A STATED Meeting of the Society was held, at the invitation of Mr. Zechariah Chafee, Jr., at the Signet Club, No. 46 Dunster Street, Cambridge, on Thursday, April 24, 1941, at half after eight o’clock in the evening, the President, kenneth Ballard Murdock, in the chair.
The records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary reported the death of Worthington Chauncey Ford, a Corresponding Member, on March 7, 1941.
The Corresponding Secretary reported the receipt of a letter from Mr. Elliott Perkins, accepting Resident Membership in the Society, and letters from Mr. Lincoln Colcord and Mr. William Gurdon Saltonstall, accepting Corresponding Membership.
Mr. George Lee Haskins of Cambridge was elected a Resident Member of the Society, and Mr. Michael Joseph Walsh of Hyde Park was elected an Associate Member.
The Chair appointed the following committees in anticipation of the Annual Meeting:
To nominate candidates for the several offices,—Messrs. Robert Ephraim Peabody, Richard Mott Gummere, and Fred Norris Robinson.
To examine the Treasurer’s accounts,—Messrs. Stephen Willard Phillips and Hermann Frederick Clarke.
Mr. Frank W. C. Hersey read the following paper:
CAPTAIN John Malcom was cursed with a fiery temper which under the slightest provocation flamed into ungovernable rage. The only thing that could quench this heat was more heat—hot tar. But there were only two occasions on which this remedy was available and was actually applied. His irascible nature led him into quarrels with his own brother, Captain Daniel Malcom, with Governor Hutchinson, with his fellow officers in the Customs, with people in Boston, Portland, Newport, and North Carolina; and the only reason why he did not quarrel with King George III was that he wished the King to create him a Knight of the Tar.
Malcom’s hot temper was a part of his inheritance from Clan Malcolm and centuries of Highland feuds. I can speak from intimate knowledge, for Malcolm blood is coursing in me. What is more, John Malcom was my great-great-great-uncle. His brother, Captain Allen Malcom, was my great-great-grandfather. The hot temper, with other Scottish gifts, has persisted in various branches of the family for several generations, and I know of many instances where parent and daughter or brothers and sisters have burst into furious quarrels which have ended in permanent estrangements.
John Malcom was the son of Michael Malcom, a descendant of Clan Malcolm whose ancient home was in Lorne in Argyll. In the seventeenth century some of the Malcolms were among the Scotch Presbyterians who emigrated to Ulster. With other Scotch-Irish pioneers Michael and his wife Sarah arrived in America in 1721, stayed in Boston a short time, and then settled in Georgetown, Maine. John, the boy who grew up to be the hated Tory, was born in Boston, May 20, 1723. The next child, born in Georgetown, November 29, 1725, was Daniel, who grew up to be the esteemed patriot, Captain Daniel Malcom, whose services are celebrated on his gravestone on Copp’s Hill: “A true Son of Liberty, a Friend to the Publick, an Enemy to oppression, and one of the foremost in opposing the Revenue Acts in America.”488 Another son, Allen, grew up to be a soldier in the Revolution.
Like several of his brothers, John Malcom became a mariner. He owned many vessels and sailed as master on many voyages. In addition, during the 1740’s, 1750’s, and 1760’s he had an active military career. In 1745, at the age of twenty-two, he served as an ensign in the Second Massachusetts Regiment, commanded by Colonel Samuel Waldo, at the siege of Louisbourg; and this same year he was captain of a vessel which carried dispatches from Louisbourg to Boston. In a later petition to George III he declares: “I have had thirteen Different Commissions in your Majesty’s Land Service in North America the two last French and Spanish warrs that is Past. I have Serv’d from a Ensign to a Colonel. I have been in all the Battles that was Fought in North America those two warrs that is Past except two and at every Place we Conquerd and Subdued our Enemys to your Majesty.” One wishes he had named the two battles he did not fight in! As to his marine enterprises, he says: “I have Commanded 12 Different Merchant Vessels abroad to Different Parts of the World and some of them I have own’d Mostly Part of them.”
Fortunately it is possible to find more evidence in support of this second assertion than of the first. At the Public Record Office there has been preserved a list of vessels489 entering and leaving the Port of Boston during the years 1750—1765 which gives the dates, the names of vessels, masters, and owners, the tonnage, the size of the crews, the cargoes, and the ports. During these years the vessels owned or commanded by Captain John Malcom number four: the sloop Ranger, fifty tons; the sloop Sally and Polly, sixty tons; the sloop Sarah, sixty tons; and the sloop Sally, forty tons. The ports mentioned are St. Martin’s, Newfoundland, the West Indies, North Carolina, New York, and Louisbourg. Here are two of the entries: “Aug. 8, 1753, Sloop Sarah, Master—John Malcom, Tons—60, Guns—0, Men—6, Owner—John Malcom, Cargo—65000 Lumber, 20 Horses, hhd 20 Fish, For West Indies”; “Feb. 1, 1758, Sloop Sally, Master—John Malcom, Tons—40, Guns—0, Men—4, Owner—John Malcom, Cargo—hds Molas 1, bb Sugar 8, hds Rum 1, bb Rum 4, Cask Coffee 1, Cask Wine 2, hds Salt 8, hds Lime 20, 1 chest European goods, For No. Carolina.”
The Sally and Polly was lost at sea in 1755 after she had sailed to North Carolina and was on her passage thence to Cork. This disaster led to a bitter quarrel between John and his brother Daniel, who also had become an owner of ships and took them on voyages to Lisbon and London. John owned three-eighths of the Sally and Polly, and presumably Daniel owned the other five-eighths. John accused Daniel of neglecting to have John’s three-eighths share insured for £90 during the voyage, after promising to do so. In his anger John invoked the law. First, on July 23, 1756, he had a writ issued against Daniel for £25 because Daniel had not paid him on demand a note of hand for £20. He followed this three days afterwards with another writ against Daniel for £130 damages for the loss of the insurance.490 The next day, July 27, the Deputy Sheriff attached a dwelling house of Daniel and gave him a summons. Then Captain Daniel got into action and returned a broadside. On the twenty-eighth he had a writ issued against Captain John for £70 because John had refused to pay a promissory note for £66 13s 4d. Captain John had now run out of ammunition, and the guns cooled off, for three days later, July 31, the doughty mariners met at the Sheriff’s office and agreed to settle the matter out of court. Each signed an order that the writs be withdrawn and not served.491
Meanwhile, Captain John Malcom had overhauled and run down another sort of prize: he married Sarah Balch in Boston, the intentions being filed May 24, 1750. Their children were baptized by the Reverend John Moorhead of the First Presbyterian Church, Federal Street, as follows: Ann, September 29, 1751; John, August 12, 1753; Daniel, March 2, 1755; Sarah, February 6, 1757; and Michael, December 18, 1758.
In the latter part of 1769 Malcom gave up his seafaring career and became an officer of the Crown, being appointed Tide Surveyor at Newport, Rhode Island. He moved there with his family and, now entitled to be called “Esquire,” kept up his state by attending the First Congregational Church. He wished to go a step farther and partake of the Lord’s Supper, but that was refused him. Fortunately this episode was recorded by the Reverend Ezra Stiles, then living in Newport, in his diary, February 24, 1770:
I am told that Mr. Malcom last week signified his Desires to some of the Brethren of the first Cong. Chh. here to partake with them in the Lord’s Supper last Lord’s day. His motion was declined. He is an officer in the Customs here: lately removed from Boston & settled here, & with his Family attends that meeting. Tho’ a Congregationalist, yet not Member in Communion with any Congrega Chh: yet to qualify for an office had received the Sacrament at an Episcopal Chh., I think in Boston. It is the declared principle of our Churches to receive to occasional Communion, any sober Communicants from any protestant Chhs., as Episo, Bapt., &c., if they should desire it. He pleaded this right. But the scruple arose on his Morals, which are exceptionable.492
Stiles’s last sentence is significant: it reveals the fact that already in 1770 Malcom’s reputation was unsavory. This rebuff did not deter him from continuing to go to church: indeed, he transferred his allegiance to the Reverend Mr. Stiles’s own church, the Second Congregational. His name appears in a list of families in this parish entered in Stiles’s diary, January 1, 1771. The figure “6” after it indicates the number of visits made by Mr. Stiles.
Malcom’s devotions did not, however, make him pay all his bills: the law had to be called in for that purpose. A Newport butcher, Samuel Smith, sued him for a bill of £3 os 11¾d on December 19, 1770.
Bill of Saml Smith493
John Malcomb to Saml Smith Dr
To 15 Veal 4d
To 13½ Beef
To 25½ Do
To Mutton & left to pay 1d
To 5 Do
To 15 Beef
To 196 Do
On the back of the writ the constable made the following report:
Boston Dec 19th 1770
I have Attached the Body of the within named John Malcom & took the Revd John Moorehead as Bail for the Defdt.
Edwd Blake Constbl
Some time later, July 16, 1772, a baker, Godfrey Wainwood of Newport, brought suit for £10 for nonpayment of a bill of £2 14s for 262 loaves of bread. The indorsement on the writ reads tersely: “John Malcom paid the pit. as above.”
Early in the year 1771 a new chapter in the adventures of Captain John Malcom began: he was appointed Comptroller of His Majesty’s Customs at Currituck, North Carolina. He arrived, much to his delight, in time to play a vigorous part in the War of the Regulation.494 Malcom joined the expedition led by Governor William Tryon against the Regulators. On May 15, the day before the Governor’s forces came into contact with the enemy, Tryon’s order book records the promotion of the fiery Captain. “Alamance Camp Wed. May 15th 1771. Captain Malcolm appointed an additional Aid de Camp to his Excellency with the rank and pay of a captain.”495 The next day Malcom had a chance to display his energy on a stage where two armies could watch him. The best eyewitness account is in a “Journal of the Expedition Against the Insurgents in the Western Frontier of North Carolina, Begun the 20th April, 1771.”
Thursday, 16 May.
The Army marched soon after 7 o’clock this morning leaving the Guard for the Camp as directed in the orders yesterday. The Barrels of Flour and Pork were made use of to strengthen the Barricade formed by the Waggons.
Note.—The discharging three pieces of Artillery was the signal ordered for forming the Army into two Lines in order of Battle agreeable to the plan.
About two miles from the Camp the whole were ordered by the above signal to form the line, to see if the several Detachments knew their stations. This being performed in good order, the Lines were reduced into a column and continued their march, and before 10 O’Clock came within half a mile of the Rebels’ Camp, where the Army formed in line of Battle. The Governor then sent Capt. Malcolm, one of the Aides-de-Camp, and the Sheriff of Orange, with his Letter, requiring the Rebels to lay down their Arms, surrender up their Outlawed Ringleaders, &c. . . . About half past ten Capt. Malcolm and the Sheriff returned with the Information that the Sheriff had read the Letter four several times to different Divisions of the Rebels who rejected the Terms offer’d with disdain, said they wanted no time to consider of them and with rebellious clamor called out for battle. As the Army kept moving on slowly during the absence of Capt. Malcolm and the Sheriff, when they returned the Army was within 300 yards of the Van of the Rebels, who had also advanced towards the Loyalists, waving their hats and daring them to come on. An engagement being then inevitable both Lines were ordered to advance nearer; and they even drew upon the ground upon which the Van of the Rebels first shewed themselves, the latter retreating back to their main body as the Lines advanced.
About this time the Officers petitioned the Governor for an exchange of prisoners in lieu of the two gentlemen taken over night. After some messages passing on both sides, it was agreed that all the prisoners taken by the Loyalists, (number seven) should be restored for Mr. Walker and Lieutenant Ashe. But the Rebels delaying upwards of half an hour to send back the two Gentlemen, under pretence that they were a distance in the rear, and the Governor being suspicious that they were only protracting the time that they might outwing his Flanks by the superiority of their numbers, sent them word by an Aid-de-Camp he should wait no longer for the prisoners, and cautioned the Rebels to take care of themselves, as he should immediately give the signal for action. Accordingly the Artillery began the fire which was instantly seconded by a discharge from the whole of the first Line. The action was hot on both sides tho’ the Rebels soon took to the Trees, from whence they kept up a brisk fire for near two hours, at the expiration of which time their fire slackened considerably. The Artillery was ordered to cease and the Army to advance in the best order the Circumstances would admit of. The left wing of the first line having turned upon the second line of the said wing, threw both into much disorder, tho’ by the spirited behaviour of the Officers they were again brought into the Field and moved forward with the right wing. This soon drove the Enemy from the Trees and the whole Rebel Army fled in great confusion leaving behind them near 20 prisoners taken in the Field, seventy Horses with saddles, provisions and a small quantity of Ammunition.
The Army pursued not more than half a mile beyond the Field of Battle, thro’ the Enemy’s Camp to a House where were found in a Garret, Mr. Walker and Lieut. Ashe, who had been left to shift for themselves in the hurry of the action; the night they were taken they were stript and tied to a tree and both most severely whipt with small Hickory Sticks.
It being now half past two o’clock, the Enemy entirely dispersed and the Army five miles from Camp, it was thought advisable to lose no time, but to return immediately to the Camp to Alamance.496
How much Captain John enjoyed this battle can be gathered from his proud boast in his petition to George III:
I have been in the time of Peace a Cheif Aid de Camp to the Brave Governor Tryon and there we Subdued and Brought Near Seven Thousand Men to Obedience to your Majesty’s Laws and Commands. In that Battle in North Carolina with the Brave Governor Tryon I had two Horses Killd under me but I Escaped that Battle in North Carolina saved your Majesty or the Nation more than one Million and Half Sterling for if Governor Tryon had not then Subdued them it would have Cost more than that to have Subdued them and Brought them to the same Obedience they was by us brought to.
The news that Captain Malcom had played such a dramatic part in the suppression of the Regulators was soon published in Boston and increased the public animosity toward him, for, as John Adams pointed out, “the Regulators were thought in Boston to be an injured people.” Thus, in the popular estimation, Malcom had placed himself on the side of tyranny.
At the end of the campaign against the Regulators Governor Tryon was transferred to New York and was succeeded by Governor Josiah Martin. During the rest of the year 1771 John Malcom unscrupulously used the powers of his office as Comptroller at Currituck for his own benefit and engaged in various malpractices and extortions. When complaints about these offences came to Governor Martin’s attention, he began an investigation. By February 6, 1772, he had gathered enough evidence to write this excoriating letter to Samuel Johnston:
I am favored with your letter of the 25th of last month by Sir N. Dukenfield, & would have acknowledged its receipt by the same hand if ye time of his stay here had afforded me opportunity to consider of the offences committed by the Collector & Comptroller of the Port of Currituck, & to examine my Documents with respect to Officers of the Customs.
As Mr Pierce informed my Secretary that he was authorized by the Commissrs of His Majesty’s Customs at Boston, to remove the Custom House of Currituck, I am desirous to know the latitude of their instructions to him, as well as of the Powers delegated to this hair brained Comptroller, before I proceed to extremities with them. I cannot help being of opinion that if the former has committed violence or been guilty of irregularity it has been owing to pusillanimous submission to the influence & intimidations of the Bully Drawcansir497 Comptroller whose powers derived from the Commissrs of Customs I understand to be of very extraordinary nature & extent. I am persuaded however at ye same time that they will not justify the extortions & depredations & violence he exercises over His Majesty’s subjects under colour of performing his duty, as I am that the Collectors confederacy, & participation of his inequity is equally indefensible, from whatsoever motive proceeding. That I may be fully informed of their power & authority & get to the perfect knowledge of their malpractices I have written to Mr Pierce a letter, wch I take ye liberty to transmit now through your hands, directing him forthwith to repair hither & to lay before me his Instructions & those of his Comptroller, and to answer for their conduct in the cases of wch you make complaint, that seems well supported by the Affidavits you have sent me. . . .
P.S. I shall be glad to be furnished as soon as may be convenient wh the further proofs you mention of the misconduct of Pierce & Malcom.498
Four months later Governor Martin suspended Malcom and on June 5 informed the Earl of Hillsborough, Secretary of State for the Colonies, of his action:
Mr Malcom Comptroller of the customs for the Port of Currituck having been charged upon Oath by sundry persons of venality and corruption as well as extortion in Office, I have thought it for his Majesty’s service to suspend him of which I have informed the Commissioners of his Majesty’s Customs at Boston and have transmitted to them the sundry depositions made of the misconduct of that officer.499
The charges exhibited against the Collector of Customs for the Port of Currituck are of a nature that certainly seemed to require that he should be suspended from the Execution of his Office; but from what I have learned of the nature of that Officer’s appointment and from a comparison of it with the powers of suspension vested in you by your Instructions I very much doubt of the validity of the step you have taken and therefore cannot signify to you my commands from the King on that head until I have talked with Lord North on the subject.500
To this letter from Lord Dartmouth Governor Martin replied on March 31, 1773:
I must acknowledge, my Lord, that when I suspended Comptroller Malcom I had no more question that the powers vested in me by His Majesty’s Royal Commission warranted such a step than that the nature of his offence demanded it, but since I have been honored with your Lordship’s sentiments on that measure, and that I have reviewed my authorities as to this point more attentively, I incline to your Lordship’s opinion, that if such power over the officers of the customs was designed to be given to His Majesty’s Governor it does not anywhere clearly appear, except in the 25th Article of the King’s Instruction relating to Trade, in the particular case of neglect connivance, with respect to ships coming from the East Indies.
But lest I should be deemed to have exceeded my powers in that case, I have thought it proper, my Lord, since I have been favoured with your Lordship’s letter to refer some complaints of no less atrocious complexion, made to me against Mr John Pierce, Collector of the same Port of Currituck, to the Commissioners of His Majesty’s Customs, whose authority he has set at defiance. Upon this subject I think it my duty to observe to your Lordships that if His Majesties Governors in the Colonies have not power to suspend officers of the Customs, it may be expedient to vest them with it, for if there is no controlling power over them in Provinces so remote as this is from Boston, the seat of the Board of Commissioners, great mischief may accrue to His Majesty’s Service before they can interpose, as it can hardly be less than four and will be often six months before they can be informed of delinquencies here, and apply proper remedies. This measure I only mean most humbly to offer to your Lordship’s consideration.501
Malcom, however, came north again and was made Comptroller at Falmouth (now Portland), Maine. The odor of tar is now mingled with the tang of the sea.
In October, 1773, the brigantine Brothers, John Walker master, arrived in the Sheepscut River from Cowes, Isle of Wight. Captain Walker did not have a register. The old one had been taken from him in South Carolina owing to a change in the partnership which owned the vessel, and the new one had not yet reached him. An informer notified John Malcom that Captain Walker had no register, whereupon Malcom immediately seized the vessel. A detailed narrative of this case, including a picturesque account of Malcom’s activities, appeared in the Boston Gazette, February 14, 1774. It was signed “A Friend to the Liberties of Mankind.”
Messieurs Edes and Gill,
In Mill’s and Hicks’s Gazette of Monday last, I find the following piece of intelligence, viz.
“Last Week sailed from Portsmouth, bound to White Haven, the Brigantine Brothers, John Walker, Master, who had been seized (on account of an information given by the noted John Malcom, for which he in November last received a Reward from the Sailors at Sheepscut River) by one of his Majesty’s Vessels, and cleared by Order of the Hon. Commissioners of his Majesty’s Customs.”
Now that the Publick may be acquainted with that whole Procedure, I beg you will publish the following Narrative, which I doubt not will be satisfactory to the bigger part of your Readers. . . .
The Brigantine Brothers, commanded by John Walker, was owned in Whitehaven in England, by several merchants of character and fortune, one of whom sold his part to another gentleman, who thinking his property in the vessel not entirely secure, while the sellers name remained in the register; inadvertently erased the name of the gentleman of whom he purchased, and inserted his own. With the register thus altered, Capt. Walker made several voyages to Sheepscut river, loaded the said brig with timber, cleared her at the custom house at Falmouth, Casco Bay, where it was not once suggested to him that his register was in any shape irregular; but about twelve months since, Capt. Walker was ordered to South-Carolina for a freight of rice for Zealand, where having loaded his brig, he applied to the custom-house for a clearance, and the collector being absent, who had cleared his vessel with the same register on a former voyage; his deputy . . . told him that his register was forged, and refused him a clearance, and upon his replying that the legality thereof was never questioned in any office before, the said officer with some warmth tore the said register and told him to take out a new one: he answered that as he was no part owner, nor could take upon him to swear who were the owners, it was impracticable for him to obtain a new register, and therefore demanded the old one; the officer, obstinately refused to let him have it, telling him to get a new one in England or elsewhere, but finally granted him a clearance, and he proceeded on his voyage. . . . [When Captain Walker returned to Cowes, England, the owners promised to send him a new register by a vessel that was to sail soon after him. Captain Walker cleared out his brig at Cowes and sailed in ballast only for Sheepscut River, where he arrived some time in October, 1773.] Having got his vessel nearly loaded, he went to Falmouth by land, and cleared out the brig and cargo at the custom-house there for Whitehaven. But during his absence, a dirty scoundrel at Pownalborough, a native of Whitehaven, who was under the greatest obligations to the owners of this vessel . . . had the ingratitude to send a letter fifteen miles to the—famous John Malcom, acquainting him that Capt. Walker had no register, and courting him to come over and make a seizure of the brigantine.
Malcom, without the least delay, sets out for the Informer’s house, and demands a guard to protect him from insults; (he, I must beg pardon of the public for dubbing the Informer a dirty scoundrel, for in truth he holds a Captain’s commission under the Governor of this province.) This informing Captain immediately orders his four serjeants to furnish themselves with such arms and ammunition as the law requires, and thus equipped, they set out to escort the great Malcom to Capt. Walker’s brig, and having made the seizure he dismissed his guard; what pay they received for this very extraordinary military manoeuvre, has not transpired, but they soon became ashamed of their conduct. The heroic Malcom made a mark upon the mast, and commenced sole commander of the brig, ordered the laborers to desist from loading, heartily damned the sailors, menaced the mate, and behaved with great insolence to the gentleman who furnished the cargo, and who happened then to be on board; threatened to sheath his sword in the bowels of any one who dared dispute his authority, and in fact cut some tackling with which some timber was hoisting, by which means three or four people narrowly escaped instantaneous death. The brig’s crew could not be reconciled to the treatment they received from their new commander, but soon told their grievances to about forty or fifty sailors then in the river, a council was held among the tars, and if common fame speaks true, Capt. Malcom verily received some inadequate reward.
Capt. Walker returned from Falmouth with his clearance, expecting to proceed on his voyage, but was told that his brigantine was seized by Malcom, and by him delivered to the custody of one Lieut. Mowit, commander of his Majesty’s armed ship the Canceaux; Capt. Walker shewed his clearance from the office at Falmouth, and demanded his vessel, but Mowit told him, he would not deliver her unless he produced an order from the board of commissioners or from Admiral Montagu, and advised him to proceed immediately to Boston, and lay the matter before the board. . . .502
An account of Malcom’s “inadequate reward” is given in a letter published in the Boston Gazette of November 15, 1773:
As I have heard it said, that a certain John Malcom was an Epitome of the whole Board of Worshipful Com—s; that they may see what special regard would be paid them, even in a remote part of the Province, were they personally present, I desire you would publish the following Extract of a Letter from Pownalborough, dated November 2, 1773.
“Yesterday about 12 o’Clock, we were saluted with three Cheers at a distance, when approaching the Window to investigate the Cause, we saw about 30 Sailors, surrounding an Object which had more the appearance of the D—l, than any Human being; but in Truth it was the Infamous J—N M—M, Esq; who had render’d himself obnoxious to the Sailors by being an Informer. They surrounded Mr. Bradbury’s House, where Malcom was. After a stout resistance John Irish was taken, being disarm’d of Sword, Cane, Hat & Wig, he was genteely tarr’d and feather’d; then after marching thro’ the Streets an Hour, was dismissed. We hope the great Rogues, will not send a Fleet to protect him!”
The seizure of the brigantine Brothers led to a bitter quarrel between Malcom and his superior, Francis Waldo, who was Collector at Falmouth. The quarrel was carried to England when three years later, in London, Captain Malcom made various charges against Waldo in a memorial to the Lords of the Treasury. Waldo, hearing of these charges, asked permission to submit the following answers.503
Mr Malcoms Memorial
That your Memor having received Information that the Brigantn Brothers Jo Walker Master from Holland had clandestinely landed her Cargo of Tea, Glass, Painters Colours &c at Wichcassett in the Port of Falmo in the Province of Massachusetts Bay—did in consequence of such Information Seize the sd Brigtn on or about the 21st of Octo 1773, which Seizure was made at the risque and hazard of his Life.
The Brigtn Two Brothers Jo Walker Master was owned at Whitehaven—was admitted to an Entry in the Books of the Collr & Comptroller of Falmo per Manifest on Oath from So Carolina in Ballast. At So Carolina the Officer detained the Vessells Register on account of an Interliniation of One Owner instead of another obliterated as Captn Walker declared on Oath—that Officer however permitted the Vessell to proceed on her Voyage to Falmouth—therefore Mr Malcom’s ingenious Fiction of a Voyage from Holland with Tea &c is an Untruth.
That as soon as your Memor made the Seizure, the Master of the sd Brigtn set out for the Port of Falmouth & made Application to Fras Waldo Esqr Collr of that Port, who contrary to Law granted to the sd Master clearances for the sd Brigtn then under Seizure, and for what Lumber she had taken on board in order to Screen the said Brigtn from being prosecuted to Condemnation, tho the said Brigtn had no English papers either Register or Clearance when seized.
This Vessell frequented the Port of Falmouth for Timber and generally came from & return’d to Whitehaven, direct—as did a Number of other British Vessells there Owned—her Register was Recorded in the Custom House Books at Falmo—her departure from So Carolina was by permission of the Officers there—no clandestine running of Goods could be suspected from her Voyage—the Master was in no fault, but in a trade with Great Britain that claimed every encouragement & assistance that a Crown Officer could afford—above all other reasons & Motives that induced Mr Waldo & the D Comptroller to avoid a Seizure of this Vessell, was the great ferment in respect to political Matters that then prevailed in the Country, that render’d it dangerous to Exert powers that had become disputed, & the Exercise of which would tend to increase the ferment & produce riot & Insurrection—the Event shew’d the Truth of this Opinion.
That immediately upon Seizing the said Brigtn your Memorialist acquainted Mr Waldo the sd Collr with the grounds of doing so—but Mr Waldo instead of supporting your Memor in the Execution of his Duty, took means for preventing the Seizure being prosecuted, by furnishing papers from his Office as aforesaid, and as your Memor has been informed by some Composition the said Mr Waldo made with the said Master.
It is not true that Mr Waldo granted clearance or any Dispatches to this Vessell after he was made acquainted that Mr Malcom had seized her. And It is base & Villainous to insinuate that any Composition was Entered into between the Master & Mr Waldo—whereas he and the D Comptroller (whose Conduct in respect to this Transaction was passed upon by the Commners of the Customs) were not chargeable with or even suspected of any undue Motives to influence them—by a prudent & temperate Conduct they Aimed to preserve peace & Quiet in the critical State that public affairs were then in.
That your Memorialist stated by Letters to the Commners at Boston the nature of the Seizure & of an Intention there was of resqueing the said Brigtn on which the Commnera applied to Captn Mowatt of the Canso Man of War Sloop then at that Port to detain the said Brigtn ’till further Orders—which was done. She was afterwards carried to Portsmouth in N. Hampshire where a Valuation was put upon her. Security was given for the amount of the said Valuation, which was afterwards Condemned to be paid by a Court of Admiralty.
The Vessell being condemned in the Court of Admiralty on the Strict Letter of the Law for being without a Register, Mr Malcom received abt £100 Sterl for his proportion of the forfeiture.
That by this Interference of Mr Waldo your Memor power as an Officer of the Customs to make Seizures became disputed, and in consequence thereof his person was exposed to the Resentment of a cruel Mob there, who Tar’d & Feather’d him, break his Sword & Cast it into a River, Extorted a promise from him never to make any more Seizures there, & otherways Illtreated him upon which I immediately went to Boston, where a second time endeavouring to do my Duty in getting the Tea landed, was barbarously & inhumanely treated, as set forth in my Memorial to his Majesty & the Lords of the Treasury—whereby your Memor was obliged to quit America, leaveing a large family behind him to receive his Sallary for their Support.
Mr Waldos Clearance being previous to his having information of Mr Malcoms Seizure—Mr Waldo is in no degree chargeable with the treatment Mr Malcom met with, nor is Mr Waldo affected by a new Matter here introduced viz. that Mr Malcom went to Boston and brought upon himself a second Taring & Feathering—he has not however assigned the true Cause of this last Misfortune, which happened some time after the India Companys Teas were destroyed, & was occasioned by his beating a Boy in the Street in such a manner as to raise a Mob.
That the sd Francis Waldo Esqr Collr of Falmouth has detained your Memor Sallary as an Officer of the Customs in said Port for near two Years to the great Distress of your Memor Family, & for no other reason that he knows of except that of Seizing the before mentioned Brigtn.
The State of Mr Waldos Office is laid before the Treasury—The Ballance of the revenue of the Port of Falmouth was left in the hands of Mr George Lyde the D Collector, who at Midsummer 1775 paid Mr Malcoms Sallary to Mr Dommett Attorney to Mrs Malcom—to what time it has been since paid to her, is not known.504
Now comes the most melodramatic event in this tumultuous history. Malcom had returned to Boston from Falmouth and was living in his house in Cross Street, North End. Sunday, January 23, 1774, was so severely cold that Boston Harbor had frozen over. John Rowe even entered in his diary: “The Ink Freezes as I write.” On Tuesday, the twenty-fifth, about two o’clock in the afternoon (as is stated in the graphic narrative in the Massachusetts Spy of January 27, 1774),
. . . Mr. George-Robert-Twelves Hewes was coming along Fore-Street, near Captain Ridgway’s, and found the redoubted John Malcom, standing over a small boy, who was pushing a little sled before him, cursing, damning, threatning and shaking a very large cane with a very heavy ferril on it over his head. The boy at that time was perfectly quiet, notwithstanding which Malcom continued his threats of striking him, which Mr. Hewes conceiving if he struck him with that weapon he must have killed him out-right, came up to him, and said to him, Mr. Malcom, I hope you are not going to strike this boy with that stick. Malcom returned, you are an impertinent rascal, it is none of your business. Mr. Hewes then asked him, what had the child done to him. Malcom damned him and asked him if he was going to take his part? Mr. Hewes answered no further than this, that he thought it was a shame for him to strike the child with such a club as that, if he intended to strike him. Malcom on that damned Mr. Hewes, called him a vagabond, and said he would let him know he should not speak to a gentleman in the street. Mr. Hewes returned to that, he was neither a rascal nor vagabond, and though a poor man was in as good credit in town as he was. Malcom called him a liar, and said he was not, nor ever would be. Mr. Hewes retorted, be that as it will, I never was tarred nor feathered any how. On this Malcom struck him, and wounded him deeply on the forehead, so that Mr. Hewes for some time lost his senses. Capt. Godfrey, then present, interposed, and after some altercation, Malcom went home, where the people gathering round, he came out and abused them greatly, saying, you say I was tarred and feathered, and that it was not done in a proper manner, damn you let me see the man that dare do it better! I want to see it done in the new-fashioned manner. After Malcom had thus bullied the people some time, and Mr. Usher the constable had persuaded him into the house, Mrs. Malcom threw up a sash, and begged the people to go away, and Malcom came suddenly behind her and pushing his naked sword through the opening, pricked Mr. Waddel in the breast; the bone stopping its course, which would otherwise have reached his vitals. Mr. Waddel on this made a stroke at the window with his cane, and broke a square of glass, through which breach he again made a pass, and slightly wounded Mr. Waddel, who a second time returned the blow, and Malcom withdrawing the people dispersed.
Mr. Hewes after having his wound taken care of, went to Justice Quincy and took out a warrant for Malcom, and gave it to a constable, who went to Malcom’s house to serve it, but found the doors shut against him, and was told by him, from a window, that he would not be taken that day, as he should be followed by a damned mob, but would surrender to-morrow afternoon. Here the matter appeared to subside, till in the evening the people being informed of the outrages he had committed, the threatnings and defiances he had uttered, and among other things, that he would split down the yankees by dozens, and receive 20l sterling a head for every one he destroyed, they mustered and went to his house, which being barred against them, and he menacing with his loaded pistols, which he declared he would fire upon them if they came near him, they got ladders and beating in an upper window, entered the house and took him without loss of blood, and dragging him out put him on a sled, and amidst the huzzas of thousands, brought him into King-street. Several Gentlemen endeavoured to divert the populace from their intention, alledging that he was open to the laws of the land which would undoubtedly award a reasonable satisfaction to the parties he had abused; they answered he had been an old, impudent and mischevious offender—he had joined in the murders at North-Carolina—he had seized vessels on account of sailors having a bottle or two of gin on board—he had in office, and otherwise, behaved in the most capricious, insulting and daringly abusive manner—and on every occasion discovered the most rooted enmity to this country, and the defenders of its rights—that in case they let him go they might expect a like satisfaction as they had received in the cases of Richardson and the soldiers, and the other friends of government. With these and such like arguments, together with a gentle crouding of persons not of their way of thinking out of the ring they proceeded to elevate Mr. Malcom from his sled into a cart, and stripping him to buff and breeches, gave him a modern jacket and hied him away to liberty-tree, where they proposed to him to renounce his present commission, and swear that he would never hold another inconsistent with the liberties of his country; but this he obstinately refusing, they then carted him to the gallows, passed a rope round his neck, and threw the other end over the beam as if they intended to hang him: But this manoeuvre he set at defiance. They then basted him for some time with a rope’s end, and threatened to cut his ears off, and on this he complied, and they then brought him home.
See reader, the effects of a government in which the people have no confidence!
Let those who pretend to dread anarchy and confusion at length be persuaded to join in the only measure to be depended on for their prevention, viz. to put the administration into the hands of men reverenced and beloved by the people.
The same issue of the Massachusetts Spy contains a number of letters giving bloodthirsty anecdotes of the ferocious Captain:
Boston, 26th January, 1774, three o’clock p.m.
You may inform the public that John Malcom yesterday afternoon declared that if he should kill as many (certain) people as he could he should receive thirty pounds sterling each for them, and that in case of prosecution for the same he would repair over to the governors (meaning as the informant understood Governor Hutchinson at Milton) and he the said Governor would grant him protection.
The above informant says that she was chiding Malcom for stabbing such a pretty man as Mr. Waddel. I wish said he I had run him through the heart and killed him, and then I should have had thirty pounds sterling reward for doing it.
You may be assured that the difficulty the Gentlemen in Boston found in rescuing Malcom from the modern mode of punishment preparing for him last evening, in consequence of his stabbing a seaman arose from his falling into the hands of a number of sailors, from the Eastward and other parts, whom he had so often exasperated that nothing could soften them. When they were told the law would have its course with him, they asked what course had the law taken with Preston or his soldiers, with Capt. Wilson or Richardson? And for their parts they had seen so much partiiality [sic] to the soldiers and customhouse officers by the present Judges, that while things remained as they were, they would, on all such occasions, take satisfaction their own way, and let them take it off.
A Lady of reputation in this town says, that she has heard John Malcom repeatedly declare, that he was to have one hundred pounds sterling each for eight or ten persons in this town which he should kill or take off. And added that besides that he was to be protected: The Lady asked by whom? He answered, that was best known to himself.
The same Lady seeing Capt. W. Macky passing by, said to Mr. Malcom, there goes your friend Mackay. Damn him said Malcom, I would as soon shoot him as any man in Boston.
Several more details of this episode are furnished by Mr. Hewes himself, whose reminiscences were published some sixty years later.
They started for Henchman’s Wharf, and there took in a quantity of tar. . . . Thence they carted him to Butcher’s Hall; (The popular title of the Custom House on King Street (State); thence to Shubael Hewes’, who kept a butcher’s-market at that period on Main Street, in a wooden house near the Old South Church, with a jutting upper story. . . . Here, as in King Street, a flagellation was tried. Then they drove to Liberty-Tree—to the gallows on the Neck—back to the Tree—to Butcher’s Hall again—to Charlestown ferry—to Copp’s Hill,—flogging the miserable wretch at every one of these places, if not some more. . . . Hewes states that when they left him at the door of his own house, after a fourhours’ torture, the poor creature was almost frozen, and was rolled out of the cart like a log. Dr Gardiner, who met Hewes soon after, told him that it took three days to get his blood into circulation again. . . .
The assault [on Hewes] was unprovoked and outrageous; and the wound so serious that the indentation it made in his skull is as plainly perceptible to this moment  as it was sixty years ago. Indeed, as the Doctor [Joseph Warren, who was a relative] told him when he dressed it, it was within one of his life. “Cousin Hewes,” said he, good-humoredly, “you are the luckiest man I know of, to have such a skull—nothing else could have saved you”; and nothing else did. . . .
Nor was he accessory in any way to the disgraceful treatment which Malcom received; so far from it, that when he first heard of his miserable situation, his instant impulse was to push after the procession as fast as he could, with a blanket to put over his shoulders. He overtook them at his brother’s house and made an effort to relieve him; but the ruffians who now had the charge of him about the cart, pushed him aside, and warned him to keep off.
Malcom recovered from his wounds, and went about as usual. “How do you do, Mr. Malcom?” said Hewes, very civilly, the next time he met him. “Your humble servant, Mr. George Robert Twelves Hewes,” quoth he—touching his hat genteelly as he passed by. “Thank ye,” thought Hewes, “and I am glad you have learned better manners at last.”
Nor was that the only benefit which accrued to this unfortunate politician. The frost caused an affection which caused a considerable portion of the skin to peel off. This, with a quantity of the Tar and feathers that adhered to him, it is understood he carefully preserved, boxed up, and carried with him to England, as a testimonial of his sacrifices for the royal cause. . . .505
Now let us hear Malcom’s own narrative of the events, dictated on January 30 as he lay in bed, and sent to Governor Hutchinson and the General Court.
To His Excelency Thomas Hutchinson Esqr Govr &ca the Honble His majestys Council, and the Honorable The House of Representatives of this Provience of the Massachusetts Bay in General Court Assembled
The Memorial of John Malcom Esqr of his Majestys Customs Most Humbly Sheweth,
That in the afternoon of the 25th Inst a Number of People assembled at the House of your memorialist in Boston and after insulting him with opprobrious Language, under a False pretence of his haveing the Same day used a Boy Ill in the Street, they Broke his windows and endeavourd forcibly to Take him out of his House, but from the Natural Opposition he made, or Some friendly Interposition they thought Proper to Desperse—
That about Eight OClock in the Evening of the same Day a vast Concourse of people again beset the House of your memorialist, Who were Armed with axes Clubs &ca and Broke open the door and Windows of the Lower appartments on which he Retired to an upper Chamber to make what Deffence he Could but One Mr Russell Declareing himself to be the friend of your memorialist, Came Into the Room with all the appearances of Friendship, shook hands and at same Time Desired he might be permitted to Look at the sword of your memorialist which was the only weapon he had for his immediate Deffence, which request being granted he siezed the sword and Calling out to the people assembled as afore said, they immediately Rushed in, and by violence forced your memorialist out of the House, and Beating him with Sticks then placed him on a sled they had Prepaird and Draged him before the Custom House where they gave three Huzza’s they afterwards Took him out of the sled and put him into a Cart, and Notwithstanding the severitty of the weather, Tore of his Clothes, and Tarrd and Featherd his Naked body, and in that setuation Carried him before the Provience House and ordered him to Curse The Governor and say he was an Enemy to his Country but your Memorialist Refused—from thence they prosceeded with him to Liberty-Tree so Called, where they again ordered him to Curse the governor and the board of Commissioners, and say they were Enemyes to this Countrey, and Commanded him also to Resigne his Commission; all which he Refused.
that your Memorialist asked the People what he who was their friend had Done to Desplease them, they answered he was an Enemy to the Countrey and that they would soon serve all the Custom House officers in Like manner—
that from Liberty Tree they Carryed your Memorialist to the Gallows, put Round his Neck a Rope and threatned to Hang him if he would not Do as they had before ordered him, but he still Refused Desiring and praying they would put their threats in Execution Rather than Continue their Torture, they then Took the rope off his Neck and Tying his hands Fastned him to the Gallows, and beat him with Ropes and Sticks in most savage manner, which Compeled him to Declare he would do any thing they Desired, upon which they unbound him, and obliged him to Curse the governor and the Board of Commissioners, and Declaring at the same Time they would serve the governor in the Same manner, and Extorted a promise from him to assist &ca
and Returning with him to Liberty Tree then they made him Repeat several oathes, among which one was that he would not Discover any of the persons then present; and Carting him through the Town stopd before the Provience House and made him Repeat the above mentioned oathes. Dureing these Transactions several Humane gentlemen at Divers Times offerd him gairments to Cover him but his Tormentors would not suffer that Indulgence, at Length they Carried yr memorialist to his House, in a most mizerable setuation Deprived of his senses
that your Memorialist is now Confined to his bed, in a most Deploreable and Dangerous Setuation in Consequence of the afore said Treatment,
Wherefore your memorialist most Humbly prays that your Exy and Honors would be pleased To Take his unhappy Case into Consideration and Enable him To Take such measures for his Immediat Relief and procure a suitable Redress for his unparalelled wrongs as your great Wisdom shall judge Proper, and your Memorialist as in dutty shall Ever pray &c, &c, &ca
A Coppy—Signd John
Certificate of the Magistrate and Resolves of the House of Representatives Carried Over
Boston 30 January 1774
John Malcom Esqr personally appearing after being Duly Cautioned, made solemn Oath to the Truth of the several Facts in the foregoing Memorial by him subscribed
Cor: Joseph Gardner Justc Peace
In the House of Representatives 1st February 1774. Read and Ordered the Petitioner have leave to withdraw his Petition.
Sent up for Concurrence
T Cushing Spkr
In Council Feby 1st 1774
Read and Concurred.
Jno Cotton D Secretary
London 16th June 1774, a True Coppy from the original.
Already, two days before this memorial was prepared, Governor Hutchinson had written his report of the episode to the Earl of Dartmouth, enclosing the account which was printed in the government paper, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, January 27, 1774.
Extract of a Letter from GovR Hutchinson to the Earl of Dartmouth dated Boston 28th January 1774
I met the Assembly the 26th & endeavoured to make such a Speech to them, as should shew I had no Inclination to dispute with them upon any point whatever. In general I have recommended an Exertion of Power in promoting Order.
I am sorry that I must acquaint Your Lordship with a barbarous & inhuman Act of Violence upon the Person of John Malcom the Night after the 25th instant by a great number of Rioters in the Town of Boston; Mr Malcolm is a preventive Officer from the Port of Falmouth in Casco Bay, & lately seized a Vessel in that Port for want of a Register. I have heard no Complaint of any Irregularity in this execution of his Office, but a great number of Persons in that part of the Province thought fit to punish him by tarring & feathering him, and carrying him about in Derision. As he was not stripped, and the chief Damage sustained was in his Cloaths, upon his making complaint to me I only sent for one of the principal Justices of the Peace for the County, & directed him to make Inquiry into the Affair, and to oblige such of the Actors as he should have Evidence against to find Security to answer at the next Assizes for the County, or to commit them. He has, since his being at Boston, made frequent Complaints to me of his being hooted at in the Streets for having been tarred and feathered, and being a passionate Man, I have as often cautioned him against giving way to his Passion, or making any other return than neglect and contempt. But having met with a Provocation of this sort in the Afternoon of the 25th from a Tradesman, who he says had several times before affronted him, he struck him with his Cane. The Tradesman applied to Justice, who issued a Warrant to a Constable, but the Constable not being able to find him, a Mob gathered about his House in the Evening and having broke his Windows, he pushed through the broken Window with his Sword, and gave a slight Scratch with the Point to one of the Assailants; soon after which the Mob entered his House, and treated him in the manner related in the News Paper which I shall inclose. This Account is given to me by the Relations of Mr Malcolm, who are Persons of good Characters in the Town. He has for some time past been threatened by the Populace with Revenge for his free & open Declarations against the late Proceedings and has, I believe, sometimes indiscreetly provoked them, which it is pretended may be some Excuse for such an outrageous Action.
I am informed today, that altho’ he is terribly bruised, it is probable he will recover. I will do every thing in my power to bring the guilty Persons to condign Punishment. I have not heard of any, except the lowest Class of People, suspected of being concerned in this Riot. The next Night there was an Attempt made to raise another Mob to search for Ebenezer Richardson, lately found guilty for Murder, but Judgment being suspended, His Majesty’s Pardon was applied for & obtained. He is now in some very inferior Employment in the Service of the Customs in Pensilvania, and it is thought a Report of his being in Town was spread for the sake of raising a Mob. Some of the more considerate People appeared & opposed the Leaders in the beginning of the Affair and put a Stop to it. I am the more particular in these Accounts because I have heretofore been thought negligent in not transmitting the earliest Advice of every Attack upon the Officers of the Customs, though of the lowest Rank. The Town continuing in this State, the Friends of the Consignees of the East India Company judge it unsafe for them to appear there, tho’ they are sensible that any further Compliance with the Demands of the People could not have been justified, and that the whole Proceedings with respect to them, have been unjust & tyrannical. There is no Spirit left in those who used to be Friends to Government to support them, or any others, who oppose the prevailing Power.507
The account in the Massachusetts Gazette was as follows:
Last Tuesday Afternoon as Mr. John Malcom was passing along Street, a Lad with a Sled ran by him, and the Sled hitting his Feet, he pursued the Boy with a Cane in his Hand to give him a Blow, a Person near endeavoring to persuade him from it, upon which Malcom struck the Man, and the People gathering together he got a Sword, and made several Pushes with it, and graz’d one Man in his Breast. A Warrant was issued out by a Magistrate against Malcom for a Breach of the Peace, and the Constable went to his House to apprehend him, but he had confined himself, however he went to the back of the House, and begged of the Officer to let him alone till the next Morning, as he was afraid to venture out, so many People being enraged against him.—The Officer then went away. In the Evening a Number surrounded his House, and entering found him in an upper Chamber, they got a Rope and lowered him out of the Windows into a Cart which they had prepared, then tore his Cloaths off, and Tarr’d his Head and Body, and feathered him, then set him in a Chair in the Cart, and carried him through the main Street into King-Street, from thence they proceeded to Liberty-Tree, and then to the Neck as far as the Gallows, where they whipped him, beat him with Sticks and threatned to hang him; having continued under the Gallows above half an Hour, they returned in the same Manner, surrounded by a vast Concourse of People, and was carried to the extreme Part of the North-End of the Town; and returned to his own House just before Midnight: It is said he was near four Hours in the Condition above-mentioned, and that he was so benumb’d by the Coldness of the Weather and his Nakedness, and bruised in such a Manner that his Life is despaired of.
It having been reported that the noted Ebenezer Richardson, was seen in Town, a Number of People were in Pursuit of him last Evening, but could not find him.
In the issue of February 3, 1774, the Massachusetts Gazette corrected some errors in the earlier account.
As the Printer was not able to go out to make Enquiry into the Circumstances of tarring and feathering J. Malcom on Tuesday Night the 25th ult. there were some Mistakes in the first Part of the Account published last Week, tho’ not very Material, nor designed; particularly that he was let down from the Chamber Window into the Cart, &c. Whereas the People went up a Ladder and Entered the Chamber Window, brought him down Stairs then put him into a Sled and carried him into King-Street, there they strip’d, tarred and feathered him and put him into the Cart, then proceeded as we mentioned: It is said his Bruises are not likely to prove Mortal.
The account written on January 31 by Miss Ann Hulton, sister of Henry Hulton, Commissioner of Customs at Boston, in a letter sent home to England, adds further particulars:
But the most shocking cruelty was exercised a few Nights ago, upon a poor Old Man a Tidesman one Malcolm he is reckond creasy, a quarrel was pickd wth him, he was afterward taken, & Tarrd, & featherd. Theres no Law that Knows a punishment for the greatest Crimes beyond what this is, of cruel torture. And this instance exceeds any other before it he was stript Stark naked, one of the severest cold nights this Winter, his body coverd all over with Tar, then with feathers, his arm dislocated in tearing off his cloaths, he was dragd in a Cart with thousands attending, some beating him wth clubs & Knocking him out of the Cart, then in again. They gave him several severe whipings, at different parts of the Town. This Spectacle of horror & sportive cruelty was exhibited for about five hours.
The unhappy wretch they say behavd with the greatest intrepidity, & fortitude all the while, before he was taken, defended himself a long time against Numbers, & afterwds when under Torture they demanded of him to curse his Masters The K: Govr &c which they coud not make him do, but he still cried, Curse all Traitors. They brot him to the Gallows & put a rope about his neck sayg they woud hang him he said he wished they woud, but that they coud not for God was above the Devil. The Doctors say that it is impossible this poor creature can live. They say his flesh comes off his back in Stakes.
It is the second time he has been Tarrd & featherd & this is lookd upon more to intimidate the Judges & others than a spite to the unhappy Victim tho’ they owe him a Grudge for some things particuly he was with Govr Tryon in the Battle with the Regulators & the Governor has declared that he was of great servise to him in that Affair, by his undaunted Spirit encountering the greatest dangers
Govr Tryon had sent him a gift of ten Guineas just before this inhuman treatment. he has a Wife & family & an Aged Father & Mother who they say saw the Spectacle wch no indifert person can mention without horror.
These few instances amongst many serve to shew the abject State of Governmt & the licentiousness & barbarism of the times. There’s no Majestrate that dare or will act to suppress the outrages. No person is secure there are many Objects pointed at, at this time & when once mark’d out for Vengence, their ruin is certain.508
A new note—that of mordant humor—was sounded in an article printed at the end of the year 1774 in several Boston papers. The story came in a dispatch from London dated October 8 and contains many picturesque and dramatic details not reported by any previous witnesses.
A Correspondent says he has been informed, by a Gentleman lately arrived from Philadelphia, that when Mr. John Malcomb, an Officer of the Customs at Boston, was leading, tarred and feathered, to the Gallows, with a Rope about his Neck, he was asked by one of the Mob whether he was not thirsty, which was natural to a Man expecting to be hanged. The unfortunate Officer of the Customs, as well as he could speak, answered yes; and immediately a large Bowl of strong Tea was put into his Hands, with Orders to drink the King’s Health. Whether it was owing to Loyalty or Thirst is not material; poor Malcomb Half emptied the Bowl. He was then told he must mend his Draught, and drink the Queen’s Health. Though he had done his utmost for the King, he found he must do something for the Queen; and having taken off Half the Remainder of the Bowl, he presented it back to the Persons from whom he had received it. Hold! hold! cries his Friend, you are not to forget the rest of the Royal Family; come, drink to the Prince of Wales. Replenish, replenish, cries the loyal American; and instantly poor Malcomb saw two Quarts more of what he was heartily sick of. Make Haste, cries another loyal American; you have nine more Healths to drink before you arrive at the Gallows. For God’s Sake, Gentlemen, be merciful, I am ready to burst; if I drink a Drop more, I shall die. Suppose you do, cries one of the Mob, you die in a good Cause, and it is as well to be drowned as hanged, and immediately the drenching Horn was put to his Mouth, to the Health of the Bishop of Osnabrug; and, having gone through the other eight, he turned pale, shook his Head, and instantly filled the Bowl which he had just emptied. What, says the American, are you sick of the Royal Family? No, replies Malcomb, my Stomack nauseates the Tea; it rises at it like Poison. And yet, you Rascal, returns the American, your whole Fraternity at the Custom house would drench us with this Poison, and we are to have our Throats cut if it will not stay upon our Stomachs. The merciful Americans desisted, and the Procession was continued towards the Gallows.509
The picturesque episode thus narrated appealed to the dramatic eye of an English artist, Philip Dawe, who made a mezzotint, here reproduced, depicting the event with just that touch of sardonic humor which he had learned from his master, Hogarth. This print, published by Messrs. Sayer & Bennett, is entitled “The Bostonian’s Paying the Excise-man, or Tarring & Feathering.”510
In this cartoon Dawe displays many of the qualities of Hogarth emphasized by Charles Lamb in his essay on that artist—the quantity of thought crowded into the picture, the attention to detail, the strongly charactered faces. Here is a rapid review of the ten years of controversy, including the Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party. Five men are forcing Malcom to drink from a teapot; one of them holds a rope which is tied round his neck. They are grouped under the Liberty Tree, from a branch of which dangles a noose. On the tree is a placard inscribed “Stamp Act,” but it is turned upside down to indicate that the Act had long since been repealed. The presence of the placard calls to mind the fact that the Stamp Act was the primary cause of the quarrel between Great Britain and America. In the background, on the left, is a ship, from which masked men are emptying tea chests into the water. Malcom was not involved in the Boston Tea Party, though later in London he tried to make people believe that his punishment by the mob was the result of his performing his duties as a customs officer on that occasion.
The widespread interest in Malcom’s sensational adventure is evidenced by the fact that two other prints relating to him were issued by a different publisher, Carington Bowles, one appearing nearly three weeks before Dawe’s print (see illustration opposite page 454), the other some months later (see illustration opposite page 456). The earlier of these is called “A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practised at Boston.”511 The other has a similar title: “A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practised at Boston in North America.”512 Both carry the following explanatory verse:
For the Custom House Officers landing the Tea,
They Tarr’d him, and Feather’d him, just as you see,
And they drench’d him as well both behind and before
That he begg’d for God’s sake they would drench him no more.
In the first of the Bowles prints the careful delineation of Malcom’s face without comic exaggeration makes it highly probable that this is an actual portrait. Indeed, the artist would have had many opportunities to see him during the summer of 1774. The frayed end of the rope which is tied round Malcom’s neck is held by the American on the right, and a broken rope is hanging from the gallows at the back. These details indicate that an attempt has been made to hang him. The man on the right wears a cockade on his hat, showing that he is one of the Sons of Liberty. The American on the left holds a large teapot and is ready to make Malcom drink. His hat is ornamented with the numerals 45, the symbol of Liberty, popular both in England and America, derived from Number 45 of the North Briton (April 23, 1763), in which John Wilkes had attacked the King’s speech at the opening of Parliament. The title, “A New Method of Macarony Making,” is a humorous allusion to the rumor that Malcom, on account of his sufferings, was to be made a King’s pensioner.513 In the language of the day the word “macarony” was applied to a fop or exquisite, and hence had become a term of contempt.514
Bowles’s second print, a folio line engraving, shows a scene of great animation.515 Here Malcom is in the cart which has been driven under the gallows. It will be noted at once that he is kneeling in the same position as in the other picture, but the whole figure is exactly reversed. The rope round his neck has been thrown over the crossbeam of the gallows, and the executioners stand ready to hang him. Another man in the cart is trying to induce him to resign his commission. The mob is around with clubs. All these details correspond with the facts given in the narrative of Malcom himself and by Hewes. One of a group of sailors at the foot of the cart points to the Tea Party at the right.
The fame of Captain John Malcom even spread to France. His ordeal had made such a dramatic appeal to the French people that in 1784 a representation of it (see illustration opposite page 458), engraved by F. Godefroy, with the title “John Malcom,” was included in a book of engravings portraying the principal events of the American Revolution: Recueil d’Estampes Représentant les Differents Événemens de la Guerre qui a Procuré l’Indépendance aux États Unis de l’Amérique. Malcom is being lowered by ropes from the upper window of his house into the cart. The men in the cart are beginning to undress him, and one of them is plunging his ladle into a kettle of melted tar. The artist has forgotten, however, that this event occurred on a bitter winter night, and has introduced two ladies on the right, both of them wearing summer dresses and one of them carrying a parasol.516
A final account of Malcom’s misfortunes to be cited is that given in John Rowe’s diary.
Jan. 25 . John Malcom having done some violence to a man with a Sword, enraged the Multitude that they Took him & put him into a Cart, Tarr’d & feathered him—carrying thro’ the principal streets of This Town with a halter about him, from thence to the gallows & Returned thro’ the Main Street making Great Noise & Huzzaing. I did not see the numbers attending but tis supposed by the People that did, there were upwards of twelve hundred people—tis said that Malcom behaved with Great Fortitude & Resolution. This was looked upon by me & every Sober man as an act of outrageous Violence & when several of the Inhabitants applyed to a particular Justice to Exert his Authority & suppress & they would support him in the Execution of his Duty, he Refused. B.N.517
While Captain Malcom was recovering from his wounds, he issued several bulletins reporting his progress. The Boston Evening-Post of February 14 and the Massachusetts Spy of February 17 printed this notice:
Yesterday se’nnight the following Note, it is said, was sent to several Churches in this Town, viz. “John Malcom desires Prayers of the Christian People of this Congregation, that the vile abuse received on the 25 Day or Evening of January last past, from a vile rebellious Mob, without Provocation, may be sanctified to him and his Family; and that he may bless God that his Usefulness is still spared, and that he is greatly recovered from his dreadful Wounds and Bruises he then received from the bloody and cruel Hands of these cruel Mortals here below.—May God forgive them!”
A month later, March 17, the Massachusetts Spy gave the following grateful announcement:
Last Sunday se’nnight, the following curious note was sent to several churches in this town, and we hear was read at one of them, viz.
“John Malcom returns thanks to Almighty God, that again he is able to wait on him again in the public worship, after the cruel and barbarous usage of a cruel and barbarous savage mob in Boston, on the 25th evening of January last past confined him to house, bed and room.
March 6, 1774.”
As early as February 3 someone had written a letter to the editor of the Massachusetts Gazette condemning the barbarous treatment of the Captain, but the editor refused to print it:
Veritas, his Observations on the Method of Punishment inflicted on J. Malcom, in a Place professing the Christian Religion, cannot be inserted. He concludes “I would have every one punished that is deserving of it. But would not have it to be said by the INDIANS, We are SAVAGES.”518
A more remarkable protest, which is a masterpiece of irony, appeared in the Boston Evening-Post of April 4. There is every reason for believing that the author of this document, signed “A. Z.,” was John Malcom himself. It is full of the mannerisms of style and erratic sentence structure that are displayed in petitions of a subsequent date known to have been written by him.
Pownalborough, March 26, 1774
Be pleased to insert the following in your next Paper, if possible, and you will oblige your constant Reader,
There has of late been abundance of talk in the town, and in the public papers, relative to one John Malcom of Boston, being treated very ill, as some says, others says not ill enough; pray now what has he done for all this very ill treatment to him done in the town of Boston by his own countrymen? I will tell you the truth what he has done for it; in the first place he has when he the said Malcom was last in London, about five years ago he stood up for his town and country what he well could do in all companies, both high and middling sort of men; and in the next place he refused a Captain’s Commission on the establishment from the then Lord Granby, General of the King’s Army, in one of the Irish regiments then order’d out to Boston, but he refused it in order not to take up arms against his native town of Boston, this he has done for truth, and he has at three different times received the public thanks of the town of Boston by the Selectmen thereof in behalf of said town, for being a good soldier and a friend to his town & country; and has at another time, when the two Houses of Assembly was sitting in General Court, assembled with Governor Shirley at their head, he then received the public thanks of both Houses, and the Governor’s thanks in behalf of his Majesty, for being a good soldier, and being the chief instrument of saving and defending Fort William Henry, now called Fort George, on the 18th day of March 1758, against the French and Indian enemy, who came there about 2500 of them, totally to destroy it, and they did destroy almost every thing about the Fort, except the said Fort, (which we bravely defended with about 300 men) this he has done under God and received the public thanks accordingly, not regarding his life for the good of this province, and had no standing pay for it at the same time for that whole affair; and he has had eleven different Commissions in the Army in this country, even from an Ensign’s to a Colonel’s Commission in the King and Country’s service, and ever was reckoned a good soldier for his country’s good; none could go further in the field of battle when the bullets flew thickest, he was then in his element, and came out of the field of battle with honour; and now last of all, he has had three different Revenue Commissions in his Majesty’s Revenues in America, and what damage has he done therein, but endeavoured to guard the King’s Revenue the better, that he might get the more duties from it, and to prevent prohibited goods being run into the colonies, which is a damage to all fair traders: now those are the reasons that he was treated so cruelly and inhumanly of late in Boston, no other things surely was the reason.—Oh! ungreatful inhabitants of the town of Boston to stand still and see and permit such an inhuman thing to be done in your streets, and through them carried such a man as that has been! tell it not Gath nor publish it in the streets of Askelon, least it should hereafter upbraid your consciences.
A friend to John Malcom and to the community.
Surely this is the fiery Captain speaking, boasting of his heroic exploits and pouring scorn on his enemies. Here are his peculiarities of expression. Here, indeed, is the identical phrase, “from an Ensign’s to a Colonel’s Commission,” which he used later in his petition to King George. Here are many intimate biographical details of his service in the army and in the customs. Here is his personal exultation in the delight of battle: “None could go further in the field of battle when the bullets flew thickest, he was then in his element.”
But does the boastful soldier boast too much? His spirited account of the defense of Fort William Henry, which lasted from March 18 to March 23, 1757 (not 1758 as stated by “A. Z.”), agrees with all the facts in the official report except one—his own part in the action. Major Eyre, the commandant, in his detailed report on March 24 to the Earl of Loudoun, the commander in chief in America, says not a word about Malcom’s “being the chief instrument of saving and defending” the fort.519 Nor is there any mention of this spectacular deed in the letter from Fort William Henry, March 26, 1757, printed in the Boston Gazette of April 11, 1757, the Boston Evening-Post of the same date, and the Boston News-Letter of April 28, 1757. Parkman, in Montcalm and Wolfe (i. 417ff.), sums up Major Eyre’s report and has nothing to say about Malcom. Nor has it been possible to find any record of the alleged vote of thanks by the General Court, who, incidentally, could not at the time have had Shirley “at their head,” since Shirley had returned to England in October, 1756. The printed records of the Boston selectmen are equally silent about the three votes of thanks on behalf of the town. None the less, in view of the fact that Malcom’s statement about his prowess at the Battle of Alamance is verified by the records, and since he did receive a captain’s commission from Governor Shirley, I am quite willing to believe that Malcom was present at the defense of Fort William Henry. No doubt in later years his memory magnified his exploits in retrospect.
On May 2, 1774, John Malcom sailed for England as a passenger on the man-of-war Active to conduct in person a campaign to gain redress for his sufferings. The story of his efforts is told in a series of petitions to Lord North, to Lord Dartmouth, and even to George III himself. The King had already heard about this famous case even before Malcom’s first petition was submitted. When Governor Hutchinson was received by His Majesty on July 1, King George said: “I see they threatened to pitch and feather you.” Hutchinson replied: “Tar and feather, may it please Your Majesty; but I don’t remember that I was threatened with it.” On this, Lord Dartmouth, who was present, immediately exclaimed: “Oh yes! When Malcom was tarred and feathered the committee for tar and feathering blamed the people for doing it, because it was a punishment for a higher person. We suppose you was intended.”520 Lord Dartmouth was here referring to the manifesto issued by Joyce, Junior, four days after the torture of Malcom:
Yesterday morning the following Hand-Bill was seen pasted up on the most public Places in this Town. viz.
Brethren, and Fellow-Citizens!
This is to Certify, That the modern Punishment lately inflicted on the ignoble JOHN MALCOM, was not done by our Order—We reserve that Method for bringing Villains of greater Consequence to a Sense of Guilt and Infamy.
(Chairman of the Committee for Tarring and Feathering)
If any Person should be so hardy as to tear this down, they may expect my severest Resentment.
Upon arriving in London, Malcom lost little time before submitting a petition to Lord North.
To The Right Honourable Lord North First Lord Commissioner of his Majesty’s Treasury &c. &c. &c. &c.
The Petition of John Malcom Humbly Sheweth
That your Lordships Petitioner for several Years past hath been an Officer of the Customs in America, and otherways employ’d in the Kings Service, That he hath (by a faithful execution of his Duty) suffer’d much Fatigue, and incurr’d much expence, his long Journies from Boston to North Carolina necessarily amounting to a sum considerably more than his allowance from the Crown.
That your Petitioner after returning from the Fadgue and Dangers of the expedition which he chearfully embark’d in under Governor Tryon, was again employ’d as an Officer of the Customs in the District of Falmouth, where he had made a Seizure of a Vessell laden with illicit Goods, & pursuing the Prosecution of the said Seizure, was attack’d and seiz’d by a large Mob, in Boston, from whom after the most creuel Treatment for some hours, he escap’d with his Life only, as hath been fully stated to your Lordship in a memorial the 16th June last. In consequence of this Attack, your Petitioner hath suffer’d in his House furniture and Cloaths, upwards of One hundred Fifty pounds, besides laying under the Doctors hands for Eight weeks for the recovery of his Health.
That by these services and sufferings, he hath become indebted to different People in the sum of One hundred and Ten pounds, a part of which hath come against him here, your Petitioner having been compell’d to execute a Bond payable to one Levey, a Jew, at New York, for a Judgment obtain’d against him at Quebeck, in his absence for upwards of Forty pounds, the same hath been lately put in suit, and your Petitioner, Is now in custody by reason of his inability to satisfy the same.
Your Petitioner therefore most humbly prays that your Lordship will be pleas’d to take his case into consideration, and afford him such present relief, as your Lordship in your Wisdom, and Goodness, thinks meet, and your Lordships Petitioner as in Duty bound shall ever pray.
28th July 1774
[Endorsed:] Memorial of Mr Malcolm. Rd July 31, 1774.
Read 3d Augt 1774. Nil.
The petition was followed two months later by a letter.
I would by no means give your Lordship Unnecessary Trouble by repeated Applications and therefore beg leave to submit to your Lordships Consideration, My Whishes to Obtain the following Employments in the Customs at the Port of Falmouth which from long Residence is become (as it were) Natural to me these Appointments will very Sufficientiy compensate my Severe Sufferings in America &c. I humbly hope for your Lordships Approbation of the Proposal I flatter myself that your Lordship will think it but Reasonable, that the Loss of Property which I sustained in Consequence of the Riot in Boston to the Amount of £150 an Account of which has Already been laid before your Lordship be made good to Me; and I wou’d also solicit a Continuance in my Present Office at the Port of Falmouth as Preventive Officer the Sallary annex’d to which is £40 Anually and also that your Lordship wou’d be pleas’d (in Addition to the Above) to Appoint me surveyor and searcher at the same Port upon a like Establishment to that at the Port of Philadelphia with a Sallary of £80 pr Anum together with the Command of such a Vessel as is pointed out & Recommended to the Board by the Inspector General in his Report upon the Business of that District, with an Alowance of £80 pr Anum amounting in the whole to £200 pr Anm which I trust (after Considering my Large Family Consisting of a Wife and five Children two of whom are Unfortunately Denied the Blessing of Speech and Hearing and Consequently Dependant in a great Measure on me) your Lordship will think but a Moderate Support. The shortest sketch of the Nature & Situation of this District will be sufficient to prove the Utility and Necessity of these Appointments it extends itself about 80 Leagues along the Coast & Comprehends the finest Number of Harbours on the Continent at no greater Distance than three Leagues from each other its Situation being open to the sea ev’ry smugler comeing on that Coast may and do land their Cargoes in these Harbours without interuption. this & New London District are the Principal Ports that receive foreign Manufactures and are Places of Rendezvous for all Smugglers but particularly the Dutch and French. Thus I have Presum’d to throw myself on your Lordship for the Means of Present as well as future Support & as I wou’d gladly be expeditious in returning to my Family and find it difficult to defray the Expences of a long Continuance in England I humbly hope your Lordship will Consider my Case and afford me such timely Aid as my Exegences May Require
I am with the Greatest Respect
your Lordships much Obliged Obedient Servant
14 of Septr 1774
While waiting for a reply to the petition and the letter, Malcom engaged in a little diversion: he stood for Parliament. He and Major Robert Rogers of the Rangers had the blithe audacity to run against John Wilkes and Serjeant Glynn, respectively, in the election of knights of the shire for the county of Middlesex. John Wilkes, the friend of Liberty, was looked up to with intense admiration by the patriots in America. Indeed, John Adams and other Sons of Liberty had addressed him in terms of glowing devotion. Wilkes had been repeatedly elected by Middlesex and, by the express orders of George III to Lord North, had been repeatedly expelled from Parliament. Public opinion was so incensed by this violation of constitutional law that the City of London had retaliated in 1770 by electing Wilkes an alderman, and in this very autumn of 1774 was to make him lord mayor. Now Wilkes was again presenting himself as a candidate for Parliament in a critical election. The King was exultant over the enactment of the Boston Port Bill, the punitive measures changing the charter of Massachusetts, and the sending of English troops to Boston. What a neat stroke of revenge and strategy on Malcom’s part if he could defeat the great agitator, who was the ally of his persecutors at home and the hated opponent of the King! The manifesto announcing the candidacy of Rogers and Malcom was dated London, October 15, five days before the election. It sets forth their appeal for votes with a robust bravado that savors of the camp and the trail:
To the worthy Freeholders of the County of Middlesex
Major Rogers and Capt. Malcom, just arrived from America, being encouraged by a very numerous and respectable Body of their Friends, to offer their Services to represent you in Parliament, beg leave to solicit your votes and interest at the insuing Election: They can with Truth assert, that should they be so happy as to be made the objects of your choice, it will be their constant care to defend the rights and liberties of their fellow subjects in general, and that they will pay a particular attention to the Interests of this county. As they are credibly informed that the MOCK PATRIOTS, Mr. Wilkes, and Serjeant Glynn, are to be assisted by a strong MINISTERIAL MOB on this occasion, they beg the favour of such of the Freeholders and Inhabitants as served with them in America, to attend with their friends on the Hustings, armed with their tomahawks and scalping knives, well sharped, in order to defend themselves against any attacks that may be made by the supporters of those two hypocritical hirelings.524
The election took place on October 20. The result is given in the following news item from London dated the same day:
This day came on at Brentford, the Election of Knights of the Shire for the county of Middlesex, Mr. Wilkes and Serjeant Glynn, the two avowed Candidates, set off about eight in the morning in the Lord Mayor’s coach and six, accompanied by his Lordship and a very large train of voters in carriages and on horseback. No other Candidates appearing to oppose them, the Sheriffs declared them duly elected.525
Malcom and Rogers, who had thundered so loudly in the prologue, did not even show themselves at the hustings. Wilkes was elected. The force of public opinion was now so powerful that his enemies did not dare expel him from the House of Commons again, and he was allowed to take his seat. He held it until 1790. It is interesting to know that John Malcom played a part, even if a fantastic one, in this constitutional crisis.
If Captain John Malcom could not enter Parliament, he would enter St. James’s Palace. Since he had received no reply from Lord North, he resolved to make a direct appeal to King George. On January 12, 1775, he attended the levee at St. James’s, knelt before the King, and gave his petition into His Majesty’s own hands.
To His most Gracious Majesty, George the Third, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain France and Ireland King Defender of the Faith &c, &c, &c, &c
The Petition of John Malcom a Customhouse Officer in the Boston Government in North America that so Cruelly suffered there in that Country for Nothing but being a Faithfull Officer of the Customs there for your Majesty and for Endevouring to do my Duty in some small measures as Much become Me so to do as a Faithfull Man and Officer to your Majesty as will Plainly appear by all your Majestys Good Subjects in Boston in New England and Here that was there and I Sufferd Cheifly because I would not give up your Majestys Cause and My Commission that I had in the Customhouse altho they themselves offerd Me Double the sallary I had then in your Majestys Customs there for doing the worst of Duty in the Face of all Oposition that is Doing such Duty that was Necessary to be done that No other Officer in the Customs there Dare to do that is to say the Stoping Large Quantitys of the Dutch and French East India Companys Tea from being Landed in that Government which I have often done at the Risk of My Life and Limbs, and May it Please your Majesty I have had thirteen Different Commissions in your Majestys Land Service in North America the two last French and Spanish warrs that is Past. I have Serv’d from a Ensign to a Colonel but Cheifly all My Commissions was from Governors and Commanders in Cheif of your Majestys Army so that I Never as yet had any Half Pay Alowance but was Paid only when in Actual Service and on Expeditions against the Enemys of your Majestys Countrys. I have been in all the Batties that was Fought in North America those two warrs that is Past except two and at every Place we Conquerd and Subdued our Enemys to your Majesty and Besides this I have been in the time of Peace a Cheif Aid de Camp to the Brave Governor Tryon and there we Subdued and Brought Near Seven Thousand Men to Obedience to your Majestys Laws and Commands this is not yet four years ago I was then in the Customs in North Carolina as a Comptroler of the Customs which afterwards I threw up or laid it Down. In that Battle in North Carolina with the Brave Governor Tryon I had two Horses Killd under me but I Escaped that Battle in North Carolina saved your Majesty or the Nation more than one Million and Half Sterling for if Governor Tryon had not then Subdued them it would have Cost more than that to have Subdued them and Brought them to the same Obedience they was by us brought to, and I have had four Different Deputations or Commissions in your Majestys Customs and soon Expect the fifth from the Right Honourable Lord North and I have Commanded 12 Different Merchant Vessels abroad to Different Parts of the World and some of them I have own’d Mostly Part of them but have since been Reduced or Near Next to Failing in Trade and Navigation, and also was at Boston by the Bostonians in that Cruel Mob of People Strip’d and Rob’d of upwards of £150 Sterling in My Clotheing both in the House and out of the House both Me and My wife and four Children that was with Me in the House Rob’d and Plunder’d of almost every thing we had left in the world and the House almost Torn to Peices and Destroy’d and I have Never been Paid for that Damage as yet not one Farthing. It is true I have been better than Seven Months in London waiting on your Majesty and the Right Honourable Lord North, it is true Lord North has Generously Orderd Me Cash to Support Me ever Since I have been in London and has Promised to Provide for Me for Time to Come in the Boston Goverment in New England which Suits Me Much as I have there a Wife and Five Children two of which it has Pleas’d God was Born Deaf and Dumb and ever I suppose will Remain so. Now my Good King whom I Love and am Ready to Spill my Blood for Consider all those things as Truths and Facts that I have Now set forth to your Majesty and I can Prove them all when Call’d upon, Now am not I entitled to that Honour of Kneeling and Kissing your Majestys Hand, and some small Badge of Honour done to me by your Majesty, that I have suffer’d so Much for. I Question wether a Subject you have in the whole Realm ever suffer’d so Much and Defended your Majestys Cause so Honourably even My Life was Offer’d up for it Rather than your Majestys Honour should fall to Ground. Now will your Majesty give Orders Imedeatly for Me to be paid the above £150 Sterling and for the Right Honourable Lord North to give Me the Place I ask’d him for and His Lordship very Readily Promised Me that I should have it for His Lordship Thought that I was very Moderate and as Little as I could Live upon and that He would not desire me to have Less Sallary than that Place was to have, it is a Gift of His Lordships in the Customs in the Boston Goverment and was as yet Never fill’d up untill His Lordship Punctually Promised it to me But His Lordship is Much Hurry’d in the Great Business of the Nation, and I am afraid has almost forgot Me a Poor but Honest Man. May it Please your Majesty I Long to be sent out to my Family in Boston and to my Business in the Customs in the Boston Goverment for if Lord North soon gives Me what He has already Promised Me I can under God do Greater Service in the Customs than ever I was able before to do, I well Know I soon will Raise the Revenue a Considerable Deal yearly more than it is so I Look to your Majesty for Answers of Peace and my small Desires and Requests Answerd as your Majesty shall Judge best and Mete for me, but I would Humbly Implore your Majesty let Me be soon sent from London to Boston in North America in the Execution of my Duty in the Customs. What I Mean in the whole is if your Majesty Thinks Proper to make me a Single Knight of the Tarr, that I was so Tarrd with for I Like the Smell of it, this will do Me Great Honour in North America and in a Great Measure Retaliate for all my Losses and Sufferings in North America. For several years Past I have been in your Majestys Customs for I have been three Times Tarrd and Featherd but one of them was Extrodinary and with Great Cruelty as ever was Known in this Lower World beyond all Humanity to me, the small Honour I Request of Your Majesty will forever Silence that Rebelious Mob of People at Boston that used Me so ill and Your Majestys Most Humble Petitioner shall as in Duty Bound for ever Pray
P. S. May it Please your Majesty the enclos’d is a Just Copy of what I had the Honour of Dilivering to the Right Honourable Lord North when his Lordship much approv’d of it and told me I should have it done for me Immedeately and I sent out again to North America, this is above three Months that is past and His Lordship being fill’d so Much Business of this Nation has I beleive quite forgot me at Present. I humbly Hope your Majesty will put him in mind of Me and I as a Dutyfull Subject and Petitioner shall for ever Pray
Westminster Jany the 12 Day 1775
This document is particularly important, for it is the nearest thing there is to a piece of Malcom autobiography. It is full of striking details of his variegated career on land and sea. It emphasizes his loyalty and services. But there is something more. How ingeniously he has contrived to make his sufferings seem heroic! By a stroke of dramatic skill he glorifies the tarring and feathering into a mark of distinction. With audacious pride he converts it into a badge of honor. There may be many Knights of the Garter: he asks the King to make him a “Single Knight of the Tarr”! And with a true touch of the theatre he cries: “I Like the Smell of it”!
King George, alas, was not impressed by this drama. Three weeks later, on January 31, the despairing Captain wrote an urgent letter to Lord Dartmouth, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, asking him to present his petition to the King for the second time. This nobleman, the original of Richardson’s Sir Charles Grandison, was known far and wide as “the good Lord Dartmouth” on account of his exemplary character and deep piety. This, be it noted, was in a period when a First Lord of the Admiralty, the Earl of Sandwich, and a Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Le Despencer, were leading members of the Hell-Fire Club and notorious for their licentiousness. It is at once apparent how cleverly and adroitly Malcom throughout plays up to Dartmouth’s innate rectitude and goodness of heart.
Right Honord Secetary of State for North America
I Humbly beg of you as a Honest Man and Gentleman and a Man that fears God and as a Man of sound Religion that will Not be Byas’d by no party or Enfluenced by no party set of men, that you would Judiciously Read the whole of this Papers diliverd you and think on them as Matters of truth and facts as Comeing from a Man of truth and Real Gospel Religion from his Hearts experience and from one that can Prove them all when Call’d upon. Dear Sir Remember this and Peruse the said Papers well and Carefully thats the said Petition to His Most Gracious Majesty George the third which I had the Honor to Kneel and Give to him at St Jame’s in his Majestys own Hands the 12th Day of this Instant Jany, 1775. Sir those are exact Copys of the same which I have Never Heard of since I gave them to His Majesty at St James’s when the Levey Broke up. Sir I humbly beg your Lordship after you have Perused the said papers that you would Present them the second time to His Majesty My Loyal King that I have sufferd so much for in North America and if your Lordship well Can to get Me a answer of Peace from His Majesty this I Humbly beg and as a good Subject insist upon Humbly from your Lordship as a Secatary of State of the American District. Dear and Good Sir fail Me not as a Christian and as a Gentleman of Note and Character for I am Determined Not again to be befool’d between the Americans and Great Britain after what I have there sufferd in My Body and Bones besides the Loss of my Private Property Rob’d from Me in that Cruel Manner as it was. Honerd Sir this is my Resolution Before Matters is settled between both Partys to be served and Completely satisfy’d by one of them and that before it is Long I will Now Heardy and willingly Leave it to your Lordship which of the two partys ought to pay and Satisfy me for my Damages and give me the place I now Ask for and that soon and I sent out Imedeatiy to seize the Americans foreign prohibited Tea Vessels as I well know all the Continent and have been a old Commander formerly by sailing in all those parts and know their Haunts and Running Places well and Pray my Lord speak a word for me your self bothe to the King and your brother the Right Honble Lord North to have me soon sent out if your Lordship thinks in Justice to a Honest and I hope to a sincere Religious Man you Ought to do it for if you dont do it I am afraid it Never will be Done for Me so in Hopes of your Lordship speedey Help for Me I shall wait a little while longer and Shall for ever Remain your Lordships Dutyful and Hope faithfull
Servant untill Death
Jany 31, 1775
The breaking out of the Revolutionary War prevented Malcom’s being sent back to America to search for smugglers in “their haunts and running places.” He was eventually given an annuity of £100. Sometime in 1776 he resolved to present a memorial to the Treasury attacking Mr. Francis Waldo, the Collector at Falmouth, for irregularly clearing the Brothers in 1773. With this purpose in mind he called on Governor Hutchinson, then living in New Bond Street, to ask his assistance. How Malcom’s hot temper, far from being tamed by the “Real Gospel Religion” of which he had boasted, led him to quarrel with the very man whose aid he sought is forcibly displayed by Hutchinson’s narrative of the occasion in his diary:
5th [October, 1776].—John Malcolm came to me some time ago, and acquainted me he would prefer a Petition to the Treasury against Mr Waldo, Collector at Falmouth, Casco Bay, for irregularly clearing a vessel which, Malcolm being a Preventive Officer, had afterwards seized, and wch had been condemned. I asked what induced him, or he informed me, it was because Waldo did not pay his salary. I asked him what need he do more than complain of that? He said Waldo had hurt him, and he would have the whole story told. I advised him to apply to the Commissr, but he resolved to petition, and said he must appeal to me in this Petition. I discouraged him still, and he said I refused to do him justice. I told him I should be ready when called upon to answer any questions asked me. After repeatedly troubling me I saw Mr Flucker, and told him of Malcolm’s design, and that it was pity to have any stir, and that Malcolm had mentioned my name in his Petition, but I knew nothing of Waldo’s proceedings except in general. I had a remembrance he was charged with some irregularity. Flucker to-day told Malcolm I said I knew nothing of the affair, which bro’t Malcolm to my house to enquire whether I had said so? I told him I might say so, but did not remember the words, for I knew nothing but by common fame, which was knowing nothing to his purpose, for I should not be allowed to mention it. He abused me for refusing to say what he knew, and charged me with refusing to do him justice when in my power. I told him he was a very ignorant and very abusive man, and I should give myself no trouble about him. In the evening he sent me an abusive letter saying that he put my name in his Petition by my express order, and if I did not let him know by Monday [it was now Saturday] what I intended to say, he would make the world as well acquainted with my real character as he is himself. . . .
7th.—I wrote to Malcolm that a letter had been left at my house signed with his name, for the letter was not of his hand writing, nor is he capable of writing a letter which can be understood: that I should take no more notice of it at present than to let him know I had always advised him not to petition the Treasury, but he persisted in it, and said he should appeal to me, and he hoped I would not refuse to do him justice: that I told him I should not refuse to answer any questions their Lordships thought proper to ask me: that I had told him I knew nothing but by report, and that their Lordships would not think hearsay to be evidence.528
Malcom persisted in his determination to present his memorial, and, as has been seen, it brought forth a scathing reply from Waldo.529
In July, 1778, Malcom submitted the following petition to Lord North asking permission to return to his distressed family in Boston:
To The Right Honble Lord North and Other the Right Honble Lords Commissioners of his Majesty’s Treasury
The Memoriall of John Malcom Most Humbly Sheweth
That your Lordships Memorialist hath a Wife and five Children at Boston from whom he has not been able to hear for a very long time and who must be greatly Distressed by his Continuance in England.
Your Lordships Memorialist Therefore most humbly prays that your Lordships will be pleased to permit him to go over to America and to Advance him one Years Allowance in Order to enable him to relieve his family and put them as well as himself (if permitted to stay there) into some settled way of livelyhood. And your Memorialist as in Duty bound shall ever pray &c &c &c
[Endorsed:] The Memorial of John Malcom July 1778.
Allowed £100 per ann. by the Treasury
Read 5 Augt 78 Agreed to.530
In 1780 or earlier, Captain Malcom, the man who had been “in all the Battles that was Fought in North America those two Warrs that is Past except two,” was given a commission as ensign in an Independent Company of Invalids at Plymouth, England. If his pride rebelled at this rank, he accepted the appointment, which carried £60 a year. There are muster rolls of this Company of Invalids preserved at the Public Record Office,531 but the earliest there recorded is dated August 23, 1784
Plymouth Citadel. Muster for 183 Days from 25 December, 1783, to 24 June, 1784:
Major & Captain
There were four sergeants, four corporals, two drummers, and twenty-six effective private men.
In April, 1782, when Malcom learned that an order had been given for stopping the further payment of the pensions allowed to American Loyalists, he dispatched a vigorous petition to the Marquess of Rockingham, who had just succeeded Lord North as Prime Minister. Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown the previous October, Lord North had resigned, and Rockingham and the Whigs had taken office for the purpose of making peace by acknowledging the independence of the United States. It was a dark day for the American Loyalists.
To the Most Honorable Charles Marquis Of Rockingham, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, First Lord Commissioner for Executing the Office of Treasurer of his Majesty’s Exchequer &c &c &c.
The Memorial of John Malcom Ensign of Invalids at Plymouth, Most humbly Sheweth.
That Your Lordship’s Memorialist was Surveyor of the Customs in all the Ports of America, and resided at Boston at the time of the destruction of the Tea belonging to the East India Company, and at which Time of Publick Riot Commotion and Disorder Your Lordship’s Memorialist suffered from the Rage and Violence of the People of Boston, the Infamy and Punishment of being carried to the Gallows with a Halter about his Neck, and there tarred and feathered, with other Acts of Personal Abuse, under Circumstances of such Savage Barbarity and Merciless Cruelty, as is superior to all description, and as manifestly endangered his Life for many Weeks after.
That Your Lordship’s Memorialist was wholly deprived of his Property, leaving Your Lordship’s Memorialist, his Wife and five Children, plundered and despoiled by the Mob of their Cloaths, and in a State of the most piteous Wretchedness and Indigence.
That your Lordship’s Memorialist thus Circumstanced availed himself of the first Opportunity of returning to England, where, He formerly, under the Auspice of his Grace the Duke of Grafton had been appointed to an Office in His Majesty’s Customs.
That your Lordship’s Memorialist on his Arrival in England and making Representations of his Losses and Sufferings was allowed an Annuity of One hundred pounds per Annum, and your Lordship’s Memorialist having been informed that an Order has been given for Stopping the further payment of the Pensions allowed to American Loyalists.
Your Lordship’s Memorialist most humbly prays that under the very singular Situation of himself and Family, and his peculiar and unexampled532 Sufferings, his small Annuity may not only be allowed at present, but that your Lordship in your great Beneficence and Goodness would be pleased to Order that the same be continued to Your Lordship’s Memorialist for the Short Remainder of his Life for the Support of himself and helpless Family
And Your Lordship’s Memorialist as in duty bound will ever pray &c. &c. &c.
Ensinge of Enoaleds Inn
London 13th April 1782
[Endorsed:] The Memorial of John Malcom Gent, who has £100 per Ann. as an American Sufferer and desires it may be continued during his life.
Read 4 Nov. 1782
Malcom’s case was carefully reviewed by the Commissioners on American Loyalist Claims. His attendance before them was requested for the purpose of giving testimony, and he made the journey of 244 miles from Plymouth to London, which, as he told the Commissioners later, cost him “between 11 and 12 Pounds.” The results of the investigation and the decision of the Commissioners are recorded as follows:534
Very ill treated by the Rebels in the presence of Mr Harrison Gray, lost about 200£ or 300£ Sterling, has had 3 Capts Commissions under Genl Shirley & Genl Tryon. Is now an Ensign of Invalids at Plymouth, has a Wife & 5 Children, 2 Deaf & Dumb, constantiy remits money to his Family abroad, Does expect to be a Lieutt wch is 20£ a year more, has been with Invalids only two Years, Had 120£ per Ann before he had his Commn. If he could get a Capts Commn he shod be glad to give up his Sallary. Refers to Mr Murry, Mr Flucker, and Mr Hallowell. Does not do Duty at present, Major Watson is the Capt of his Compy, lives near Plymouth, all his Family are in America, as Mr Malcolm says that he ought to be made Leiutt recommended to apply to Genl Conway & to let know the fate of his application. No Certificates being annexed to Mr Malcolm’s Memorial, He was desired to refer to persons of Character for the truth of his Case, & he mendoned John Murray Esqre Mr Harrison Gray, & Mr Hallowell. He said he knew Mr Flucker, but seem’d unwilling that he should be asked, as he said they had had some Disputes. Mr Flucker attended & says, that if this Man had not been tarrd & featherd he would have had no Claim at all to the Bounty of Governt. Sir Wm Pepperell speaks of his being tarrd & featherd, & used very cruelly. At the time Mr Malcolm was ill treated, He admits that he had very little Income besides the place in the Customs wch was 50£ a year. He came to England in May 1774, at first he had 20£ every two Months, afterwards he had 100£ a year. He told Lord North, he could live very well upon 100£ a Year. His Commn is 52 Guineas a Year besides Arrears.
It appears to us that this Gentleman had very little property in America, & that he is now an Ensign of Invalids at Plymouth, wch is 60£ a year. However he appears to have a Claim upon Government for the uncommon ill treatment which he sufferd being the first Man who was tarrd & featherd & escaping narrowly with his Life. We think his present Allowance much too great, as it puts him in a much better Situation than he was ever in America. However in Consideration of his Sufferings & more particularly because he appears to us to be in some degree insane, We think that in addition to his pay as Ensign of Invalids, he should have an Allowance of 60£ a year.
The last document from John Malcom’s hand is a frantic letter to the Commissioners written on February 27, 1783, when his quarter’s salary due the fifth of January failed to arrive:
Plymouth Garison 27th Feby 1783
I now take the liberty to write to you to inform you that I have not yet receiv’d my Quarters Salary which was due to me the 5th day of January last.
Pray Gentlemen what is the reason of it? I can’t but much wonder at it. I hope it is not thro’ your means or if it should be so pray let me know of it immediately that I may go in Person to my Gracious Sovereign King George the third now on the Throne of this Realm for whom I suffered so much in the Continent of North America and there lost my all in this World, which was a very handsome genteel Estate and there became a Bankrupt for my good King and this Country’s Sake. And pray, shall I now be left forsaken by my King and this Government? for yet I hear nothing of my promotion in the Invalids at this or any other place in old England. Pray Gentlemen consider my doleful Situation and my helpless Family now abroad and that I now daily expect to arrive in Old England. O! pray then what shall I do with them, or my Self much longer for we cannot live on the Ensigns Pay; So for Gods! Sake Gentlemen consider of it and soon get me supplied with some Cash from the Government or I shall be in a doleful Case indeed.
I should be much obliged to you Gentlemen for a few of your Franks to frank Letters to London—Old Mr Bandsly at the Kings Treasury will prepare you the Paper and the proper Directions, for I have sent to him for that purpose—So Gentlemen Expecting to hear from you soon on this head I at present rest and remain Gentlemen
Your most Humble
and most Obedient Servant
You well know when you writ to me last I immediately went to London to wait on you at your Command And that Journey of 244 Miles from hence cost me between 11 and 12 Pounds but I hope you will soon make it up to me
I am yours to
There is a cry of anguish here which stirs one’s pity.
The dreary years of exile dragged along. Malcom was not required to be on duty at the citadel or take part in the activities of the garrison, but he lived in or near Plymouth. He never received the promotion to a lieutenancy or captaincy which he had so ardently hoped for. When a vacancy occurred in the command of his company, another officer, Major John Hatfield, was appointed. The muster roll of the Independent Company of Invalids537 was made up at the end of every six months, the first recorded roll running to June 24, 1784. On the second roll—for 183 days, from June 25 to December 24, 1784—John Malcom’s name is marked with the word “Respite” (meaning absent). The same note appears on the next roll. On the fourth roll—for 183 days, from June 25 to December 24, 1785—the entry is: “John Malcom Ensign King’s Leave 12 Months from 13 May.” During the years 1786, 1787, and 1788 five more muster rolls repeat the record: “King’s Leave 12 Months.” On the tenth roll, ending December 24, 1788, the entry after his name is changed to “Respited.” The long exile of fifteen years had come to an end: John Malcom died November 23, 1788.
Two and a half years later, his widow Sarah, who was still living in Boston, applied to His Majesty’s Government for a pension. The following affidavits attesting to the facts were presented in support of her appeal:
We do hereby Certify to the best of our Knowledge, that Sarah Malcom was the Real Wife of John Malcom late an Ensign in the Independent Company of Invalids at Plymouth commanded by Major Hatfield who died on full Pay the 23rd day of November, 1788. And left the said Sarah Malcom and two Children wholly unprovided for. Wherefore We humbly recommend her, as an Object of his Majesty’s Royal Bounty and Compassion. Given under our Hands this sixteenth Day of March 1792.
Jno Hatfield Major in the Army & Captain of a Independant Compy of Invalides
Phipps S. Bernard
Mrs Sarah Malcom came this Day before me, and made Oath that she was lawfully married to John Malcom late an Ensign in the Independent Company of Invalids commanded by Major Hatfield and ever since his Decease she has continued a Widow, and is so at this present Time; and that she has no other Pension, Allowance, or Provision made her by the Government, either in Great-Britain or Ireland, without the Pension she hopes to receive by his Majesty’s Bounty.
Boston Apr. 11, 1791
Sworn before me
Justice of the Peace538
The flaming temper flamed no more. The ungovernable rage which had plunged John Malcom into quarrels with his brother Daniel, his fellow officers, Governor Hutchinson, the boy with the sled, Mr. George Hewes, and many others could do him no more harm. His life was tumultuous with adventures—voyages, storms, battles, conflicts with smugglers, feuds, quarrels, lawsuits, desperate efforts to obtain redress, a dazzling moment at St. James’s with George III, mob violence, and the frightful torture of being tarred and feathered and flogged on a night of perishing cold. A storm-tossed mariner, he had “Commanded 12 Different Merchant Vessels abroad to Different Parts of the World.” A valiant soldier, “none could go further in the field of battle when the bullets flew thickest, he was then in his element.” He had “been in all the Battles that was fought in North America” in the French and Indian War, “except two”; and had had two horses killed under him in the Battle of Alamance.
Fifteen long years he had spent in exile, separated from his wife and children and his home. As day after day he paced along Plymouth Hoe and looked out over the blue waters westward, he was not thinking of Drake and the Spanish galleons but of the Outer Brewster, and the tall shaft of Boston Light, and Deer Island, and Nix’s Mate, and Castle Island with its citadel, and Governor’s Island, and the beacon on the hill, and the welcoming arm of Long Wharf, and the royal bravery of the lion and the unicorn rampant on the Town House, and the grasshopper whirling in the breeze on top of Faneuil Hall.
It was only the gracious coöperation of the late Earl of Dartmouth that made possible the preparation of such an extensive and detailed account of the adventures of Captain John Malcom as I have given, and I wish to record my gratitude for his generous assistance in allowing me to have copied and now to print for the first time the various memorials and petitions of John Malcom in his possession. These documents include Malcom’s own narrative of his tarring and feathering, his petition to George III, which contains a good deal of autobiography, and his petitions to Lord North, Lord Dartmouth, and Lord Rockingham.
William Heneage Legge, the sixth Earl of Dartmouth (1851–1936), had inherited the state papers of his ancestor, the second Earl (1731–1801), who was Secretary of State for the Colonies in Lord North’s ministry. It had been the custom for several turbulent centuries for ministers of state, when retiring, to take official documents to their own houses to guard them from the prying eyes of their rivals or political opponents. The comprehensive Dartmouth Collection is preserved at Patshull House, Shropshire, carefully catalogued and kept in a large modern safe deposit vault specially built for the purpose by the late Earl. A letter of introduction from my friend, Mr. Allen French, who had enjoyed a sojourn at Patshull House photographing many documents for his First Year of the American Revolution, brought me an invitation to come there. Another friend, Dr. Robin Flower, Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum, kindly supplied me with a statement from the Museum promising to safeguard and return any manuscripts entrusted to its care.
I arrived early in the forenoon, anticipating a long day of copying. The vault at Patshull House was, I found, actually a room lined with shelves heaped high with documents—a treasure room of American history. Lord Dartmouth was proud of this collection and had taken great pains in arranging the documents chronologically in folders. When we returned to the library with the Malcom papers, his Lordship was keenly interested in the story they revealed. As I was preparing to copy them, I rather wistfully mentioned the fact that the British Museum had offered to make photostat copies, and showed him the official form signed by Dr. Flower.
Then came a dramatic moment. Lord Dartmouth said: “Why don’t you take the papers with you when you go, if you would be so kind? Then that would save all the trouble and delay of wrapping them up securely and sending them to the Museum by mail. Won’t you take them?” Would I take them? I was overwhelmed. This expression of generosity was a burst of sunshine: it banished hours of labor and gave me instead a day of English hospitality, English charm, and English friendship. And when, later, after tea in the garden, the time came to say good-bye, and I took my reluctant departure for London, I carried with me the precious documents of John Malcom.