Letter from Cyrus Baldwin to Loammi Baldwin, 15 August 1765
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[ This description is from the project: Coming of the American Revolution ]
This letter, from one brother to another, describes in great detail the town's response to news of the Stamp Act. An effigy of the Stamp Master was hung from a tree and an unruly mob made it way through Boston, wreaking havoc along the way. Perhaps, writes Baldwin, this would serve as "Sufficient warning to others not to take Offices that Encroach upon American liberty."
An Effigy Swings and a House Crumbles
Boston's working-class men enter the debate over the Stamp Act in their own fashion. For years, gangs from the town's North and South Ends have converged on 5 November to celebrate Pope's Day (in England called Guy Fawkes Day, which commemorates the 1605 defeat of a Catholic plot to blow up Parliament). With a depression in full swing and unemployment high, some Bostonians take the occasion as an excuse to crack heads. In August 1765, when radicals (later identified as the Loyal Nine, forerunners of Boston's Sons of Liberty) approach Ebenezer McIntosh, ringleader of the South End mob, he readily accepts their offer to give his boys another cause for action. Andrew Oliver has been appointed stamp master for Boston. He presents an object for scorn, effigy, and rampage much nearer to hand than the Pope.
Questions to Consider
1. What do you think it means that the mob "stampd" the effigy, the timbers of Oliver's house, his garden fence, etc. Explain.
2. Trace the actions of the mob. Make a detailed listing of the havoc it caused.
3. The imagery of the boot refers to John Stuart, Earl of Bute (1713-92), who was referred to by the nickname Jack Boot. Bute was tutor to King George III and for a time wielded a good deal of influence. Beyond information provided on this website, research his life to discover why the colonists associate him with the devil.
4. AO is Andrew Oliver, appointed stamp master in Boston. Beyond information provided on this website, research his life. What is his position in Boston?
5. Pretend you are Andrew Oliver. Write a letter to the Governor explaining why you are resigning your position as Stamp Master.
6. On 26 August 1765, another Boston mob attacks Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson's house. Research this event. How is it similar to the events of 14 August? How is it different?