On the evening the Stamp Act passed, Dr. Franklin, then in London, writes to Charles Thompson, as follows:—“The sun of liberty is set: the Americans must light the lamps of industry and economy.” Thompson answers, “Be assured we shall light torches of quite another kind.”
They then marched up Fort Hill, still following the two figures, jack-boot, horns and all. Here they kindled a bonfire with them, returned to Oliver’s house with clubs and staves, and destroyed every part of his gardens, fences and out-houses, in less time than the old gentleman would have taken to count them.
Torches of Another Kind
IN Boston, early in the morning of August 14th , two images of men, called effigies, were found hanging on the branch of an old elm, near the southern entrance of the city. One represented a stamp-officer. There was a great jack-boot also, out of which rose a horned head, which seemed to look around. The people collected in crowds from the city and country. About, dusk, the images were taken down, placed on a bier, and carried about in solemn procession. The people followed, stamping and shouting, “Liberty and property for ever—no stamps.”
They passed through the town-house, down King street, into Kilby street, halted at the house of one Oliver, which they supposed to be meant for a stamp office, and demolished it from top to bottom; they carried off the wood, marched through, the streets, with a tremendous noise, to the dwelling of Oliver himself; and there, having gone through the ceremony of chopping off that gentleman’s head, in effigy, broke in his windows in an instant.
They then marched up Fort Hill, still following the two figures, jack-boot, horns and all. Here they kindled a bonfire with them, returned to Oliver’s house with clubs and staves, and destroyed every part of his gardens, fences and out-houses, in less time than the old gentleman would have taken to count them. Oliver did not tarry to count them, but left a few friends in his house, and fled with all possible speed. His friends offended the multitude, and they broke open the doors, and destroyed all the furniture in the lower story. Mr. Oliver gave notice the next day, that he had concluded not to serve as a stamp-officer. The people went to his house in the evening again, gave him three cheers of encouragement, and left him without further damage to himself, his house, or his effigy.
The people had now another person to attend to. Having heard that Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson had written to England in favor of the stamp duties, they visited his house in great numbers. As he assured them, however, that he had written no such thing, they applauded him with shouts, kindled a bonfire, and went home. August 26th, the disorders began again. Some boys were playing round a fire in King street. The fireward coming to extinguish it, some one whispered him to keep back. The advice was followed by a few blows, and a few kicks, and he was soon persuaded to withdraw.
Meanwhile, a particular whistle was heard from several quarters, followed by cries of, “Sirrah! Sirrah!” A long train of persons then came up, disguised, and armed with clubs and bludgeons. They proceeded to surround the house of one Paxton, harbor-master. He thought it well to absent himself; but the crowd followed him to a tavern, where he persuaded them not to destroy his house. They broke open the office and house of Story, another crown officer, opposite the court house; burned the files and records in the first, and destroyed the furniture in the other.
They afterwards paid some attentions of the same kind to Mr. Hallowell, collector of the duties, drank up the wine in his cellar, and carried off some hundred dollars of his money. They visited Mr. Hutchinson once more about ten o’clock in the evening, and carried off his plate, pictures, furniture, clothing, manuscripts, and about 3000 dollars in cash. These things show that the mob was excessively violent. The more respectable men were less excited. Some of the ringleaders of these riots were imprisoned, though soon released. The governor offered rewards for the discovery of others: a nightly watch was appointed, and, at a numerous town meeting, the selectmen of the town were desired to use every effort to prevent these disorders for the future.
—Lambert Lilly, The Story of the American Revolution (1830).