Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Tea with Gen. Gage in Salem This Week

In June 1774, 250 years ago, Salem suddenly became more important.

Parliament’s Boston Port Bill took effect on 1 June, and the harbor of Salem and Marblehead became Massachusetts’s largest port open to trade from outside the colony. The Customs office moved there.

Also, Gov. Thomas Gage adjourned the Massachusetts General Court from Boston to Salem, following orders from London. That move didn’t require a new law since the royal governor already had the power to convene the legislature where he chose. That didn’t stop most of the new session being taken up with complaints about being in Salem.

When Gage moved to the region, renting a house in nearby Danvers, he also brought a contingent of British soldiers. There doesn’t appear to have been as much friction between those troops and the locals as in Boston in 1768–1770, but the town governments still raised concerns.

This week the city’s historical organizations are commemorating that period with some public events.

Thursday, 13 June, 7:00 P.M.
Tea’s Party: From Boston to Salem and Back Again
Salem Armory Regional Visitor Center

James R. Fichter speaks about how, despite the so-called Boston Tea Party of 1773, large shipments of tea from the East India Company were sold in North America. The survival of the Boston tea shaped Massachusetts politics in 1774, impeded efforts to reimburse the company for its losses, and hinted at the enduring conflict between consumer demand and political boycotts.

That tension was not confined to Boston. As Gen. Gage and the colonial government relocated to Salem in the summer of 1774, Essex County residents found committing to a boycott just as difficult as Bostonians had.

Fichter is Associate Professor in Global and Area Studies at the University of Hong Kong. He is the author of So Great a Profit: How the East Indies Transformed Anglo-American Capitalism and Tea: Consumption, Politics, and Revolution, 1773–1776.

This event is free. For directions, visit this page.

Saturday & Sunday, 15–16 June, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.
Governor Gage Comes to Salem
Derby Wharf, Salem

The British army will encamp on the waterfront, with some of New England’s finest living history practitioners portraying soldiers, officers, legislators, and the Loyalist and Patriot citizens of Salem. Over the weekend, visitors can meet people from many walks of life: shoeblacks, teachers, merchants, tavern-keepers, midwives, and more. Activities to be reenacted include military drill, camp cooking, placing ads in a newspaper, and political debate at the tavern.

Here is the full schedule of events.

Sunday, 16 June, 9:00 A.M.
Join the Royal Governor at Church
St. Peter’s Church, Salem

Gen. Gage attended the local Anglican Church when he was in America. In Salem, that meant St. Peter’s, which will recreate an eighteenth-century service with the general occupying the same pew that he used in 1774.

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