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.

Subscribe thru Follow.it


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

“Too deeply impressed with the melancholy Situation”

A few days back I mentioned fireworks at New York’s celebration of King George III’s birthday in June 1774. I thought the report of that event in John Holt’s New-York Journal was interesting.

Saturday, June 4, of that year was when the king “entered the 27th Year of his Age.” The newspaper started with a discussion of the British military’s actions under Gen. Frederick Haldimand and Cdr. James Ayscough. (Gov. William Tryon was in Britain or else he would probably have led the celebration.)

The item continued:
In the Evening some very curious Fireworks were exhibited, and a small Number of Houses were illuminated; but the Generality of the Inhabitants (though perfectly well affected to his Majesty’s Person and Family, and prefering the English Constitution to every other Form of Government) were too deeply impressed with the melancholy Situation of all the British Colonies, to assume the least Appearance of public rejoicing, while it remains in Suspense whether we shall remain Freeman by maintaining our Rights, or submit to be Slaves.
Hugh Gaine’s New York Gazette and [James] Rivington’s New York Gazetteer didn’t include any of the words after “illuminated.”

In Philadelphia the diarist Christopher Marshall reported even less visible enthusiasm on what was ordinarily a patriotic holiday:
4th. This being the birth day of King George III., scarcely, if any, notice was taken of it in this city, by way of rejoicing: not one of our bells suffered to ring, and but very few colours were shown by the shipping in the harbour; no, nor not one bonfire kindled.
The problem was the Boston Port Bill and other Coercive Acts. Americans Whigs like Marshall were alarmed by how Parliament was clamping down after the Tea Party and wanted to make their fellow colonists equally alarmed that the same could happen to them.

At the same time, Whig printer Holt wanted to assure readers in America and Britain that the colonists were still loyal to the king and constitution. They just differed with the ministers in London about what that constitution demanded.

No comments: