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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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Benjamin Simpson and the “Destruction of Tea in Boston”

On 10 Nov 1828, a prosperous farmer in Saco, Maine, wrote out his recollections of an event in Boston fifty-five years earlier:

Destruction of Tea in Boston, Dec. 16, 1773.

I was then an apprentice to a bricklayer, when two ships and a brig, with tea on board, arrived at Boston, with heavy duties, which the Bostonians would not consent to pay. The town being alarmed at such proceedings, called town-meetings day after day, night after night.

The captain of the first ship that arrived [actually Dartmouth owner Francis Rotch], went from the town-meeting, to the governor [Thomas Hutchinson] to see if he would give his ship a passport out by Castle Island. At his return in the evening (the town waiting the result of the application,) he was asked the governor’s answer, which was that he should not grant a pass unless she was well qualified from the Customhouse.

After the captain reported this answer to the meeting, a voice was heard in the gallery, hope she will be well qualified. The captain was then asked if he would take charge of the ship and carry her out of Boston, notwithstanding the refusal of the governor; to which he answered, No. (A whistle in the gallery—call to order.) The meeting was then declared to be dissolved, (in the gallery, Every man to his tent!)

We repaired to the wharf where the ships lay. I went on board one or both ships, but saw no person belonging to them. In a few minutes a number of men came on the wharf, (with the Indian powaw,) went on board the ships then lying at the side of the wharf, the water in the dock not more than two feet deep. They began to throw the tea into the water which went off with the tide till the tea grounded.

We soon found there was tea on board the brig [Beaver]; a demand being made of it, the captain told us the whole of his cargo was on board; that the tea was directly under the hatches, which he would open if we would not damage any thing but the tea; which was agreed to. The hatches were then opened—a man sent down to show us the tea, which we hoisted out, stove the chests, threw tea and all overboard. Those on board the ships, did the same.

I was on board the ships when the tea was so high by the side of them as to fall in; which was shovelled down more than once. We on board the brig were not disguised. I was then 19 years old, am now 75.

Benjamin Simpson.
That reminiscence was published by the Portland Weekly Advertiser on 17 Apr 1849 in its obituary for Simpson. He had died on 23 March at the age of 94.

The same words, with different punctuation, had already appeared in George Folsom’s 1830 History of Saco and Biddeford. But the newspaper editors felt certain they had Simpson’s recollection in his own handwriting.

Simpson and his Revolutionary history were well known in Saco. Back in 1835 the Daily Advertiser had pointed out that George R. T. Hewes, then being feted in Boston, was not the only survivor of the Boston Tea Party since Simpson “enjoys very good health, and retains all his faculties.”

TOMORROW: Assessing Simpson’s story.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Mystery of “Mucius Scævola”

Isaiah Thomas’s Massachusetts Spy started to publish the essays of “Mucius Scævola” on 30 May 1771, four months after Joseph Greenleaf advertised his property in Abington for sale.

That summer there was a dispute over which Boston printer got the contract to publish the graduating Harvard class’s theses—Richard Draper of the established and government-friendly Boston News-Letter or Thomas of the Spy. Thomas won, which sparked a little newspaper war. The Colonial Society of Massachusetts published a whole article about that dispute, which it’s made available here.

On 8 Aug 1771 the News-Letter offered an essay which described the men behind “the dirty Spy” this way:

What a wretched Triumvirate! a poor shiftless erratic Knight from Abington, a dunghill-bred Journeyman Typographer, and a stupid phrensical Mountebank
Thomas was the “Typographer.” The “Mountebank” was almost certainly Dr. Thomas Young, who many people agreed was writing for the Spy under the name “Leonidas” and was well known for this enthusiasms in both medicine and politics. And the “Knight from Abington” could only be Joseph Greenleaf—it wasn’t that big a town.

The 15 August Spy carried a couple of replies. One insisted that “neither Joseph Greenleaf, Esq; Doctor Thomas Young, nor Mr. Isaiah Thomas” had been involved in composing a statement from the graduating Harvard students. But that’s different from denying that those men were connected to the Spy. In fact, Greenleaf and Thomas had become business partners of some sort.

Another reply in the same issue addressed three pseudonymous or anonymous News-Letter essayists this way:
If by ridiculing and sneering at my character, and maliciously defaming me; you think you have offered a sacrifice of a sweet smelling favour in the nostrils of his Excellency [Gov. Thomas Hutchinson], you may possibly be mistaken; he too well knows your views, he also knows that “Nero’s flatterers, were Nero’s assassins.”

I have one favour to ask of you, that is, that you would not lurk priv’ly to take away my reputation; act like veterans; take the field in open day-light, and to use the language of the Cantabrigian, “Lie on,” make yourselves what mirth you please at my expence, bury none of your talents at defamation, only let the world know your names; subscribe your future productions, and let mankind judge of the truth of the charges by the credibility of the accusers of

J. GREENLEAF
In his article “Tag-Team Polemics,” published by the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1995, Neil L. York wrote that this was one of three times that Greenleaf denied having anything to do with the “Mucius Scævola” essays.

That’s not how I read Greenleaf’s reply. He wasn’t denying anything, except that his opponents’ attacks would win them favor with the governor. He challenged his opponents to drop their anonymity. Sure, it would be hypocritical to issue that challenge while continuing to publish under a pseudonym, but Greenleaf didn’t confirm or deny he was “Mucius Scævola.”

Likewise, the other two “denials” never really denied that connection. On 22 November, as I quoted yesterday, Greenleaf disingenuously said that he couldn’t imagine why he had received a summons from the Council after “Mucius Scævola” called the governor a “USURPER.” In the 13 Jan 1772 Boston Gazette, Greenleaf went further in an addendum to a letter about the whole controversy:
P. S. A secret has leaked out, it is said, it was my duty as a magistrate, to have prevented the publication of the Piece signed Mucius Scævola! But I have no such connections with Mr. Thomas or any other Printer, as give me a right to restrain him or them in any publication, though I must confess, that if I had power to restrain the Press, I should have no inclination to hinder Mucius, or even Chronus, or Impavidus, from laying their sentiments before the public.
Greenleaf thus denied “connections with Mr. Thomas”—but only connections which would give him legal authority as a justice of the peace to restrain the press. We know he really was in business with Thomas.

In that postscript Greenleaf wrote of “Mucius” in a way that implied the writer was separate from himself. Likewise, in a 2 Jan 1772 essay in the Spy “Mucius Scævola” reproached Gov. Hutchinson for how he had treated “J. Greenleaf, Esq”:
I argued this point with you in a former paper, and you summoned Mr. Justice Greenleaf to appear before you in council to answer to it. He knew you had again gone beyond your last, and treated your summons as it deserved.
Those remarks certainly imply that Greenleaf didn’t want to be identified as “Mucius Scævola,” but they’re not direct denials.

In Revolutionary Politics in Massachusetts, Richard D. Brown accepted the implication of Greenleaf’s Gazette postscript and wrote that the governor went after him because he “had made no attempt to suppress an inflammatory piece by [Dr. Joseph] Warren in Isaiah Thomas’ Spy.” I suspect that mixes up the 1771 controversy with the similar dispute over one of Warren’s essays in 1768, which I noted here. In his recent biography of Warren, Samuel Forman took Brown’s opening to ascribe all the “Mucius Scævola” essays to Warren. I’m not convinced by that reading of the evidence.

Rather, I think Greenleaf’s replies show how carefully he avoided making a direct statement about whether he was “Mucius Scævola.” He played dumb about why the Council would want to see him. He fudged his connection with Thomas. He challenged his opponents to give up their anonymity first. But he never stated that he hadn’t written the essay everyone was talking about, which he could have done at any time if he were really being unjustly accused. Anyone observing political interviews today can see him silently sidestepping the big question he didn’t want to answer.

It’s true that we have no claim from either Greenleaf or Thomas (shown above in old age) that Greenleaf wrote as “Mucius Scævola.” But neither did they or any contemporary ever name someone else as that writer. Thomas did acknowledge that Greenleaf became his partner in some ventures and wrote effective political essays. If those weren’t the “Mucius Scævola” pieces in the Spy, where are they?

The Abington Resolves that Greenleaf penned in 1770 declared that Parliament’s new laws were “a mere nullity” because they didn’t come from proper authority. “Mucius Scævola” called the governor’s decrees “null and void” for the same reason. And in his January 1772 response over his own name, Greenleaf declared the Council’s summons “WHOLLY illegal” and not worth “paying any obedience to.” That was his go-to argument.

Hutchinson and other supporters of the royal government were convinced that Greenleaf was “Mucius Scævola,” even if they couldn’t prove it. For almost two centuries, historians accepted that assessment. No one before Brown ascribed those essays to Dr. Warren. Even York, while writing that Greenleaf denied authorship, treated him as “Mucius Scævola.” And unless more evidence turns up, I’m giving him credit, too.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Joseph Greenleaf and “the Council-chamber in Boston”

On 16 Nov 1771, the day after Joseph Greenleaf declined to meet with Gov. Thomas Hutchinson and the Massachusetts Council (on the understandable grounds that his teen-aged son was dying), the Council issued a formal summons for him:
You are required to appear before the Governor and Council, at the Council-chamber in Boston, on Tuesday the tenth day of December next, at ten of the clock in the forenoon, then and there to be examined touching a certain paper called The Massachusetts Spy, published the fourteenth day of November, 1771; whereof you are not to fail at your peril.
Greenleaf’s name didn’t actually appear in that issue of the Spy. The essay that angered the governor was signed “Mucius Scævola,” and Hutchinson was convinced that was Greenleaf’s pen name.

In an article in the 13 Jan 1772 Boston Gazette, Greenleaf laid out his response:
This proceeding alarmed me, as I judged it WHOLLY illegal, for I could have no idea of the legality of erecting a court of INQUISITION in this free country, and could find no form for such a citation in the province law books: My duty to my country therefore forbad my paying any obedience to it, especially as it might hereafter be used as a precedent.

I should be very unwilling to be thought a despiser of the laws of my country, I religiously submit to them all, “not only for wrath, but for conscience sake.” [Romans 13:5] I have not such a mistaken notion of liberty, as to think it consists in a freedom from obligation either to the laws of nature or of the laws of the land: But the freedom I now contend for is, a right of resistance, or rather withholding my obedience, when unlawfully commanded.
Greenleaf had the summons printed in the 22 November Massachusetts Spy. “I know not the design of it, nor why it is sent to me rather than to any body else,” he wrote. That and other Whig newspapers began to run essays in support of him.

On 10 December, Greenleaf didn’t go to the Town House as demanded. (The empty Council Chamber appears above, courtesy of the Old State House Museum.)

The Council minutes for that date therefore stated:
His Excellency having acquainted the Board at their last meeting, that Joseph Greenleaf, Esq; a Justice of the Peace for the county of Plymouth, was generally reputed to be concerned with Isaiah Thomas, in printing and publishing a News-Paper, called the Massachusetts Spy, and the said Joseph Greenleaf having thereupon been summoned to attend the board on this day, in order to his examination touching the same, and not attending according to summons, it was thereupon unanimously advised, that the said Joseph Greenleaf be dismissed from the office of a Justice of the Peace, which advice was approved of and consented to by his Excellency, and the said Joseph Greenleaf is dismissed from the said office accordingly.
That notice was printed in the newspapers. Hutchinson had found a way to punish someone for the essay that called his a “USURPER,” even if he had to take a roundabout route to that result.

Greenleaf’s response in the Boston Gazette was a legal argument that royal commissions couldn’t be repealed that way:
…if a Justice of the Peace may be dismissed from his office, because he refuses to be examined about a common News-Paper by any Court, but one legally impowered to summon and examine him, if he may be dismissed, because he is “supposed by people in general” to be concerned with a Printer, or any other person, that the governor has conceived a dislike to, we are in a pitiable case.
Greenleaf went on to say that losing the job of magistrate “gives me no uneasiness, for by leaving the County where I had jurisdiction [Plymouth], I voluntarily relinquished it.” Yet he insisted, “I still have jurisdiction when I please to take my seat on the bench at the Court of Sessions.” So he wasn’t fired—he quit. And he could take that back any time.

TOMORROW: Was Greenleaf really “Mucius Scævola”?

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Unusual Ambitions of Joseph Greenleaf

As I quoted back here, on 14 Nov 1771 the Massachusetts Spy published an essay signed “Mucius Scævola” that called Gov. Thomas Hutchinson a “USURPER,” which was at least close to sedition. After some effort, the governor convinced his Council to respond to that essay.

That body didn’t summon just Isaiah Thomas, the newspaper’s printer. They also sent a message to Joseph Greenleaf, who in January had put his “30 Acres of choice Land” and “handsome Dwelling-House” in Abington up for sale and moved into Boston—to devote more time to the press.

That was an extraordinary action for an eighteenth-century gentleman. British society had an established social ladder. Journeymen aspired to become independent craftsmen with prosperous workshops, no longer managed by another man. Independent craftsmen aspired to become merchants arranging lucrative ventures, no longer working with their hands. Merchants aspired to become landed gentlemen overseeing large farms, no longer subject to the vagaries of trade because their fortune was now in “real estate.”

Furthermore, British society still considered printing a craft, not a gentleman’s profession. Printers literally got their hands dirty, after all. Even writing for publication was less than genteel. Most upper-class authors published anonymously or under pseudonyms, though their neighbors and rivals often knew the real identities behind those pen names. All told, giving up a rural estate in order to go into publishing looked like a step or two down the social ladder.

When 1770 began, Greenleaf was a country squire—a big man in Abington. He was a justice of the peace for Plymouth County. His had married Abigail Paine, older sister of Robert Treat Paine, thus allying him with some other genteel families in southeastern Massachusetts.

But Greenleaf got excited about Massachusetts’s resistance to Parliament’s new policies. He drafted sixteen resolutions that his town adopted two weeks after the Boston Massacre, laying out a political philosophy that started with “a state of nature” and went on to reject any new taxes “passed in either of the Parliaments of France, Spain, or England” as “a mere nullity”—a striking way of saying that the legislature in London had no authority over the people of Massachusetts.

Abington’s resolutions were published widely. The Essex Gazette ran a letter from New York that said:
The Resolves of those illustrious, and immortal Friends to the RIGHTS OF MEN—The Abington Resolves, have given their Brethren here, INFINITE PLEASURE, and I imagine some others as much Pain.
The same paper also ran a letter from London:
The Abington Resolves are too flaming and rash. They are rather like the transient flashes of passion, than the cool, steady, equal flame of patriotism and liberty…
Either way, Greenleaf seems to have been hooked on imperial political debate. Abington became too small for him.

In 1771, as I said, Greenleaf moved into Boston. What’s more, he made some sort of deal with Isaiah Thomas, the young printer of the Massachusetts Spy. It’s not clear what their arrangement was because the culture of the time didn’t have the occupational category of “publisher”—i.e., someone who finances and manages the printing and selling of a periodical or books without actually operating the press.

The Council stated in December that Greenleaf “was generally reputed to be concerned with Isaiah Thomas, in printing and publishing a News-Paper, called the Massachusett’s Spy.” The following year, the Censor magazine, set up to support the royal government, said Greenleaf was “reputed…to be in Co-Partnership with Mr. Thomas.”

In October 1772, Greenleaf himself advertised that he “carries on the Printing Business with E. Russell.” But that was a footnote to an announcement that he had opened “A STORE, INTELLIGENCE-OFFICE, and VENDUE ROOM,” or auction house, selling imported goods, cloth, “Bristol Beer,” and more. He was presenting himself mainly as an import merchant, with the printing as a side business.

A lot of people then and since nonetheless referred to Greenleaf as a “printer.” I doubt he set type or worked the levers on the press (as demonstrated above by Gary Gregory of the modern Edes & Gill Print Shop). But he definitely worked with Thomas to publish the Spy and later the Royal American Magazine, probably by putting up money and writing and editing copy. In between those ventures he also funded work in Russell’s shop (but not the Censor, both the magazine and Greenleaf were anxious to assure people).

Because of his financial interest in the Spy, Gov. Hutchinson and the Council summoned Greenleaf to discuss the “Mucius Scævola” essay. According to Greenleaf:
On the 15th of November last [i.e., in 1771] I received a polite message from the Governor and Council, by Mr. Baker, desiring my attendance at the Council Chamber, this I have no fault to find with: The distress of my family, on account of a sick child, who died that day, was such that I could not possibly attend, and I excused myself in the most polite manner I was capable of.
Indeed, the 18 November Boston Evening-Post ran a death notice for “Mr. Joseph Greenleaf, jun, in the 18th Year of his Age, Son of Joseph Greenleaf, Esq.”

But Gov. Hutchinson wasn’t satisfied with Greenleaf’s excuse for not coming to the Council chamber. Because he didn’t think the man was simply Thomas’s partner in putting out the Spy. He believed that Greenleaf was “Mucius Scævola.”

TOMORROW: Greenleaf’s claims.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

“To prosecute the Printer at Common Law”?

Yesterday I quoted the essay published in the 14 Nov 1771 Massachusetts Spy over the signature “Mucius Scævola.” It attacked Thomas Hutchinson, declaring him to be an illegitimate governor.

(On what grounds? Mostly because Hutchinson was being paid by the London government with revenue from Parliament’s tea tax. But also because he had issued a Thanksgiving proclamation. Such a bad man.)

The Boston Evening-Post reported some people thought this essay “(from its nature, and tendency) is the most daring production ever published in America.”

On the afternoon after it appeared, Gov. Hutchinson summoned the Massachusetts Council to their usual meeting-place in the Town House and laid the issue of the Spy before them. The Councilors debated the crisis until sundown without coming to any conclusion. The next day, they started up again.

The first thing the Council could agree on was to summon the printer of that newspaper, Isaiah Thomas. According to the Boston Gazette, Thomas, “in answer to their summons, told the messenger he was busy in his office and should not attend.”

Someone on the Council then proposed committing Thomas to jail for contempt. But there was no majority for that action—“Whether through the abundant lenity of the honourable Board, or from their having no legal authority in the case, has not yet transpired to us,” the Gazette’s Edes and Gill stated.

About the Council meeting that newspaper concluded, “The final result was, their unanimous advice, to the Governor to order the King’s Attorney to prosecute the Printer at Common Law.” According to Hutchinson, “the attorney general [Jonathan Sewall] thought it so plain a case that no grand jury could, upon their oaths, refuse to find a bill.”

But Hutchinson must have suspected that approach would be doomed. Back in early 1768 his predecessor as governor, Francis Bernard, had tried to take legal action against another newspaper essay, this one penned by Dr. Joseph Warren and published in the Boston Gazette. After getting unsatisfactory responses from both houses of the legislature, Bernard had presented the offending material to a grand jury.

Hutchinson had presided over that hearing in his role as Massachusetts Chief Justice. He had told the jurymen “that they might depend on being damned if they did not find against the paper, as containing high treason.” Nevertheless, the grand jury had refused to return any charges. The governor had no reason to expect citizens in 1771 would do anything different.

Sure enough, the grand jury session in February didn’t go Hutchinson’s way. The foreman asked if the statements in question could be libel if they were true. The Boston Gazette compared the proceeding to the John Peter Zenger case in New York, already a free-press precedent. The jury returned no charges. The royal authorities dropped the case.

Gov. Hutchinson did get the Council to punish someone, however.

TOMORROW: Tracking down “Mucius Scævola.”

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Thomas Hutchinson as “a monster in government”

You might think that getting through November meant the end of the saga of Gov. Thomas Hutchinson’s controversial 1771 Thanksgiving proclamation. But he wasn’t that lucky, and neither are we.

On 14 November the actual holiday was still a week away, but the controversy was at its height in newspapers and meetinghouses. Isaiah Thomas’s Massachusetts Spy published this essay from one of its regular contributors:
If it be true, that the exceptionable clause in the late proclamation, was not proposed by Mr. Hutchinson, but by ONE of the council; yet there it stands, and is nevertheless exceptionable, and must reflect dishonor somewhere, even though it were inadvertently inserted.

It is not denied, even by Mr. Hutchinson’s friends, that the other part of the proclamation was drafted by him: We may consider him then as triumphing over us as SLAVES, or persons who have no priviledges; and though we well knew it would be a piece of mockery, to lead us to the throne of grace, with thanksgivings, for the preservation of privileges, which, by his means, in part, we have been deprived of; yet he thought fit, with the advice of six, out of twenty-eight of his council. (if by HIS CRAFT, could make it their act) to insert it.

We have need of the wisdom of serpents, who are concerned with such rulers; to be considered by them as fools, is irritating; for fools they must think us, if they can imagine that we can complain of loss of liberty in one breath, and with the next solemnly thank God for the preservation of it. What account can be given for such conduct, consistent with common honesty, mankind must judge.

It would give me pain to harbour one thought, that the six members, who it is said voted for the insertion of that impious paragraph, intended thereby to curry favour with the ministry; I cannot indulge such a thought, besides there is no danger that this people will ever receive a council appointed by the KING himself: And certainly it is unlikely, that if the representatives of this people should once adopt such a sentiment of them, that these men should ever again be re-chosen into the council. Mr. Hutchinson may think we are easy, because we have for so long waited for a redress of grievances; but our patience is nearly exhausted. It cannot be that we shall hear much longer, to have our money forced from us.—
(It’s interesting to read that argument about the Council while looking ahead to the popular response to the Massachusetts Government Act of 1774, which created just what this essay said the people of the province wouldn’t stand—“a council appointed by the KING himself.”)
An Englishman should never part with a penny but by his consent, or the consent of his agent, or representative, especially as the money thus forced from us, is to hire a man to TYRANNIZE over us, whom his Master calls our Governor. This seems to be Mr. Hutchinson’s situation; therefore I cannot but view him as a usurper, and absolutely deny his jurisdiction over this people; and am of opinion, that any act of assembly consented to by him, in his pretended capacity as Governor, is ipso facto, null and void, and consequently, not binding upon us. A ruler, independent on the people, is a monster in government; and such a one is Mr. Hutchinson; and such would George the third be, if he should be rendered independent on the people of Great-Britain

A Massachusetts Governor, the King by compact, with this people may nominate and appoint, but not pay. For this support, he must stipulate with the people, and until he does, he is no legal Governor; without this, if he undertakes to rule, he is a USURPER.

It is high time then, my countrymen, that this matter was enquired into, if we have no constitutional Governor, it is time we had one. If the pretended Governor, or Lieut. Governor, by being independent on us for their support, are rendered incapable of compleating acts of government, it is time, I say, that we had a lawful one to preside, or that the pretended Governors, were dismissed and PUNISHED as USURPERS, and that the council, according to the charter, should take upon themselves the government of this province.

MUCIUS SCÆVOLA.
This essay attacked Hutchinson personally as a “USURPER” and denied is authority as governor. It also explicitly stated that the king could be deposed on the same grounds, and that might have galvanized Hutchinson more than the attack on himself.

TOMORROW: The governor returns to his Council.

Friday, December 08, 2017

The Legendary Words of Penelope Barker

Several recent books and websites quote Penelope Barker (shown here, courtesy of the Edenton Historical Commission), reputed organizer of the “Edenton Tea Party,” as making this statement about the event:
Maybe it has only been men who have protested the king up to now. That only means we women have taken too long to let our voices be heard. We are signing our names to a document, not hiding ourselves behind costumes like the men in Boston did at their tea party. The British will know who we are.
I saw those words quoted on Twitter, and they sounded anachronistic to me. The phrase “tea party” wasn’t applied to Boston’s destruction of the tea until the 1820s. The emphasis on “costumes” likewise came later than the 1770s. British colonists still considered themselves to be among “The British” in 1774—they were fighting for what they saw as traditional British rights. Lastly, “like the men in Boston did” should be “as the men in Boston did,” though I can’t claim the alternative grammar wasn’t used in the eighteenth century.

So I asked about the source of the quotation and did some digital digging. Two of the sources I looked at—a master’s thesis from Liberty University and the Visit Edenton site—cited as a source this page about Penelope Barker from the National Women’s History Museum, as viewed in the spring of 2013.

However, that page was revised by Debra Michals in 2015, and it now doesn’t include the quotation in question. (The Wayback Machine was no help in finding earlier versions of the same page. Incidentally, there is no physical National Women’s History Museum; the website is part of an effort to build one in Washington, D.C.)

As far as I can tell, the words attributed to Penelope Barker first appeared in the book Heroines of the American Revolution: America’s Founding Mothers, written by Diane Silcox-Jarrett, published by the Green Angel Press of Chapel Hill in 1998. (Several webpages render the name of the press as “Green Angle Press”; that error is a clue to recognizing which pages quote previous accounts rather than going back to the book itself.) Heroines of the American Revolution is the only title that shows up on an Amazon search for “Green Angel Press,” but Worldcat also lists a 1997 book on kinesiology.

Heroines of the American Revolution is an illustrated book for children. It was reprinted by Scholastic in 2000 for the school market. On her website Silcox-Jarrett describes herself as an author of “creative nonfiction books for young readers.” What might “creative nonfiction” mean in this context? In 1998 School Library Journal’s reviewer wrote about Heroines of the American Revolution:
Unfortunately, undocumented dialogue and feelings appear in almost every chapter. . . . An attractive offering—as long as children are aware that, despite its Dewey classification, this is not truly nonfiction.
And it’s not just children who have been caught unaware. Lured by the promise of a rare political statement from an eighteenth-century American woman, perhaps fooled by the book’s North Carolina pedigree, some writers have accepted that Penelope Barker speech from Heroines of the American Revolution as authentic. But it’s “not truly nonfiction.”

The October 1774 event that’s come to be called the Edenton Tea Party was real. Penelope Barker signed her name to that gathering’s public statement as part of a continent-wide resistance to Parliament’s Coercive Acts. She may well have been the main organizer of the event, as tradition says. But we don’t know what she individually had to say about it.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

“Patriotick Ladies, at Edenton in North Carolina”

Starting in late 1774, the British publishers Robert Sayer and John Bennett issued a series of five satirical prints about the political turmoil in North America.

The mezzotint engravings are unsigned, but in 1908 R. T. H. Halsey identified the artist as Philip Dawe (1745?-1809?). He might have trained under William Hogarth, but by the 1770s Dawe was on his own, engraving prints based on several artists’ paintings.

The five cartoons are:
The last was no doubt inspired by the London Morning Chronicle’s January report that fifty-one women from Edenton had signed a statement declaring that they would adhere to the North Carolina Provincial Congress’s exhortation not to buy imported goods.

The women’s statement didn’t actually mention tea, but the provincial congress did. Dawe therefore emphasized tea, with women dumping their tea in a bag for disposal, a baby playing with a tea set on the floor, and a dog urinating on a tea caddy. Dawe portrayed several of the female figures as laughably masculine, drinking from a punchbowl and wielding a gavel.

That print shows one woman signing a sheet that says:
We the Ladys of Edenton do hereby solemnly Engage not to Conform to that Pernicious Custom of Drinking Tea, or that we the aforesaid Ladys Promote the use of any Manufacture from England, until such time that all Acts which tend to Enslave this our Native Country shall be Repealed.
That statement has since been ascribed to the women of Edenton themselves. But those words don’t appear in the statement printed by the Morning Chronicle. It therefore seems likely that Dawe created that sentence as part of his caricature of the Americans.

TOMORROW: An even more dubious quotation linked to the “Edenton Tea Party.”

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

A London Lad on the “Edenton ladies”

James Iredell (1751-1799, shown here) moved from England to America in 1767 in search of better prospects. Through family connections he got an office in the Customs service at the small port of Edenton, North Carolina. He also studied the law under Samuel Johnston, married his mentor’s sister in 1774, and established himself as a rising young gentleman.

Iredell supported the American resistance to Parliament’s new laws, writing a pamphlet on the subject titled To the Inhabitants of Great Britain in 1774. North Carolina being a small-population colony with only two newspapers, this made him a prominent local Patriot.

On 31 Jan 1775, Iredell’s seventeen-year-old brother Arthur sent him a letter from London, mostly about why he hadn’t written earlier and about his own studies in law books. But Arthur Iredell had also noticed rare news from Edenton in the Morning Chronicle. At least I assume he saw it there since I’ve found no evidence it was reprinted widely in the British press. Arthur wrote:
I see by the newspapers the Edenton ladies have signalized themselves by their protest against tea-drinking. The name of Johnston I see among others; are any of my sister[-in-law]’s relations patriotic heroines? Is there a female Congress at Edenton too? I hope not, for we Englishmen are afraid of the male Congress, but if the ladies, who have ever, since the Amazonian Era, been esteemed the most formidable enemies, if they, I say, should attack us, the most fatal consequence is to be dreaded. So dexterous in the handling of a dart, each wound they give is mortal; whilst we, so unhappily formed by nature, the more we strive to conquer them, the more are conquered!

The Edenton ladies, conscious, I suppose, of this superiority on their side, by former experience, are willing, I imagine, to crush us into atoms, by their omnipotency; the only security on our side, to prevent the impending ruin, that I can perceive, is the probability that there are but few places in America which possess so much female artillery as Edenton. Pray let me know all the particulars when you favor me with a letter.
Arthur Iredell thus responded to the Edenton women’s political activity with a standard eighteenth-century male trope: that women, despite having no political and limited economic rights, wielded such powerful sex appeal that men couldn’t possibly stand up to them.

Arthur eventually became a minister in England, marrying in 1792. James became a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Their rich uncle in Jamaica disinherited James for opposing the Crown, so Arthur received his slave-labor plantation. In 1804 he visited the island to check out that property and died.

TOMORROW: A second response from London.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

A Pledge from the Women of Edenton

On 25 Oct 1774, fifty-one women in Edenton, North Carolina, signed their names to a statement pledging to support the resolves of the colony’s provincial congress “not to drink any more tea, nor wear any more British cloth, &c.”

The women’s statement was:
As we cannot be indifferent on any occasion that appears nearly to affect the peace and happiness of our country, and as it has been thought necessary, for the public good, to enter into several particular resolves by a meeting of Members deputed from the whole Province, it is a duty which we owe, not only to our near and dear connections who have concurred in them, but to ourselves who are essentially interested in their welfare, to do every thing as far as lies in our power to testify our sincere adherence to the same; and we do therefore accordingly subscribe this paper, as a witness of our fixed intention and solemn determination to do so.
According to local tradition, the women met at the house of Elizabeth King, though her name doesn’t appear among the signatories; perhaps her house was a tavern.

The principal organizer of the event, again according to local tradition, was Penelope Barker (1728-1796), the wealthy wife of North Carolina’s agent in London. Her signature appears on the statement, not first but perhaps at or near the top of a column on the original sheet.

That document has been lost. We know about it only because two days later someone sent a copy to London with a preface that said:
many ladies of this Province have determined to give a memorable proof of their patriotism, and have accordingly entered into the following honourable and spirited association. I send it to you, to shew your fair countrywomen, how zealously and faithfully American ladies follow the laudable example of their husbands, and what opposition your Ministers may expect to receive from a people thus firmly united against them
That letter, the women’s pledge, and the fifty-one signatures were printed in the 16 Jan 1775 Morning Chronicle newspaper of London.

So far as I can tell, the Edenton women’s statement wasn’t printed in any American newspapers in late 1774 or early 1775. Runs of the North-Carolina Gazette of Newbern and the Cape-Fear Mercury of Wilmington may be spotty, but no one has found the text in the surviving issues. Nor in a newspaper from any other colony, reprinting either from North Caroline or from London.

The text survives only because of that London newspaper and a reprint of the text (without source citation) in Peter Force’s American Archives. That statement and a couple of other documents from 1775 provide the evidence for an event that’s come to be called the “Edenton Tea Party.”

TOMORROW: A London teenager responds.

Monday, December 04, 2017

How Long Have Facts Been Stubborn Things?

On 4 December 1770, John Adams wound up his speech in defense of the soldiers tried for murder after the Boston Massacre by saying:
I will enlarge no more on the evidence, but submit it to you.—Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence: nor is the law less stable than the fact; if an assault was made to endanger their lives, the law is clear, they had a right to kill in their own defence; if it was not so severe as to endanger their lives, yet if they were assaulted at all, struck and abused by blows of any sort, by snow-balls, oyster-shells, cinders, clubs, or sticks of any kind; this was a provocation, for which the law reduces the offence of killing, down to manslaughter, in consideration of those passions in our nature, which cannot be eradicated. To your candour and justice I submit the prisoners and their cause.
The words “Facts are stubborn things” are among the most useful and memorable things John Adams ever said.

But Adams didn’t coin that phrase. He was repeating an adage that the jurymen had probably already heard.

Quote Investigator found a close variant on the phrase in a 1713 book titled titled Treason Unmask’d:
But Matters of Fact are stubborn Things, and no Fact can be more certain, than that his See Was full of him, while between December 6, and January 10, he had committed several Treasons, and was put into Custody for them.
And an exact version in The Political State of Great Britain, November 1717:
But Facts are Stubborn Things And therefore, when he comes to the Proof of his Charge, I have a Right to demand of him, to keep to those Four Particulars which I have just now mentioned.
Other examples from the eighteenth century include E. Budgell’s Liberty and Progress from 1732, Bernard Mandeville’s An Enquiry into the Origin of Honor, and the Usefulness of Christianity in War from the same year, a 1747 essay on Field Husbandry, and Tobias Smollett’s translation of Gil Blas, published in 1748.

Founders Online shows the adage was used in America as well. On 17 May 1764, Gov. John Penn reminded the Pennsylvania Assembly:
As Facts are stubborn Things, and Truth does not stand in Need of any Colouring or Disguise, nothing more is necessary, in order to set the Controversy between us in its true Light, than to take a short and summary Review of the Transactions which gave Rise to it.
Benjamin Franklin, responding on behalf of the Pennsylvania assembly on 30 May, repeated the phrase:
But now you chuse to pass all over with a “silent Disregard,” reflecting probably on the Maxim you had before advanced, that “Facts are stubborn Things,” and despairing, it seems, by any “Colouring” to “disguise the Truth.”
John Adams himself used the adage again in a letter to Elbridge Gerry on 6 Dec 1777:
The rapid Translation of Property from Hand to Hand, the robbing of Peter to pay Paul distresses me, beyond Measure. The Man who lent another an 100 £ in gold four years ago, and is paid now in Paper, cannot purchase with it, a Quarter Part, in Pork, Beef, or Land, of what he could when he lent the Gold. This is Fact and Facts are Stubborn Things, in opposition to Speculation.
And Samuel Hoffman wrote to Alexander Hamilton on 28 Oct 1799:
It is a common observation that “Facts are stubborn things”—& I conclude it was on this ground that Lieut. Col. Smith advised me rather to resign quietly my Commission than risk the Event of a Court Martial…
(The facts in that case being that Hoffman had hidden a ten-dollar bill from a fellow lieutenant but insisted it was just a joke. He was dismissed.)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Boston in 1774 with Notes from Later

Cortney Skinner alerted me to this item in the New York Public Library’s digital images collection.

It’s a leaf from Isaiah Thomas’s Royal American Magazine in early 1774 that featured Paul Revere’s engraving of the eastern shore of Boston with Royal Navy ships in the harbor.

This page from the American Antiquarian Society reports that the magazine included a key for this frontispiece inside on page 40. That key identified the labeled landmarks along the water’s edge and the ships. (Though the latter were simply “1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8 Ships of War. 9 and 10. armed Schooners.”)

However, this copy of the print was removed from the magazine, and sometime in the early 1800s someone created his or her own key in the margins.

Here’s the handwritten key along the left side; if the key from 1774 said something different, I put that information in brackets:
A- is Long Whf.
B- is Hancock’s Whf.
C- is North Battery
D- is Fort-hill Battery [South Battery]
E- is Fort-Hill
F- is Fosters Whf. [Wheelwright’s Wharf]
G- is the Province house [Beach Hill]
H- is Tilteston’s Whf. [Hubbard’s Wharf]
I- is Hallowell’s Ship Y’d [Hollaway’s Ship-Yard]
K- is [blank] [Walker’s Ship-Yard]
L- is Gee’s Ship Yard [Tyler’s Ship-Yard]
M- is [blank] [Island Wharfs]
N- is [blank] [ditto]
Originally there was no key for the meetinghouse and church spires dominating the top of the image, but the annotator put a lot of effort into labeling them. And I put a fair amount of effort into reading those labels, including some in pencil that required raising the contrast on those parts of the scan.

The results are:
Hollis St. Ch.

Summer St. Ch. [Though was a term for Trinity Church, that building had no steeple; this spire was the New South Meetinghouse on Summer Street.]

First Ch. Federal St.
now Dr. Channings [Rev. William Ellery Channing preached to this congregation from 1803 to 1842; this building was replaced in 1809.]

Old So. Ch. Washington
St. Dr. Eckley’s [Rev. Joseph Eckley’s tenure at Old South ended in 1811.]

Old King’s Chapel

Province house
Beacon light
Old Brick ch. now [?]
Joy’s buildings Cornhill
Sq.
Town house at head
of State St.

West Ch. (Howard’s) [Rev. Simeon Howard died in 1804, and a new church was erected on the site in 1806.]
Faneuil Hall
Brattle St. ch.

New Brick ch. Hanover
St. Dr. Lathrop’s [Rev. John Lathrop died in 1816.]

Ch. in No. Square site
now built over with
dwelling houses. In 1775
it was distroyed. [This was the Old North Meetinghouse.]

Christ Ch. Salem St. [Now best known as Old North Church.]

Dr. Elliot’s Hanover
St. [Rev. Andrew Eliot died in 1778, Rev. John Eliot in 1813.]
Those labels offer some clues about when the notes were written. The annotator put Old South on “Washington St.,” and that stretch of the street wasn’t officially renamed Washington until 1824. For the Federal Street Church still to be “now Dr. Channings” means that the labels predate 1842. So let’s say around 1830.

It’s a bit confusing that the annotator included the names of some ministers who were dead by that date. I suspect the notes were an attempt to identify who presided over those meetinghouses during the Revolutionary War, at the approximate time of the picture. In the case of Howard, Lathrop, and the older Eliot, they were indeed preaching under those spires in 1774, but Eckley wasn’t installed at Old South until 1780.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

A Remick on the Wall

Last night I attended a function at the Club of Odd Volumes on Beacon Hill. Between the many bookshelves, the clubhouse has a very impressive collection of eighteenth-century prints on its walls.

I spotted the early view of Boston Common, a portrait of Gov. Francis Bernard, a couple of the political engravings issued in London in the last months before the Revolution, a fine map of the siege, and so on.

On one wall hung what looked from a distance like three copies of Christian Remick’s view of Royal Navy ships in Boston harbor in 1768. If the club has three, I thought, surely it wouldn’t miss just one.

But when I got closer, I realized that the top image wasn’t a print by Remick. It was the copperplate—the actual etched copper—that the club commissioned Sidney L. Smith to make from Remick’s original around 1904. The club printed 51 copies of the image, I read later. Underneath the copperplate was presumably one of those prints, hand-colored.

And the third picture was one of Remick’s original watercolors. I’d misremembered—he didn’t have that image engraved in pre-Revolutionary Boston, as Paul Revere prepared the related picture of royal troops disembarking on Long Wharf. Rather, Remick painted multiple copies of the ships in the harbor for upper-class patrons.

The Massachusetts Historical Society (which owns the copy shown above) explains:
Remick produced six known versions of this work, several dedicated to specific people. Though it bears no dedication, the provenance of this watercolor has been recorded by its previous owners and it is thus known that it was first owned by the royal governor in 1768, Thomas Hutchinson [actually not even acting governor until the following year]. The Massachusetts Historical Society owns a second, smaller version of this, and the Essex Institute [now the Peabody Essex Museum] also owns two versions. Another, dedicated to John Hancock, is owned by the Club of Odd Volumes, and one belongs to the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
And sure enough, the copy on the club’s wall has Hancock’s name incorporated into the label.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Paul Revere House Seasonal Celebration, 2-3 Dec.

This weekend the Paul Revere House in Boston’s North End is hosting an event titled “Traditions of the Season.”

The house invites visitors to:
Learn about 17th-century Thanksgiving observances, hear 18th-century music, taste colonial flavors, and buy goods made by local craftspeople for New Year’s gifts just like Paul Revere did! . . .

Enjoy complimentary refreshments of mulled cider and delicious treats based on early American recipes served on the first floor of the Pierce/Hichborn House.
The houses open at 9:30 A.M. on 2-3 December. Starting at 12 noon, “Artisans working in traditional techniques to produce useful reproductions offer their wares for sale” in the new Visitor Center, and R. P. Hale (shown here) performs music on the harpsichord and hammered dulcimer.

Admission for this special weekend is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and college students, and $1 for children aged five to seventeen.