Blogs > Liberty and Power > February 22, 1770--"...and a little child shall lead them."

Feb 27, 2007 7:00 pm


February 22, 1770--"...and a little child shall lead them."



March 1, 1770
My Dearest Sister Mary,

Tension here is rising. The Redcoats still remain here in Boston . King George III, a few weeks ago, repealed the Townshend Acts. Now business is getting back to normal. Hopefully, mother and father told you that I finished my apprenticeship last Christmas and am now working for the Boston Gazette and Country Journal. I do not know how you could not have known. Do you remember when I first left home to go?

It was hard work but I am happy that I completed it. I had the greatest teacher and his shop was just outside of Newport. He always told me things from his apprenticeship days; they were very helpful. I am now living with a elderly woman whom I help and in trade I may board with her. It was the best I could find. Usually printers live above the shop, but there was no room.

I have seen brother John around town, but I have not talked to him. Cousin Samuel has been very busy lately, organizing the funeral and all. His name, Samuel Adams, has been said a lot around town. Surely you have heard about that. Poor Christopher Seider, he was shot right in the head, and then again in the chest, an awful way to die. Ebenezer Richardson shot him when they were all protesting outside of his shop. I heard they were throwing rocks. One hit his wife, and killed her. As you might suspect he is a supporter of the Crown. There was a funeral for young Seider this past week, I watched it go by the shop, but I did not join though I wanted to.

This morning as I was walking to work, I heard the children taunting the Redcoats, saying things like,"Bloodyback” and “Lobsterback” Although I am against them being here, I dislike how they do this to them. One day the karma will come back to them. I will hate to see that day come.

I arrived to work fairly early today. I got right to work, got my types together, my composing stick, and worked on the article Thomas Johnson sent in about the latest happenings in England. I was halfway done when Benjamin, my manager, came in to tell me that I would have to work late until about 9 o`clock on the 5th of the March. Since I have just started I must always be the one who has to work the extra hours. This means I must walk home that night at that hour - joy.

I have worked a whole fourteen hours today so I must go rest. Good Night.

Your loving sister, Katherine Adams


March 6th,1770
My Dearest Sister Mary,

I am lucky to be alive. The British have fought back. They have killed five Bostonians. Crispus Attucks, a free black man was killed, the poor soul worked so hard to get to where he was. I witnessed the whole “massacre” as the Sons of Liberty have called it. I am as you maybe can tell, not happy.

I had to work extra, as you know, so we could finished this weeks’ publication. As I was walking home I saw, right outside the Customs House, a mob of people. I went closer and saw a British sentry being picked on by the townspeople. People were throwing sticks, snow, ice, rocks, and other objects toward him, There was a foot of snow on the ground and more was coming down so my vision was blurred.

The sentry, who was suddenly knocked down, called for help. Captain Preston, Matthew Kilroy, Hugh Montgomery, and six others arrived pushing through the crowd. I watched as they helped their fellow soldier up. I thought that this would be the end of this whole thing, but I was wrong.

The next thing I knew people were yelling “Fire” at the soldiers and then I heard the church bells ringing. A few moments later housewives and children came out with pails of water and snow. I wondered why they were ringing the bells. There was no fire at all, from what I could see. One word summed up everything happening, confusion. I could tell the soldiers even did not know what was going on. The crowd 'twas not giving up. Fire was still being yelled 'til there was a shot fired. I am not quite sure who it was, but I am thinking that it was Kilroy. He seemed to be angered by everything we colonists do.

The snow was now bloody and everyone was distraught, including me. There have been five people in all killed: Crispus Attucks, as I mentioned earlier; Samuel Gray, who worked at the rope walk; James Caldwell, who was a sailor on an American ship; Samuel Maverick,who was just a young boy at the mere age of seventeen and last but not least, Patrick Carr, a feather maker.

I am going to brother John Adam’s house tomorrow night after work, which by the way was awfully busy. I am tired from thinking about this, it angers me. Katherine Adams


March 13,1770
My Dearest Mary,

It has been a whole six days since I have written to you. I am just getting over a small cases of pneumonia. I have not been taking the best care of myself like I should be. I went to the town doctor, and he told me to drink lots of liquids to help my body recover. I should be back to printing soon.

I have much to tell you. It was just yesterday, that we printed the paper with the massacre story. I am sending it along in case you do not get the Boston Gazette in Newport. At work, I shared the story on my account to my colleagues. I told them in great detail. I guess working the late shift helped .. a little.

I have some news about our brother, John. When I arrived at his home he immediately began to tell me how he felt about the massacre. I learned something very interesting. He has agreed to represent the British soldiers in the trial that will be held along with Josiah Quincy. I was very surprised to hear this from him but he says he wants to show King George III that over here in the colonies everyone is treated equally and may receive a fair trial. I thought, even though I am a Patriot, that it was a very good reason, and I myself might have done the same. He said it would start sometime in October.

I suspect that the soldiers will not be charged with anything much, but I am sure that the prosecutors will have at least one convicted guilty. I wonder if King George has heard yet about what has happened here? I dare say that once the news is passed on to him he will have no idea what to do next. He has gotten himself into this mess, so he must find a way out. I doubt that is going to happen very soon.
Your Sister, Katherine Adams

Young Katherine Adams was certainly there at the center of events, as her cousin, Sam Adams (who would have been the real"Katherine" as one of his many aliases giving his own spin) and his cohorts were waiting for the opening shot to begin a major public event demonstrating the horrors of British justice. Samuel Adams, with a talent for manipulating public opinion, had helped to inaugurate a systematic use of violence and intimidation by revolutionary committees and congresses bent on destroying the British political influence.

The ferment in the port towns like Boston and New York had taken its toll in the British military back in England, with the knowledge of widespread colonial smuggling and avoidance of any fiscal responsibility for the expenses that the Crown had in protecting the colonials from French and Indian predation. The port towns, in particular, were dangerous and violent, and words of revolution were beginning to be spoken there long before others were cognizant. With each action taken or reaction, the level of anger increased, as did the level of violence.

This suited Sam Adams to a"T" (pardon the pun). John Adams knew between fifty and a hundred pseudonyms that Sam Adams used. Even Sam couldn't recall how many he had used, or even referred to in his own broadsides. But it would not matter, "They served their purpose." [p. 27, The Grand Incendiary (NY: Dial, 1973) by Paul Lewis] Francis Bernard, a British Governor, was exasperated with him. "Every dip of his pen stung like a horned snake." [Samuel Adams' Revolution (NY: Harper & Row, 1976. p. 1) by Cass Canfield]. From the Stamp Act in 1765 onward, Sam Adams and his Sons of Liberty would manipulate events and public opinion, with an ever-increasing talent for mayhem. He managed the Stamp Act Riot of August 14, 1765 and was constantly watching for more. He organized parades, festivals and fireworks on the anniversary of the Stamp Act Riot.

Once the Townshend Acts passed compelling the colonists to pay duties on glass, lead, paper and tea (which was considered a very minor tax by the Crown and Parliament), Adams pressured American merchants into signing a pledge of non-importation. Eight did not and Adams wanted to make an example of one of them. On February 22, 1770, a mob (Adams was probably there, members of the Sons of Liberty were certainly there) gathered in the front of the store of Theophilus Lilly with a big wooden hand mounted on a pole pointing at the storefront accusingly.

The Seider/Richardson events could not have given Adams a better tool. It was a cold dreary winter day when Christopher Seider was murdered. Christopher Seider along with a dozen other school boys were among an angry mob in front of a building throwing rocks at the shop of a Loyalist merchant. Ebenezer Richardson, a rather unsavory Loyalist who had worked as a confidential informant to the Attorney General and Customs and friend of Lilly came along, and tried to defend the merchant but was hit in the head with a rock. Ebenezer went back to his house for his musket. From there he climbed up a two story building and aiming his musket into the mob began to fire at random. In doing that Ebenezer shot Christopher Seider. Christopher Seider died with two bullets inserted in him, one right above the heart and the other in the eye at approximately 9pm that evening. After Christopher was shot the angry mob dragged Ebenezer to jail. Christopher Seider's body was taken to Faneuil Hall.

A funeral procession of five thousand Bostonians took place four days later (February 26, 1770) for Christopher Seider. His casket, inscribed with "innocence itself is not safe", was carried from Faneuil Hall, past the Town House where the governor and council met, down to the liberty tree, and to the Granary Burying Ground. His body was laid to rest there. People left flowers as a tribute. Sam Adams called Christopher "the first martyr to American liberty". As for Ebenezer Richardson the judge found him “not guilty”, but was later tortured by local Patriots.

Christopher Seider's death united the citizens of Boston against the British. Within a few days, the British regiments were being constantly pelleted with snowballs filled with rocks, then home-made spears, then clubs. The agitation was constant, and increasing until there was no doubt of the mob's intention. Finally, The Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770 when the rioters charged the infantry line and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. A half native American and half african-American, Crispus Attucks, who led the rioters, knocked down one of the soldiers and grabbed his musket. The soldiers began firing, killing Attucks and three others, wounding six more (one died two weeks later). To this day, there is no evidence that they were ordered to fire.

From the unfortunate event of the inadvertent death of an eleven year old child, Sam Adams began the American Revolution.

Just a thought. (hat tip to J.L. Bell.)
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

UPDATE: I posted this without re-reading my comments on the letter. I've added"(who would have been the real"Katherine" as one of his many aliases giving his own spin)" to the post to help understand the link between the first and second halves of the post. Hopefully, this will make my intent clear.

My intent was to show how Samuel Adams would manipulate events through the use of pseudonyms and fabricated public actions. The deaths of Christopher Seider and Crispus Attucks were real, for example, but the mobs were pushed into action by Adams and were not the"peaceful citizens" which he would proclaim.

The American Revolution may have needed such a dedicated, dangerous person, and activists are always at the center of revolutions. But they can move in unpredictable directions, much to the dismay of the people that have pinned their hopes and future with them.




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Andrew D. Todd - 2/27/2007

Look, is this an Alan Sokol/Social Text hoax, or some practical joke of that nature?

I have Googled for several phrases from the disputed text, and the searches all lead back to the same person, a little girl at a middle school in Portland, Maine (not Portland,Oregon, as I first assumed), and nowhere else. I am satisfied that the text was not written by Samuel Adams, either under a pseudonym or otherwise, and that it was not written in the eighteenth century. As nearly as I can determine, it was in fact written in the twenty-first century. If the author were not an innocent child, who I trust has no idea of the way in which you are using her writing, I would call this a clumsy forgery.

In one obvious anachronism, "protesting" is used in a sense unknown to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary (3rd ed., 1944), or the Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (7th ed., 1965). It is in fact a coinage of the "New Left," in the 1960's. The eighteenth century term for that kind of thing would have been "Charivari," "Shivari," "Rough Music," or possibly "Skimmington."

Again, note the use of the phrase "working the late shift." The earliest citation given in the Shorter Oxford for the noun "shift" in this sense is is 1809 or 1812, derived from the verb "shift," (change). It is a term of the Industrial Revolution, reflecting the pace of the steam engine.

I should think that, for the Bible-reading era, the phrase "the greatest teacher" would most probably have been understood as an allusion to Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Note, finally, the recurrent emphasis on the author's internal mental state. That is post-Freudian.

Compare it with Benjamin Franklin's authentic description of being arrested for seditious libel: "I too was taken up and examin'd before the council; but, tho' I did not give them any satisfaction, they content'd themselves with admonishing me, and dismissed me, considering me, perhaps, as an apprentice, who was bound to keep his master's secrets." (Franklin, The Autobiography, Eliot edition, 1909, p.22)

http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/Fra2Aut.html
http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=Fra2Aut.sgm&;images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=1&division=div1



Kenneth R. Gregg - 2/27/2007

Yes, I posted this without re-reading my comments on the letter. I've added "(who would have been the real "Katherine" as one of his many aliases giving his own spin)" to the post to help understand the link between the first and second halves of the post. Hopefully, this will make my intent clear.

My intent was to show how Samuel Adams would manipulate events through the use of pseudonyms and fabricated public actions. The deaths of Christopher Seider and Crispus Attucks were real, for example, but the mobs were pushed into action by Adams and were not the "peaceful citizens" which he would proclaim.

The American Revolution may have needed such a dedicated, dangerous person, and activists are always at the center of revolutions. But they can move in unpredictable directions, much to the dismay of the people that have pinned their hopes and future with them.


Jonathan Dresner - 2/27/2007

A quick look around the web site reveals that
The web site Sparks of Liberty is a work of historical fiction. There was no actual discovery of journals in Boston on May 4th!

Plausible or not, I'd like to know what the purpose of reposting them here is.


Andrew D. Todd - 2/27/2007

You do realize that these letters are almost certainly not authentic? They seem, on the face of it, to be a Creative Writing assignment by a schoolgirl in the Pacific Northwest in the year 2007. Her name is "Maura," and she's in the seventh grade.

When I glimpsed at them, they just looked instinctively improbable. There isn't a single word about God in them, for one thing.

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