Rough Music: Political Violence and the American Revolution

Document Introduction:
For as democratic as the thirteen colonies may have been for their day, they were still fairly autocratic. Most colonial Americans could not vote (although a majority of white men could) and property holding requirements excluded all but the wealthiest white men from holding political office. Even the power of the American elite was limited because unelected royal and provincial governors wielded a powerful veto and the crown had multiple ways of opposing policies enacted in its colonies. Given how badly the decked was stacked against ordinary colonists, even those who were eligible to vote routinely stayed home on election days at least in part because they believed that their vote lacked influence and meaning.

Low voter turnout did not mean that colonial citizens were apathetic; it just meant that they expressed their views through means other than the vote. And that method of political self-expression consisted of various kinds of crowd protest. American colonists did not invent the politics of the crowd. Instead, they drew on centuries of European tradition where disenfranchised peasants and urban workers had used crowd actions to get their voices heard on a variety of matters. The tradition went by different names in different places. In Britain it was called “rough music” or “skimmington”; in France it was “charivari.” Crowd action was traditionally used for a variety of purposes where the community felt it necessary to discipline some of its members for violating community norms. Crowd action like this was directed against a variety of people, usually as a way of policing community morality. The targets of the such crowd action were, among others: adulterers, prostitutes, wife beaters, unwed mothers, widowers who married too soon or who selected women that were considered too young. Sometimes crowd action was turned against the elite, usually for trying to profit during hard times at the community’s expense or for taking actions so egregious that their neighbors believed they required censure.

Rough Music or Skmmington in England

When Americans became dissatisfied with the dramatic changes in British policy at the end of the Seven Years War, they expressed their grievances, not through voting, but with crowd protest. This is important to understand for several reasons. First, rough music was the primary method of revolutionary politics and is directly tied to the iconic moments of the American Revolution. Rough music was the basis of the Stamp Act protests, the sea port riots, including the “Boston Massacre,” the Boston Tea Party (and other tea parties that followed), and the mass mobilizations against British authority that followed Britain’s passage of the “Coercive Acts” that ousted British officials and Loyalist sympathizers and culminated in Independence. It’s not wrong to say that the Revolution was in large part created through rough music where thousands of Americans took the streets and eventually took up arms in defense of both revolutionary ideals and to protect community norms.

Second, understanding the centrality of rough music to revolutionary era politics is key to appreciating how the founding elite succeeded in rolling back many democratic gains in the years after the Revolutionary war. At the end of the war, when the Revolutionary elite began a sustained counter-revolution to concentrate political and economic power by redrafting governments (the US Constitution) and creating new laws and legal systems, ordinary Americans believed that rough music would defeat the elite counter-revolution, just like it had defeated Britain. So they took to the streets rather than their polling places, believing that they would repeat the successes of the past. And although protesters made their presence felt, the popular efforts to save democracy fell short specifically because the ordinary White people protesting confined their politics to rough music. By failing to vote they ceded the powers of government to the elite, who used it to bolster their own authority and crush the protests in a way that Britain had not be able to do. In this sense, the success of rough music against Britain in the 1760s and 70s laid the groundwork for the popular defeats of the 1780s and 90s.

The documents below capture numerous examples of rough music during the 1760s and 1770s. We start with descriptions of two Stamp Act Revolt protests and then the British Captain Preston’s account of the Boston Massacre. The bulk of the material below comes from an unpublished 1781 manuscript by Peter Oliver, chief justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court and lieutenant governor, that he wrote while exiled in London as a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War. Oliver was well situated to see the rough music of the era. His brother, Andrew Oliver, was the Stamp Collector who was the target of Boston’s Stamp Act revolt,the first major protest against British policy. He was a local judge who saw many cases involving crowd protests and was a judge in the Boston Massacre trials. Oliver’s bitter, angry catalog of the many protests in Massachusetts and Boston in particular is surely a biased document (Oliver thought the revolution was unjustified and blames Boston’s revolutionary leaders like James Otis and Samuel Adams for being ambitious demagogues who stirred up the rabble with lies to gain power). Despite it’s obvious partisanship, Oliver’s account is nonetheless an important source on the many different popular protests of the era and the centrality of rough music to revolutionary politics.

As you read these examples, try to come up with a broad definition of “rough music” that explains how this kind of popular politics worked.  Your answer should consider such questions as: What kinds of things did the crowds do? Why did they take these actions?  What were they hoping to accomplish through their protests?

The protests described in these documents–which are central events in the American Revolution–raise questions about political violence and the conditions under which it is acceptable. Is it ever ok to use violence as a political weapon? If it is ok, under what conditions is violence an acceptable means of political self expression? Is destroying property acceptable? What about verbal threats to do violence? How about actual physical assault? Do the actions of Revolutionary-era crowds meet your standard of acceptability? What did Revolutionary-era crowds do that was acceptable? Where did they cross the line? Or was everything they did ok because they didn’t kill anyone and they only inflicted relatively minor bodily injuries in the name of a larger cause? Do you think non-violent protest by American revolutionaries could have accomplished the same political ends or perhaps even have had greater success? Or was this a situation in which mass political violence–protests, self-organized militias, war–was the only answer? [Remember the point of the debates is to show how you can mobilize evidence from the documents as support for arguments that you make. Although this question asks you your broad opinion about political violence (which I am interested in learning), I am more interested in seeing how you evaluate the examples of political violence described in the documents based on your ideas of what is acceptable and/or effective.]

Documents Text:

D1: Stamp Act Revolt in Boston, Massachusetts

Source: Massachusetts Gazette, Aug. 19, 1765

Early on Wednesday Morning last, the Effigy of a Gentleman [Andrew Oliver] sustaining a very unpopular office, viz. [namely] that of St__p [Stamp] Master, was found hanging on a Tree in the most public Part of the Town, together with a Boot, wherein was concealed a young Imp of the D__l [Devil] represented as peeping out of the Top. –On the Breast of the Effigy was a Label, in Praise of Liberty, and denouncing Vengeance on the Subvertors of it–and underneath was the following Words, HE THAT TAKES THIS DOWN IS AN ENEMY TO HIS COUNTRY. –The Owner of the Tree finding a Crowd of People to assemble, tho’ at 5 o’Clock in the Morning, endeavored to take it down; but being advis’d to the contrary by the Populace, lest it should occasion the demolition of his Windows, if nothing worse, desisted from the Attempt.

The Diversion it occasioned among a Multitude of Spectators, who continually assembled the whole Day, is surprising; not a Peasant was suffered [allowed] to pass down to the Market, let him have what he would for Sale, ’till he had stop’d and got his Articles stamp’d by the Effigy. –Towards dark some Thousands repaired to the said Place of Rendezvous, and having taken down the Pageantry [the effigy], they proceeded with it along the Main Street to the Town-House, thro’ which they carried it, and continued their Rout thro’ Kilby-Street to Oliver’s Dock, where there was a new Brick Building just finished; and they, imagining it to be designed for a Stamp-Office, instantly set about demolishing of it, which they thoroughly effected in about half an Hour.

In the mean Time the High-Sheriff, &c. &c., being apprehensive that the Person of the then Stamp-Master, and his Family, might be in Danger from the Tumult, went and advised them to evacuate the House, which they had scarcely done, making their Retreat across the Gardens, &c. before the Multitude approach’d Fort-Hill, continuous thereto, in order to burn the Effigy, together with the Timber and other Woodwork of the House they had demolish’d. After setting Fire to the Combustibles, they proceeded to break open the Stables, Coach-Houses, &c. and were actually increasing the Bonfire with a Coach, Booby Hutch [covered coach], Chaise [two-wheeled, bench seat carriage], &c. but were dissuaded going so far by a Number of Spectators present, tho’ they burnt the Coach Doors, Cushions, &c. But it seems, not having yet completed their Purpose, they set about pulling down a Range of Fence upwards of 15 Feet high which enclos’d the bottom of the Garden, into which having enter’d, they stripped the Trees of the Fruit, despoiled some of them by breaking off the Limbs, demolished the Summer House, broke the Windows in the Rear Part of the House, enter’d the same, went down the Cellars, and help’d themselves to the Liquor which they found there in the Silver Plate that the House afforded, none of which however was missing the next Day, altho’ scatter’d over various Parts of the House. — They then destroyed Part of the Furniture, among which was a Looking Glass said to be the largest in North-America, with two others, &c.

The next Day the Transactions of the preceding Night was of Course the general Topic of Conversation; when the St__p M__r [Stamp Master], in order to appease the Sensations which seemed to possess the Breasts of everyone, at the Prospect of a future Stamp Duty, sent a Card to several Gentlemen, acquainting them that he had absolutely declined having any Concern in that Office; which, being publicly read upon ’Change, it was thought all Uneasiness would subside; but the Evening following they again assembled, erected a Number of Stages with Tar Barrels, &c. in the Form of a Pyramid, in the Centre of which was a Flag Staff, and a Union-Flag [British flag] hoisted; whereupon ’tis said the St__p M__r [Stamp Master] sent them a Letter with the aforementioned Resolution of Non-acceptance, and Assurance of Endeavors to serve the Province, &c. Upon which they thought proper to demolish the Bonfire and retire — but they did not disperse till they went down to his H__r the L__t G__r’s [his Honor the Lieutenant Governor’s] with whom they said they wanted to have a Talk; but not finding him at Home, they concluded the Business of the Night by loud Acclamations in every Quarter of the Town, on account of the Resignation of the Stamp Master: which, they were assured was forwarded by Express to New-York, to go to the Pacquet [ship carrying mail to Great Britain] from thence.

D2: Stamp Act Revolt in Wilmington, North Carolina

Source: North Carolina Gazette, Nov. 20, 1765

On Saturday the 19th of last Month, about Seven of the Clock in the Evening, near Five Hundred People assembled together in this Town [Wilmington], and exhibited the Effigy of a certain Honorable Gentleman; and after letting it hang by the Neck for some Time, near the CourtHouse, they made a large Bonfire with a Number of Tar Barrels, &c. and committed it to the Flames.—The Reason assigned for the People’s Dislike to that Gentleman, was, from being informed of his having several Times expressed himself much in Favor of the STAMP-DUTY.— After the Effigy was consumed, they went to every House in Town, and brought all the Gentlemen to the Bonfire, and insisted upon their drinking, LIBERTY, PROPERTY, AND NO STAMP-DUTY, and Confusion to Lord B-TE [Bute, a much despised British minster who had called for taxing the colonies] and all his Adherents, giving three Huzzas at the Conclusion of each Toast.—They continued together until 12 of the Clock, and then dispersed, without doing any Mischief.

And, On Thursday, 31st of the same Month, in the Evening, a great Number of People again assembled, and produced an Effigy of Liberty, which they put into a Coffin, and marched in solemn Procession with it to the Church-Yard, a Drum in Mourning beating before them, and the Town Bell, muffled, ringing a doleful Knell at the same Time:—But before they committed the Body to the Ground, they thought it advisable to feel its Pulse; and when finding some Remains of Life, they returned back to a Bonfire ready prepared, placed the Effigy before it in a large Two-arm’d Chair, and concluded the Evening with great Rejoicings, on finding that LIBERTY had still an Existence in the Colonies.—Not the least Injury was offered to any Person.

On Saturday the 16th of this Inst. William Houston, Esq; Distributor of STAMPS for this Province, came to this Town; upon which three or four Hundred People immediately gathered together, with Drums beating and Colors flying, and repaired to the House the said Stamp-Officer put up at, and insisted upon knowing, “Whether he intended to execute his said Office, or not?” He told them, “He should be very sorry to execute any Office disagreeable to the People of the Province.” But they, not content with such a Declaration, carried him into the Court-House, where he signed a Resignation satisfactory to the Whole.

As soon as the Stamp-Officer had comply’d with their Desire, they placed him in an ArmChair, carried him first round the Court-House, giving three Huzzas at every Corner, and then proceeded with him round one of the Squares of the Town, and sat him down at the Door of his Lodgings, formed themselves in a large Circle round him, and gave him three Cheers: They then escorted him into the House, where was prepared the best Liquors to be had, and treated him very genteely. In the Evening a large Bonfire was made, and no Person appeared in the Streets without having LIBERTY, in large Capital Letters, in his Hat.—They had a large Table near the Bonfire, well furnish’d with several Sorts of Liquors, where they drank in great Form, all the favorite American Toasts, giving three Cheers at the Conclusion of each. The whole was conducted with great Decorum, and not the least Insult offered to any Person….

Circular Letters were sent last Week by the Governor, to the Principal Inhabitants in this Part of the Province, requesting their Presence at his Seat at Brunswick, on Monday last; where, after Dinner, his Excellency conferr’d with them concerning the Stamp Act: The Result of which shall be in our Next. We hear from Newbern, that the Inhabitants of that Place, try’d, condemn’d, hang’d, and burn’d Doctor William Houston, in Effigy, during the Sitting of their Superior Court.—Mr. Houston, however, thinks that there was too much of the Star-Chamber Conduct9 made Use of, in condemning him unheard; especially as he had never solicited the Office: Nor had he then heard he was appointed Stamp-Officer.—At Cross-Creek, ’tis said, they hang’d his Effigy and M’ Carter’s together, (he who murder’d his Wife;) nor have they spar’d him even in Duplin, the County where he lives.

D3: Captain Preston Describes the “Boston Massacre”

“CASE of Capt. THOMAS PRESTON of the 29th Regiment”

Source: Boston Evening Post, June 25, 1770

IT is Matter of too great Notoriety to need any Proofs, that the Arrival of his Majesty’s Troops in Boston was extremely obnoxious to it’s Inhabitants. They have ever used all Means in their Power to weaken the Regiments, and to bring them into Contempt, by promoting and aiding Desertions, and with Impunity, even where there has been the clearest Evidence of the Fact, and by grossly and falsly propagating Untruths concerning them. On the Arrival of the 64th & 65th, their Ardour seemingly began to abate ; it being too expensive to buy off so many ; and Attempts of that Kind rendered too dangerous from the Numbers. — But the same Spirit revived immediately on it’s being known that those Regiments were ordered for Halifax, and hath ever since their Departure been breaking out with greater Violence.

After their Embarkation, one of their Justices, not thoroughly acquainted with the People and their Intentions, on the Trial of the 14th Regiment, openly and publicly, in the Hearing of great Numbers of People, and from the Seat of Justice, declared, “that the Soldiers must now take Care of themselves, nor trust too much to their Arms, for they were but a Handful ; that the Inhabitants carried Weapons concealed under their Cloaths, and would destroy them in a Moment if they pleased.” This, considering the malicious Temper of the People, was an alarming Circumstance to the Soldiery. Since which several Disputes have happened between the Towns People and Soldiers of both Regiments and the former being encouraged thereto by the Countenance of even some of the Magistrates, and by the Protection of all the Party against Government. In general such Disputes have been kept too secret from the Officers. On the 2d instant, two of the 29th going through one Gray’s Rope-Walk, the Rope-makers insultingly asked them if they would empty a Vault [an outhouse]. This unfortunately had the desired Effect by provoking the Soldiers, and from Words they went to Blows. Both Parties suffered in this Affray, and finally, the Soldiers retired to their Quarters. The Officers, on the first Knowledge of this Transaction, took every Precaution in their Power to prevent any ill Consequences. Notwithstanding which, single Quarrels could not be prevented ; the Inhabitants constantly provoking and abusing the Soldiery. The Insolence, as well as utter Hatred of the Inhabitants to the Troops, increased daily; insomuch, that Monday and Tuesday, the 5th and 6th instant, were privately agreed on for a general Engagement ; in consequence of which several of the Militia came from the Country, armed to join their Friends, menacing to destroy any who should oppose them. This Plan has since been discovered.

On Monday Night about Eight o’Clock two Soldiers were attacked and beat. But the Party of the Towns-People, in order to carry Matters to the utmost Length, broke into two Meeting-Houses, and rang the Alarm Bells, which I supposed was for Fire as usual, but was soon undeceived. About Nine some of the Guard came to and informed me, the Town-Inhabitants were assembling to attack the Troops, and that the Bells were ringing as the Signal for that Purpose, and not for Fire, and the Beacon intended to be fired to bring in the distant People of the Country. This, as I was Captain of the Day, occasioned my repairing immediately to the Main-Guard. In my Way there I saw the People in great Commotion, and heard them use the most cruel and horrid Threats against the Troops. In a few Minutes after I reached the Guard, about an hundred People passed it, and went towards the Custom-House, where the King’s Money is lodged. They immediately surrounded the Sentinel posted there, and with Clubs and other Weapons threatened to execute their Vengeance on him. I was soon informed by a Townsman, their Intention was to carry off the Soldier from his Post, and probably murder him. On which I desired him to return for further Intelligence; and he soon came back and assured me he heard the Mob declare they would murder him. This I feared might be a Prelude to their plundering the King’s Chest [royal funds were stored at the Custom House]. I immediately sent a non-commissioned Officer and twelve Men to protect both the Sentinel and the King’s-Money, and very soon followed myself, to prevent (if possible) all Disorder ; fearing lest the Officer and Soldiery by the Insults and Provocations of the Rioters, should be thrown off their Guard and commit some rash Act. They soon rushed through the People, and, by charging their Bayonets in half Circle, kept them at a little Distance. Nay, so far was I from intending the Death of any Person, that I suffered the Troops to go to the Spot where the unhappy Affair took Place, without any Loading in their Pieces, nor did I ever give Orders for loading them. This remiss Conduct in me perhaps merits Censure; yet it is Evidence, resulting from the Nature of Things, which is the best and surest that can be offered, that my Intention was not to act offensively, but the contrary Part, and that not without Compulsion. The Mob still increased, and were more outrageous, striking their Clubs or Bludgeons one against another, and calling out, “come on, you Rascals, you bloody Backs you Lobster Scoundrels; fire if you dare, G-d damn you, fire and be damn’d ; we know you dare not;” and much more such Language was used. At this Time I was between the Soldiers and the Mob, parleying with and endeavouring all in my Power to persuade them to retire peaceably ; but to no Purpose. They advanced to the Points of the Bayonets, struck some of them, and even the Muzzles of the Pieces, and seemed to be endeavouring to close with the Soldiers. On which some well-behaved Persons asked me if the Guns were charged: I replied, yes. They then asked me if I intended to order the Men to fire ; I answered no, by no Means ; observing to them, that I was advanced before the Muzzles of the Men’s Pieces, and must fall a Sacrifice if they fired; that the Soldiers were upon the Half-cock and charged Bayonets, and my giving the Word fire, under those Circumstances, would prove me no Officer. While I was thus speaking, one of the Soldiers, having received a severe Blow with a Stick, stept a little on one Side, and instantly fired, on which turning to and asking him why he fired without Orders, I was struck with a Club on my Arm, which for sometime deprived my of the Use of it; which Blow, had it been placed on my Head, most probably would have destroyed me. On this general Attack was made on the Men by a great Number of heavy Clubs, and Snow-Balls being thrown at them, by which all our Lives were in imminent Danger ; some Persons at the same Time from behind calling out, “Damn your Bloods, why don’t you fire?” Instantly three or four of the Soldiers fired, one after another, and directly after three more in the same Confusion and Hurry.

The Mob then ran away, except three unhappy Men who instantly expired, in which Number was Mr. Gray, at whose Rope-Walk the prior Quarrel took Place; one more in since dead, three others are dangerously, and four slightly wounded. The Whole of this melancholy Affair was transacted in almost 20 Minutes. On my asking the Solidiers why they fired without Orders, they said they heard the Word “Fire,” and supposed it came from me. This might be the Case, as many of the Mob called out “Fire, fire,” but I assured the Men that I gave no such Order, that my Words were, “Don’t fire, stop your Firing:” In short it was scarce possible for the Soldiers to know who said fire, or don’t fire, or stop your Firing. On the People’s assembling again to take away the dead Bodies, the Soldiers, supposing them coming to attack them, were making ready to fire again, which I prevented by striking up their Firelocks with my Hand. Immediately after a Townsman came and told me, that 4 or 5000 People were assembled in the next Street, and had sworn to take my Life with every Man’s with me; on which I judged it unsafe to remain there any longer, and therefore sent the Party and Sentry to the Main-Guard, where the street is narrow and short, there telling them off into Street Firings, divided and planted them at each End of the Street to secure their Rear, momently expecting an Attack, as there was a constant Cry of the Inhabitants, “To Arms, to Arms, — turn out with your Guns,” and the Town Drums beating to Arms. I ordered my Drum to beat to Arms, and being soon after joined by the different Companies of the 29th Regiment, I formed them as the Guard into Street Firings. The 14th Regiment also got under Arms, but remained at their Barracks. I immediately sent a Serjeant [Sergeant] with a Party to Col. Dalrymple, the Commanding Officer, to acquaint him with every Particular. Several Officers going to join their Regiment were knocked down by the Mob, one very much wounded, and his Sword taken from him. The Lieutenant Governor and Col. Carr soon after met at the Head of the 29th Regiment, and agreed that the Regiment should retire to their Barracks, and the People to their Houses ; but I kept the Piquet to strengthen the Guard. It was with great Diffculty that the Lieutenant-Governor prevailed on the People to be quiet and retire : At last they all went off excepting about an Hundred.

Paul Revere’s “Bloody Massacre” was Patriot propaganda that depicted the event as a British firing squad opening fire on innocent civilians.

A Council was immediately called, on the breaking up of which three Justices met, and issued a Warrant to apprehend me and eight Soldiers. On hearing of this Procedure, I instantly went to the Sheriff and surrendered myself, though for the Space of four Hours I had it in my Power to have made my Escape, which I most undoubtedly should have attempted, and could have easily executed, had I been the least conscious of any Guilt.

On the Examination before the Justices, two Witnesses swore that I gave the Men Orders to fire ; the one testified he was within two Feet of me ; the other, that I swore at the Men for not firing at the first Word. Others swore they heard me use the Word “Fire,” but whether do or do not fire they could not say; others, that they heard the Word “Fire,” but could not say if it came from me. The next Day they got five or six more to swear I gave the Word to fire. So bitter and inveterate are many of the Malcontents here, that they are industriously using every Method to fish out Evidence to prove it was a concerted Scheme to murder the Inhabitants. Others are infusing the utmost Malice and Revenge into the Minds of the People who are to be my Jurors by false Publications, Votes of Towns, and all other Artifices, that so from a settled Rancour against the Officers and Troops in general, the Suddenness of my Trial after the Affair, while the People’s Minds are all greatly inflamed, I am though perfectly innocent, under most unhappy Circumstances, having nothing in Reason to expect but the Loss of Life in a very ignominious Manner, without the Interposition of his Majesty’s Royal Goodness.

Boston-Gaol [Jail], Monday, 12th March 1770.

D4: Peter Oliver, “Origin and Progress of the American Rebellion, A Tory View”



I shall now resume my other disagreeable Task, & open upon You the progressive Scenes of the Rebellion; & here I must previously inform You, that the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts bay were notorious in the smuggling Business, from the Capital Merchant down to the meanest Mechanick. And whereas in England it is dishonorable, to a Merchant of Honor, to be guilty of such base Subterfuges to increase their Estates, it is in New England so far from being reproachfull, that some of the greatest Fortunes there were acquired in this disgracefull Trade; & the Prop[r]ietors of them boast of their Method of Acquisition. Nay, some of those Smugglers have acquired so strong an Habit of Smuggling, that they have openly declared, that if they could gain more by a legal Trade they would prefer the former…

In this Year 1765, began the violent Outrages in Boston: and now the Effusions of Rancour from Mr. Otis’s [James Otis, Boston lawyer, who wrote a pamphlet critical of the Stamp Act] Heart were brought into Action. It hath been said, that he had secured the Smugglers & their Connections, as his Clients. An Opportunity now offered for them to convince the Government of their Influence: as Seizure [for violating British trade laws] had been made by breaking open a Store, agreeable to the act of Parliament; it was contested in the supreme Court [of Massachusetts], where Mr. Hutchinson [Massachusetts’s royal Lieutenant Governor] presided. The Seizure was adjudicated legal by the whole Court.

This raised Resentment against the Judges. Mr. Hutchinson was the only Judge who resided in Boston, & he only, of the Judges, was the Victim; for in a short Time after, the Mob of Otis & his clients plundered Mr. Hutchinsons House, & sought his & his Children’s Lives, which were saved by Flight. One of the Rioters declared, the next morning, that the first Places which they looked into were the Beds, in Order to murder the Children. All this was Joy to Mr. Otis, as also to some of the considerable Merchants who were smuggles, & personally active in the diabolical Scene. But a grave of Gentleman thought it more than diabolical; for upon viewing the Ruins, on the next Day, he made this Remark, vizt. “that if the Devil had been here the last Night, he would have gone back to his own Regions, ashamed of being outdone, & never more have set Foot upon the Earth.” If so, what Pity that he did not take an Evening Walk, at that unhappy Crisis; for he hath often since seen himself outdone at his own outdoings.

The Mob, also, on the same Evening, broke into the Office of the Register of the Admiralty & did considerable Damage there; but were prevented from an utter Destruction of it. They also sought after the Custom House Officers; but they secreted [hid] themselves ¾ these are some of the blessed Effects of smuggling. And so abandoned from all Virtue were the Minds of the People of Boston, that when the Kings Attorney examined many of them, on Oath, who were Spectators of the Scene & knew the Actors [participants], yet they exculpated them before a Grand Jury; & others, who were Men of Reputation, avoided giving any Evidence thro’ Fear of the like Fate. Such was the Reign of Anarchy in Boston, & such the very awkward Situation in which every Friend to Government stood. Mr. Otis & his mirmydons [henchmen], the Smugglers & the black Regiment [Massachusetts clergy who dissented from The Church of England], had instilled into the Canaille [the common people] that Mr. Hutchinson had promoted the Stamp Act; whereas, on the Contrary, he not only had drawn up the decent Memorial of the Massachusetts Assembly, but, previous to it, he had repeatedly wrote to his Friends in England to ward it off, by showing the Inexpedience of it & the Disadvantages that would accrue from it to the English Nation, but it was in vain to struggle against the Law of Otis, & the Gospel of his black Regiment. That worthy Man must be a Victim; Mr. Otis said so, & it was done.

Such was the Frenzy of Anarchy that every Man was jealous [suspicious] of his Neighbor & seemed to wait for his Turn of Destruction; & such was the political Enthusiasm that the Minds of the most pious Men seemed to be wholly absorbed in the Temper of Riot. One Clergyman of Boston, in particular, who seemed to be devoted to an Abstraction from the World, and had gone through an Existence of near 70 Years, reputedly free from both original Sin & actual Transgression, yet by the perpetual buzzing of Incendiaries at his Ear, being inquired of, as an Oracle, what ought to be done by the People? He uttered his Decision with this laconic Answer: “Fight up to your Knees in Blood.” Never could the exclamation of Tantaene animis celestibus irae [“does such anger dwell in heavenly minds”] be more just than on this Occasion.

The Secretary of the Province also, who was appointed a Stamp Master [Peter Oliver’s brother Andrew], was attacked, and his House much damaged. He was carried to the Tree of Liberty by the Mob & a Justice of the Peace provided to swear him; & there he was obliged, on pain of Death, to take an Oath to resign his Office. This Tree stood in the Town & was consecrated as an Idol for the Mob to worship; it was properly the Tree ordeal, where those whom the Rioters pitched upon as State delinquents, were carried to for Trial, or brought to as the Test of political Orthodoxy. It flourished until the British Troops possessed Boston, when it was desecrated by being cut down & carried to the Fire ordeal to warm the natural Body. It would have been lucky for the Soldiery had it continued to give a natural Warmth as long as it had communicated its political Heat; they then would not have suffered so much by the Severity of a cold Season.

Governor Bernard, by his great Firmness & Prudence, had secured  the Stamps which were sent from England, in Castle William [Castle Island] about 3 Miles from Boston; otherwise, they would have been involved in the general Destruction; and Things remained in a State of Anarchy through the Year 1765. The Leaders of the Faction had hired a Shoemaker, named Mackintosh, as the antitype of Massianello of Naples [an Italian fisherman who became the leader of revolt against the rule of Hapsburg Spain], but he was a much cleverer Fellow. He was sensible & manly, & performed their dirty Jobs for them with great Eclat. He dressed genteelly; & in Order to convince the publick of that Power with which he was invested, he paraded the Town with a Mob of 2000 Men in two Files, & passed by the Stadthouse, when the general Assembly were sitting, to display his Power. If a Whisper was heard among his Followers, the holding up his Finger hushed it in a Moment: & when he had fully displayed his Authority, he marched his Men to the first Rendevouz, & order’d them to retire peacably to their several Homes; & was punctually obeyed. This unhappy Fellow was always ready for the Drudgeries of his Employers, untill by neglecting his Business, he was reduced to part with his Last & all, took to hard drinking, was thrown into a Jail & died. And, to the eternal Disgrace of his rich Employers, when he supplicated some of them for 2 or 3 Dollars to relieve his Distress, he was refused the small Pittance, because at that Time they had no further Service for him; & had he not possessed a Soul endowed with superior Honor to any of his Employers, he would have brought several of them to the Gallows. There are Instances of Villains, of the small vulgar Order, who discover Souls superior to those of many of the great Vulgar.

Indeed, it was not much to be wondred at, that the Colonies exulted in rioting, & defied the Authority of Great Britain for the rash laconick Sentence of that popular Statesman Mr. Pitt, in the House of Commons, namely, “rejoice, that America hath resisted” was construed as the Voice of a God. Like an electrick Shock it instantaneously pervaded the whole american Continent. The Attributes of a Deity were ascribed to ye. popular Senator; & under his Auspices all was safe. Had he delivered the Sentence, or something of equal force, when the Stamp Act was on the Tapis, it might perhaps have saved much honor to the british Senate & the Colonies from a Series of Misrule, but perhaps the Orator thought he had a Right to chuse his own Times for Silence, & for Utterance. Be it as it may; the Sound hath not as yet died away in american ears; & greatly, very greatly hath it contributed to that Series of Opposition in the Colonies, which hath ever since subsisted: & doubtless it was in Part owing to that Speech, that the Stamp Act was finally repealed.

Townshend Acts:

An unlucky Affair happened this Year, 1768. The aforementioned Mr. Hancock had imported a Cargo of wines, & attempted to smuggle off the Duties. He had always a Mob at Command; & they mustered & beat off the Custom House Officers, who attempted to make a Seizure. Among those Officers was the Collector, a Gentleman advanced in Life & of a most amiable Character. Him they beat & bruised, to the endangering of his Life. Brick bat Law is very partial, and its Decisions are very severe. The Mob also broke the Windows of the Collector, & of some others; & seized the Custom House Boat, & burnt her. A Man of War, & Marines were near; but if two to one are odds, surely 100 to one will not make an Equality…

The Mob again triumphed; the day as well as the Night was now their own. A Custom House Officer was obliged to skulk from Stones & Brickbats; & the Commissioners of ye. Customs were obliged to repair on board the Romney Ship of War-, then in the Harbor, for Protection; from this Place they applied to the Governor & Council for Protection; the Governor referred the Case to the Council, formerly called, his Majesty s Council-, who replied, “that the Disorders which had happened, were occasioned by the violent & unprecedented Manner in which the Seizure had been made by the Officers of the Customs”…

The Presence of two british Regiments was, at that Time a Restraint upon Riots; & the Faction could not, by all their Stratagems, effectuate the Removal of them, untill the Year 1770, when Capt. Preston’s Guard fired upon the Mob & killed 5 of them; as will be more particularly related when we arrive at that memorable Era; untill that Time, although the Interval was but short, yet it was observable, that the Town of Boston had not been so free from Disorders for several Years past. Before, there was no safety for Persons in walking the Streets at Nights, free of Insults. Now, it was the Reverse. The Soldiers were under so good Discipline, that they were peculiarly civil, when unmolested; & seemed rather to chuse to give Protection than Offence…

Sea Port Riots (Boston Massacre):

In the beginning of March 1770, a Mob was in Pursuit of a Custom House Officer^ who was obnoxious to the Smugglers.  He repaired to his House, as his Castle; they, at Noon Day, laid Seige to it. He being a Man of Spirit, like a true Veteran, determined to hold out to the last Extremity. He armed himself with Musket & Ball, & warned them against entring. They, regardless of his Threats & Intreaties, broke his Windows & Doors: upon which he fired at Random, & killed an innocent Boy [Christopher Snyder] who was crossing the Street. This enraged the Mob, & they attempted to take him; but he made a gallant Defence, & refused to deliver himself to them, as being morally certain, that Death would be the immediate Consequence of his Surrender to them; but he, at the same Time, told them that he would submit himself to a Peace Officer. 16 Peace Officers were sent for; but it was, with their utmost Exertions, that they could prevent his being murdered before they could house him in Prison. As the Term of the supreme Court was very near, and they thought that the Blood of the unhappy Youth which had been spilt would not be cold before the Court met; & as they were pretty sure that they could procure a Jury for Conviction, so some of the Leaders of the Faction chose that he should be hanged by the Forms of Law, rather than suffer the Disgrace of Hangmen theirselves.

[The custom’s official was convicted in the killing but was pardoned by the King and removed from Boston before the pardon was publicly announced].

The popular Rage against this Custom House Officer was a prelude to what succeeded…

The 2 Regiments from Hallifax had been arrived five or six Months. They were, what is vulgarly called an Eye Sore, to the Inhabitants of Boston. They restrained the Rabble from committing their accustomed Outrages, & this was termed a Restraint of that Liberty which God & Nature had blessed them with. The Inhabitants therefore used every Art of Irritation; & when the Soldiers were returning to their Evening Quarters, they met with repeated Abuses; untill, at last, Provocations followed so thick upon one another, that the Soldiers rightly judging that God & Nature had blessed them with as much natural Liberty as they had the Inhabitants of Boston, they returned Compliments for Compliments, & every Blow was answered by a Bruise. This Scheme not effectuating their Purposes, the Inhabitants combined, in great Numbers to make a general Assault & carry the Works by Storm. They provided themselves with massy Clubs, a new Manufacture of their own: Guns they imagined were Weapons of Death in the Eye of the Law, which the meanest of them was an Adept in; but Bludgeons were only Implements to beat out Brains with. When they were ready, they fixed upon the Time of Assault; & it came on thus.

The Kings Monies were lodged in the Custom House. From several Threatnings being thrown out, those Monies were thought insecure, & a Centinel [soldier] was appointed to guard them. According to common Custom, when a Riot was to be brought on, the Factioneers would employ Boys & Negroes to assemble & make Bonfires in the Streets; & when all were ready, the Mob Whistle, already mentioned, with sometimes the Mob Horn in Unison, would echo through the Streets, to the great Terror of the peaceable Inhabitants. Those Boys & Negroes assembled before the Custom House, & abused ye. Centinel; he called for Aid, & a Party of eight Soldiers were sent to him. This Party was headed by a young Officer; Capt. Preston, an amiable, solid Officer, imagining that the other would not behave with that Prudence which the Occasion demanded, took the Command upon his self.

By this Time, there were 4 or 500 of the Rioters collected; the Rioters pelted the Soldiers with Brickbats, Ice, Oystershells & broken Glass Bottles. Capt. Preston behaved with great Coolness & Prudence. The Rioters calling out “Damn You fire, fire if you dare!” & Capt. Preston desiring them to be quiet, and ordering his Men not to fire. But at last, a Stout Fellow [Crispus Attucks], of the Mob, knocked down one of the Soldiers; & endeavoring to wrest his Gun from him, the Soldier cried, D[am]n you fire” pulled Trigger & killed his Man. The other Soldiers, in the midst of the Noise, supposing it was ye. Captain who gave the Order, discharged their Pieces, & five Persons were killed. Let me here observe, that upon the Trial great Stress was laid upon the Captain’s giving the Order to fire, but there was no Proof of it; & the Doubt was not cleared up for many Months after; when the Soldier who gave the Word of Command, as mentioned above, solved the Doubt. But It was immaterial in Law, whether the Capt. gave it or not, for the Attack was so evidential of a murderous Design, that he must have been justified if he had given such Orders. The People, indeed, would not have discharged him of Guilt, for they had no other Idea of washing the Blood from their Streets, but by pouring greater Quantities on….

About this Time was invented the Art of Tarring & feathering; & the Invention was reserved for the Genius of New England. Milton says, that Gunpowder & Cannon were first invented at a Pandemonium of his Devils; but this Art they had not the Sagacity of hinting at, untill it was discovered to them by these their modern Disciples. The Town of Salem, about twenty Miles from Boston, hath the Honor of this Invention, as well as that of Witchcraft in the Year 1692, when many innocent Persons suffered Death by judicial Processes.

Tar and Feathering

The following is the Recipe for an effectual Operation. “First, strip a Person naked, then heat the Tar untill it is thin, & pour it upon the naked Flesh, or rub it over with a Tar Brush, quantum sufficit. After which, sprinkle decently upon the Tar, whilst it is yet warm, as many Feathers as will stick to it. Then hold a lighted Candle to the Feathers, & try to set it all on Fire; if it will burn so much the better. But as the Experiment is often made in cold Weather; it will not then succeed take also an Halter, & put it round the Person’s Neck, & then cart him the Rounds!’ This is the Method, according to the first Invention. And I knew an honest Man, of 60 Years of Age, who was thus disciplined in the cold Month of March, from nine o’clock at Night untill one o’clock the next Morning, untill Life was near expiring. And after a Prosecution for ye. Torture, a Boston Jury would not give 20 Damages….

Disorders continued in this State for a long Time, & nothing else could be expected; for the military Protection had been removed. The upper & lower House consisted of Men generally devoted to the Interest of the Faction. The Foundations of Government were subverted; & every Loyalist was obliged to submit to be swept away by the Torrent. Protection was not afforded to them; this rendered their Situation most disagreeable. Some indeed dared to say that their Souls were their own; but no one could call his Body his own; for that was at the Mercy of the Mob, who like the Inquisition Coach, would call a Man out of his Bed, & he must step in whether he liked the Conveyance or not.

In the year 1772, they continued their laudable Custom of Tar & Feathers; even the fair Sex threw off their Delicacy, and adopted this new Fashion. Had it been imported from France it might have been indulged to them; but as it was imported from a Region where Delicacy is not much encouraged, it was a great Pity that they did not consult their own Characters, before they adopted it. The Feather Part indeed suited the Softness of the Sex; but when the Idea of Feathers, united with Tar, started into the Imagination, it was rather disgustfull yet one of those Ladys of Fashion was so complaisant; as to throw her Pillows out of Window, as the Mob passed by with their Criminal, in Order to help forwards the Diversion. When a Woman throws aside her Modesty, Virtue drops a Tear.

In the Winter of this Year, the ruling Powers seized upon a Custom House Officer for Execution. They stripped him, tarred, feathered, & haltered him, carried him to the Gallows, & whipped him with great Barbarity, in the Presence of thousands, & some of them Members of the general Court. Like the Negro Drivers in the West Indies, if you grumbled at so wholesome a Discipline, you had Iniquity added to Transgression, & Lash succeeded Lash; & there was but one Way of escaping, which was, to feign yourself dead if you was not already so; for in that Case you would be left to yourself to come to Life again as well as you could; they being afraid of such dead Men, lest they theirselves should die after them, sooner or later. One Custom House Officer they left so for dead; but some Persons of Humanity stepped into his Relief & saved him.

The Lues Infernalis [Plague of hellish calamity] which spread through great Part of the Massachusetts, & had overspread the Town of Boston was of the confluent Sort. It was so contagious, that the infection was caught by the neighboring Colonies. Rhode Island, some years before, in a most riotous Manner had rifled the Houses & hunted after the Lives of several Gentlemen, who were obnoxious by their Attachment to Government. In this Year, the Mob burnt his Majesty’s Schooner Gaspee, on the Narraganset Shore, about 20 Miles from Newport. This made some Noise in England horn a Misrepresentation of Facts, a Commission was sent over, impowering the Govr. of Rhode Island, the Chief Justices of Massachusetts, New York & New Jersies, & the Judge of the Vice Admiralty Court of Massachusetts, to inquire into the Facts. The People of that Colony were so closely connected; & so disaffected, from the Nature of their Government, to British Legislation, that it was perfectly futile to make an Inquiry; & the Matter ended, without any other Effect from the Commission, than an Encouragement to those Colonists to play the same Game again, upon the first Opportunity.

Boston Tea Party

The Teas at last arrived, in the latter End of Autumn, & now Committee Men & Mob Men were buzzing about in Swarms, like Bees, with every one their Sting. They applied first to the Consignees, to compel them to ship the Teas back again. The Mob collected with their great Men in Front. They attacked the Stores & dwelling Houses of the Consignees, but they found them too firm to flinch from their Duty; the Mob insisted that the Teas should be sent to England. The Consignees would not take such a Risque upon theirselves, for had the Teas been lost, they must have been the Losers. At last, the Rage of the Mob, urged on by the Smugglers & the Heads of the Faction, was increased to such an Heighth, that the Consignees were obliged to fly for Protection to the Castle [Castle Island]; as the King’s Ship in the Harbor, which was ordered to give them Protection, refused it to them. There was no Authority to defend any Man from Injury.

The Faction did what was right in their own Eyes; they accordingly planned their Manoeuvre, & procured some of the Inhabitants of the neighboring Towns to assist them; this they did, in Order to diffuse the Odium of the Action among their Neighbors. The Mob had, partly, Indian Dresses procured for them, & that the Action they were about to perpetrate might be sanctified In a peculiar Manner, [Samuel] Adams, [John] Hancock & the Leaders of the Faction, assembled the Rabble in the largest Dissenting Meeting House in the Town, where they had frequently assembled to pronounce their Annual Orations upon their Massacre, & to perpetrate their most atrocious Acts of Treason & Rebellion thus, literally, “turning the House of God into a Den of Thieves!’ 

Thus assembled, on December 14th. they whiled away the Time in Speech-making, hissing & clapping, cursing & swearing untill it grew near to Darkness; & then the signal was given, to act their Deeds of Darkness. They crowded down to the Wharves where the Tea Ships lay, & began to unlade. They then burst the Chests of Tea, when many Persons filled their Bags & their Pockets with it; & made a Tea Pot of the Harbor of Boston with the Remainder; & it required a large Tea Pot for several hundred Chests of Tea to be poured into, at one Time. Had they have been prudent enough to have poured it into fresh Water instead of Salt Water, they & their Wives, & their Children; & their little ones, might have regaled upon it, at free Cost, for a twelve Month; but now the Fish had the whole Regale to theirselves. Whether it suited the Constitution of a Fish is not said; but it is said, that some of the Inhabitants of Boston would not eat of Fish caught in their Harbor, because they had drank of the East India Tea. 

Boston Tea Party (1773)

After the Affair was over, the town of Boston, finding that it was generally condemned, said it was done by a Crew of Mohawk Indians; but it was the Rule of Faction to make their Agents first look like the Devil, in Order to make them Act like the Devil. This villainous Act soon grew into serious Consideration. Some of the Country Towns, as well as some of the Inhabitants of Boston, thought, that Justice demanded Indemnification to the owners of the Tea; but the Faction was great; & it prevailed; it had so repeated Success, in Impunity, from their other Disorders, that the Power of Great Britain did not weigh a Feather in their Consideration: but it at last shut up their Port; & deprived them of some other Priviledges, as the Sequel will relate…

Thus tarring & feathering, solemn Leagues & Covenants, & Riots, reigned uncontroled. The Liberty of the Press was restrained by the very Men who, for “Years past, had been halloowing for Liberty herself; those Printers, who were inclined to support Government, were threatened, & greatly discouraged. So that the People were deprived of the Means of Information; & the Faction had engrossed the Press, which now groaned with all the Falsities that seditious Brains could invent, which were crammed down the Credulity of the Vulgar…

In the Month of March 1774, the Chief Justice [Peter Oliver, writing in the 3rd person] his Brother [ Andrew Oliver, who was the Stamp Collector attacked by the crowd in the Stamp Act protests], who was Lieut. Govr. of the Province, died. He had been Secretary of the Province many Years, to universal Acceptance; but he had been unhappily appointed, without any Application of his, to be one of the Stamp Officers, although he had wrote to his Correspondents in England against the Principles of the Act; before its being passed. He had been harrassed upon this Affair in the Year 1765, his House plundered, & himself Drove to their Tree of Liberty, & forced to a Resignation. He had also wrote, to a Friend in England, his private Sentiments on the Constitutions of the Colonies. Those Letters were also stole at the same Time when Govr. Hutchinsons Letters were pilfered. The Vengeance of the Faction was carried to, & beyond the Grave. Upon his Interrment a large Mob attended, & huzzaed at the intombing the Body; & at Night there was an Exhibition, at a publick Window, of a Coffin & several Insignia of Infamy & at this Exhibition some Members of the general Assembly attended…

After the Coercive Acts were passed:

The People now went upon modelling a new Form of Government, by Committees & Associations. The County of Suffolk met & passed a Number of high Seasoned Resolves, In the Month of September, sufficiently peppered to carry them through the approaching Winter. The wild Fire ran through all the Colonies; they all interested their Selves in the Boston Port Bill; & in a pretended Compassion to the Sufferers of that Town shipped Cargoes of Provision; but it was thought, that those who had the Distribution of them fared full as sumptously upon them as many of those did, for whom they were designed. The Lava from this Volcano at last settled into a Congress of 52 Men, from the different Provinces, who met in September 1774, & pass’d several notable Resolutions about Importation, non Importation & Exportation; all which, with their other after Resolves, have been so often printed, that the Pastry Cooks may furnish their selves with any Stock they may want, at every Book Stall in London, for their patriotick Pies; by which Means the Patriots may have the Advantage of eating their own Words again, without having them crammed down their Throats by Force of Law.

The People began now to arm with Powder & Ball, and to discipline their Militia. Genl. Gage, on his Part, finding that Affairs wore a serious Aspect, made Preparations for Defence. He began to fortifie the Town; he sent for Troops from Quebec & Neiv York, & collected a respectable Force. The other Provinces dismantled the Bang’s Garrisons; there being no Force to oppose them. The Rebel General Sullivan carried off some Cannon from the Fort at New Ham[p]shire together with some Shot wch. he designed to use with them; but he was so little acquainted with military Affairs, that he picked out Shot that were big enough for Cannon of double Bore to what he took away; he was so well versed in Iricism, that he could at any Time fire an eighteen Pound Cannon out of nine Pound Shot. The People were continually purchasing Muskets, Powder & Ball in the Town of Boston, & carrying them into the Country; under the Pretence that the Law of the Province obliged every Town & Person to be provided with each of those Articles. They urged another also, that there was Danger of a French War, which put them upon their Guard.

Appendix, 1774-1775:

Exhibiting a few, out of the many, very innocent Frolicks of Rebellion, especially in the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

1774 August

A Mob in Berkshire assembled, & forced the justices of the Court of common Pleas from their Seats on the Bench, and shut up the Court House, preventing any Proceedings at Law. At the same Time dri­ving one of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace from his Dwelling House, so that he was obliged to repair to Boston for Protection by the Kings Troops.

At Taunton also, about 40 Miles from Boston, the Mob attacked the House of Daniel Leonard Esqr., one of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace; & a Barrister at Law. They fired Bullets into the House, & obliged him to fly from it to save his Life.

A Colo. Gilbert j, a Man of Distinction & a firm Loyalist, living at Free­town, about 50 Miles from Boston, being absent about 20 Miles from his Home, was attacked by a Mob of above an 100 Men, at Midnight. But be­ing a Man of great Bravery & Strength, he, by his single Arm, beat them all off. And on the same Night, & at the same Place, Brigadier Ruggles, a distinguished Friend of Government, & for many Years a Member of the general Assembly, was attacked by the same Mob; but by his firm Reso­lution he routed them all. They, in Revenge, cut his Horses Tail off & painted him all over. The Mob found that Paint was cheaper than Tar and Feathers.

September 1774.

The Attorny General, Mr. Sewall, living at Cambridge, was obliged to repair to Boston under the Protection of the King’s Troops. His House at Cambridge was attacked by a Mob, his Windows broke, & other Damage done; but by the Intrepidity of some young Gentlemen of the Family, the Mob were dispersed.

About the same Time Thomas Oliver Esqr. the Lieut. Govr. of Massa­chusetts Province, was attacked in his House at Cambridge, by a Mob Of 4000 Men; & as he had lately been appointed, by his Majesty, one of the new Council, they forced him to resign that Office; but this Resignation did not pacify the Mob; he Was soon forced to fly to Boston for Protection. This Mob was not mixed with tag, rag & Bobtail only, Persons of Distinc­tion in the Country were in the Mass, & as the Lieut. Governor was a Man of Distinction, he surely ought to be waited upon by a large Cavalcade & by Persons of Note.

In this Month, also, a Mob of 5000 collected at Worcester, about 50 Miles from Boston, a thousand of whom were armed. It being at the Time when the Court of Common Pleas was about sitting, the Mob made a lane, & compelled ye. Judges, Sheriff, & Gentlemen of the Bar, to pass & repass them, Cap in Hand, in the most ignominious Manner; & read their Disavowall of holding Courts under the new Acts of Parliament, no less than Thirty Times in the Procession.

Brigadier Ruggles’s House at Hanlwicke, about 70 Miles from Boston, was also plundered of his Guns, & one of his fine Horses poisoned.

Colo. Phips, the high Sheriff of Middlesex, was obliged to promise not to serve any Processes of Courts; & retired to Boston for Protection.

Peter Oliver Esqr., a Justice of the Peace at Middleborough, was obliged by the Mob to sign an Obligation not to execute his Office under the new Acts. At the same Place, a Mr. Silas Wood, who had signed a Paper to dis­avow the riotous Proceedings of the Times, was dragged by a Mob of 2[00] or 300 Men about a Mile to a River, in Order to drown him; but one of his Children hanging around him with Cries & Tears, he was induced to recant, though, even then, very reluctantly.

The Mob at Concord, about 20 Miles from Boston, abused a Deputy Sheriff of Middlesex, & compelled him, on Pain of Death, not to execute the Precepts for a new Assembly; they making him pass through a Lane of them, sometimes walking backwards, & sometimes forward, Cap in Hand, & they beating him.

Revd. Mr. Peters, of Hebron in Connecticut, an Episcopalian Clergy­man, after having his House broke into by a Mob, & being most bar­barously treated in it, was stript of his Canonicals [clergy garments], & carried to one of their Liberty Poles, & afterwards drove from his Parish. He had applied to Governor Trumble & to some of the Magis­trates, for Redress; but they were as relentless as the Mob; & lie was obliged to go to England incognito, having been hunted after, to the Dan­ger of his Life.

William Vassall Esqr., a Man of Fortune, and quite inoffensive in his publick Conduct, tho’ a Loyalist, was travelling with his Lady from Boston to his Seat at Bristol, in Rhode Island Government, about 60 Miles from Boston, & were pelted by the Mob in Bristol, to the endangering of their Lives.

All the Plimouth Protestors against Riots, as also all the military Offi­cers, were compelled by a Mob of 2000 Men collected from that County & the County of Barnstable to recant & resign their military Commissions. Although the Justices of the Peace were then sitting in the Town of Plimouth, yet the Mob ransack’d the House of a Mr. Foster, a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, a Man of 70 Years of Age, which obliged him to fly into the Woods to secrete [hide] himself, where he was lost for some Time and was very near to the loosing of his Life. Afterwards, they deprived him of his Business, & would not suffer him to take the Acknowledgment of a Deed.

A Son of one of the East India Companies Agents being at Plimouth collecting Debts, a Mob roused him, in the Night, & he was obliged to fly out of the Town; but ye. Midnight favoured his Escape.

In September 1774, when the Court of Common Pleas was assembled for the Business of the Term, at Springfield, a large Mob collected, & pre­vented the sitting of the Court; they would not suffer Bench or Bar to enter the Court House; but obliged Bench, Sheriffs & Bar, with their Hats off, in a most humiliating Manner, to desist.

In November 1774, David Dunbar of Hallifax, in the County of Plimouth, being an En­sign in the Militia, a Mob headed by some of the Select Men of the Town, demanded his Colours of him. He refused, saying, that if his command­ing Officer demanded them he should obey, otherwise he would not part with them—upon which they broke into his House by Force & dragged him out. They had prepared a sharp Rail to set him upon; & in resisting them they seized him (by his private parts) & fixed him upon the Rail, & was held on it by his Legs & Arms, & tossed up with Violence & greatly bruised so that he did not recover for some Time. They beat him, & after abusing him about two Hours he was obliged, in Order to save his Life, to give up his Colours….

This illustration from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn shows the continued “rough music” tradition of “Riding the Rail,” the punishment described in the passage above.

The Mob Committee, of the County of York, where Sir William Pepperells large Estate lay, ordered that no Person should hire any of his Estates of him, nor buy any Wood of him, nor pay any Debts to him that were due to him.

One of the Constables of Hardwick, for refusing to pay the Provincial Collection of Taxes which he had gathered, to the new Receiver General of the rebel Government, was confined & bound for 36 Hours, & not suffered to lie in a Bed, & threatened to be sent to Simsbury Mines in Connecticut. These Mines being converted into a Prison, 50 Feet under Ground, where it is said that many Loyalists have suffered. The Officers Wife being dan­gerously ill, they suffered him to see her, after he had complied.

The aforementioned Colo. Gilbert was so obnoxious for his Attach­ment to Government, that the Mobs being sometimes afraid to attack him openly, some of them secretly fired Balls at him in the Woods. And as he was driving a Number of Sheep to his Farm, he was attacked by 30 or 40 of them, who robbed him of part of the Flock, but he beat the Mob off. And this same Colo. Gilbert was, some Time after, travelling on his Business, when he stopped at an Inn to bait his Horse. Whilst he was in the House, some Person lift up the Saddle from his Horse & put a Piece of a broken Glass Bottle under the Saddle; & when the Colo, mounted, the Pressure run the Glass into the Horses back, which made him frantick. The Horse threw his rider, who was so much hurt as not to recover his Senses ’till he was carried & arrived at his own House, at 3 Miles distance.

December 1774.

A Jesse Dunbar, of Halifax, in the County of Plimouth, an honest Drover, had bought an Ox of one of his Majesty’s new Council, & carried it to Plimouth for sale. The Ox was hung up & skinned. He was just upon quartering it, when the Town’s Committee came to the Slaughter House, & finding that the Ox was bought of one of the new Councellors, they ordered it into a Cart, & then put Dunbar into the Belly of the Ox and carted him 4 Miles, with a Mob around him, when they made him pay a Dollar after taking three other Cattle & an Horse from him. They then delivered him to another Mob, who carted him 4 Miles further, & forced another Dollar from him. The second Mob delivered him to a third Mob, who abused him by throwing Dirt at him, as also throwing the Offals, in his Face & endeavoring to cover him with it, to the endangering his Life, & after other Abuses, & carrying him 4 Miles further, made him pay another Sum of Mony. They urged the Councellors Lady, at whose House they stopped, to take the Ox; but she being a Lady of a firm Mind refused; upon which they tipped the Cart up & the Ox down into the Highway, & left it to the Care of it self. And in the Month of February following, this same Dunbar was selling Provisions in Plimouth, when the Mob seized him, tied him to his Horse’s Tail, & in that Manner drove him through Dirt & mire out of the Town, & he falling down, his Horse hurt him.

February 1775

A Number of Ladies, at Plimouth, attempted to divert their selves at the publick Assembly Room; but not being connected with the rebel Faction, the Committee Men met, and the Mob collected who flung Stones & broke the Windows & Shutters of the Room, en­dangering the Lives of the Company, who were obliged to break up, & were abused to their Homes.

Soon after this, the Ladies diverted their selves by riding out of Town, but were followed & pelted by the Mob, & abused with the most inde­cent Language. The Honble. Israel Williams Esqr., who was appointed one of his Majesty’s new Council, but had refused the Office by Reason of bodily Infirmities, was taken from his House, by a Mob, in the Night, & carried several Miles; then carried home again, after being forced to sign a Paper which they drafted; & a guard set over him to prevent his going from Home.

A Parish Clerk of an Episcopal Church at East Haddum in Connecticut, a Man of 70 Years of Age, was taken out of his Bed in a Cold Night, & beat against his Hearth by Men who held him by his Arms & Legs. He was then laid across his Horse, without his Cloaths, & drove to a consid­erable Distance in that naked Condition. His Nephew Dr. Abner Beebe, a Physician, complained of the bad Usage of his Uncle, & spoke very freely in Favor of Government; for which he was assaulted by a Mob, stripped naked, & hot Pitch was poured upon him, which blistered his Skin. He was then carried to a Hog Sty & rubbed over with Hogs Dung. They threw the Hog’s Dung in his Face, & rammed some of it down his Throat; & in that Condition exposed to a Company of Women. His House was at­tacked, his Windows broke, when one of his Children was sick, & a Child of his went into Distraction upon this Treatment. His Gristmill was broke, & Persons prevented from grinding at it, & from having any Connections with him.

All the foregoing Transactions were before the Battle of Lexington, when the Rebels say that the War began.