Alfred Young
Alfred Young
The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory & the American Revolution
ISBN: 0807054054
The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory & the American Revolution
On December 16, 1773, some 150 men boarded three ships docked at Griffin's Wharf. Dressed as Mohawks, their faces darkened with soot, the men cracked open chests of tea and threw them into Boston Harbor. What began as a protest against the duty on tea became an icon of the American Revolution. But what did the Boston Tea Party mean to its participants? Indeed, what did the Revolution mean to the ordinary person? In The Shoemaker and the Tea Party, Alfred F. Young tells the story of George Robert Twelves Hewes, who was involved in several events in Boston during the Revolution. In 1835, when Hewes was in his 90s, he was celebrated as one of the last survivors of the Tea Party.

The Shoemaker and the Tea Party comprises two linked essays. The first is about Hewes (whom Young describes as "a nobody who briefly became a somebody in the Revolution and, for a moment near the end of his life, a hero"), his memories, and what these memories reveal about the meaning of the Revolution for him. "For a moment he was on a level with his betters. So he thought at the time, and so it grew in his memory as it disappeared in his life." The second essay follows the lead of Michael Kammen and Eric Hobsbawm by looking at the dichotomies of public vs. private and popular vs. official memory, and the external forces that shape these memories into "tradition." Young does an excellent job of illustrating his theory with experiences from Hewes's life, newspaper accounts, and contemporary prints. This book will interest both scholars and general readers, though Young does presume some prior knowledge of the Revolution on the part of the reader. A thought-provoking look at the nature of memory, history, and tradition. —Sunny Delaney

Search Audible
Video Clip Search is not available for this video.
TRANSCRIPT
The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory & the American Revolution
Program Air Date: November 21, 1999

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Alfred F. Young, author of "The Shoemaker and The Tea Party," what is your book all about?
Mr. ALFRED F. YOUNG (Author, "The Shoemaker and The Tea Party"): My book is about an ordinary man who lived in Boston a good part of his life and was a shoemaker all of his life and who was active in most of the famous events of the American Revolution that took place in Boston: the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the tarring and feathering of people. Then he became a soldier and sailor in the Revolution and left Boston, lived out his life in country towns. And then when he was in his 90s, he was, quote, "discovered" in western New York; someone wrote a biography of him. And he was brought back to Boston in 1835, which someone wrote another biography of him. He was the hero of the day for the Fourth of July. His portrait was painted, and he became a celebrity.
LAMB: And his name is George Robert...
LAMB and Mr. YOUNG: (In unison) ...Twelves Hewes.
Mr. YOUNG: Plural, yes.
LAMB: Where does Twe--the name Twelves come from?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, he apparently was asked that, and he said it was--he thought he was named after an ancestor on his mother's side, but he didn't know any more than that. I've since learned it's a Welsh name, and that made sense because his--his father was--or his--the whole family was descended from the first settlers who came here from Wales.
LAMB: You brought this picture along with you.
Mr. YOUNG: Yes.
LAMB: And it's actually a picture of a portrait. It's in the book. What is it?
Mr. YOUNG: When he came back to Boston in 1835, the family commissioned a portrait and this is it. So the portrait portrays him not as a shoemaker, but in his Sunday best clothes, an old man leaning on a cane. And the picture was called "A Centenarian" because Hewes thought he was 99 years old, just beyond the verge of 100. He was wrong. He was off by six years. He was only 93. It wasn't--I don't think it was an intentional lie. But he then passes into history as a near 100-year-old man and as the last survivor of the Tea Party. He wasn't the last survivor. There were 25 others, but that was a kind of sign of they didn't know all the people who had been in the Tea Party.
LAMB: You said, just as we sat down, that you'd been working on this book for 20 years?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, the original essay appeared in the William and Mary Quarterly some years ago, in 1981. I'd been working on it for several years before then. And the essay has had a second life because, oh, it was voted the best essay of the year and the best essay in five years. And then in 1993, the--the--William and Mary Quarterly is the leading journal in early American history. It was voted one of the 10 most-influential articles in 50 years of that magazine. So it then had a second life, and I received an offer from Beacon Press to publish it and bring it to a broader audience. So the book consists of that essay, plus a new essay with my second thoughts about this man, my 20 years later.
LAMB: Why do you care about this man?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, I--I've long been very unhappy with the traditional interpretation of ordinary people in the Revolution, but I didn't start out to do this man's biography. I started out with questions about: What was the role of ordinary people in making the revolution in Boston? What were their ideas? Did they have an impact on events? And were they changed in the course of that? So I was looking for--for someone to peg this on because it's very hard to do this kind of history. And these people leave--people at that level of society were called mechanics in those days. They don't write large numbers of letters, they don't keep diaries, not like the famous people, the Jeffersons and the Adams for whom the--the--the papers run to 50 volumes, and we're still not done with them. But in the course of doing research on Boston, I came across these two biographies: one, 1834; one, 1835. We would call them `as told to' biographies. And they both were of the same man, and I thought that was quite extraordinary. And then, at another point, I realized that this portrait, which was hanging in the Old State House atop of a spiral staircase, was a portrait of the same man. It was called "A Centenarian," and I had to piece it together. I said, `Oh, there may be the guy whose life I could trace and do a life of an ordinary person of the Revolution.' So that's how I landed on him.
LAMB: You have some population figures I just want to throw out.
Mr. YOUNG: Right.
LAMB: In Boston, in 1770, 15,000 people; in 1810, 34,000 people; in 1820, 43,000 people; and in 1830, 61,000 people.
Mr. YOUNG: Yes.
LAMB: Where did the Revolution start?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, I don't think you can say the Revolution starts in Boston, but Boston is one of the key cities and Boston play--had an influence. Boston was considered the capital of New England. It was the leading seaport. It's the major city in Massachusetts. And a--Boston--the--the leadership of the patriot movement give--in Boston, not only leads Boston, but leads the colony. It leads the New England region and is very influential. And it's no--w--we're not wrong in--in naming--in identifying some of the famous events: the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party. And they seem to--they play an enormous role in shaping of public policy. So I'm--I don't think we any longer--there used to be a long fight of who was--who was more important: Virginia or New York. I don't think the historians like to get bogged down in that sort of thing anymore. But there's--the reason I chose Boston was because Boston was very difficult to understand and it was very important. So if I had an ordinary man who seemed to be a man in the streets of Boston, I had a man in one of the most important cities.
LAMB: When did you start talking about this man, what year in your book?
Mr. YOUNG: In the book--he's born in 1742 in Boston. He's the son of a tanner who had fallen on poor ways. The--the--George--his--his father died when he was about five or six years old. He's raised by his mother. So I was able, through these two biographies, to follow him through childhood, and then he becomes an apprentice--apprentice to a shoemaker. It was very hard to get an apprenticeship in what would be called a higher trade. Apprenticeship is a means of what we would call vocational education. That's the main education for most boys in those days. And I follow him through his apprenticeship. Then he opens a little shop on his own on Griffin's wharf or near Griffin's wharf, which is the place where the Tea Party took place. And then he bec--then I was--then I was able to pick him up as he becomes involved in political activity in the late 1760s when...
LAMB: You--you n--you talk about three different things--or a lot of things you talk about, but the massacre, the feathering of John Malcolm and the Tea Party. This--what--what happened first?
Mr. YOUNG: The massacre. Well, the first--the first big activity in Boston was around the Stamp Act, which is 1765, 1766, and that's where an awful lot of working people are involved. The--the leader of the popular demonstrations is a shoemaker whose name was Ebenezer Macintosh. He had formerly been leader of the annual November 5th Guy Fawkes Day ritual, which in America is called Popes Day. And he was chosen by the political leaders to help organize the demonstrations against the Stamp--against the Stamp Act.
LAMB: What was the Stamp Act? Start with that.
Mr. YOUNG: The Stamp Act is an act of Parliament taxing--putting the tax on printed matter: newspapers, books, pamphlets, even playing cards and a tax on legal documents--deeds. And it arouses a storm in the colonies.
LAMB: So it passed by the British Parliament, and it...
Mr. YOUNG: And overrides the American legislators in Boston or in Massachusetts. It would by typical of--of the other colonies. There are town meetings. Each year the town meetings sent a delegate to a central government called the General Court, popularly known as the assembly. And the assembly passes laws for the colony. And there's a royal governor who's appointed by the king and a counsel appointed by the king, through the royal governor, which is kind of a Cabinet or Upper House. The laws of Parliament take precedence over the laws of the colonial assembly.
LAMB: And your main character, George Robert Twelves Hewes, was a British citizen then?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, all Americans would--would be Britishers, and they would think of themselves as Britishers. At some point, they--I think they've already started thinking of themselves as British Americans. And I think at some point in the Revolution they think of themselves as Americans.
LAMB: So in 1770 the massacre occurs. What is it?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, the--there are also laws on g--governing trade--trade regulations, and these laws are violated. The--the British repealed the Stamp Act because of the protest, but they insist on the principal; that they have the right to pass laws regulating trade or in all cases whatsoever, including new taxes. They passed new trade regulations and new tax laws. There's more protest of a much more violent sort. Then they send troops to Boston to enforce the laws. So they send some 4,000 troops to a city of 15,000, which means they're very much of a presence. And as far as I could figure out, Hewes had not been active in the Stamp Act demonstrations. He could have been, but he doesn't speak of them in--in these `as told to' biographies. So he starts talking about the revolution at the point where the soldiers arrive in town, and then he reacts very much to the personal things that take place on the streets. So he sees--he sees a soldier hit a woman and rob her, or he himself mends shoes for some of--a shoemaker would then be called a cordwainer or a cobbler. A cordwainer made shoes, and a cobbler mended shoes. He did both. He mends shoes for a British captain, and he's not paid. He protests, and the soldier involved--not the captain, the soldier--is whipped as--as--as a punishment. And Hewes is appalled that he caused this man to be whipped. So there's a series of personal things which arouse--arouse him against soldiers. And then there's a event which is since famous--soldiers moonlighted. They--they were allowed to take off-duty jobs. So one evening the tr--the massacre is a Monday night. On a--the Friday before, a soldier asks for work at a ropewalk, and the ropewalk workers tell him where he can go and with a great deal of profanity. More soldiers come in. There's a fight between the ropewalk workers and the soldiers. Both sides are furious. The soldiers are beaten. The soldiers vow for revenge; that they're going to get even with the townspeople. The townspeople avow they're not going to take any more of this sort of stuff, and that's the matrix of the event which leads to the killing on March 5th, which is then called the Boston Massacre.
LAMB: What happens? Who's killed?
Mr. YOUNG: Hewes tells the story that the--this all beg--it begins on the night of the 5th with an apprentice--an apprentice boy yelling at one of the soldiers that the soldier did not pay his master, who was a barber, for some work in the barbershop. And there's a fight over this or there's a--an exchange. There's a gathering of people. There is--there are not a large crowd at first, but the--the people in the crowd are angry with the soldiers for hurting the apprentice boy--this is the way Hewes tells the story. And then there's a--then s--the--the people start throwing snowballs, and the snowballs probably are laced with stones. At that point the guard is called out, some six or seven soldiers, and they form a circle to protect the sentry, who is standing there. And soon there's a larger gathering of townspeople, so there are maybe 100 or so people in the square. The townspeople taunt the soldiers to, `Fire. Fire. Fire. I dare you. We're standing in the king's highway. We have the--we have a right to stand here.' The soldiers are restrained. At some point there's a shouting of `Fire' and the soldiers fire, and they shoot into the crowd and four people are killed and several others are wounded.
LAMB: What year is this again?
Mr. YOUNG: This is 1770--March 5th, 1770. Hewes is present. He was not armed, but he came out, as he said, because he knew his townspeople were under attack. And as he remembered it years later, remember--he's remembering these stories 60 years later, as--as they're being set down. And we can talk about his memory. One of the men, James Caldwell, falls in his arms wounded, and Hewes remembers 60 years later that he took him to Dr. Thomas Young on such and such a lane, and then he went to another lane to inform Caldwell's ship captain that he had been shot. Extraordinary.
LAMB: He's--What?--28 then? ...(Unintelligible).
Mr. YOUNG: Right. He would be a young man.
LAMB: And in 1970 what was the atmosphere around the colonies?
Mr. YOUNG: 1770.
LAMB: Yeah. Oh, I--yeah, I said 1970. What was the atmosphere in the rest of the colonies?
Mr. YOUNG: There were--I think there was a kind of lull. There had been a lot of protests all over the colonies on the Stamp Act, and the Stamp Act was withdrawn. Then the trade regulations are enforced and there are more taxes. It's a kind of lull before the storm. The coming of the soldiers only is in--is in the colony of Massachusetts and does not arouse the rest of the colonies as much, although they're watching this. The massacre, as it's called by the patriots, then arouses large numbers of people all over, who are frightened at this.
LAMB: You mean at that time, in '70, there were no other British troops in the country?
Mr. YOUNG: No, there are other British troops. There are British troops in the cities, and there are British troops on the frontier, but not on a scale of Boston and there's no--they're a presence, though in New York there had long been fights between troops and working people.
LAMB: Are these troops all Brits, actually from Britain?
Mr. YOUNG: Some of them are--well, British Isles, so some would be Irish, some might be Scotch Irish.
LAMB: But they're not American colonists at all?
Mr. YOUNG: They're not Americans, no. No.
LAMB: Then the--the Tea Party. What year does that come?
Mr. YOUNG: Tea Party is three years later, 1773.
LAMB: You call it--it's not--wasn't even called a Tea Party.
Mr. YOUNG: No. They called it the destruction of the tea, or there was a broad sign the next morning, `Tea destroyed by Indians.' The British--that's a--that would be a picture of--done some many years later by Currier & Ives, the lithographers of the actual event. By the time of the--of that event, the British have withdrawn many of their taxes, but kept the tax on tea. But then they have given a monopoly of the tea trade to the East India Company--the British East India Company, which is in London, which drives out the inter--intermediaries, the s--the merchants in the colonies who were importing tea on their own. So they give an exclusive right, a monopoly, of tea to the East India Company. They p--and they put a tax on the tea. So the issue that's raised is the same old issue: Who has a--`We--we have the right to tax ourselves. You don't have the right to tax us.' But there's another issue raised, and the issue is of--of, `Are you going to give special favors to British--British interests to--as opposed to American interests?' And at that point there's a fear that the--`Where is--where is taxation going? What's going to be taxed next?' As Samuel Adams says in the--in the town meeting, `Will they tax our land next? Will they tax windows on our houses?' So there's a--a general fear of t--of taxes, which spreads through the countryside. The--all over the colonies they resolve they don't want the tea imported, and, elsewhere, the tea ships tur--are turned around and don't land. In Boston, the tea ships land and are stationed at the dock. They're all brought to one dock, Griffin's wharf. So the patriot effort is to get the royal governor to give a pass to these tea ships to return to England. And they begin to hold giant meetings in what was Old--Old South Meeting House--two meetings in November, kind of all-day meetings--and start a process of negotiation to get the--the ships--get the ships out of the port and prevent the tea from landing. The--the leaders stationed a small squadron of soldiers or of militia at the dock to prevent the tea from being landed. Then there are meetings the--the--all day on the 15th and 16th of December...
LAMB: 1773.
Mr. YOUNG: 1773, right. And--as they're conducting negotiations with the royal governor. They send a delegation from the--from the meeting. Now these meetings--this meeting would be attended by Hewes and would be attended by apprentices and by journeymen. Normally the town meeting in Boston--you have to have a certain amount of property to attend. So maybe there are, at most, 500 or 600; large meeting would draw 700 people. They cut down the property qualifications, and they say the whole body of the people may attend. So in come what to the gentleman would be called the rabble, or the--the hoi poloi.
LAMB: Who--let me stop you and ask you, you mentioned Sam Adams. Who was he then?
Mr. YOUNG: Samuel Adams is accepted as the leading patriot figure. There is no formal group called the Sons of Liberty, but the Sons of Liberty is the name they assume for themselves. They meet in committees. They meet in caucuses and taverns. And Samuel Adams is one of the top leaders. There would be about a dozen men who are the leadership.
LAMB: Where was John Hancock then, and wh--and who was he?
Mr. YOUNG: John Hancock was the wealthiest man in Boston. John Hancock owned a fleet of merchant vessels. He owned a mansion on Beacon Hill. He employed--at tops, he might have employed several thousand people, seamen and people to build ships. He went to Harvard. He rode to--he rode around town in a coach drawn by several--four horses and had liverymen. He was a gentleman, and he lived in high style.
LAMB: What did Sam Adams do?
Mr. YOUNG: Samuel Adams wa--was also a Harvard graduate. He was a maltster; you know, there's a beer now named after Sam Adams. But he made his--he always was the--had an official appointment as the tax collector. And as tax collector in the city of Boston, he was very lenient and let off a lot of people from their taxes.
LAMB: Who was John Adams then?
Mr. YOUNG: John Adams is a lawyer, who lives out on the countryside in a country f--in a farm, also moves into town for a while and is--practices law in town. He would be--well, in the eyes of the British, they were all radicals, but as the--as the historians separate them out, Samuel Adams would be in the--among the most radical of the--they were called Whig leaders. And John Hancock was a merchant whom Samuel Adams attempted to win over, and John Adams was someone who worked with--with both of them.
LAMB: Now this guy was 31 then in 1773?
Mr. YOUNG: In 1773.
LAMB: And what was he doing? Was he still a shoemaker?
Mr. YOUNG: He's a shoemaker.
LAMB: Has he spent any time in the military?
Mr. YOUNG: No. The--well, the--the military for the colonists consisted of the militia, which means every--every man over 16 up to 65 was in the militia and were trained several days during the year on militia training days.
LAMB: Was he married?
Mr. YOUNG: He had married in, I think, 1768. He married a woman who was his laundress and who was the daughter of a church sextant, and they began to have children. But he was not a well-to-do man. In fact, he was put in debtors' prison in 1770 because he couldn't pay a debt for the clothes that he bought. And I think he bought the clothes to impress his wife while he was courting her.
LAMB: How many children did he have?
Mr. YOUNG: He has three or four children while he's still in Boston. By the end of this life, his wife had given birth to 16 children, not all of whom lived and we can't track all of them down. But one of them, the 15th, lived--lived, and he named his 15th child Fifteen, which is another story.
LAMB: That was his first name, Fifteen?
Mr. YOUNG: His first name was Fifteen, yes.
LAMB: Did he name--did he name a--a--a number to anybody else?
Mr. YOUNG: After other people?
LAMB: Was it just--just Fifteen? Did he have any other numbers?
Mr. YOUNG: Just Fifteen. No, I think that was his name. We--I can't track all of that down.
LAMB: You mention that he was only 5'2".
Mr. YOUNG: Not even 5'2". I think he's 5'1".
LAMB: Yeah, you say under 5'2".
Mr. YOUNG: Under fi--under 5'2".
LAMB: But the other note was that no Roman Catholics were allowed in the militia?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, let's go back a step. When he was an ap--when he was an apprentice, he was not very happy being a shoemaker. He was just--I think he was much too active a person to be--to--to be content sitting as a shoemaker.
LAMB: Now we're talking about George Hewes.
Mr. YOUNG: George Hewes. And he--there he is as an older man. He tries to enlist in the British army in about 1763 or so. The British--1760--1760, 1761, '63. The--that's what was--what we since call a French and Indian War, a war against the French. And then a British army was recruiting Bostonians to go off to fight against the French. Hewes was unhappy being an apprentice, and he tries to enlist. There, he has to meet the standard of the--the military, which was to be at least 5'2" tall and no Roman Catholic man list. Now why? The colonists are almost all Protestant. There's a small sprinkling of Roman Catholics. The tradition of the British was that the--the papacy, the pope, was the enemy of British freedom. So they always--they celebrated in Boston, as in Great Britain, Guy Fawkes Day, which was the day in England at which the Catholics--a small number of Catholic noblemen were arrested, captured for the so-called Gunpowder Plot for trying to blow up the king and Parliament when the king made his annual visit. Ever after, they celebrate Guy Fawkes Day as the day at which the British were freed from the menace of the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church is considered an enemy of the British royal throne and an enemy of Great Britain. And Protestantism is linked up with patriotism, and Catholicism is linked up with the enemy. Well, the enemies happen to be Spain or happen to be France, who are Catholic, and so there's a mix of--I think only a small part of it is religious; much more of it is a kind of traditional patriotism. So you can't--and l--Roman Catholics are not allowed to enlist in the British army because they're feared as being--that they're not going to be loyal.
LAMB: Go back to the destruction of the tea, or the Tea Party.
Mr. YOUNG: Yes.
LAMB: Griffin's wharf. If you've been to Boston--and let's pick Quincy Market, which is down f--near the water.
Mr. YOUNG: Right. In--in the middle of ...(unintelligible).
LAMB: How far is Griffin's wharf from there?
Mr. YOUNG: Nothing's very far from anything else in the Boston of those days. You could walk from one end of Boston to another in about 15 minutes.
LAMB: But it's in that--those wharfs right along there?
Mr. YOUNG: The--the wharf is in the s--the--the main settled part of town is the north end, which now has Paul Revere's house. And the middle part of town has the State House and Faneuil Hall, which was the place where the town meeting went and which is now the Quincy Market area. To--a little bit to the south, would be--maybe four or five blocks--would be Griffin's wharf. So the Tea Party begins in the Old South Meeting House, where 5,000 people are meeting. They adjourn and the people designated to do the Tea Party march from the Old South Meeting House down to Griffin's wharf.
LAMB: What actually happens at Griffin's wharf?
Mr. YOUNG: There are three tea ships. There are about 30 people who are designated by the leadership to board the tea--tea ships. I call them `the invited.' There's another group who sort of invite themselves, but are--are known--they knew that--that something was brewing, and they were given word to be ready. Hewes is one of those. I call them `the semi-invited.' Then there's another group, even larger, who invite themselves. They are young men, apprentices, journeymen who are carried away in the excitement of the day. The--the officially designated parties dress in the Indian disguise with blankets and with war paint. Hewes, who comes along semi-invited, stops at a blacksmith's shop and puts some soot from the hearth on his face and also carries a blanket. Most of those who were at the Tea Party were not disguised as Indians; only a handful are disguised as Indians. But the way it comes down in history is that, `We're all Indians and the Indians did this.' Now they disguised themselves because what they were doing was very dangerous and illegal, and they pretend to be something other than they are. So, `It's not us, it's Indians from someplace else, the Mohawks, who come in to do this.'
LAMB: Was anybody killed at the Tea Party?
Mr. YOUNG: Oh, nobody. No.
LAMB: Did it have any impact?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, go back a step. They were afraid. They didn't know what would happen. I mean, there are--it's a very tense moment. There are naval--British naval vessels around in the harbor. The British admiral is on--is on shore watching all of this. The people who are doing this are--don't know whether troops are going to be landed to suppress this action. Of course, after all, three years before there were troops in the Boston Massacre, so they have this tradition of troops attacking civilians. The--there are about 1,000, maybe 2,000 people standing on the wharf watching all of this. The British, I think, had decided--the royal governor had decided earlier he was not going to call out the troops. They did not want another bloodbath, as they had at the Boston Massacre. So--but--but the people doing this don't know it. They begin the action at 6:00 in the evening. At 12:00, the tea had to be landed officially. So they're working very fast to throw overboard the sh--the--the tea. There are 342 casks--chests of tea. They're very heavy. They have to be raised on winches and broken open with hatchets, and then the tea's thrown into the sea. And so they're working, maybe 150 people in all, in absolute silence. There's moonlight and there's some lanterns, and all you would hear that night would be some muffled orders from one person to another and the plopping of the tea and the tea chests into the--into the water.
LAMB: Where is George Hewes in all this?
Mr. YOUNG: George Hewes is on board one of the ships. And...
LAMB: You get all this from these two bio...
Mr. YOUNG: I get this from his two accounts, but we can check it out through other sources because there are other first-person accounts of what's going on. And then there are official reports back home from the royal governor and from other people as to--so his version checks out. What's unusual is he says he was appointed a bosun. A bosun is a person who gives--who blows a whistle to give orders to the other sailors. So he's given some kind of minor command at the Tea Party, a sort of a person snatched from the ranks and given a--a kind of field appointment as a quasi-officer, and he was very proud of this and he talks about this years later.
LAMB: What's the impact of the Tea Party on the future Declaration of Independence?
Mr. YOUNG: It was--it's--it's very great. The British are furious. It takes several months for the news to get back to Boston. They've des...
LAMB: You mean the--the...
Mr. YOUNG: To--excuse me, to London. The--they've not only destroyed--they've destroyed 10,000 pounds' worth of tea; 342 ch--chests with--worth 10--10,000 pounds belonging to the East India Company. And they defied the royal governor, they defied the British officials. So the British Parliament brings down all of its weight on Boston. They close the port until restitution is made for the tea. They shut down the royal--the town meetings. They said the town meeting can't meet. They remodel the central government. They want to pay the salaries of royal officials out of the British treasury instead of being paid by the colonial government so they can control them. So they--as the colonists said, they remodel, they ta--the--the government, and they take away the rights--the further rights, which the colonists felt they had. So the impact is enormous. And there's a--there's--the--the port is closed. Boston depended on the sea for supplies, so the cry goes up all through Massachusetts and in other colonies to come to the aid of Boston. So others send money. They send--small towns will send supplies of meat and grain, food stuffs to take care of people and they c--in the--their--their--their--a sense of rally to the defense of Boston.
LAMB: The capital of the colonies then in this country was located where?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, there is no single co--pr--capital. That's one of the British problems, is each--there are 13 colonies, and each state has its own capital; so New York City for New York, Philadelphia for Pennsylvania and so forth.
LAMB: What's the biggest city then?
Mr. YOUNG: Philadelphia. Boston would have 15,000. Philadelphia, I think, would have about 40,000.
LAMB: When did you start studying the Revolution?
Mr. YOUNG: When I was in graduate school, which would be in the late 1940s.
LAMB: Where was that?
Mr. YOUNG: At Columbia University.
LAMB: Why did you start studying?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, I--I thought the Revolution was a kind of founding act in America and would help explain a lot of what happened thereafter.
LAMB: Where had you lived before you went to Columbia?
Mr. YOUNG: I was--lived in Queens in New York City. I first went to Queens College, and then went to Columbia, and then went on to Northwestern for my doctorate.
LAMB: Studying what?
Mr. YOUNG: Pardon me?
LAMB: At Northwestern, what was your PhD?
Mr. YOUNG: At--at Northwestern, I s--I took a PhD in American history.
LAMB: And you stayed out there?
Mr. YOUNG: I went--I went back East to teach. I taught in--in Connecticut for a while, and in New Jersey, and then went out--went back to Illinois to teach at Northern Illinois University.
LAMB: And you're associated now with the Newberry?
Mr. YOUNG: Yes. Since my retirement in 1990, I've been a senior research fellow at the Newberry Library.
LAMB: What is the Newberry?
Mr. YOUNG: Newberry is a private, independent research library, which was founded in--about 100 years ago, which is a wonderful library in oral history, especially early American history, and in literature, philosophy, the arts. Open to the public--anyone who--who has a scholarly need, go to the Newberry. And people come from all over the world because the Newberry has a very rich collection of--in the Renaissance and the history of the--of the first books that are printed. So recently, a week ago, I wanted to look up something in a Bible that would have been read in the 18th century, so I had my choice of a 1712 Bible or a 1743 Bible, 1763 Bible. That's very exciting to be able to open the original books. That what--that's what Newberry's all about.
LAMB: This is a 267-page book, or about that--actually, 262 with the index. It sells for $24. It's small. Who do you want to read this?
Mr. YOUNG: I'd like anybody who's interested in the American Revolution, or anybody who's interested in American history to read this. I tried to write a book which would have a broad appeal and would take--which would take up the kind of history that's not usually done, namely the history of ordinary people.
LAMB: You say at some point in the book that history was controlled by conservatives. What did you mean by that?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, as soon as there--the events in--in Boston get going and the Revolution, there's a struggle between conflicting groups. The leadership, like Samuel Adams and John Adams, want to keep the so-called mob under their control. They want people to demonstrate under their leadership. They're very nervous about people demonstrating against the British on their own. So, for example, tarring and feathering is usually carried out against Customs officials or Customs informers, and it's usually carried out by crowds that are heavily composed of sailors and people around the docks. They're not approved of by the leadership. So you literally have a scene in some of the tarring and featherings where the leadership will come out and try to rescue the man who's being tarred and feathered, say, `Leave him to the courts.' And the motto of the leadership in the decade before the Revolution is, `No violence or you'll hurt the cause.' No mobs, no tumults; that's their phrase. So they try to control this activity, and they're--they--they don't control it at the time of the Boston Massacre, which is a kind of chaotic event, which nobody wanted to take place and not done by the leadership. But as soon as the--the--the--the killing takes place, the leadership rushes out to assume command of the--the protest and to meet with the royal governor. The same thing is going on as they--as you report the events. So the leadership--Paul Revere's engraving of the massacre is in tune with the way the leadership wants people to see it; that is, the British shooting down a group of hapless civilians who are completely passive. The truth is that the civilians are quite aggressive against the soldiers. So there's a struggle to control what I call the memory of the Revolution from the beginning. And the leadership is very concerned with what people will think about Boston. Boston has a reputation as a mobbish town, and it deserved it. But the leadership is trying to present the town as being respectable and having legitimate protest. And this--so they're able to control the Tea Party. Now that's the beginning of an effort to control the history of what takes place. Then after the Revolution, that process continues of trying to control the knowledge of what happened in--in the Revolution. And conservatives in the 1790s who would be called Federalists are very uneasy with this tradition of the Revolution that stresses popular activity. It's amazing, but in Boston, the conservatives, for the longest time, don't want to read the Declaration of Independence. They don't read it at the Fourth of July celebrations. First of all, it's very anti-British, and the conservative Federalists are sort of sympathetic to the British as opposed to the French. Secondly, the Declaration talks about all men are being created equal, talks about the right of revolution. And in the 1790s, conservatives are very frightened of the French Revolution. And the American Revolution kind of is--they want to play down that what we would call the popular or radical side of the Revolution. So in the course of that, they celebrate the Fourth of July, but they don't celebrate the Tea Party; they don't celebrate the Stamp Act demonstrations; they certainly don't celebrate the Boston Massacre. And as you move into the 19th century, the descendants of the leadership, people like Harrison Gray Otis and Josiah Quincy, after whom the market is named in Boston, present a version of the Revolution which I say--I use the term--they erase the Tea Party; they erase the Boston Massacre; they erase the mob side of the Revolution.
LAMB: Where's--where is George Hewes in all this at this point? I mean, we've gone to the--the feathering of John Malcolm; it happens a year after the Tea Party.
Mr. YOUNG: That was a few weeks after the Tea Party. Hewes was coming back one day from his tea sh--from his tea shop--from his shoe shop, and he encounters John Malcolm, who is a Customs informer, who had a bad reputation of turning in ships and turning in ordinary sailors. A crowd hoots--no, crowd had long hooted at--at--at John Malcolm. It's one of these incidents that is really unbelievable. Hewes--but it's verified; it's not only in Hewes' accounts, ver--it's in the newspapers. Hewes sees John Malcolm. A little boy has run into Malcolm with a sled. Malcolm raises his cane as if to hit the little boy. Hewes rushes in, tells him, `You can't do that,' and Malcolm brings down the cane, which is a heavy, early Colonial gentleman's cane, on--on Hewes' head and puts a big dent in his head. Hewes is taken off to a doctor. Hewes then swears--goes to a justice of the peace and swears out a warrant against Malcolm to have him arrested. Meanwhile, a crowd gathers and captures Malcolm and proceeds to tar him--to tar and feather him. I mean, just strip off the clothing down to the waist, cover him with tar, and break open a pillow, cover the man with feathers, put him in a cart and drag him through the streets of Boston. Hewes--I mean--and, again, this is the amazing part of the story--who recovered from his wound, the doctor dressed his wound--comes up and sees this event and chases after--after the--John Malcolm with a blanket to try to cover him. He did not approve of the tarring and feathering, which is interesting, because the--the--the stereotype we have of the mob is of the mob that's violent and out to get people and so forth. This was not George Robert Twelves Hewes.
LAMB: So in 1974, he would be 32.
Mr. YOUNG: He'd be 32.
LAMB: And we're getting close to the Lexington and Concord, which is not more than 20 miles from downtown Boston.
Mr. YOUNG: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Is--does he continue to be a shoemaker during this period?
Mr. YOUNG: He's a shoemaker all during this period, as I think is his--there's probably not much business going on in Boston. The British...
LAMB: Are the soldiers still there?
Mr. YOUNG: Soldiers--not only the--the soldiers w--the first batch of soldiers was taken back, then with the--the so-called punitive acts, where they're getting even with Boston for the Tea Party, they send a new army, and so Boston is an occupied city. It's a garrison city. The royal governor is replaced by a general, so the general is military governor of the colony. The town meeting can meet only under a ruse, as if it's a continuous meeting. And then Hewes is active in the city of Boston against the soldiers.
LAMB: Do they still meet in the Old South Church?
Mr. YOUNG: They would meet in the Old South Meeting House. They called their churches meeting houses. And this would be a sketch of the Old South Meeting House 100 years later in 1876, when they were afraid it was going to be torn down. There was a campaign under way to save it.
LAMB: Where is George Washington and the--and others at this point?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, enter the--enter the American Army and enter Geo--George Washington. After Lexington and Concord...
LAMB: But first of all, when did that happen?
Mr. YOUNG: Lexington and Concord is the spring of 1775, April 17. They remember it every year in--in Massachusetts.
LAMB: And on that day, the famous day when the shots were first fired, where is George Hewes?
Mr. YOUNG: George Hewes is in the city, in Boston. He's not in the militia at Lexington and Concord. The--the soldiers who gather for militia companies from the surrounding towns. But in '75, he would be active in Boston in what might be called mob activity against various Tories.
LAMB: How m--how old is he in this picture I just held up?
Mr. YOUNG: In this picture, he's 93, although they think he's near 100; they think he's 99. And he looks very good, even for--even for 93. So all of this--all of this history that I've been talking about is recounted when he's in his 90s. Everybody thinks his memory's very good, by the way. I mean, they're just amazed. He remembers--he remembers the names of the four people killed at the massacre. He gets--he calls one Christopher Attucks, not Crispus Attucks. He remembers the name of the man who was his captain at the Tea Party. He calls him Leonard Pitts; his name was Lendall Pitts. But those are the kind of forgivable--we should all be so--remember names as well when we're--when we're 93.
LAMB: I grew up, by the way, near a high school called Crispus Attucks High School. Who was Crispus Attucks?
Mr. YOUNG: Crispus Attucks was a sailor who was half-black and half-Indian, and who was among the sailors who demonstrated against the soldiers. So that night of the activity against the soldiers, he was leading a crowd, and he was wielding a large club, menacing the--the soldiers. So he's one of the first men who's shot down. So in the--later on, he becomes--he's--he's a hero. At the time, to the--to the officialdom, he's just--he's a ruffian or he's a--a member of the mob, member of the rabble.
LAMB:v We've got the Stamp Act; we then had the massacre; we had the...
Mr. YOUNG: Tarring.
LAMB: ...the Tea Party, the tar and feathering of John Malcolm.
Mr. YOUNG: Right.
LAMB: And now we're in April 1975 and w...
Mr. YOUNG: And world war has broken out.
LAMB: How did it break out?
Mr. YOUNG: The--the British send--the--the patriot militia had been arming--they--they always had their own arms, but they were storing up gunpowder and storing up other arms in preparation for likely encounters with the British army.
LAMB: Where did they store them?
Mr. YOUNG: Where did they stay?
LAMB: Physically, where did they store their info--their ammunition?
Mr. YOUNG: In brick storehouses in some of these small towns. The British had gone out earlier to capture the--the arms in one of the towns. So they went out on the night of the 17th and a--a s--large company--more than one company--be 700 or 800 soldiers--to capture arms that were stored. And I think they were after the leadership, that is, Samuel Adams and John Hancock were in that area. And...
LAMB: Out in Lexington?
Mr. YOUNG: In the Lexington area.
LAMB: Yeah.
Mr. YOUNG: And they wanted a cr--there was a--a crackdown. And firing breaks out on Lexington Green. And then the army goes on to Concord, and there's an armed encounter, and then the British army retreats all the way back to Boston, and the militia companies that are--that have been pouring in from other towns fires at them, at the British, from behind trees, from behind New England's famous brick wall, Mending Wall, along the side way. And the British army is devastated by this Indianlike attack on them.
LAMB: George Hewes far away?
Mr. YOUNG: No, George Hew--George Hewes is back in--in Boston. But about this time--that would be '75--he escapes; he gets out of Boston, gets out of Boston on a ruse. He--he gets a rowboat from someone. His brothers were fishermen, and his brothers may have helped him. But he puts his shoemaking tools in the bottom of a boat, hides them, gets a pass somehow to go out in a rowboat in the harbor, and makes his way to land and then comes back into Cambridge. And he--as he tells the story, George Washington interviewed him, and w--he wanted information about what was going on in Boston. I mean, it's--it's hard to believe, and this is one of those events which I could not--I can't disprove and I can't prove. It could have happened, because George Washington was--would be interested in anybody coming out of Boston to figure out how many troops there are, where are they stationed and so forth, although Hewes also had a way of bringing in famous people into his narrative. And that--we can't be--we can't be sure.
LAMB: You talk about a lot of terms and all; I just want to make sure we define some of them that--in the book. Proper Bostonians--what's a proper Bostonian?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, I'm--that's a sort of play on--on--on words. In the 19th century, a gentleman in Boston would have gone to Harvard College; he would be a member of the Boston Athenaeum; he would live on Beacon Street; he would attend one of the new Unitarian churches; he would be a member of the small number in the Massachusetts Historical Society. And he would have a sense that there are `us' and there are `them,' and that there's only a small circle of the select. I think he would consider himself a proper Bostonian.
LAMB: Did you use the Athenaeum up there at all to research this?
Mr. YOUNG: Oh, yes. It's--it's a very good place to do research.
LAMB: And this is Beacon Press; is that any relation to the Beacon Hill?
Mr. YOUNG: Beacon Press is on Beacon Hill at 25 Beacon Street, and Beacon Press was founded more than 100 years ago by the Unitarian Univers--what's now the Unitarian Universalist Association. It's a non-profit place.
LAMB: A--and the Massachusetts Historical Society--would--would only proper Bostonians belong there now?
Mr. YOUNG: Oh, no. Now it's a--a much broader organization. But in those days, they had a total of 60 members, I think, 30 mem--members who were resident of the area and 30 corresponding members. So it would be lawyers and merchants and ministers. And they were not interested in disseminating history; they were interested in collecting history.
LAMB: Now how long was there actual fighting between the colonists and the British, how many years?
Mr. YOUNG: From 1775 to 1783.
LAMB: And when was the Declaration of Independence written?
Mr. YOUNG: 1776. They're fighting for a whole year before there's a Declaration of Independence.
LAMB: Did George Hewes ever fight?
Mr. YOUNG: Oh, yes. He--he leaves--he never goes back to Boston. He goes to a small town in eastern Massachusetts called Wrentham, which was a family--a town where his family was.
LAMB: But that's close to Boston, yeah.
Mr. YOUNG: Close to Boston, 20, 30 miles. And he lives there for some 30 years. He was in the militia out of Wrentham or out of Attleboro, which was nearby, and he marches off--the--the militia--the militia was not the regular army. The militia was called upon when there was some danger of British troops in the area. So they--they w--they would serve for one month or maybe three months. In one of his stints, he goes off to West Point for a three-month stint. Then--but then he's--he does what many, many thousands of New England young men would have done; he joins not the navy but a privateering vessel as--as--to make his--serve his country and make his fortune, the recruiting agent would say. A privateer was a--was a ship that was given a legal license by the--the new state of Massachusetts--there was some 2,000 of them--to be a pirate, to attack British ships. And if--when they captured the ship, the booty then went to the ship and it's divided among the--the officers, the sailors and the government. So it's very attractive to men who want to make their f--want to make their fortune.
LAMB: Now when it was all over--What?--'83, he would have been 39 or thereabouts. I mean, he wasn't very old.
Mr. YOUNG: Yes.
LAMB: What--what did he do between 39 and age--what--what do you think his age was when he died?
Mr. YOUNG: He's 98. He dies in 1840. He stays a shoemaker. He's in his country town. He's a country shoemaker.
LAMB: For the rest of his life?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, the evidence--the evidence is--seems to be there. He leaves Wrentham when he was in his 70s, after the War of 1812. Some of his children have made their way out West. West then was Otsego County, New York, near Cooperstown, where--where the state historical association now is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He lived in Richfield Springs. And there's a rhyme about old Father Hewes who made shoes, so I think he was still a shoemaker; he--and very much a poor man and very much dependent on his children and on the charity of others in the neighborhood.
LAMB: Did you ever think about doing a book about somebody else other than George Hewes? Were there other--other commoners that would have made just as interesting a book?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, I tr--I wanted to see if I could do Ebenezer Macintosh, who was the--the other shoemaker, but there wasn't enough material about him. Since I've gotten into this field, I now realize that there are many, many memoirs of people written that they put down late in their lives, of peop--especially people who were soldiers and sailors in the war. We have several dozen of them which come out in the 1820s and 1830s. Some of them would--would--would--very much could--could be used for biographies. And I'm now writing the biography of a woman soldier in the Revolution, but that's another story.
LAMB: What's--what's her name?
Mr. YOUNG: That's Deborah Sampson Gannett, who was a--a farm woman and a spinner and a weaver and a schoolteacher in a small town in Massachusetts. And she disguised herself as a man and joined the Continental Army and got away with it for 17 months. So there was a biog--an `as told to' biography of hers, too, some years after the Revolution.
LAMB: Now who named this "The Shoemaker and the Tea Party"?
Mr. YOUNG: A very good editor at Beacon Press named Deb Chasman.
LAMB: You like that title?
Mr. YOUNG: I love the title because I think it--it raises the--the two sides of the book, 'cause the second part of the book is about the--is more about the Tea Party and what happens to the memory of the Tea Party. So the first part of the book is about Hewes and his private memory; the second part of the book is about the public memory, where I stumbled across this--something I really didn't expect to find, namely that the Tea Party had been lost to history for a half a century. It's hard to believe, isn't it?
LAMB: Any relationship between the Lafayette tour coming over here in 1830--1824 and...
Mr. YOUNG: Yes. Lafayette helps revive this--the--sort of this hidden history of the Revolution. So with the coming of Lafayette--Lafayette comes to Boston to dedicate the Bunker Hill Monument; that's the fir--the m--the monument--the beginning of the monument. They begin to celebrate, 1824 or 1825, 50th anniversaries, which is something that we've been doing ourselves. So it's the 50th anniversary of Lexington and Concord, 50th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, then in '26, the 50th of the Declaration. And these are called jubilees. And in the course of celebrating the jubilees, you want to bring out the old soldiers who still survive. And so at the battle of--at the dedication of the Bunker Hill Monument, they find dozens and dozens of old soldiers like Hewes who become guests of honor for the day. And I think that's the beginning of the cel--of the--sort of the--the rediscovery of the men who fought the Revolution.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book, and as we said, it's--the title is "The Shoemaker and the Tea Party." And our guest has been Alfred Young, who you can find at The Newberry Library. And we thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. YOUNG: Thank you very much.


Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1999. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.