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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Monday, July 06, 2020

An Effigy on Horseback in Marlborough

When we left merchant Henry Barnes sometimes in June 1770, his Marlborough neighbors had just hanged him in effigy.

A letter from Marlborough dated 20 July and published in Edes and Gill’s Boston Gazette for 30 July gave some Whiggish townspeople’s view of that incident:
THERE was in Marlborough some time last June an old hay-bag stuffed with hay or straw formed with a man’s crotch, body, neck and head, but with a very little resemblance thereof, and hanged by the neck to a gallows with a paper fastened to his breast with these words written in capital letters, “A notorious Importer Henry, Tory, Booby, Tom, Bellus————a spectacle indeed!: and in the evening was cut down & burnt with loud huzzas; and was found to be an Impostor.
In her letter completed 6 July, 250 years ago today, Henry’s wife, Christian Barnes, told her friend Elizabeth Smith what happened next:
A few nights after they stole the covering from the wagon, which was tarred to secure the goods from the weather, and the same night stole a man’s horse from a neighboring stable. They dressed an image in this wagon covering, tarred the horse, saddle and bridle, placed the image upon his back, and set him loose about the town, with an infamous paper pinned to the breast, which was summed up with wishing of us all in hell.
Again, some of the Barnes’s neighbors put a different spin on that event:
Afterwards there appeared in the street an old horse with another hay bag in the fashion of the first, sitting upright on the saddle and made fast to the same, and both man [&] horse dripping with tar, and the old horse, whether by revelation or instinct, marched directly towards Sir Harry’s: but the horse on receiving a fright made off as fast as he could, but Tim. Swann (Barns’s boy) pursued the horse & man, but all in vain.
The Whigs of Marlborough weren’t denying that those public demonstrations of disapproval and intimidation had taken place. In fact, they wanted others in the province to know about those actions.

TOMORROW: A disputed “incendiary letter.”

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