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Coming of the American Revolution: Document Viewer
Massachusetts Historical Society
America's oldest historical society, founded 1791.

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Letter from Boston Merchants to Dennis De Berdt, 30 January 1770

Letter from Boston Merchants to Dennis De Berdt, 30 January 1770

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"zeal in the cause"
On 1 January 1770 the non-importation agreement is due to expire. Boston merchants attempt to extend the boycott until all of the Townshend duties are repealed, but merchants in New York and Philadelphia are getting restless. Their warehouses are full of English goods and their debts to Britain need to be paid. Once again, the movement appears to be doomed. Boston merchants, fearing that Parliament will never rescind the Townshend duties if non-importation fails, plead their case to Massachusetts' colonial agent in London, Dennis De Berdt.

Questions to Consider

1. Why is the committee of merchants writing to Dennis DeBerdt?

2. Which merchants do the authors single out as violators of the non-importation agreement? How do they violate the agreement?

3. The committee of merchants writes (beginning on the bottom of page 2), "our Brethren in the other Governments complaind of our want of Spirit." What do the merchants mean by this? Can you identify other documents within this section of the website that shed light on Boston's "lack of spirit?"

4. How does the committee of merchants deal with colleagues who violate the non-importation agreement?

Further Exploration

5. Select one of the individuals who signed the letter and research his life. Why might he have signed this letter?

6. Bostonians have shared their concerns with their colonial agents in the past. Review other letters sent to Dennis DeBerdt. [Insert links] From these letters, as well as additional research from other reference sources, describe the role of a colonial agent in the 1760s and 1770s.