I can’t be easy without my pen in my hand, yet I know not what to write.
I have this morning heard a dialogue between Will Gardiner and a Captain Pote*, of Falmouth. Gardiner says he can’t subscribe the non-consumption agreement¹ because he has a hundred men coming from England to settle upon Kennebeck River, and he must supply them, which he can’t do without English goods. That agreement he says may do at Boston, but not in the Eastern country. Pote said he never would sign it, and railed away at Boston mobs, drowning tea, and tarring Malcom².
James Sullivan at dinner told us a story or two. One member of the General Court, he said, as they came down stairs after their dissolution at Salem said to him, “Though we are killed, we died scrabbling, did not we?”
This is not very witty, I think.
Another story was of a piece of wit of brother Porter³, of Salem. He came upon the floor and asked a member, “What state are you in now?” The member answered, “In a state of nature.” “Aye,” says Porter, “and you will be damned before you will get into a state of grace.”
5 July 1774
¹ – Nonconsumption of British imports had been a strategy of protest in Massachusetts and the other colonies since the 1760s, and had been periodically renewed. Joseph Warren’s “Solemn League and Covenant” of Massachusetts merchants to boycott British goods had just been published on June 8 and is undoubtedly referred to here.
² – The tarring and feathering of John Malcolm, a customs collector in Boston, in January 1775 received considerable notice on both sides of the Atlantic. The incident was a possible inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “My Kinsman, Major Molyneux.”
³ – Samuel Porter was a lawyer in Salem. The Massachusetts legislative body, the General Court, called to meet in Boston in May 1774, was adjourned to Salem for a session beginning June 7 in order to escape Boston political unrest. Salem was thought to be a Tory stronghold.