Phillips, a respected merchant, deacon, and staunch Whig.

The meeting then heard from the “Committee of Inspection” set up to police the boycott. Those men reported that five merchants “had open’d and sold a part of their Goods which they had agree’d to keep in their Stores till the general importation should take place”: John Taylor, Theophilus Lillie, William Jackson, Nathaniel Cary, and Nathaniel Rogers. All five importers declined invitations to join the gathering.

If those men wouldn’t come to the meeting, the body decided, the meeting would go to them. According to the informant, whose report is now among the Sparks Manuscripts at Harvard:
[William] M[olineu]x was chose the person to speak in behalf of the whole. . . . the whole Body consisting of about 1000 Men of the very refuse of the town march’d from Faniuel Hall up King Street to the Shop of Mr. Jackson—they were headed by their chairman Phillips, Jonathan Mason & H[enderson]. Inches both select men, Wm. Dennie & Wm. M—x—

Jackson had previously shut his doors but spoke to them from an upper window. M—x demanded that he should open his doors and admit him and som other Genl. to take possession of his Goods, which he said they had an undoubted right to—

Jackson answer’d that he would not open his door at present nor give up his Goods.

M—x then spoke to him as follows, Sir, do you know that I am at the head of 2000 Men, and that it is beneath the dignity of this committee to be parlied with in the street; and then turn’d about and march’d in the same procession with his retinue to Faniuel Hall as he came from it.
Well, that was productive. I should mention that William Jackson was calling out a window above his hardware shop at the Sign of the Brazen Head.

Meanwhile, back in Faneuil Hall a committee was dealing with good news from acting governor Thomas Hutchinson’s sons, Thomas, Jr., and Elisha, who imported tea:
Capt. [Nathaniel] Greenwood a mast maker at the Northend came into the meeting and told them that he was just come from Mr. Hutchinsons who had authoriz’d him to tell them that they were ready to deliver up what Tea remain’d in their Store, and the cash for what was sold—a committee was immediately order’d to wait on them and take their answer in writing—
The Whigs were excited about the Hutchinsons’ cooperation, “it being universally believ’d that if they stood out [i.e., stopped defying the non-importation movement] all the others would follow their example.”

The Crown informant identified the main speakers at this meeting as “M—x their general, Dr. [Thomas] Young, [Samuel] Adams & two or three others”—radical Whigs rather than merchants. (Molineux had been a merchant, but these days he was making his money mostly by managing properties for Charles Ward Apthorp of New York while running a publicly subsidized spinning and weaving enterprise.)

The informant concluded, “The Sons of Liberty were this evening in high spirits at the victory gain’d over the Hutchinsons.” But “it is said Jackson, Lillie & Taylor sent a message to the Hutchinsons finding fault with their promising to submit to the committee, and at the same time acquainting them that they were determined to stand out.”

TOMORROW: Confrontation in the North End.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Non-Importation in the New Year

At the end of 1769, the Boston merchants’ non-importation agreement ran out. But the Townshend duties were still in effect, so the Whigs insisted on maintaining that boycott into the new year.

That required leaning on people who wanted to resume regular business. After John Mein’s 1769 publications accused leading merchants of importing goods, the Whigs couldn’t allow any exceptions.

One threat to the town’s united front came from two Glasgow ships’ captains who wanted to commission new vessels from local shipyards, producing lots of jobs. They asked the merchants’ committee to approve importing what was necessary for those ships. A Crown informant reported:
A petition to that effect was immediately sett on foot by some of the tradesmen, and in a few hours was subscribed by upwards of 70 people. In the evening they met to fix the manner in which it was to be presented, when [John] Ruddock a Justice of the Peace and one of the Select Men of the town went to them and assuring the person who had been most active in promoting the subscription that he was ruining himself & his Country insisted on his delivering up the Petition which he immediately destroy’d, and such was his influence amongst these people that not one of them made any objections to his violent proceedings.
So much for those seventy signatures.

The merchants’ committee had pressured almost all of Boston’s importers into storing any goods that had arrived from Britain in 1769 under lock and key until… Well, there was a dispute about how long that commitment was for. The committee insisted the promise should last until they called off non-importation. Some tradespeople said they had promised only until the end of the year.

Benjamin Greene and his son had received a large order of dry goods in October. In December the committee learned he had shipped some of that material, packed in fish barrels, to John Chandler in Worcester. Under questioning, the Greenes admitted to making that sale. They declared they’d kept it secret only to preserve the image of a unified non-importation movement.

Then another merchant named John Taylor used a skeleton key to get into his locked storeroom and start selling imports. “You see, Gentlemen, how it is,” he told the committee, “and I always designed to do so.”

Theophilus Lillie put some of his imported stock on display and, he acknowledged, sold it to people who asked for it. How much of his inventory was gone? Lillie refused to let the inspection committee into his shop. He recalled: “Captain [Samuel] Dashwood was in a great rage, challenging me to come out of my house and he would break my neck, my bones, and the like.”

In the 11 Jan 1770 Boston News-Letter Lillie and Taylor publicly announced they no longer felt bound by the non-importation agreement. In fact, they declared that they had been intimidated into signing it in the first place, violating the spirit of liberty that the Whigs supposedly championed. Lillie got off one of the great lines of the entire pre-Revolutionary debate:
I had rather be a slave under one master, for if I know who he is, I may perhaps be able to please him, than a slave to an hundred or more who I don’t know where to find or what they will expect of me.
The most vociferous Whig merchants were actually hurting their cause. In particular, on 12 January a Crown informant wrote that William Molineux was turning off potential supporters:
Many were disgusted at Mollyneaux’s violent proposals particularly at a speech made at the meeting at which the vote against Green Lillie &c was pass’d, wherein he declared that were it not for the Law he would with his own hands put to Death any person who should presume to open their goods
Reportedly the two Boston merchants who held the highest political offices, speaker Thomas Cushing and selectman and representative John Hancock, were souring on the movement.

It was time for a meeting.

TOMORROW: The “Body of the Trade.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Ens. Eld Stops into a New York Coffeehouse

After participating in the skirmish over prisoners in the Westchester “neutral ground” on 18-19 Jan 1780, as I’ve been describing, Ens. George Eld of the Coldstream Guards went into New York City.

He might have expected a respite from fighting. Instead, this is what he wrote in his diary:
21st. Rode to New York. At twelve at night entering the Coffee house I was accosted by Lt. [Kenneth] Callender of the 42d. Regt., (with whom I had no acquaintance) who insolently asked me if I would drink some punch—I declined the offer, on this he observed, “ubi periculum ibi est gloria” [where there is risk of glory] & asked me if I wanted a translation—

I told him, no, but requested an explanation—

on this he drew a small sword—

I also drew mine which was a very short couteau [dagger]—

he perceived the superiority he possessed from the difference of the weapons, which seemed to stimulate his cowardice to the attack which he began by two lunges, which having parried, with all the fury & vigor I possessed I returned by cutting at him, without paying any attention to a guard—

he retreated the length of the Coffee house—I had now beat the point of his sword down & intended to have killed him, but was prevented by Capn. Peerie, who seized hold of my wrist & arrested the stroke—

I told him his interference was unmanly & ungentlemanlike as the contest was not finished—by this time some officers had taken Capn. Callenders sword from him—I declared if any person presumed to touch my sword I would run him thro’ the body.—

Capns. Peerie & Callender next morning asked my pardon.—I afterwards was informed that Capn. C.— being an uncommon good swordsman often insulted strangers in a similar manner.—

The disgrace he experienced from this contest, in some measure cured him.
I can’t identify “Capn. Peerie.” It’s possible he was another British army officer, a British naval officer, a privateer commander, or a Loyalist officer.

Adding to the uncertainty is how Ens. Eld didn’t know the other officers’ ranks—he referred to Callender as both a lieutenant and a captain, but the only officer of that surname in the 42nd Regiment was an ensign. That reflects how British army company officers didn’t wear insignia showing their rank. Fellow officers were just supposed to know.

After the war, Eld had a copy Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s book about his southern campaign rebound with extra blank pages. Eld started to write his own commentary in that volume, as well as extracts from a journal. That book came to the Boston Public Library in 1879, and Eld’s writings were published by the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1880 and the Boston Public Library in 1892.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Fighting Ground “between the Enemy & the American force”

Asa Lord was born on 29 June 1760 in Saybrook, Connecticut. Around the time he turned sixteen, he signed up for a few months of military service, and he continued to do short-term stints as the war continued.

Lord was eighteen years old in April 1779 when he enlisted in a Connecticut regiment for nine months. He was sent to Horseneck or Greenwich, on Long Island Sound, “employed in guarding the lines between the Enemy & the American force & in preparing materials for entrenchments.”

In January 1780 Lord was one of the Connecticut militiamen who raided the Morrisania, New York, house of Isaac Hatfield, Jr., a lieutenant colonel in the Loyalist militia, as I’ve been describing. Decades later Lord’s pension application stated:
On the 17th day of January, About one hundred & ten of their Soldiers, volunteered to go down to Morisena & Attack a British Guard Stationed there. They put themselves under Capt. Samuel Lockwood. They started about noon of the 17th—And about one oclock the next morning, attacked the Said Guard in front of their quarters. A hot engagement ensued & they finale killed most of the British guard, took nine or ten prisoners & Started on their retreat
However, one of the Loyalist officers who had been staying with Hatfield, Maj. Thomas Huggeford (also spelled Huggerford and Hungerford), slipped away from the Connecticut men. Someone who knew him after the war described Huggeford as “a large, fleshy, middle-aged man, active and humane,” but evidently he could move with stealth and speed.

The story continues in James Rivington’s Royal Gazette:
Major Huggerford soon after effected his escape, and returning, formed a small body of Refugees, consisting of thirty-five Dragoons, and twenty-eight Infantry, under the command of Capt. [Henry] Purdy, instantly pursuing the rebels with this detachment.

The Infantry took post upon the heights, beyond East Chester, and the mounted, consisting of Cornet Hilat, Adjutant [John] Pugsley, two Serjeants, and twenty-nine privates, under the command of Lieut. [Samuel] Kipp, continued the pursuit, and came up with their rear between New-Rochelle and Mamarroneck…
Because the Loyalists in that militia all came from the same communities, they had many ties. For example, captured with Isaac Hatfield was his sister Mary’s husband, Moses Knapp. The lieutenant who led the pursuing light horsemen, Samuel Kipp, was a brother-in-law of another of Isaac Hatfield’s sisters, Abigail. And eventually Samuel Kipp married Mary Knapp, daughter of Moses and Mary—i.e., his brother’s sister-in-law’s daughter.

Despite that strong motivation to rescue their friends and relatives, the pursuers were too late to free the men whom the Americans had taken captive. Isaac Hatfield stated that he was “carried to New England; [and] remained Prisoner about 3 months.”

But others in the raiding party moved more slowly, as Gen. William Heath wrote:
The militia after conducting this enterprize with much address and gallantry imprudently loitered in their retreat, were pursued & overtaken by a party of light Horse, a number of them shockingly cut
Rivington’s newspaper reported that the Loyalists had “killed 23, and took 40 prisoners, some of whom are wounded.” Furthermore:
We are assured that the only weapon used by Major Huggerford and his determined band of Refugees, in their attack and defeat of Capt. Lockwood’s party, was the Sabre,---and had not their horses been jaded to a stand-still, every one of the enemy would have fallen into their hands.
Among the prisoners was Asa Lord, who recalled in his 1832 pension application:
Between nine & ten oclock in the morning of the 18th Jany. they were overtaken by a detachment of Queens Guards, many of the Americans killed & the Declarant & Eight others taken prisoners, carried to New York & confined in The Old Sugar House. The Declarant was confined there ten months & three days.—He was then exchanged.
Yet another view of this clash comes from George Eld, who had joined the Coldstream Guards as an ensign—the equivalent of a second lieutenant—in March 1776. A copy of his diary is owned by the Boston Public Library.

The Coldstream Guards were sent to New York in 1779. Since Eld was born in America, that was some sort of homecoming, but unfortunately we don’t seem to have any information about exactly where or when he was born.

Ens. Eld was stationed on the British lines outside New York City, and at the start of 1780 he was put in command of a light infantry company. In his diary he wrote:
The two Light Infantry Companies of the Guards with the mounted refugees were ordered out under the Command of Colo. [Francis] Hall—after a march of 25 miles fell in with their [the enemy’s] rear guard—a trifling but general contest ensued—nine rebels were killed, sixteen taken prisoners, many wounded.—The rebels now appeared to the amount of 800, when on our taking an advantageous situation they retired—

we returned 12 miles & remained the night in some log houses & returned to the lines on being joined by a detachment sent out to Cover Our retreat.
That was the end of this seesaw skirmish in the “neutral ground” of Westchester County. Because there was so much territory between the army lines, such raids meant long marches—the Connecticut lieutenant colonel Matthew Mead wrote of his men marching “30 miles out,” and Ens. Eld recorded a 25-mile march and an overnight stop on the way back. And at the end of all the fighting, both sides had seen some men killed and more taken prisoner.

TOMORROW: Ens. Eld in the city.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Raid on Isaac Hatfield’s House

As I described yesterday, in January 1780 Capts. Samuel Lockwood and Samuel Keeler of the Connecticut militia attacked the home of Isaac Hatfield, Jr., in Morrisania, New York.

Hatfield (1748-1822) had been born in America to a substantial farming family and raised in Westchester County. The notes of what he later told the Loyalists Commission say:
On breaking out of Troubles, from the first took part with Brit. Was required by rebels to serve in their Militia, & to sign their Association, which he refused. In consequence Of this he made himself Obnoxious. They fin’d him which he refused to pay, & he was obliged to quit home.
While he was away, Hatfield said, “he lost 18 Head Cattle, 4 Horses, farm horses, 50 Sheep.” He “Heard Of some being taken by one person, some by another, some for fines.” In other words, his neighbors were stripping away his property.

When the Crown forces landed on Long Island in the fall of 1776, Hatfield volunteered for the Queen’s Rangers, commanding a company in that Loyalist regiment. In 1777 he joined Gen. Oliver De Lancey’s Brigade. Then came commissions from Gov. William Tryon to be an officer in the Westchester County militia, ultimately a lieutenant colonel.

On 18 January, the Connecticut militia came for Hatfield. The raiders shot three sentries and killed his horse—“a very fine horse,” worth 40 guineas, Hatfield’s lieutenant, Thomas Kipp, recalled.

Hatfield and the men stationed with him raced to the upstairs chambers of the house. There, Lt. Col. Matthew Mead of Connecticut wrote, “they had prepared a number of Casks of salt, of Flour & other lumber” as barricades.

In his memoir Gen. William Heath described the fighting inside Hatfield’s house:
The Colonel and his men took to the chambers, and fired out at the windows and down stairs at those who had entered the house; it appeared difficult, if possible, to dislodge them, the house was instantly set on fire, by putting a straw bed into a closet [i.e., small room], which compelled the enemy to jump out at the chamber windows, to avoid the flames.
On 22 January, James Rivington’s Royal Gazette reported inside New York:
Early on the morning of the 18th instant, a detachment of Rebel Militia, collected from the neighbourhood of Horseneck [i.e., Greenwich], under the command of a Captain Lockwood, attacked ahouse between Kingsbridge and De Lancey’s Mills, in which Lieut. Col. Hetfield, Major [Thomas] Huggerford, Captain [Moses] Knap, a Quarter-Master, and ten private Refugees of the Lieutenant-Colonel’s corps, were quartered:

The house being bravely defended for fifteen minutes; the Rebels were enabled to set fire to it, from the having gained possession of the ground floor; in consequence of which, this small party were reduced to the necessity of abandoning their post, and laying down their arms; they were in course taken prisoners, and the enemy immediately began their retreat.
The Connecticut men had fifteen prisoners of war in all. They triumphantly headed back north to the Continental lines.

But then Maj. Huggeford escaped.

TOMORROW: Rearguard action.

[The photo above, from Find a Grave, shows the headstone of Mary (Bayeux) Hatfield, whom Lt. Col. Isaac Hatfield married in 1786 after settling in Digby County, Nova Scotia.]

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Capt. Samuel Lockwood at War

Samuel Lockwood (1737–1807, gravestone shown here courtesy of Find a Grave) of Greenwich, Connecticut, became a second lieutenant in the Continental Army in April 1775.

That fall, he joined Gen. Richard Montgomery’s invasion of Canada. On 5 November Lockwood’s commanders made him an assistant engineer with the rank of captain. The Continental Congress never recognized that rank but later voted to pay Lockwood a year’s salary as an engineer.

Lt. Lockwood’s specialty was really maneuvers on the water. He reconnoitered ahead of the army by boat during the march north and helped to capture eleven Crown vessels and Gen. Richard Prescott at Sorel.

The Battle of Québec didn’t work out so well for Lockwood, however. He was wounded, captured, and not released on parole until late in 1776.

As soon as Lockwood was formally exchanged in early 1777, the Congress commissioned him as a captain in Col. John Lamb’s artillery regiment. He served two years, resigning in 1779.

Capt. Lockwood was then done with the Continental Army, but he wasn’t done with the war. He remained active in his state’s military. In 1779 he commanded an armed vessel on Long Island Sound, attacking British ships in the Oyster Bay harbor in November.

On 17 Jan 1780, Capt. Samuel Lockwood led “forty volunteers from Greenwich” alongside Capt. Samuel Keeler and an equal number of Connecticut militiamen on a raid into New York. Their target was the home in Morrisania of Lt. Col. Isaac Hetfield, Loyalist commander of the Westchester County militia.

Gen. William Heath reported to New York’s Gov. (and Gen.) George Clinton about the Lockwood and Keeler raid a few days later:
they arrived at the place a little after one the next morning, attacked the picket, killed 3 and drove the others in, march’d to the House where Hatfield was, who, with his men took to the chambers [i.e., bedrooms] and kept up a fire down stairs and out at the windows; the militia behaved with great Bravery, call’d to Hatfield to Surrender or they would Set fire to the House…
TOMORROW: The view from inside Hatfield’s house.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Dublin Seminar to Look at “Living with Disabilities”

The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife has announced the subject of this year’s conference: “Living with Disabilities in New England, 1630–1930.”

The conference will be held in Deerfield, Massachusetts, on the weekend of 19-21 June 2020. The Dublin Seminar strives to be a meeting place for scholars, students, and committed avocational researchers. Professional development points are available for public school teachers who participate.

The Dublin Seminar is now accepting proposals for papers and presentations at this conference that address the history of people living with disabilities in New England and adjacent areas of New York and Canada from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. The principal topic examined by this conference is how children and adults with disabilities experienced disability in everyday life.

Proposals might address the following questions:
  • How was disability defined during this period?
  • How did gender, race, and class intersect with the experience and meaning of disability?
  • What was the relationship between the law and disability?
  • How did people with disabilities interact with institutions ranging from religious organizations to state-sponsored hospitals to schools?
  • What is the history of disability within the context of military or industrial settings?
  • How did people with disabilities interact with material culture and technology, including but not limited to assistive technologies such as artificial limbs and hearing aids; clothing; landscapes and buildings; and service animals?
  • What is the relationship between medical history and disability history?
The Seminar encourages papers that reflect interdisciplinary approaches and original research, especially those based on material culture, archaeological artifacts, letters and diaries, vital records, federal and state censuses, as well as newspapers, visual culture, business records, recollections, autobiographies, and public history practice or advocacy at museums, archives, and elsewhere.

The “Living with Disabilities in New England, 1630–1930” conference will consist of approximately seventeen lectures of twenty minutes each. Selected papers will appear as the 2020 Annual Proceedings of the Dublin Seminar to be published about eighteen months after the conference.

To submit a paper proposal for this conference, please submit (as a single email attachment, in Word or as a pdf) a one-page prospectus that describes the paper and its sources and a one-page vita or biography by 10 Mar 2020. Send proposals to dublinseminar@historic-deerfield.org.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Shays Rebellion Symposium in Springfield, 25 Jan.

On Saturday, 25 Jan 2020, the Friends of Springfield Armory National Historic Site is hosting a symposium titled “Shays Rebellion: Perspectives on History.”

This event will take place on the campus of Springfield Technical Community College, and is co-sponsored by the National Park Service and the Pioneer Valley History Network.

There will be a day of presentations and discussion about the “regulation” in western Massachusetts in 1786 and 1787, the suppression of it, and the far-reaching effects.

The event description says:
While “Shays’ Rebellion” is often seen through an elite perspective of agrarian unrest by western Massachusetts farmers in 1786 and 1787, other viewpoints saw “Regulators” and their long campaign against unjust taxes. This crisis was by no means simple. It has a complex relationship not only with the history that preceded it, but also had a profound effect on the young United States moving forward. From the French and Indian War and the American Revolution to the Constitutional Conventions; from populist resistance movements to the exercise of a powerful centralized government, we may find that Shays’ Rebellion is not simply a local story with local meanings.
Scheduled presentations include:
  • “The Final Fight at Sheffield,” Tim Abbott, Regional Conservation Director, Housatonic Valley Association
  • “Shays Kerfuffle: A People’s Perspective,” Daniel Bullen, Ph.D.
  • “Archeology of the Shays Settlement,” Stephen Butz, Shays Settlement Project
  • “Three Men in Debt,” Tom Goldscheider, farrier, David Ruggles Center 
  • “More than a Little Rebellion,” Barbara Mathews, Ph.D., Public Historian and Director of Academic Programs, Historic Deerfield
  • “The Contested Meanings of ‘Shays Rebellion Day’ 1986,” Adam Tomasi, Northeastern University
Each bank of speakers will be followed by panel discussions and question and answer sessions.

The symposium will be held in the first-floor auditorium of Scibelli Hall (Building 2) at Springfield Technical Community College, One Armory Square in Springfield. That’s near the site of the largest clash of the uprising, where the Shaysites clashed with Massachusetts militia on 25 Jan 1787.

Presentations will begin at 9:00 A.M. with doors opening half an hour earlier. The program is scheduled to end at 4:00 P.M. Admission is $6 per seat, and box lunches are available for $10. Food options nearby are limited, so attendees should either order a box lunch or bring their own. In case of very bad weather, the event will be postponed to Sunday, 26 January.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Legends of Sandy Flash Drive

The Philadelphia Inquirer just published an article about how two roads in the region—in areas where I’ve traveled, in fact—are named after a Revolutionary turncoat and highwayman.

This circumstance raises interesting questions about how we remember the past with public names and monuments.

Here’s a link to Rosemary S. Warden’s article “‘The Infamous Fitch’: The Tory Bandit, James Fitzpatrick of Chester County.”

James Fitzpatrick served with the Continental forces in 1775 and 1776, but then resisted further militia call-ups. In late 1777 he threw in with the British, serving as a scout around the time of the Battle of Brandywine and the seizure of Philadelphia.

For the next year, Fitzpatrick fought for himself as “Captain Fitz,” head of a band of highwaymen who targeted Whig officials, particularly tax collectors and militia officers. Chester County was a no-man’s land during the British occupation of the capital.

When Gen. William Howe withdrew to New York City in the summer of 1778, however, Fitzpatrick lost his refuge. He was captured in August, tried in September, and hanged—though not without special effort by the executioner.

Stories about Fitzpatrick grew into legends in the nineteenth century. In 1866 the novelist Bayard Taylor wrote The Story of Kennett based on those tales. Taylor called his recurring highwayman character “Sandy Flash.” In the romantic and credulous style of the Colonial Revival, the fictional tales of Sandy Flash soon became amalgamated with the real history of James Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick’s crimes (and his treachery, when seen from an American point of view) thus became part of the exciting tableau of the American Revolution. Authors treated him as a Robin Hood, as an example of gallant bravado. There were rumors he’d left behind buried treasure. His story was deemed suitable for children’s literature.

As reporter Joseph A. Gambardello writes, in 1972 Pennsylvania laid out Ridley Creek State Park (which includes the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation, a living-history museum, shown above) just in time for the Bicentennial. The state chose to name a main artery in the park after a man hanged for being a traitor to the state—Sandy Flash Drive. Later a new development in Kennett Square got streets named after Taylor’s characters, including another Sandy Flash Drive.

The issue of historical place names never fully goes away, but we’re at a moment of extra attention to those things. Do they always honor the people whose names they preserve? Do those people always deserve that honor? Here’s an example where the real figure, entwined with a fictional character and legends that might or might not be real, wouldn’t seem to merit official esteem.

But James Fitzpatrick’s history isn’t touching raw nerves—southeastern Pennsylvania isn’t being plagued by highwaymen. It may help that both Fitzpatrick and Sandy Flash were punished, providing a satisfyingly moral end to his tale. Still, we might ask why we like to overlook some historical figures’ misdeeds yet celebrate others.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The First David Center Research Fellowships

As discussed back here, the David Library of the American Revolution closed its facility in Washington’s Crossing, Pennsylvania, last year and merged with the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.

This week the new David Center for the American Revolution at the A.P.S. invited applications for its inaugural short-term resident research fellowships. The announcement says:
David Center Fellowships continue the 30-year tradition of the David Library awarding over 200 fellowships to scholars who have gone on to write hundreds of dissertations, academic articles, academic papers and books, and to teach at major institutions of higher learning worldwide, about the American Revolution and Founding Era. These funding opportunities provide one month of support for researchers in residence and are open to scholars in all fields who show a demonstrated need to use the collections for their project.

The David Center for the American Revolution integrates the rich manuscript, microfilm, and print collections of the David Library with the Early American history collections of the APS to create a one-stop-shop for the study of the American Revolution. . . . Comprehensive, searchable guides and finding aids to these collections are available online at www.amphilsoc.org/library and http://amphilsoc.pastperfectonline.com/.

Successful applicants are awarded a stipend of $3,000. The stipend is paid after the awardee arrives at the APS Library & Museum to begin their fellowship. The purpose of the stipend is to defray the costs of working in Philadelphia. Awards are taxable income, but the Society is not required to report payments. It is understood that recipients will discuss their reporting obligations with their tax advisors.

Fellowships may be taken starting any day no earlier than June 1, 2020 and must be completed by May 31, 2021. Fellows are required to be in residence for four consecutive weeks. Fellows do not have to decide on the dates of their fellowship right away; they have one year to decide, although most take their fellowships during the summer period.
Researchers who have already applied for an A.P.S. Library & Museum Short-Term Resident Research Fellowship will be automatically considered.

Applicants may be:
  • Holders of the Ph.D. or its equivalent.
  • Ph.D. candidates who have passed their preliminary examinations and are working on their dissertation research.
  • Degreed independent scholars (without current academic affiliation).
  • U.S. citizens or foreign nationals.
Candidates who live 75 or more miles from Philadelphia receive some preference.

All Applicants must submit:
  • A cover letter.
  • Curriculum vitae.
  • A research proposal (2 pages double-spaced) that outlines the status of your work and what you will research at the American Philosophical Society Library & Museum. Special attention must be made to specific collections that will be of use during your fellowship.
  • Two confidential letters of reference.
The application deadline is 6 Mar 2020. Notifications will be sent in April.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Glimpses of Early Blandford

As long as we’re out in Blandford with Henry Knox, we might as well enjoy the town’s eighteenth-century history.

Most of the first British settlers in the area were Scotch-Irish, moving west in a bunch from Hopkinton in 1736. They named their new community “Glasgow” or “New Glasgow.” The town’s first meetinghouse was Presbyterian rather than New England Congregationalist.

However, when the Massachusetts government formally incorporated the town in 1741, the new governor, William Shirley, insisted on naming it after the ship that he had just arrived on—the Blandford. Reportedly he had leverage because the town proprietors had claimed more land than they were entitled to, so they needed the governor’s approval more than the inhabitants’.

The name “Glasgow” survived in a few geographic names such as the “Glasgow or Westfield Mountain” that Knox referred to in his diary. The town reportedly lost a church bell that the city of Glasgow, Scotland, had promised if it kept its original name.

Blandford was on the Massachusetts frontier, thus at risk from the French and their Native allies. During 1749, almost every household fled to other towns for safety. In 1755, as war loomed again, the town petitioned the Massachusetts General Court for a swivel gun, a type of small cannon. It was stored at the house of the Rev. James Morton.

The town straddled one of the few roads through the Berkshire Mountains, so it saw a lot of traffic. In 1762 a tavern keeper named Joseph Clark petitioned the legislature to be forgiven for selling alcohol without paying the excise tax. His excuse:
That in the Year 1760 He purchased a licensed House and purchased a barrel of Rum, but being sick in August when he should have applied for a license, and his House lying in the Road used by Soldiers sold the same, out to them: and he boght the said Rum of a Retailer who had paid the Duties of excise thereon—
The Massachusetts House bought that argument. The Council disagreed.

Blandford grew quickly after the Revolutionary War. Growth brought change, as preserved in this family anecdote from local historian William H. Gibbs. He said that around 1791 Isaac Gibbs (1744-1823)
brought into town the first single wagon used here. The neighbors regarded it as a curiosity, and their horses as he drove to church the first Sabbath, being affrighted, fled with as much precipitation as they do in our own day at the sight of the steam engine. It was a matter so strange to the people, that they actually proposed to call a town meeting to prohibit the use of wagons.
But the problems of growth didn’t last long. In the 1800 U.S. Census, Blandford had a population of 1,778—the largest the town ever was.