The Death of Christopher Seider and the Rising Tide of Violence

    528. To Samuel Hood, 23 February 1770

    529. To Thomas Gage, 25 February 1770

    530. To Sir Francis Bernard, 28 February 1770

    531. To Lord Hillsborough, 28 February 1770

    Tensions grew as the committee of inspection increased pressure on the four remaining importers (John Taylor, Theophilus Lillie, Nathaniel Rogers, and William Jackson) by publishing their names in the newspapers and staging demonstrations outside their shops to discourage customers from entering. On 22 February, events turned violent when Ebenezer Richardson, Lillie’s neighbor and a customs informant, attempted to remove a sign. Pelted by stones, Richardson fled into his home, and when the crowd attempted to follow, Richardson fired a gun into the midst of his assailants, killing ten-and-a-half-year-old Christopher Seider. At Seider’s funeral, the procession extended from the Town House to the Liberty Tree, reportedly one of the largest ever seen in America. In the midst of the increasing violence, Hutchinson made the critical decision to meet the General Court in Cambridge, as both Hillsborough and Bernard advised him to do, even though he knew it would cause conflict with the legislature.

    528. To Samuel Hood

    23 February 1770

    My Dear Sir, I have my Letters by the December Mail but none later than the 9th. Notwithstanding the encouragement given me that I should receive Instructions before the time to which my Assembly stands prorogued I am destitute of them. My Ld H writes me that they are still before the Cabinet for consideration. Business moves very slowly. Sir Francis writes me that he now begins to think that the whole of the late Act including Tea will be Repealed which agrees with your prediction.1

    We have had repeated exhibitions before the Shops of sevral of the Importers and M____x and others have thought it best that great numbers of Boys should collect upon such occasions rather than men.2 Yesterday there were many hundreds collected before the Shop of Mr Lillie a very inoffensive man except in this affair of Importation3 & a carved head upon a long Pole was fixed before his Shop Door and the whole Street filled with people who would suffer no person to go to his Shop. One Richardson who lived in the Neighbourhood came out of his house and expressed some dissatisfaction and it is said attempted to drive a Cart which was in the Street against the Pole.4 This raised the rage of the people and they pelted him with stones and sticks and drove him into his house and then attacked the house with stones &c. thro the windows. He warned them to desist presented a Musket and threatned to fire but went on until he fired and shot one lad into the Breast of which he soon died5 and another into the thigh. This brought more people from all quarters and they soon fetched him out of his house. One came with a halter prepared to hang him up which was prevented by M____x who probably was afraid how he might be affected himself by such an action. He was dragged thro the Streets to Justice Ruddock by whom he was committed to Gaol.6 I have enddavourd to convince the C of the necessity of their concurring with me in some measures to put a stop to these tumultuous Assemblies but to no purpose. They think it would tend to encourage the Importers and to what length they would be willing these Disorders should rise before they would do any thing to suppress them I cannot determine. Some of the C saw no way of doing it unless the Importers complied or left the Town. It is very fortunate for me that my sons are out of the question for the little weight which the Constitution gives me in preserving the peace and good order of the Government would have been intirely destroyed if they had been the present Objects of popular Resentment.7 Everything done by me would have been construed to proceed from private and sinister views and the popular heat would have been much increased. There cannot be a more full representation of the feeble state of government than what has been made to the Ministry and our restoration depends intirely upon the measure of Parliament. I have the honour to be with the greatest respect Dear Sir our most humble and most Obedient Servant,

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:444–45); at head of letter, “Com. Hood.”

    529. To Thomas Gage

    Boston 25. February 1770

    Sir, After all my expectations of receiving Instructions before the meeting of the Assembly I am disappointed, matters still lying before the Cabinet Council and nothing determined.1 This must give additional Spirits to the party, if they may be called a party,2 in opposition to Government but I cannot help it. I have not been wanting in my representations, to the Ministry, not only that the body of the people, but those with whom the powers of Government are intrusted, are, in ^from^ principle, however absurd, favourers of measures directly repugnant to the first principles of Government. Notwithstanding this, my correspondents doubt whether any thing will be done for suppressing the confederacies and they generally agree that the Demand of the Colonists for the repeal of the whole of the late Act will be complied with.3 My Lord Hillsborough recommends to me to carry the Court to Cambridge to shew resentment against the Town but, as I am left to my discretion, I shall not do it.4 If the Kings pleasure to do it had been signified to me it might have had a good effect, but to do it without that, will only increase the ill temper which is in the Assembly and prejudice them against me personally whether they suppose it done of my own motion or by direction from the Secretary of State. I do not know that the Orders you was pleased to give for removing the Main guard will not serve for the present occasion but if they will not I must pray you to renew them5 before the 14. of next month the time to which the Court is prorogued.6

    We have had frequent exhibitions of pageantry and large collections of Boys, set on by Men, before the Shops of the Importers. Last week a man, for making some attempt to overthrow one of the Images, was attacked & pelted with sticks and stones and drove to his house for shelter. Not being safe there, but his windows being broke and his house surrounded, he threatned to fire which did not discourage the Assailants, and at length he did fire and killed one boy and slightly wounded two others.7 One of the Bells was immediately set a ringing for an Alarm, which drew great part of the Town together and the man was soon fetched out of his house, and the first thought was to hang him up at once and a halter was brought & a sign post pitched upon but one who is supposed to have stirred up these tumultuous proceedings took great pains and prevented it. The Rabble then dragged the man through the streets and it is said cruelly bruised and wounded him until they brought him to a Justice of peace who committed him to Goal.

    I gave express directions to the Sheriff to go and suppress this unlawful Assembly, before the accident hap’ned, but he did not think it safe to attempt it, nor is there a Justice of peace in the Town who will appear upon such an occasion. I have since convened the Council and urged them to join with me in measures to prevent the like for the future, but they would come to no determination. I shall meet them again to morrow, but expect no success, for the major part of them, as well as of every other order of men, wish success to the measures of the Non Importers8 & can dispense with a little illegality in the prosecution of them.

    It is fortunate for me that in these disorders my sons are out of the question. The people if it had been otherwise would have been much more incensed and I should have been much more embarrassed. I have the honour to be very respectfully Sir Your most humble and most obedient Servant,

    Tho Hutchinson

    RC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers); at foot of letter, “His Excellency General Gage.” AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:445, 448).

    530. To Sir Francis Bernard

    28 February 1770

    No. 6

    My Dear Sir, By the December Mail I have your favours No. 13, Nos. 9, 10, 11, 12 not yet receivd.1 I must be sanguine notwithstanding your discouragement. Parliament cannot leave America in this state. Whilst these combinations are tolerated Government can never be restored. They never will be suppressed by any power within themselves for both the legislative & executive powers join with the body of the people in the combination. Every week we have a Mob before the Shops or Houses of some or other of the Importers. Last week Richardson whose name you must remember as an Informer attempted to remove a piece of Pageantry before Mr Lillies door.2 He was drove into his house & attacked there by Stones thro his windows. He fired on the Boys, perhaps too soon, & killed one & wounded another but was soon seized himself & the populace was so enraged that a halter was prepared & he would have been hung up upon A sign post if Molineux who stirs up these mobs had not exerted himself to prevent it. I doubt not he was afraid how he might be affected himself. Richardson was committed to prison. The Boy was buried with as much respect as young Allen.3 It is said the Procession reached from the Town House to Liberty Tree. I could not avoid meeting the Council & urging them to advise me to a proclamation. I will inclose T____’s & E____g’s speeches as near as I can recollect them.4 I could do nothing more except exhorting the Justices which I did though I knew it would be to no purpose.

    The Importers have there Houses attacked in the dead of the night. Lillie has quitted his. Rogers has Soldiers.5 Several of the others sleep with loaded guns by their bed sides. It is fortunate for me that my sons are out of the question, as the disorders would be much greater & my own weight much lessened. Mr John is upon a trading voyage to Kennebeck which I think is prudent.6 The others will either quit the Town or submit to such terms as this new erected. Tyranny shall require.

    I expect to meet the General Court at the time proposed.7 No Vessel being ready for London in this port I send my Letters to Newport being informed that one there is near sailing. I am with the most sincere Regard & respect Dear Sir Your faithful & affectionate humble Servant,

    In a separate paper

    March 1

    Last week I went to Newtown to see Mr Bernard. I found him much worse than I expected.8 He did not discover that he knew me by any thing he said. I fear his case is desperate at least I think he has no chance for relief whilst he remains in this Country. I shall cover a printed piece designed for Edes & Gills paper. It came to one of my sons by accident he supposes from Pitts family.9 Burch says that from what in it relates to this Board it must have come from T____e or he must have been privy to it.10 I suppose some of the charges against me were so incredible that the Supervisors of the Press did not think proper to publish it. I have not been well the fore part of the Winter but thank God have recovered my health & spirits &c.

    March 1. Just as I am sealing my Letters your favours Nos. 10, 11 & 12 are brot me by Captain Paddock. Ld Hillsboro recommends meeting the Assembly at Cambridge unless other considerations shall in my judgment outweigh the reasons his Lordship gives for it.11 I find those Members who are least disaffected are averse to sitting at Cambridge in cold weather especially, the difficulty about the Troops I am told will not be great the resentment against Boston will not be regarded as it is not done by His Majestys express command & every body I can confide in thinks best not to remove the Court until a Trial is made how they go on with the business at Boston. I wish for more express orders in every case which is fully understood. When I am left to my discretion I will do the best I can, but I am sensible of my delicate situation and that do what I will I shall be charged with want of resolution or with rashness & want of discretion. At New York Pensilvania & Carolina there does not seem to be the least effort against the combined Merchants but they have the ball at their feet. The Council here ask me what occasion there is for my worrying them to distinguish this Government from all the rest. In those Governments the Governor has power to remove or suspend his Council & other Magistrates who neglect their duty here I can do nothing without my C______ & have no authority to remove them or any Magistrate without their Consent.12 I told the C______ yesterday Ruddock ought to be removed immediately & the Treas was of that opinion and no body else and for this and other declarations in support of government he is threatned with the loss of his Treasurer’s place & his place in Council.13 I will nevertheless omit nothing that can be done to support Government & to distinguish the friends of it but the restoration of the authority of Government where the dispute between the Kingdom & the Colonies is concerned cant be affected by a Governor let his Talents be ever so great. Parliament alone must effect it by giving up the points in Controversy or by a vigorous exertion of power in maintaining and supporting them. I shall more particularly answer your Letters by the first opportunity direct and am Sir Your faithful humble Servant,

    March 2d.

    Upon more mature deliberation I have determined to prorogue the Court to the 15th at Cambridge. There will be inconvenience either way but I have the opinion of the Ministry in favour of the one side which outweighs with me the opinion of such as dislike the measure here & I am convinced this particular opportunity of doing it ought not to be lost & perhaps it may serve the measures of Parliament which must take notice of the T of B & I think cannot possibly disserve them. I have issued the Proclamation.14

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:450–51). Contemporary printings: Remembrancer for the Year 1775, 1st ed., p. 96 (all except the second paragraph); New England Chronicle, 8 June 1775; Boston Gazette, 12 June 1775; Massachusetts Spy, 14 June 1775; Norwich Packet, 15 June 1775; Connecticut Courant, 19 June 1775; Providence Gazette, 17 and 24 June 1775.

    531. To Lord Hillsborough

    Boston 28. February 1770

    No. 4

    My Lord, By the December mail I have the honour of your Lordship’s letter No. 30 in which you are pleased to express your sentiments of the expediency of my meeting the General Court at Cambridge to obviate any objections on account of the Troops and to shew a proper resentment of the behaviour of the Inhabitants at Boston unless I shall think there are reasons to the contrary of such a nature as to outweigh these considerations.1

    I apprehend, My Lord, that when the Mainguard is removed from the Courthouse2 I shall meet with little or no trouble on account of the Troops and I am sensible that removing the Court out of Town will be disagreeable to most of the Members, I doubt, notwithstanding, after mature deliberation whether I can be justified in not conforming to a measure which appears to your Lordship to be highly expedient and therefore I have issued a proclamation proroguing the Court to the 15th. instant to meet at Cambridge.3

    I shall also govern my self by your Lordship’s opinion with respect to such persons that may be elected Councillors who have been active parties in the late combinations.4 If I should refuse5 all who are concerned or who are favourers of them I think I shall have no Council for, in the present temper of the people I have no reason to think that any other will be offered to me for my consent.

    I am very sorry that I must acquaint your Lordship with the continuance of Disorders in the Town of Boston by exhibitions of Pageantry before the doors of the few persons who venture to sell the Goods they have imported contrary to the agreement of the Merchants. Lads and children are employed on these occasions who collect in great numbers and the civil Magistrate will not oppose the popular prejudice and attempt to disperse them. A person offered to remove one of these Shews and being obstructed by those who had the charge of it and, at length, pelted and drove into his house and then having his house surrounded and, as he says, his windows broke and his person in danger he fired upon the multitude and killed one lad and wounded another. He was soon fetched out of his house and committed to prison. The lad was buried a day or two after and his funeral the largest perhaps ever known in America.

    All this tends to increase the discontent which before was very great in the Town and I thought it necessary to convene the Council and to propose to them to issue a proclamation against these Disorders but it did not appear to them to be necessary and, after two days consideration they advised me to send for the Justices and Sheriff & exhort them to do their duty. This was done and had repeatedly been done before to no purpose.6 Some of the Justices openly justified the proceedings.

    All this Disorder is owing to a general disposition not in the body of the people only but in those to whom the administration of government by the Constitution is intrusted to favour the measures of the Merchants as the only means to preserve the Rights of the people and to bring about the Repeal of the Revenue Acts and other Acts called unconstitutional. In other matters which have no relation to this dispute between the Kingdom and the Colonies Government retains its vigour and the administration of it is attended with no unusual difficulty. I have the honour to be with the greatest Respect My Lord Your Lordships most humble and most obedient Servant,

    Tho Hutchinson

    DupRC (National Archives UK, CO 5/759, ff. 57–58); marked, “Duplicate”; at foot of letter, “Right Honorable the Earl of Hillsborough”; docketed, “Lt. Govr. Hutchinson Boston Febry. 28. 1770. (No. 4) Rx April 21st. 1770. (Dup. Orig. not recd.).” AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:446–47); at foot of letter, “The Right Honorable the Earl of Hillsborough.” Dft (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:448–49). SC (National Archives UK, CO 5/768, ff. 82–85); docketed, “Lieut. Govr. Hutchinson. Boston 28 Febry. 1770. (No. 4.) Rx 21 April. (Dupt. Origl. not recd.).” Contemporary printings: Remembrancer for the Year 1775, 1st ed., pp. 95–96; Boston Gazette, 12 June 1775; Massachusetts Spy, 14 June 1775; Norwich Packet, 15 June 1775; Providence Gazette, 17 June 1775; Connecticut Courant, 19 June 1775.

    532. To Thomas Gage

    Boston 2 March 1770

    Sir I acquainted you by the last post with my Intention to meet the General Court at Boston. I have since received Letters from England which convince me that it will be more acceptable that I should meet them at Cambridge and have determined to prorogue them ^it^ to the 15t. Instant. I thought it necessary to give you immediate advice. Any trouble with Regard to the Troops will thereby be prevented.

    I have the honour to be very respectfully Your most humble & most Obedient Servant,

    RC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers).

    533. From Sir Francis Bernard

    Pall Mall March. 5. 1770

    Dear Sir, I am so drove in point of time that I have but two Hours to write all that is to go by this Ship, & therefore can only give you the Heads of an intended Letter.

    On Wednesday last the Hearing of my Petition came on before the Council.1 Mr De Berdt presented another Petition praying seven Months more time and as much farther as he should have Occasion for; otherwise he must decline entering upon the Support of the Assembly’s Petition.2 This produced many Questions to him from the Lords, in answering which he showed himself very contemptible both in Ability & Integrity. You shall have the particulars in my next.

    The Lords disallowed his Petition: and the Attorney General desiring to be heard on my behalf ex Parte, they said that the Business was plain enough it wanted no Explanation; and they adjourned for 8 days that a Report might be prepared, which I am assured will be as favorable to me as I can desire.

    For the more easy Understanding the Case I printed the Petition & my Answer to it; some of which I will send you now & some more by another Ship. If I can get Leave, I will print the whole Case with the Proofs I had ready to produce. My Answer alone will want no Proof at Boston.

    What I foretold to you of the new Minister increasing in Strength is confirmed. On Monday last feb. 26 upon a Question of addressing his Majesty for an Account of the Expenditures on the Civil List the Numbers in the House were 262c., 165p. Majy. 97. This is understood to be decisive with Regard to the Firmness of the Ministry.

    This day the American Affairs are to come on. The Ministry is for repealing the 3 Articles; the Opposition is for repealing the whole Act or no Part of it;3 and some leading Men in the ministerial Party are against any Repeal. There is no Probabilty of the whole Act being repealed: but it is very possible that the Question for a partial Repeal may be lost by a Session in the Ministerial Party; altho Lord North is in Earnest in his Proposal of it. More the next Time. I am &c.

    SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 4, 8:69–70); at foot of letter, “Lt Govr Hutchinson.”