Scurrilous Abuse upon the Characters of Ten Principal Patriots

in about Warren

Date: March 18, 1775

“…A certain Reverend Doctor of the Establish’d Church in this town lately said that he would rather wade up to his knees in blood, than that the Ministry should give way. An officer, with men from the 4th Regiment in Barracks at West Boston, erected a couple of tents just at the back of Howard’s meeting and conducted a parcell of fifes and drums there, which play’d and beat Yanky Doodle the whole forenoon service time, to the great interruption of the congregation. They intended to repeat the same in the afternoon, but were prevented by orders from the General. The officers in general behave more like a parcell of children, of late, than men. Captain [*] of the Royal Irish first expos’d himself by behaving in a very scandalous manner at the South meeting, while Doctor Warren was delivering the oration in commemoration of the Massacre. He got pretty decently frighted for it. A woman, among the rest, attack’d him and threatened to wring his nose. Last Wensday, the day the oration was publish’d, a vast number of Officers assembled in King street, when they proceeded to the choice of a moderator and seven out of their number to represent the select men, the latter of whom with the moderator went into the Coffee house balcony, where was provided a fellow apparrell’d in a black gown with a rusty grey wigg and fox tail hanging to it, together with bands on — who deliver’d an oration from the balcony to a crowd of few else beside gaping officers. It contain’d the most scurrilous abuse upon the characters of the principal patriots here, wholly made up of the most vile, profane, blackguard language as ever was express’d. They intend acting the same farce over again on farce day, or rather to deliver a sermon from the same place, but the General, knowing more than we did at that time, prudently forbid it. The affair of Colonel Nesbitt of the 47th having tarr’d and feather’d a countryman, and Colonel Leslie’s expedition to Salem, do them equal honor, and I dare say will become subjects of the keenest satire. A Committee from the country in behalf of the countryman above, waited on the General on fast day. who was greatly disgusted with their remonstrance (being a very spirited one) but finally dismiss’d them with every assurance of protection from danger, and that [in] quite a pleasant manner: also assur’d them that he would undertake that the man should have full satisfaction. Had time and room, the subject would afford large comments…”

Source: John Andrews and Winthrop Sargent, editor. Letters of John Andrews, Esq. of Boston 1772-1776. Cambridge, Massachusetts: John Wilson and Sons, 1866, pp. 86-87.

Commentary: In this letter extract John Andrews captured the overheated atmosphere prevailing in British occupied Boston in March of 1775. Among many curious details, some apparently observed first hand and others by hearsay, are those concerning that year’s Boston Massacre Oration delivered by Joseph Warren. A British captain, named in the manuscript but not in this published transcription, was threatened by a woman for unspecified ill behavior during Warren’s oration.

John Andrews goes on to describe unsympathetically British officers’ March 15th lampoon of the Oration. Their speaker, identified as Loyalist Dr. Bolton in the pamphlet version of this speech, was dressed in a “black gown.” Bolton must have been parodying Joseph Warren’s toga, which is otherwise scantily documented in primary sources. For Warren, the Patriots were literally cloaked in the virtues of the Roman Republic. For Loyalists and Tories such showmanship was the object of ridicule.

Excerpts of Joseph Warren’s March 6, 1775 Boston Massacre Oration here and full text of Dr. Bolton’s March 15th lampoon of it here.

Previous post:

Next post: