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, February 11, 2020

The Great 1770 Quiz Answers, Part 1

Thanks to everyone who puzzled over the Great 1770 Quiz, whether or not you entered answers in the comments!

It looks like the competition is down to John and Kathy since they answered both parts. If I try this again I hope to remember the bunch all the questions in one posting.

In this Age of Google, it’s increasingly easy to find information—as long as one knows how to ask and how to assess sources. That means it’s also increasingly difficult to come up with trivia questions that can’t be answered with a few keystrokes.

This week I’ll share the answers to the questions and point to sources where people could find those answers. So let’s go!

I. Lord North became prime minister of Britain in January 1770. On March 5, the date of the Boston Massacre, what motion did he make in Parliament?

The answer is that on 5 Mar 1770 Lord North stood up and proposed in the House of Commons that Parliament repeal the duties on glass, paper, lead, and painter’s colors instituted by the Townshend Act.

Simply Googling the phrases “Lord North,” “Parliament,” and “March 5, 1770” (each phrase within quote marks, of course) brings up that answer in this essay at History Is Fun.

But of course an online tertiary source should be confirmed, ideally with period references that would pass muster in scholarship. The Annual Register for 1770 describes North’s proposal and the debate next to the date “March 5.”

Notably, that account doesn’t use Lord North’s name. It simply refers to “the government,” which he headed. British printers in this period were still testing the water of reporting Parliamentary debate, so they often didn’t identify speakers by name.

A few years later, however, an anonymous author rewrote the Annual Register into A View of the History of Great-Britain, during the Administration of Lord North, and that book was explicit about Lord North’s action:
One of the first acts of the new minister, was the bringing in a bill [footnote: March 5, 1770] for the repeal of so much of a late act of parliament as related to the imposing of a duty on paper, painters colours, and glass, imported into America; the tax upon tea, which was laid on by the same act, was still continued.

This repeal was made in compliance with the prayer of a petition, presented by the American merchants to the house of Commons, setting forth the great losses they sustained, and the fatal effects produced by the late laws, which for the purpose of raising a revenue in the colonies, had imposed duties upon goods exported from Great-Britain thither.
Both books report that some Members of Parliament proposed repealing the tea tax as well. Again, the names of those politicians don’t appear. But in a 1908 biography Charles A. W. Pownall credited his ancestor, former Massachusetts governor Thomas Pownall, with forcing a vote on that issue. Pownall lost, and the tea tax remained.

All four people who responded to this question—kmjones234, Kathy, Justin C, and John—answered correctly!

II. According to the records of King’s Chapel, which of the following events did NOT occur in that church in early 1770?
  • the funeral of Christopher Seider, killed by Ebenezer Richardson
  • the funeral of Patrick Carr, killed in the Boston Massacre
  • the baptism of Ebenezer Richardson, on trial for killing Christopher Seider
  • the marriage of John Murray, representative to the Massachusetts General Court from Rutland
Last November I featured the Colonial Society of Massachusetts’s online publication of the records of King’s Chapel, which inspired this question. The second of those two volumes contains the records on baptisms, marriages, and funerals.

In those webpages we can find mentions of all four of the events listed above: John Murray’s wedding on 24 January, Christopher Seider’s funeral on 26 February (though his name is spelled “Sider”), Patrick Carr’s funeral on 17 March, and Ebenezer Richardson’s baptism on 14 April.

The funerals included processions through the streets, but some religious service evidently took place in King’s Chapel or else they wouldn’t be recorded here. However, the listing for Richardson’s baptism says it took place “In Prison” rather than in the church, so that’s the correct answer.

Richardson’s was an unusual “Adult” baptism in the Anglican church. The man’s birth in 1718 is listed in the records of Woburn’s meetinghouse, indicating that he’d been baptized as an infant there, but in April 1770 he apparently wanted more salvation. Since he was about to go on trial for killing a child and none of the lawyers in Boston wanted to represent him, Richardson evidently felt he could use all the help he could find.

This question may have been too tricky by half because no one got it entirely right, but John noted all four events are in the King’s Chapel records while Kathy discerned that Richardson was in jail.

TOMORROW: Weapons and the legislature.

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