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, August 03, 2020

“The Cryer proclaiming at every Corner”

Yesterday I quoted John Rowe’s brief and disapproving description of a political parade in Boston on 24 July 1770.

A more detailed and positive account appeared in the 13 Aug 1770 New-York Gazette, an extract of a letter from Boston dated 26 July:
The Sons got a Union [flag], on which they inscribed, Immediate Exportation without Exception, on Royal Paper [19" x 24"]: This was preceeded by the Cryer [probably Thomas Webber], and a French-Horn, and immediately followed by two Drums; the most reputable North-End Sons being principal Tradesmen, &c.

To these succeeded two Pair of Colours, and two more drums, and thus proceeded the whole Length of the Town, the Cryer proclaiming at every Corner, The Voice of the Trade and the People will be attended to this Afternoon at 3’Clock.——Now is the Crisis---Will you be enslaved by a Handful of Importers. Yea, or Nay? The Answer, NO! with the loudest Acclamations.—

The Meeting was very full, and a unanimous Vote passed, That whereas the Committee of Merchants had received a Letter from four Gentlemen in New-York, taking upon them the Stile of the Committee of Merchants of New-York, and that there was not sufficient Reason to believe, that the Contents of the said Letter (which was read in my Absence) were the Sentiments of the Committee of Merchants in New-York, the said Letter be torn to Pieces in the most indignant Manner, and committed to the Winds; and a Standing Committee was directed to write a respectful Letter to the remaining Seventeen Members, acquainting them with the above Vote, and a subsequent one, which obtained unanimously for supporting the [non-importation] Agreement.

A Committee was then appointed to wait upon all the Importers in the late Vessels, and take their Orders to the Truckmen, to take the Goods on board, and the Meeting was adjourned to Wednesday. Yesterday the Committee reported they had made great Progress in the Business, and did not doubt it would be happily effected in a short Time. Thus stands mercantile Matters here.
This correspondent urged colleagues in New York to go back to the boycott, insisting that they were hurting their trade relations with Connecticut and New Jersey, and that doing so would produce major results in Britain. “On Boston, my Friend, you can depend,” the letter promised.

To be sure, the same letter also reported this news from the shipmaster who had carried Boston’s Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre and other documents to London:
Capt. [Andrew] Gardner says, there were not less than a Thousand Scotchmen in London, who had come there with Design to embark for America, to take Possession of the forfeited Estates. What fine pickings this would be; but how sad the Disappointment! No wonder these honest Fellows hate us for behaving in such a Manner as to defeat such glorious Prospects!
Rumors of outsiders coming to take your property were a powerful political weapon, then and since.

The same day this merchant sent his letter to New York, the Whigs announced in the Boston News-Letter that all the importers who had stored their goods had indeed agreed to “Immediate Exportation.” I’m dubious—the letter said the committee had only “made great Progress.” But the Whigs had to maintain a public show of unanimity.

TOMORROW: Defections north and south?

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