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, March 31, 2020

“A number of Soldiers with their Baggage landed”

On Monday, 12 Mar 1770, Bostonians assembled for a town meeting to elect officers for the coming year and transact other business.

In fact, there was so much other business that that meeting kept going by adjournment for over two weeks, with sessions starting:
  • Monday, 12 March, 3:00 P.M.
  • Tuesday, 13 March, 9:00 P.M. [sic]
  • Friday, 16 March, 9:00 A.M.
  • Monday, 19 March, 9:00 A.M.
  • Monday, 26 March, 9:00 A.M.
  • [intervening meeting to tidy up some items]
  • Tuesday, 27 March, 4:00 P.M.
At that last session there were only three agenda items: putting off all other concerns until May, thanking the moderators, and complaining about troops in Boston. Soldiers were back! Well, some of them:
The Town having been informed by several Persons that a number of Soldiers with their Baggage landed Yesterday at Wheelwrights Wharff—one Gentleman supposing that there was not less than Sixty Men—Voted, that
Mr. William Mollineux
Joshua Henshaw Esq.
Joseph Jackson Esq.
Mr. Jonathan Mason
Ezekiel Goldthwait Esq.
be a Committee to make enquiry from time to time, whether any more Troops came up from Castle Island than they think necessary, and if they shall find it to be otherwise, that they then immediately acquaint the Selectmen in order for their calling a Meeting of the Inhabitants
In fact, Henshaw, Jackson, and Mason were selectmen. Molineux was the Whigs’ leader on resistance to the troops, and also manager of properties on Wheelwright’s Wharf that the army had rented. Goldthwait (1710-1782) was Suffolk County registrar of deeds, having served Boston as town clerk, as selectman, and otherwise. (It’s striking I haven’t mentioned him before, only his young namesake who died from a fireworks injury. Here’s registrar Goldthwait as painted by John S. Copley.)

I rather doubt “Sixty Men” came over from Castle William all at once on 26 March, but there might well have been dozens. In her new book The Boston Massacre: A Family History, Serena Zabin discusses this moment in the context of the soldiers’ families who came to Boston and were left behind when the regiments were moved to the Castle.

The army soon stopped renting buildings for barracks, which meant some of those families would lose their homes, perhaps at the end of the month. In other cases, the wives and children were living in quarters they rented themselves. There appears to have been a scramble for new places to live. That might have been why so many soldiers came into town.

Some women ended up squatting in a building with no fireplaces. The wives of two of the soldiers jailed for the Massacre, Pvts. Edward Montgomery and James Hartigan, stayed behind in Boston while most of the 29th was sent south. We know about those vivid details because of Boston’s custom of “warning out” strangers so they wouldn’t become legal burdens. A few actually did end up in the poorhouse, but most managed to join their husbands or support themselves, which meant they didn’t reappear on town records.

To hear more about The Boston Massacre: A Family History, check out this video of Serena Zabin’s talk at the beginning of this month at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Capt. Preston and the Town of Boston

On Monday, 12 Mar 1770, one week after the Boston Massacre, the Boston Gazette ran this letter:
Boston-Goal, Monday, 12th March, 1770.

Messieurs Edes & Gill,

PERMIT me thro’ the Channel of your paper, to return my Thanks in the most publick Manner to the Inhabitants in general of this Town—who throwing aside all Party and Prejudice, have with the utmost Humanity and Freedom stept forth Advocates for Truth, in Defence of my injured Innocence, in the late unhappy Affair that happened on Monday Night last: And to assure them, that I shall ever have the highest Sense of the Justice they have done me, which will be ever gratefully remembered, by

Their most obliged and most obedient humble Servant,

Preston was of course the army captain jailed after the Massacre.

In the initial coroners’ inquests and newspaper reports, some witnesses declared that they hadn’t seen Preston give a clear order to his men to fire, or that many other people in the crush on King Street were yelling the word “Fire!” Some added that Preston definitely stopped the soldiers from firing a second time by knocking their muskets up.

Other witnesses, to be sure, said that they had heard and seen Preston give the order to fire. The prints soon to be published by Henry Pelham and Paul Revere depict that. The legal case against Preston was based on that testimony.

By writing this letter, Preston sought to keep the first group of witnesses on his side, to ensure the populace understood his guilt was not clear, and perhaps to break down the stark division between army and civilians. By running the letter, printers Edes and Gill were pleased to show how Preston recognized Boston as a fair-minded town.

Hovering over Preston’s head was the historical memory of John Porteous, a captain of the Edinburgh City Guard who was convicted in 1736 of ordering soldiers to fire at a riotous crowd, killing several people. When it became clear that the royal government planned to reprieve him, a local mob broke into the jail and lynched Porteous, as depicted above.

Preston of course didn’t want that to happen to him. The Boston Whigs didn’t want that to happen, either. They wanted to show the rest of the British Empire that their town was peaceful and law-abiding when not flooded with troops. Providing Preston with a fair trial was the way to do that. The captain’s public thanks to “the Inhabitants in general of this Town” seemed to endorse their position.

The Whigs didn’t know that two days later Preston completed a much longer piece of writing, eventually published under the title of the “CASE of Capt. Thomas Preston of the 29th Regiment.”

It portrayed Boston in a very different light:
IT is Matter of too great Notoriety to need any Proofs, that the Arrival of his Majesty’s Troops in Boston was extremely obnoxious to it’s Inhabitants. They have ever used all Means in their Power to weaken the Regiments, and to bring them into Contempt, by promoting and aiding Desertions, and with Impunity, even where there has been the clearest Evidence of the Fact, and by grossly and falsly propagating Untruths concerning them.

On the Arrival of the 64th & 65th, their Ardour seemingly began to abate; it being too expensive to buy off so many; and Attempts of that Kind rendered too dangerous from the Numbers.—But the same Spirit revived immediately on it’s being known that those Regiments were ordered for Halifax, and hath ever since their Departure been breaking out with greater Violence.

After their Embarkation, one of their Justices, not thoroughly acquainted with the People and their Intentions, on the Trial of the 14th Regiment, openly and publicly, in the Hearing of great Numbers of People, and from the Seat of Justice, declared, “that the Soldiers must now take Care of themselves, nor trust too much to their Arms, for they were but a Handful; that the Inhabitants carried Weapons concealed under their Cloaths, and would destroy them in a Moment if they pleased.”
Lt. Alexander Ross reported hearing justice of the peace Richard Dana give such a warning.
This, considering the malicious Temper of the People, was an alarming Circumstance to the Soldiery. Since which several Disputes have happened between the Towns-People and Soldiers of both Regiments, the former being encouraged thereto by the Countenance of even some of the Magistrates, and by the Protection of all the Party against Government. . . .

The Insolence, as well as utter Hatred of the Inhabitants to the Troops, increased daily; insomuch, that Monday and Tuesday, the 5th and 6th instant, were privately agreed on for a general Engagement; in Consequence of which several of the Militia came from the Country, armed to join their Friends, menacing to destroy any who should oppose them. This Plan has since been discovered.
Preston thus suggested a conspiracy theory to rival the Whigs’ suspicions about the Customs Commissioners with a whiff of treason stirred in.

The “Case” the captain was making appears to be for a royal pardon to rescue him and his men from an unjust death sentence in a hostile province:
And this must be the fate of all the unhappy Soldiers confined with me. In short with such Jurors and Witnesses we have nothing better to expect than to be sacrifyc’d as a terror to all others who would oppose the people, however wrong. . . . The Commanding Officer with the Officers of both the two Corps and every other dispassionate man here have approved of my conduct and hope it will also deserve the attention of His Majesty.
Capt. Preston’s essay was one of the documents that Customs Commissioner John Robinson was carrying to Britain in late March 1770, 250 years ago. Convinced by Preston’s letter that he felt locals were treating him fairly, the Boston Whigs had no idea of his range of feelings about their town.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

“Cutting a plate of the late Murder”

On 26 Mar 1770, the Boston Gazette ran this advertisment:
To be Sold by EDES and GILL
(Price Eight Pence Lawful Money)
A PRINT containing a Representation
of the late horrid Massacre in King-Street.
The same ad appeared that evening in the Fleet brothersBoston Evening-Post.

That picture of the Boston Massacre was made by Paul Revere. It showed a British army officer ordering his soldiers all to shoot into a recoiling crowd. Men lay dead on the ground, their wounds blood red in the painted versions. The Customs House behind the soldiers was labeled “Butchers Hall.”

Ironically, this picture went on sale on the same day the Boston town meeting voted not to distribute the Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre lest that sway potential jurors’ minds.

This image is probably Revere’s most famous production, but it’s not at all typical of his artwork. He rarely came up with such a complex composition with people and buildings lined up in careful perspective. So how had he managed that this time?

The Boston Gazette advertisement caught the attention of twenty-one-year-old Henry Pelham, half-brother of the painter John Singleton Copley and an aspiring artist himself. On Thursday, 29 March, 250 years ago today, Pelham addressed an angry note to Revere:

When I heard that you were cutting a plate of the late Murder, I thought it impossible, as I knew you was not capable of doing it unless you coppied it from mine and as I thought I had entrusted it in the hands of a person who had more regard to the dictates of Honour and Justice than to take the undue advantage you have done of the confidence and Trust I reposed in you.

But I find I was mistaken, and after being at the great Trouble and Expence of making a design paying for paper, printing &c, find myself in the most ungenerous Manner deprived, not only of any proposed Advantage, but even of the expence I have been at, as truly as if you had plundered me on the highway.

If you are insensible of the Dishonour you have brought on yourself by this Act, the World will not be so. However, I leave you to reflect upon and consider of one of the most dishonorable Actions you could well be guilty of.

H. Pelham.

P S. I send by the Bearer the Prints I borrowed of you. My Mother desired you would send the hinges and part of the press, that you had from her.
Pelham had been working on his own engraving of the Massacre, headlined “The Fruits of Arbitrary Power.” It reflected the same anger at the shooting that his older half-brother showed on 6 March when he went to the town meeting to complain about a soldier’s threat.

Revere’s print was almost identical to Pelham’s. The small differences included slightly wonkier perspective, the removal of a church spire, and that “Butchers Hall” sign.

Pelham had the decorative painter Daniel Rea, Jr., (1743-1803) printing 575 copies of his engraving. Along with “12 Quire of Paper,” that left the young artist owing Rea £5.9s.

There was no copyright law in colonial America. If an engraver went to all the trouble to carve a copy of someone else’s design, he could sell those prints. Pelham couldn’t object to Revere copying one of his published prints, but he obviously thought the silversmith had taken advantage of a drawing or early proof he’d cordially shared and then beaten him to market.

Revere and his Whig colleagues appear to have mollified the young artist. On Monday, 2 April, a new ad appeared in the Boston Gazette:
To be Sold by EDES and GILL,
and T. and J. Fleet,
(Price Eight Pence)
The Fruits of Arbitrary Power,
an Original Print, representing the last horrid Massacre in King Street, taken from the Spot.
A similar ad appeared in the Boston Evening-Post. The next week’s Gazette advertised Pelham’s print again. There was no second ad for Revere’s print. The town’s most radical printers thus helped Pelham earn back his investment. Revere’s accounts showed he continued to do business with the Copley and Pelham family over the next few years.

Curiously, there are more copies of Revere’s Massacre in collections today than Pelham’s. Did Revere make a lot more than 575 copies? Did that one-week edge in the market bring much wider distribution? Or did Revere’s fame in the late 1800s mean more people preserved copies of the print with his name?

Designing this image was the height of Henry Pelham’s Whiggism. His family was Anglican to begin with, which made him more apt to side with the royal government. Then Copley married a daughter of tea importer Richard Clarke, beleaguered in the weeks leading up to the Tea Party.

By the outbreak of the war in 1775, Pelham was so angry and suspicious about the Patriot cause that he feared a mob would attack another half-brother, Charles Pelham, in Newton. Henry Pelham left Boston with the British army in 1776 and settled in Ireland.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Departure of Commissioner John Robinson

Although the Boston Whigs indicted the Customs officer for the port of Gaspé; a passing notary; and a couple of bottom-level Customs employees for the Boston Massacre, those men weren’t their real targets.

The anonymous person reporting on events for Customs Commissioner Joseph Harrison wrote:
This affair has struck every friend of Government with Horror and amasement, not Knowing but that it may be their case tomorrow . . . almost Every person in the Province are made to believe, that the Commissioners, and principal Officers of the Revenue were aiders & abettors, in the fireing on the 5th Inst.
In his role as historian, and thus referring to himself in the third person, Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson later recounted:
Another witness, having sworn that he saw a tall man in the Custom house or in the balcony; it was insinuated to the Lt. Governor in Council that this was one of the Commissioners, who soon after left the Province and went to England.—There is no judging, in such times, where the credulity of the People will stop.
Who was this “tall man,…one of the Commissioners”? That was John Robinson.

Back in September 1769, Robinson had gotten into a coffee-house brawl with James Otis, Jr., seriously injuring the leader of the Massachusetts Whigs. That popped him to the top of the Least Popular Customs Commissioner list, beating out perennial Charles Paxton.

In February 1770, after land waiter Ebenezer Richardson killed Christopher Seider, some people whispered that superiors in the Customs service had encouraged him to use violence. Perhaps the Customs sloop sailor George Wilmot, who joined Richardson in defending his house, was acting under agency orders?

Clearly all these events were connected! Obviously Robinson and his colleagues were engaged in a secret transatlantic conspiracy to slowly press Massachusetts into political slavery!

Did anyone question how this conspiracy would benefit from killing an eleven-year-old? Or how a well-known tall man in hiding after the Otis brawl got into the Customs House in the center of town without anyone seeing him? Or why his method of attacking the crowd outside that building was by loading a musket, thrusting it into the hands of a teen-aged servant boy, and ordering him to shoot? (Charles Bourgate insisted he had shot over the crowd’s heads.)

Presumably the Boston activists believed that an investigation in the courts would answer those questions. Or, if we take the more cynical approach, they believed that they simply had to keep the questions alive until they achieved some sort of political victory over the Customs bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, what was John Robinson really up to? He had, as Hutchinson wrote, “left the Province and went to England.” The 22 March Boston News-Letter reported:
Friday last [i.e., 16 March] sailed for London the Captains Robson and Miller; in the former went the Hon. John Robinson, Esq; one of the Commissioners of the Board of Customs.
Robinson carried an important cargo: documents telling the army’s side of the story. Lt. Col. William Dalrymple wrote to his commander on 19 March:
I have sent to England States of the affairs here, as well as of Captain [Thomas] Preston’s case. You will pardon my doing so by any other channel than yours, when you consider that the first impression is always the strongest in such cases, an opportunity offered and I presumed to use it.
“Captain Preston’s case” meant a 2,200-word narrative by the imprisoned captain dated 14 March. Robinson also carried affidavits from twenty-one other army officers and several local eyewitnesses dated 12-15 March. They were all certified by James Murray, the Scottish-born justice of the peace appointed by Gov. Francis Bernard in 1768.

By comparison, Boston town officials started to collect testimony about the Massacre on the morning after—at the town meeting and for coroners’ inquests. But it wasn’t until 13 March that the town voted to commission a report on the event to send to Britain.

Whig magistrates took down depositions over the following week, particularly on 16, 17, and 19 March. Then they collected more. They deposed Charles Bourgate on 23 March. They interviewed three Customs service employees who refuted him on 24 March. Meanwhile, there was a debate in the town meeting about how best to send a fast ship to London with the report. The Short Narrative was finally printed on 30 March, and Capt. Andrew Gardner sailed with it on 1 April.

By that point, John Robinson and his documents already had a two-week head start for the imperial capital.

I think the Massachusetts Whigs learned a valuable lesson from this episode. The next time British soldiers shot and killed locals—at Lexington and Concord in April 1775—the Patriots were much more efficient about gathering testimony, printing it, and speeding it to London. In 1775, Capt. John Derby sailed from Salem on 29 April, ten days after the battle—or about as quickly as it took John Robinson to embark after the Massacre.

Friday, March 27, 2020

“The Grand Jury haveing found bills against them”

As I recounted back here, the Suffolk County grand jury inquiring into the Boston Massacre took a lot of testimony about whether people had fired down at the crowd from the Customs House behind the soldiers.

The foreman of that grand jury was William Taylor of Milton. (At the time, Suffolk County included all of present-day Norfolk County, so most of its population was outside Boston.)

According to A. K. Teele’s History of Milton, Taylor was born in Jamaica in 1714. His older brother John became Milton’s minister in 1729, and William went into business as a merchant in Boston, living on Cornhill near the Old Brick Meeting-House.

(It looks like another William Taylor was warden at King’s Chapel early in the century, and another William Taylor was a sea captain sailing in and out of the harbor, and another William Taylor had a mercantile store on Long Wharf and became a Loyalist.)

The Rev. John Taylor died in early 1750, and William advertised many times in the Boston newspapers over the next few years to sell and then rent property in Milton. He described that estate as “suitable for a Gentleman’s Seat, being but 8 Miles from the Town of Boston.” Also in the 1750s he paid Joseph Blackburn to paint his portrait, shown above.

William Taylor was active in Boston’s militia regiment, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel in December 1764. He also held offices in the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company and served for one year as a fireward.

In late 1765, Col. Taylor remarried, to the widow Sarah (Cheever) Savage. The following summer, the Taylors left Boston, apparently moving to that “Gentleman’s Seat” in Milton. His name then appears mainly in advertisements promoting land in Pownalborough, Maine. Thus, while Taylor was a country gentleman as he led the grand jury in 1770, he had close ties to the Boston elite.

After war broke out in 1775, soldiers broke into Gov. Thomas Hutchinson’s uninhabited mansion in Milton and found a trunk of letters, among other things. Col. Taylor took charge of that property. The letters went into the Massachusetts state archives while other goods “were sold at auction, at the barn of Col. Taylor.” This William Taylor died in 1789.

Hutchinson singled out another member of this grand jury as influential: “Mr Sam Austin of Boston.” Samuel Austin was a merchant and active Whig, playing a prominent role in the march on Hutchinson’s home earlier in 1770. In 1773 Austin was elected one of Boston’s selectmen, a position he held until the end of the siege.

One of Samuel Austin’s sons was Jonathan Williams Austin, who graduated from Harvard in 1769 and started clerking for John Adams that August. The younger Austin was also a witness at the Massacre trials, identifying Pvt. William Macauley.

In their deliberations, the grand jury led by Col. Taylor decided to believe the young French servant Charles Bourgate and the people who testified to seeing flashes from the Customs House windows. They therefore rejected the testimony of the men Bourgate accused. According to an anonymous Crown informant:
Notwithstanding [John] Munro & [Edward] Manwarring proveing a perfect Alibi they were this day (27th March) committed to Jail, as was also Green’s son and Thomas the manservant—the Grand Jury haveing found bills against them, as seven people positively swore to guns being fired that night out of the Custom House Windows.
Thus, 250 years ago today, the response of the grand jury to hearing Hammond Green, Thomas Greenwood, and others testify that there was no conspiracy to shoot people from the Customs House was to indict those men as being part of the conspiracy.

TOMORROW: The real villain—or the real target?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

“The Committee reserve all the printed Copies”

On Monday, 26 Mar 1770, 250 years ago today, the inhabitants of Boston once again gathered in Faneuil Hall for a town meeting. Technically, this was a continuation of the meeting they had adjourned the week before.

To discourage various sorts of bad behavior, the town elected twelve men, one from each ward, to the office of “Tything Men.” In his dictionary Samuel Johnson defined a tithingman as “A petty police office; an under-constable.”

The town already had a warden and a constable from each ward, enforcing the Sabbath, delivering writs, and otherwise policing public morals. But in this month they apparently needed help.

Notably, colonial Boston never elected tithingmen again. The town had done without them since 1727. Yet the town felt they were important in 1770—perhaps as a belated response to the presence of soldiers, perhaps because with the Massacre people felt a renewed need for the town to look proper.

The committee on how “to strengthen the Non Importation Agreement; discountenance the Consumption of Tea and for employing the Poor by encouraging Home Manufactures” reported that three new ships would be built in town. Those vessels would of course provide for more employment, but how they affected tea and imports is unclear. Nonetheless, that committee’s report “passed in the affermative by a unanimous Vote.”

Later, another committee reported that 212 sellers of tea had signed an agreement “not to sell any more Teas, till the late Revenue Acts are repealed,” and others were willing to agree “if its general.” Bostonians had no way of knowing that over in London the Parliament was already moving to repeal the Townshend duties—except the one that produced the most revenue, the tax on tea.

At this meeting James Bowdoin, Dr. Joseph Warren, and Samuel Pemberton reported that their analysis of “the execrable Massacre perpetrated on the Evening of the 5” was ready for printing. The town responded with an important vote:
whereas the publishing said Narrative with the Depositions accompanying it in this County, may be supposed by the unhappy Persons now in custody for tryal as tending to give an undue Byass to the minds of the Jury who are to try the same—

therefore Voted, that the Committee reserve all the printed Copies in their Hands excepting those to be sent to Great Britain ’till the further orders of the Town

Voted, that the Town Clerk [William Cooper] be directed not to give out Copies or deliver any of the Original Papers respecting the late horred Massacre; till the special order of the Town, or the direction of the Selectmen
The town would send copies of the report to advocates in London and sympathetic British politicians. As this letter shows, William Molineux sent a copy to Robert Treat Paine so he could prepare to prosecute the case. But the town meeting officially kept those books under wraps in America.

On this same date, Josiah Quincy, Jr., told his father why he had agreed to defend Capt. Thomas Preston in court:
I at first declined being engaged; that after the best advice, and most mature deliberation had determined my judgment, I waited on Captain Preston, and told him I would afford him my assistance; but, prior to this, in presence of two of his friends, I made the most explicit declaration to him, of my real opinion, on the contests (as I expressed it to him) of the times, and that my heart and hand were indissolubly attached to the cause of my country; and finally, that I refused all engagement, until advised and urged to undertake it, by an Adams, a Hancock, a Molineux, a Cushing, a Henshaw, a Pemberton, a Warren, a Cooper, and a Phillips.
Two of the three Short Narrative authors had urged Quincy to represent Preston, along with several of the town’s other leading politicians. Molineux, who had worked to build the case against Customs officer Edward Manwaring as being one of the shooters, nonetheless told Quincy to speak for the defense.

To make the town look good, to make any pardons seem unjust, and simply to be fair, the Boston Whigs wanted Capt. Preston, his soldiers, Manwaring, and even Ebenezer Richardson to have fair trials in Massachusetts courts.

And then to be hanged.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A New President for Harvard College

To be sure, there were other things going on in Massachusetts in March 1770 besides responses to the Boston Massacre. On 21 March, Harvard College installed a new president, the Rev. Samuel Locke.

Locke had been born in Woburn on 23 Nov 1731, the oldest child of a substantial farmer and his wife. Later his family moved to Lancaster, where he studied for college with the local minister.

At Harvard, Locke was in the class of 1755. His classmate and friend John Adams thought he was one of the “better Schollars than myself,” and enjoyed hearing him discuss metaphysics. After college, Locke did the equivalent of graduate school while seeking a job as a minister.

Sherborn had a vacancy because the Rev. Samuel Porter had died, and in November 1759 Locke was ordained as that town’s new pastor. Less than two months later, he married the previous minister’s daughter Mary. They had three children between 1761 and 1765: Samuel, Mary, and John.

Ten years later, Harvard College also faced the choice of a successor: Edward Holyoke, president of the college for thirty-two years, died in June 1769. Holyoke was highly respected, and he had built up the college’s reputation and campus, but his approach to education was conservative.

On 18 Dec 1769, after more than six months of discussion and some turn-downs, the Harvard corporation decided to offer the presidency to the Rev. Mr. Locke. Just thirty-eight years old, he would be the youngest person ever in that position.

The Rev. Andrew Eliot of Boston wrote on 25 December:
The corporation have at length chose a President. His name is LOCKE—a truly venerable name! This gentleman is minister of a small parish, about twenty miles from Cambridge. He has fine talents, is a close thinker, had at College the character of a first rate scholar; he is possessed of an excellent spirit, has generous, catholic sentiments, is a friend to liberty, and is universally acceptable, at least so far as I have heard. He has not conversed so much with the world as I could wish, and perhaps has not a general acquaintance with books; but he loves study, and will have opportunity at College to improve, being not yet forty years old. We know not whether he will accept.
Locke’s youth was thus seen as a plus, since he could grow in the job and serve for decades as Holyoke had. Even coming from a small country town turned out to be an advantage: though Eliot felt certain that Locke was “a friend to liberty,” the Sherborn minister had played no visible part in the religious and political controversies that split Massachusetts society.

People also perceived Locke as being strong in some of the modern subjects that the late president had neglected. The Rev. Ezra Stiles later judged:
Dr. Locke was scarcely equal to Mr. Holyoke in classical Knowledge but much superior to him in the Sciences, and in Penetration Judgment & Strength of mind. He was excellent & amiable in Government, tho’ he did not equal the Dignity of his Predecessor. And yet he was a greater Literary Character.
Locke’s old friend Adams always felt he had achieved “a Station for which no Man was better qualified.”

Members of the corporation rode out to Sherborn in late December and offered Locke the job. He took six weeks to accept. One obstacle might have been moving his family into Cambridge. Another was the Sherborn congregation’s reluctance to let him go; Harvard ultimately paid that body £37.1s.

On 21 March, the merchant John Rowe recorded in his diary: “This Day Mr. Lock was installed President of Cambridge.” The ceremony was even more grand than usual because the Massachusetts General Court was then sitting in Cambridge. Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson, Boston representative John Hancock, and many other office-holders attended.

Locke delivered an inaugural address in Latin in his robes. A man who knew him later in life recalled him as “a stout, dignified looking man, a little below the common stature.” Hutchinson gave a brief reply, also Latin, and then a student orated for longer. There were prayers and hymns and a dinner for all the professors and other dignitaries. The institution looked forward to a grand future.

That night, students set fire to the outhouse.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

“I then went up stairs into the lower west chamber”

As I described yesterday, in late March 1770 the Boston Whigs threw themselves behind Charles Bourgate’s story of shooters in the Customs House during the Boston Massacre.

Though one of the most respected magistrates in Boston refused to proceed with that case, the grand jury decided to investigate. According to an anonymous Crown informant:
the Grand Jury had the people who were in the Custom House, Vizt. [Bartholomew] Green’s Son [Hammond] & Daughter [Ann], and Thomas [Greenwood] & Molly [Rogers] two Servants, before them, once and sometimes twice a day for several days, but they continued uniform in one story Vizt. that there was no other person in the house that Night but themselves that at the time the soldiers fired, they were in the Room, where the supposed fireing was, and were certain there was no such thing.

Every method was made use of by threatning to make them fix it on some person but to no effect—
On 24 Mar 1770, 250 years ago today, Justices John Ruddock and John Hill took down the testimony of three of the people who looked after the Customs House: John Green, his brother Hammond Green, and Thomas Greenwood.

I’ve quoted two of those men in detail before, so here’s what Hammond Green had to say about the evening of 5 March, as printed in the Short Narrative report:
between the hours of eight and nine o’clock, I went to the Custom-house; when I came to the front-door of the said house, there were standing two young women belonging to said house [Elizabeth Avery and Mary Rogers], and two boys belonging to Mr. [John] Piemont the barber [Bartholomew Broaders and Edward Garrick];

I went into the house, and they all followed me, after that Mr. Sawny Irving came into the kitchen where we were, and afterwards I lighted him out at the front-door; I then went back into the kitchen again, and the boys above-mentioned went out; after that two other boys, belonging to Mr. Plemont [one probably Richard Ward], came into the kitchen, also my brother John, who had been in a little while before;

he went to the back door and opened it, saying that something was the matter in the street, upon which, with the other three, I went to the corner of Royal Exchange-lane in King-street, and heard an huzzaing, as I thought, towards Dr. [Samuel] Cooper’s meeting, and then saw one of the first-mentioned boys, who said the centry had struck him; at which time there were not above eight or nine men and boys in King-street;

after that I went to the steps of the custom-house door, and Mary Rogers, Eliza. Avery, and Ann Green, came to the door, at the same time heard a bell ring, upon the people’s crying fire, we all went into the house and I lock’d the door, saying, we shall know if any body comes;

after that, Thomas Greenwood came to the door and I let him in, he said, that there was a number of people in the street; I told him if he wanted to see any thing to go up stairs, but to take no candle with him; he went up stairs, and the three women aforementioned went with him, and I went and fastened the windows, doors, and gate;

I left the light in the kitchen, and was going up stairs, but met Greenwood in the room next to the kitchen, and he said, that he would not stay in the house, for he was afraid it would be pulled down, but I was not afraid of any such thing;

I then went up stairs into the lower west chamber, next to Royal Exchange-lane, and saw several guns fired in King-street, which killed three persons, which I saw lay on the snow in the street, supposing the snow to be near a foot deep;

after that, I let Eliza. Avery out of the front door, and shut it after her, and went up the chamber again;

then my father, Mr. Bartholomew Green, came and knock’d at the door, and I let him in; we both went into the kitchen and he asked me what was the matter; I told him that there were three persons shot by the soldiers who stood at the door of the Customhouse; he then asked me where the girls were, I told him they were up stairs, and we went up together, and he opened the window, and I shut it again directly; he then opened it again, and we both looked out;

at which time Mr. Thomas Jackson, jun. knock’d at the door,

I…asked who was there?

Mr. Jackson said, it is I, Hammond let me in;

I told if him my father was out, or any of the commissioners came, I would not let them in.
Jackson had already testified on 16 March that “when I knocked at the Custom-house door, all the persons I saw at the window over the centry box at the Customhouse (which window was then opened) was Mr. Hammond Green and some women.”

In sum, Hammond Green swore that he’d been in the Customs House the whole night, and he hadn’t seen Charles Bourgate, Edward Manwaring, John Munro, or a “tall man” with a musket. Furthermore, five other people in or around the building corroborated Green’s story. Four had even been in the room where the gunmen supposedly stood. And the local authorities had sworn testimony from at least four of those witnesses.

Nevertheless, the legal case against Edward Manwaring rolled on.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Superior Court “Overawed”

Even as the royal army and the town of Boston took steps to respond to the Boston Massacre in March 1770, a third institution was moving, albeit more slowly: the Massachusetts court system.

Under the provincial charter, governors appointed the judges in consultation with their Council. Judges served as long as they wanted. That meant the judiciary leaned toward the establishment and the Crown.

In fact, the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court was still Thomas Hutchinson, the acting royal governor. He had stopped exercising that judicial role, however, so the acting chief was Benjamin Lynde of Salem (1700-1781, shown here).

The court was scheduled to start sitting in Boston on 20 Mar 1770, but Judge Lynde’s diary shows that he didn’t arrive (with his enslaved servant Primus) until the following afternoon. Then on 22 March, “Two of the Judges being sick, the Court came to a Determination to adjourn to the 2d. Tuesday in June,” according to a report to Crown officials.

The Boston Whigs had anticipated that possibility. As I noted back here, the town meeting had already discussed now judges falling ill would delay the murder trials of Ebenezer Richardson and the soldiers involved in the Massacre. They didn’t want that.

On 22 March or the next day, some of the town’s leading Whigs went to the courthouse. The informant stated:
a committe consisting of Ad[am]s Mol[ineu]x, War[re]n H[ancoc]k & others waited upon them in court, and in a very pathetic Speech, made by Mr. A---s, Represented the necessity of proceeding to the trial of the Criminals this Term, particularly those concerned in the late bloody Massacre. . . .

Numbers even of the Sons of L----y were shocked to see their Sup-----r C---t overawed and insulted in this manner.
The Superior Court remained in session, but it did business slowly, starting with the civil cases.

Also on 23 March, or 250 years ago today, Boston Whigs revived the case against Customs officer Edward Manwaring for shooting at the crowd during the Massacre. As I’ve been tracing, that case rested on the testiomony of Manwaring’s young French servant, Charles Bourgate.

Charles had told his story to a shopkeeper on 6 March, then denied it to a magistrate, then retold it to that magistrate, was then refuted by an alibi witness named John Munro, then accused Munro of being complicit, and was finally refuted by a second alibi witness. Since his first testimony, Charles had been in the Boston jail, either for perjury or for his own protection—the courts would sort out which.

According to Lt. Gov. Hutchinson:
Mr. [Richard] Dana, a Justice zealous for the cause of Liberty, had examined the boy and was so fully convinced of the falsity of his evidence that he would not issue a warrant for apprehending the persons charged. . . . Among other reasons given for the refusal of the Justice to issue his warrant it was said that the facts to which the boy swore were of such a nature that it was impossible they should have escaped the observation of the great number of other persons present
More radical Boston Whigs disagreed. They had a handful of witnesses ready to testify they’d observed shots come from the second floor of the Customs House during the Massacre, just as Charles claimed.

On 23 March, magistrates John Hill and John Ruddock took down the French boy’s sworn story, presumably in the jail. Also present to attest to the boy’s mark were Dr. Elisha Story, Ruddock’s son-in-law, and Edward Crafts, brother of coroner Thomas Crafts. All those men were strong Whigs.

The justices duly recorded that “Edward Manwaring, Esq; and John Munroe…were notified and present; and interrogated the deponent.” But the boy stuck to his tale.

This deposition would go into the town’s Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre report. It would also go to the grand jury, which didn’t need warrants or judges to indict people and put them in jail.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Town Meeting and the “Carrier of the Dispatches”

On Thursday, 22 Mar 1770, 250 years ago today, Boston began a new town meeting.

It had been only three days since the end of the last meeting, which had spread over several days as inhabitants chose men for town offices and discussed how to respond to the Boston Massacre. In fact, legally that meeting was still going on, in adjournment until Monday.

One of the decisions at that meeting, as described here, was for the town to hire a ship “as a Packet to carry home their Dispatches” about the shooting. Those “Dispatches” included the town’s report on the shooting, which James Bowdoin, Dr. Joseph Warren, and Samuel Pemberton were busy revising.

The town had appointed a committee—John Bradford, William Molineux, and John Barrett—and they had “hired a Schooner of Capt. [Andrew] Gardner for One hundred Pounds and twenty Pounds Sterling.” So suddenly Boston was about to spend real money.

But the idea of renting a ship to sail to London hadn’t been listed as an agenda item for that previous meeting. Opponents could therefore object that that vote wasn’t legal. And I suspect that some men in the town leadership were also worried about the practical outcome of the previous session’s decisions.

The selectmen therefore issued a call for this new town meeting to address the same proposals. The town quickly “Voted unanimously, that—John Barrett Esq. Mr. William Mollineux Capt. John Bradford be and hereby are appointed a Committee to take up for the Town a suitable Vessel as a Packet.” That was the same committee as before, just listed in a different order.

Then Gardner, the captain those men had already hired, came into Faneuil Hall to report on how he was preparing the Betsy to sail:
he had got a Mate for his Schooner, upon whom he could depend, also a Hand extraordinary; and that if it be the mind of the Town; he would endeavor to secure a Landing upon the first English Ground he might make, and then immediately proceed to London in order to deliver with his own hand the Packets he may be intrusted with, to the Gentlemen to whom they shall be directed.
So far, just like before. But then the town voted not to “employ any Person beside the Captain of the Packet to be the Carrier of the Dispatches.”

Earlier in the week, a merchant captain named Samuel Dashwood had offered to take the report to London as long as the town paid his expenses, and the Monday meeting had agreed. Dashwood was a strong supporter of non-importation. In fact, he had led the merchants’ violent confrontation with printer John Mein in October 1769. He had threatened to break importer Theophilus Lillie’s neck in January.

The Thursday town meeting decided it was best not to send Capt. Dashwood to London. Perhaps the voters didn’t want the extra expense since Capt. Gardner was offering to do the same job. Perhaps they didn’t trust Dashwood to represent Boston at its best. But their thinking didn’t go into the official record. The town just voted thanks to Dashwood for his “generous offer” and moved on.

The last item for that 22 March meeting was to empower town treasurer David Jeffries “to borrow upon Interest the Sum of One hundred and fifty Pounds Sterling” to pay for Gardner’s ship and expenses.

The committee had earlier reported that the Betsy “would be ready for sayling by to Morrow.” But it didn’t embark that quickly. Because suddenly the Short Narrative report had to be revised and expanded.

TOMORROW: Back to the French boy.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Robert Patterson’s Memory of the Massacre

On 20 Mar 1770, 250 years ago yesterday, a sailor named Robert Patterson testified to his memory of the Boston Massacre.

Patterson was one of the men wounded in that shooting—badly wounded in one arm. Furthermore, he had also been at the Christopher Seider shooting eleven days earlier, so close that pellets from Ebenezer Richardson’s musket had cut through his baggy sailor pants.

Patterson was unable to sign his testimony, possibly because of the injury to his right hand. (He was disabled from his wound.) Dr. Elisha Story, perhaps the sailor’s physician, attested to his mark.

Here is Robert Patterson’s story, as published in Boston’s Short Narrative report:
…on Monday night, the 5th current, being at Capt. [Hector] McNeill’s at the North End, heard the bells ring and “Fire!” cried. I immediately ran till I got into Royal Exchange lane, it being about a quarter after 9 o’clock. I saw a number of people in the lane. I asked what was the matter? They told me that the soldiers were going to kill all the inhabitants.

I immediately went through the lane, and stood in the middle of King street about ten or eleven minutes (the sentinel then standing leaning against his box), when I saw an officer with seven or eight soldiers coming from the main-guard, clearing the way with their guns and bayonets, go below the sentinel box, and turn up and place themselves around it, facing the people standing opposite Royal Exchange lane; when I saw a man with a light colored surtout at the Custom-house door, the door being wide open, there standing with his shoulder against the side; then I heard the officer order the soldiers to load, which they did.

After that I heard the people say, ”Damn you, why don’t you fire?” In about a minute after I heard the word “Fire!” (but from whom I cannot say) which the soldiers did. Looking round I saw three men lay dead on the snow; the snow being at that time near a foot deep. Immediately they loaded again.

The people then gave three cheers, and cried out, “Let’s go in upon them, and prevent their firing again;” upon which they put on their hats and advanced towards them. My hand being raised to put on my hat, still advancing towards the soldiers, the sentinel up with his gun and fired, the balls going through my lower right arm, my hand immediately falling; and finding myself wounded, made the best of my way home with help.
Patterson’s oath was certified by Justice John Hill and Justice John Ruddock, one of the more confrontational Whigs and Dr. Story’s father-in-law.

The Whigs assembling the Short Narrative inserted Patterson’s testimony in the midst of the three witnesses I quoted back here, all supporting the idea of people shooting down from the Customs House. That might have been because of the figure Patterson described in the Customs House door, who might even have given the order to “Fire!”

What really stands out in Patterson’s testimony, however, is his description of the final shot coming after significant activity: three men falling dead, the soldiers all reloading, the crowd cheering and moving toward the soldiers, and the sentinel—Pvt. Hugh White—shooting Patterson in the arm. (It’s not clear what the crowd did after that point, but Patterson wisely left to find help.)

Patterson thus described the shooting as more than a panicked chain reaction—all the soldiers got ready to shoot again, and one did. He also described the crowd as more determined in that same moment, moving toward the troops instead of panicking. However, no one else on King Street described that sequence of events.

Other witnesses mentioned Patterson in their testimony. Josiah Simpson, joiner, said:
The deponent then standing by Warden and Vernon’s shop on the south side of King street, with his back to the soldiers; immediately after heard the word present, at which word he stooped down. A little space of time ensued, and then he heard the words, “Damn you, fire;” the sound of which words seemed to proceed from the left of all the soldiers, and very near to the sentry box; upon this order, he judged two guns were discharged, and immediately three more, and then two more—one of the two last guns went about five or six inches over the deponent’s back—after which he stood up, and another gun was discharged which wounded one Robert Patterson in the arm, and the blood was sprinkled upon the deponent’s hand and waistcoat. After the firing the deponent saw four persons drop; then looking towards the soldiers, the deponent saw them making towards the inhabitants with their fixed bayonets; upon which he retired down Quaker lane…
John Wilson stated:
Some small boys coming up made a noise to the soldiers, on which the officer said to them, “Why don’t you fire? Damn you, fire!” They hereupon fired, and two men fell dead in my sight. I then left the place, and went over the street and assisted Patterson the wounded man in getting home.
It’s notable that neither of those witnesses describe the same series of events as Patterson. Simpson did agree that there were several shots, a pause, and then a final shot that hit the sailor’s arm. But no reloading, no three cheers. If in fact the crowd gave three cheers, if all the soldiers reloaded, other people must have participated in, heard, and seen those actions—but no one else testified to them.

One witness mentioned seeing a soldier working with his gun before firing the last shot. That was William Wyatt, captain of a coasting vessel based in Salem, whom Donna Seger just profiled at the Streets of Salem. Wyatt told the magistrates:
…the second man on the left wing fired off his gun, then, after a very short pause, they fired one after another as quick as possible, beginning on the right wing; the last man’s gun on the left wing flashed in the pan, then he primed again, and the people being withdrawn from before the soldiers, most of them further down the street, he turned his gun toward them and fired upon them.
So here’s how I reconcile Patterson’s testimony with the rest of the witnesses. There was a burst of shots, starting with Pvt. Edward Montgomery. Then a couple of seconds with no firing. Patterson, Simpson, and others stood up, thinking the danger was over. Patterson may have even thought about moving forward to disarm the troops.

But then one soldier primed his firelock again and fired the ball that hit Patterson’s arm. In his anger and confusion, Patterson enlarged people straightening up into the whole crowd giving three cheers and advancing, and that one soldier fixing his musket into the whole line reloading.

Of course, the Massacre was a sudden, chaotic, confusing event involving scores of people in a heightened emotional state. There are a lot of discrepancies between different witnesses’ testimony, and at times even between the records of a single witness’s testimony. (Patterson, unlike Simpson and Wyatt, wasn’t called to testify at the trials, so we have only one account from him.) This is how I piece together the overall evidence about the shot that hit Robert Patterson.

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Misdating of William Molineux

Among the many interesting documents on the Massachusetts Historical Society’s webpage about the Boston Massacre is a letter from William Molineux, the Boston activist, to Robert Treat Paine, a lawyer practicing in Taunton.

It says:
Boston March 9 1770


Yesterday in the Forenoon the Select Men met in Order to Consider what was Necessary to be done Relative to proper Council to be Appointed to Appear in behalf of the Relatives of the Deceased, the first was Murder’d by [Ebenezer] Richardson & Afterwards others Capt. [Thomas] Preston & his Soldiers &c. By a Vote of the Town You’l Observe they are to Pay the Expense of Prosecution, of Consequence You will be by them Amply Satisfied.

It is the Opinion of the Select Men, & also those that are Suppos’d to be better Acquainted in Law Matters, that it will not be in Character for the Town to Appear against the Criminals, but the Relatives of the Deceased, by whome & in whose Name You are the Gentleman pitched Upon in their behalf, & against the said Richardson & the Capt & Soldiers.

The Bearer Mr Edwards now goes Express to desire You will be in Town the 17th Inst: to wch: day our Court is Adjourn’d & Presume Richardson’s Case will be the first that will come on, the Capt: & Soldiers will follow

The Evidences [i.e., witnesses] will be properly Arranged and Ready against You come, but in Order for Your Government (tho’ none are allow’d to be given out but under Peculiar Circumstances) & to prepare Yourself for the Tryal have sent by the Bearer a Printed Narrative of the Massacre, wth: abt: 80 Affidavits by Reading of which You will Enter into the Spirit of the thing & be fully Posses’d of Substance and Facts,

it may not be amis here to Observe that some how their has been great Deficiency in preparing Council in Time, Our Common Enemy’s (You know who they are) have Availd themselves of our Neglect, & have Engag’d most or all the Lawyers in Town, however I’m glad it falls to Your Lott to have an Opportunity of making an Eclat in so Popular a Cause, I am for my own Part Convinced of Your Readiness at all Times to Espouse your Countrys Cause, or that of Individuals, Who have Suffered by the hands of the Execrable V[illain]s & Professed Murders.

You will Please to give me a Line by the Bearer, the day you may be Expected in Town if Agreeable.

In the Interim Remain.
Your most Hble Servt
W Molineux
Molineux thus recruited Paine to be a special prosecutor for the murders of Christopher Seider and the people killed on King Street.

There’s one thing wrong with this document: the date. Now there’s no question that “March 9” is the date written at the top of the paper. The transcription is correct. But there’s no way Molineux could have composed this letter on that date.

As noted here, the Boston town meeting decided to pay for a special prosecutor on 13 March, empowering the selectmen to find the right attorney. Only after that vote and subsequent discussions (and perhaps some Boston attorneys turning down the job) would Molineux have reached out to Paine citing that vote.

At that same town meeting, Bostonians commissioned the Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre report, which Molineux enclosed for Paine. The M.H.S. offers a digital look at the copy of that report which Paine consulted and took notes in.

At the end of that book is Thomas Hutchinson’s certification that all the magistrates vouching for the testimony inside were indeed magistrates. The acting governor provided that document on 30 March, so the book must have been printed and bound after that date.

To be thorough, I considered the possibility that Molineux sent Paine early page proofs of the Short Narrative, and Paine later obtained a complete copy to replace those pages. But Molineux explicitly wrote of “abt: 80 Affidavits.” Most of the depositions in the book are dated 15-19 March, well after the date on the letter.

Then there’s the question of the court coming back into session “the 17th Inst:” or the 17th of this month. Other sources tell us that the Superior Court took up criminal cases, starting with Richardson, on 17 April, not March.

Therefore, I believe that Molineux misdated this letter, writing “March” instead of “April.” Or perhaps one of his sons did. William, Jr., and John had been star pupils of Abiah Holbrook at the South Writing School. The W, M, and L in the signature don’t match the style of those letters earlier in the document, though a signature may not be enough to make a definite judgment.

Why does the dating matter? This document (now published in the Robert Treat Paine Papers as well as the website) has already misled one scholar: In Boston’s Massacre, Eric Hinderarker describes an 8 March meeting of the selectmen based on Molineux’s letter. But such a meeting must have taken place a month later. The morning of 8 March was only two and a half days after the Massacre, and the selectmen weren’t planning for a trial that quickly.

To be fair, the selectmen’s minutes don’t mention an official meeting on either date. (They did meet on 9 April, with no business specified.) Nor is there any record of them delegating the job of contacting Paine to Molineux, who held no elected office. This letter shows how involved he was in every aspect of the Boston Whigs’ activity in 1770.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

When Boston Approved the Short Narrative

On 19 Mar 1770, 250 years ago today, Bostonians gathered for another session of the town meeting they had begun a week before.

Having finished electing men to the municipal offices, the people were now concentrating on how to respond to the Boston Massacre.

There were reports that some of the Superior Court judges were sick, which could delay the trials of Ebenezer Richardson, George Wilmot, Capt. Thomas Preston, and the soldiers of the 29th Regiment for murder. So the town appointed Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and John Barrett as a committee to ask Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson and the Council to approve “special Justices” to ensure those trials could go forward.

Then James Bowdoin, Dr. Joseph Warren, and Samuel Pemberton “laid before the Town a Draft” of their report on “the late horred Massacre.” This was the first version of what was eventually published as A Short Narrative The town meeting “Voted unanimously, that the same be accepted, and that the draft be recommitted for a further Revision,” which seems contradictory. Was the report complete and approved, or still in the works?

I think the Short Narrative was significantly revised after that approval vote. On 19 March, the French boy Charles Bourgate was in jail, his story discredited. But the published version of the report put a lot of weight on those allegations, citing depositions taken after the vote.

Indeed, the magistrates collecting testimony wrote about sessions on 16, 17, and 19 March, and they dated their report on that process on 22 March. But the final report included Charles Bourgate’s testimony on 23 March, plus (for fairness) responses from Customs employees dated the next day. Nonetheless, the vote on 19 March was Boston’s official approval.

Even as Bowdoin, Warren, and Pemberton were sent off to revise, the meeting turned to how to send it to supporters in England. Someone made a motion “that a Fishing Schooner might be hired by the Town as a Packet to carry home their Dispatches.” The town appointed sea captain John Bradford and merchants William Molineux and John Barrett to hire “a suitable Vessel immediately upon the best terms they can.”

Capt. Samuel Dashwood then stood up and “offered himself in Town Meeting, to go Home charged with the Delivery of such Dispatches as were going by the Packet.” The meeting accepted Dashwood’s offer and agreed to defray his expenses.

All that seemingly settled, the meeting turned to bigger issues, such as encouraging people not to buy tea or patronize shopkeepers who were still defying the non-importation agreement. The town once again expanded its list of importers to shun, this time adding Israel Williams of Hatfield and Henry Barnes of Marlborough.

Last came the biggest issues of all—finding
some effectual Methods to prevent unlicensed Strangers and other Persons from entertaining and supplying the Youth and Servants of the Town with spirituous Liquors; for the breaking up of bad Houses; and removal of any disorderly Intruders to the Places from whence they came; and for the further discountenancing of Vice, and promoting a Reformation of Manners
The meeting dealt with that item by, of course, appointing a committee.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

“Otis got into a mad freak to-night”

With everything else going on in Boston in the wake of the Boston Massacre, I don’t want to lose track of James Otis’s mental state.

In early September 1769, Otis was speaking extravagantly, monopolizing conversation, and annoying even his fan John Adams. Then he got into a coffee-house fight with royal appointee John Robinson, suffering a severe blow on the head. The following month, Adams wrote rather favorably of the result.

But early in the new year, Otis went into another manic period. Adams wrote in his diary on 16 Jan 1770:
Last Evening at Dr. Peckers with the Clubb.—Otis is in Confusion yet. He looses himself. He rambles and wanders like a Ship without an Helm. Attempted to tell a Story which took up almost all the Evening. The Story may at any Time be told in 3 minutes with all the Graces it is capable of, but he took an Hour.

I fear he is not in his perfect Mind. The Nervous, Concise, and pithy were his Character, till lately. Now the verbose, roundabout and rambling, and long winded. He once said He hoped he should never see T[homas].H[utchinson]. in Heaven. Dan. Waldo took offence at it, and made a serious Affair of it, said Otis very often bordered upon Prophaneness, if he was not strictly profane. Otis said, if he did see H. there he hoped it would be behind the Door.—In my fathers House are many Mansions, some more and some less honourable.

In one Word, Otis will spoil the Clubb. He talkes so much and takes up so much of our Time, and fills it with Trash, Obsceneness, Profaneness, Nonsense and Distraction, that We have no [time] left for rational Amusements or Enquiries.

He mentioned his Wife—said she was a good Wife, too good for him—but she was a tory, an high Tory. She gave him such Curtain Lectures, &c.

In short, I never saw such an Object of Admiration, Reverence, Contempt and Compassion all at once as this. I fear, I tremble, I mourn for the Man, and for his Country. Many others mourne over him with Tears in their Eyes.
The turmoil in Boston after the Massacre appears to have riled Otis more. On 16 March, the merchant John Rowe wrote in his diary: “Mr. Otis got into a mad freak to-night, and broke a great many windows in the Town House.”

At the time, Otis was still officially one of Boston’s representatives to the House of Representatives that met in that building. Obviously, he was in no condition to remain in that seat.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Troops’ Schedule for “embarkation for the castle”

One of the great things about the Sestercentennial of the Boston Massacre earlier this month is that I got to hear questions and new perspectives I could investigate.

In the coming days I’ll go back over some of those points, starting with the question of when the 29th and 14th Regiments moved out to Castle Island.

As described here, after simultaneous meetings of the town and the Massachusetts Council on the afternoon of 6 March, Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson and Lt. Col. William Dalrymple acceded to Bostonians’ demand to send all the troops from central Boston to Castle William.

This season I saw tweets saying that the troops went to the Castle “before sunset” on 6 March, or “Less than a week after the Boston Massacre,” which would have been 12 March.

The Boston Whigs would have welcomed such speed. But moving hundreds of men, their equipment, and their families took more than a few hours or even a week. In fact, the 14th dawdled so long that the town meeting complained, repeatedly.

Because soldiers of the 29th did the shooting on King Street, everyone agreed they should leave town—for their own safety as well as to calm the public. The diary of merchant John Rowe records their departure within a week:
March 10. – Yesterday two companies of the 29th went to the Castle, and four companies more went this day; still a military watch.

March 12. —The remainder of the 29th went to the Castle this day; still a military watch.
By “military watch,” Rowe meant that a Boston-based militia was patrolling the town in force to keep the peace.

Decades later, John Adams wrote to his old clerk, William Tudor, about the departure of some soldiers, probably from the 29th:
William Molineaux was obliged to march side by side with the commander of some of these troops: to protect them from the indignation of the people, in their progress to the wharf of embarkation for the castle—

Nor is it less amusing that lord north, as I was repeatedly & credibly informed in England, with his characteristic mixture of good humour & sarcasm ever afterwards call’d these troops by the title of “Sam Adams’s two regiments.”
I’d like another source for that last line, but at least Adams gives us some hint of how he supposedly came to be privy to Lord North’s remark.

The ongoing presence of the troops was an issue at the town meeting held on 12-13 March, summarized here. There was already a “Committee of the Town now sitting at the Representatives Chamber” in the Town House addressing that issue. It looks like that those men were Molineux, Adams, John Hancock, William Phillips, Dr. Joseph Warren, Joshua Henshaw, and Samuel Pemberton. They reported to the meeting as a whole:
That they had attended the Business alotted them by the Town, Night and Day, and done every thing in their power by their repeated applications to Collo. Dalrymple to expedite the removal of the Troops, that the 29 Regiment was already Gone, and the Collo. had assured them that the 14th. Regiment should begin to follow them this Day, and that no time should be lost in removing them
The meeting sent those same men back to the colonel with the message “that this Town have now waited Seven Days, for the removal of the 14 & 29th Regiments agreable to his express promise made in presence of the Lieut. Governor his Majesty’s Council and ye. Committee of the Town to remove the same with the utmost dispatch.”

The committee returned with Dalrymple’s promise “that between Thursday Night and Fryday Morning not one of the 14th. Regiment, except himself, would remain here.”

But when the town meeting reconvened on Friday morning, 16 March, there were still some troops in town. It looks like Dalrymple was dragging his feet, hoping to give his superior in New York, Gen. Thomas Gage, time to send explicit orders about what to do.

The men at Faneuil Hall “Voted, that a Committee be sent to the Committee of the Town meeting at the Town House, to know from them whether all the Troops had left us.” Yes, that was a committee to communicate to another committee.

Molineux came “and informed the Town that he had this Morning been with Collo. Dalrymple to know how far he had proceeded in sending away the Troops, when he had assured him that the whole of what remained would be embarqued in four Boats by One O’Clock, when they would immediately go down to Castle Island.”

Rowe’s diary confirms that Dalrymple fulfilled that promise by the end of that Friday: “All the 14th regiment are gone to the Castle, the last of them this day.”

So it took ten days from the royal officials’ agreement to remove all the troops from Boston until they were actually gone.