Boston under Military Rule (1768-1769): As Revealed in a Journal of the Times

By Oliver Morton Dickerson | Go to book overview

particular "Amicus" was. Did he live in New York, in Philadelphia, or in Boston? Was he a patriot intrigued by the style of the first portion of the JOURNAL, or was he some one who knew the full scope of the plans back of the publication? No satisfactory answer can be given, although one suspects that this "Amicus" was one of the authors of the JOURNAL. With this exception, the JOURNAL is entirely anonymous, no other signature of any kind ever appearing in connection with it.

After publication in the New York and the Philadelphia papers, it was printed in the Boston Evening Post, and widely copied in other American newspapers and in some publications in England. A considerable portion of it was reprinted in pamphlet form in England for circulation there, probably at the expense of Massachusetts. Apparently no other pre-Revolutionary colonial writing was so widely circulated in the colonies and in England, except Dickinson Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer. It furnished a common background of information as to what was going on in Boston that was known from one end of the empire to the other.

The authorship of the JOURNAL is shrouded in secrecy. Frothingham says it was mainly the work of William Cooper, the town clerk of Boston, but does not give his source of information. He concedes that other patriots had a hand in it. Governor Bernard ascribed it to Sam Adams and his associates.

Some of the possible authors are: Henry Knox, at that time running a book store in Boston and later prominent in the Revolution; Benjamin Edes, one of the joint publishers of the Boston Evening Post and an ardent patriot; William Greenleaf, who was an employee of Edes and Gill in their printing establishment; and possibly Isaiah Thomas, who was acquiring his preliminary experience in the printing business and was soon to found the Massachusetts Spy, the most radical of the patriotic papers.

The JOURNAL certainly was not the work of a single individual. There are sections dealing with legal questions that could not have been prepared by a town clerk without material assistance. The nature of the legal information suggests that either John Adams or Josiah Quincy had a hand in its preparation. The discussion of Writs of Assistance on April 28 and April 29, 1769, suggests very strongly John Adams' reputed report of James Otis' speech in 1761. Possibly this was one of the sources he used to refresh his memory, some half century later. There are other sections that suggest the style of "Mucius Scaevola," who is said to have been Joseph Greenleaf.1 The retained papers of Samuel and John Adams contain no reference whatever to the JOURNAL. Apparently the work was carefully hedged about with secrecy, and all evidence that could be traced to single individuals completely destroyed.

The JOURNAL is singularly unknown to historians. Winsor does not refer to it either in his Memorial History of Boston or in his Narrative and Critical History of America. Moses Coit Tyler fails to refer to it in his Literary History of the American Revolution. Frothingham alone knew of it and used it to some extent in his "Sam Adams' Regiments", although he apparently never discovered the widespread publication of the JOURNAL in American newspapers. His comment upon it is the only material reference by a historian that has come to light. The main portions are quoted below:

"In one way and another the troops became sources of irritation. The Patriots, mainly William Cooper, the town clerk, prepared a chronicle of this perpetual fret, which contains much curious matter obtained through access to authoritative sources of information, private and official. This diary was first printed in New York, and reprinted in the newspapers of Boston and London, under the title of 'Journal of Occurrences.' The numbers continued until after the close of Bernard's administration, usually occupied three columns of the Boston Evening Post and constituted a piquant record of the matters connected with the troops and general politics.

"It attracted much attention, and the authors of it formed the subject of a standing toast at the Liberty celebrations. Hutchinson averred that it was composed with great art and little truth. After this weekly

____________________
1
Justin Winsor, Memorial History of Boston ( Boston, 1880- 1882), II, 136.

-ix-

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Boston under Military Rule (1768-1769): As Revealed in a Journal of the Times
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Journal of Transactions in Boston Or A Journal of the Times vii
  • The Boston Evening-Post. 1
  • Index 129
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