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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Sunday, January 02, 2022

“Poop for Boston towny!”

Pennsylvania had its convention to ratify the new U.S. Constitution from 21 November to 12 December 1787.

It was the first large state to approve of the new federal government. The vote was one-sided: 46 to 23.

The Anti-Federalist side didn’t simply accept that vote and shut up, however. Those politicians continued to promulgate their arguments, hoping to affect the votes in other states. The Pennsylvania Federalists doubled their efforts to talk up the new Constitution locally and elsewhere.

Pennsylvanians therefore had a surprising amount to say about the Massachusetts ratifying convention, which met 9 January to 5 February 1788.

In Philadelphia, the Continental Army veteran Eleazer Oswald (1755–1795, shown here) made the Independent Gazetteer a daily Anti-Federalist voice—one of only a dozen American newspapers to publish essays against ratification.

The 19 February issue of the Independent Gazetteer ran a pro-ratification report based on Benjamin Edes’s Boston Gazette from eight days earlier, giving it the ironic headline “The Grand Federal Edifice.”:
WITH the highest satisfaction we announce to the public, that the Convention of this commonwealth, on Wednesday at five o’clock, P. M. assented to, and on Thursday ratified the Constitution proposed by the last Federal Convention.

On this pleasing event, we beg leave to congratulate the public, and to express our sincere wishes, that the general joy which it has diffused through all ranks of citizens, may be an auspicious omen of the superior advantages which shall result from the establishment of such a Federal Government, as this Constitution provides.
Oswald added, “The motion for ratifying was declared in the affirmative, by a majority of nineteen.” The vote in Massachusetts was 187-168, a much closer outcome than in Pennsylvania. Massachusetts’s convention also started a trend of calling for specific amendments, putting implied conditions on its vote.

The Boston Gazette report continued with a detailed description of the Federalist procession that followed ratification. The Independent Gazetteer printed this:
In consequence of which the Boston folks had a GRAND Procession–

There they went up, up, up,
And there they went down, down, downy,
There they went backwards and forwards,
And poop for Boston towny!

This grand intelligence reached Philadelphia, on Saturday evening last, when the bells of Christ Church were rung–

Here they rung, rung, rung,
And here they bobb’d about, abouty.
Here were doubles and majors and bobs,
And heigh for ’delphia city!
These verses parodied a traditional Scottish song published as “The Nurses’ Song” or “Hey my kitten my kitten,” lyrics attributed to Jonathan Swift.

Pennsylvania Federalists felt that Oswald wasn’t treating the Massachusetts ratification with the respect it deserved.

TOMORROW: Two responses.

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