MORE to BROWSE - Pages that might be of Interest

Tuesday 22 July 2014


Honourable Pagan Queens
By Theresa Tomlinson

On the surface of it, the biased, pro-Roman, religious histories, written by a monk of Jarrow who possibly never left his monastery, might not sound appealing as the inspiration for historical fiction, but I have found myself completely hooked by the enticing glimpses Bede gives of many historical events and characters who were not at the forefront of action, but nevertheless, were extremely influential. Bede is not generally known for his championing of women, but there are notable instances when he emphasises the authority and importance of certain holy women e.g. Hild of Whitby - and hidden amongst the dramatic tales of the many kings and saints, he also gives brief impressions of other women, whose prestige and significance he quietly acknowledges. Perhaps the most surprising of all are Bede’s references to pagan queens.

Redwald was the King of the East Angles, usually linked with the Sutton Hoo burial. Sadly we do not even know the name of his queen, but we know that she was a pagan, because when Redwald returned to East Anglia from a visit to Kent and announced that he’d been baptised as a Christian, Bede tells us that ‘his wife and certain perverse advisers persuaded him to apostatize from the true faith.

Edwin of Northumbria exiled in his youth, sought shelter at the East Anglian Court, where the queen would have taken the role of hostess. When emissaries arrived from Athelfrid of Northumbria offering gold in exchange for the young prince’s murder, and issued threats of war if his demand was refused, Redwald was tempted to take the easy way out and order the murder of his guest, but then Bede tells us: ‘when he (Redwald) privately told the queen of his intention… she dissuaded him, saying that it was unworthy in a great king to sell his best friend in the hour of need for gold, and worse still to sacrifice his royal honour, the most valuable of all possessions, for love of money.

Despite his disapproval of her pagan ways, Bede’s warmth for her decency and sense of fairness seems to leap from the page.

Cynewise was Penda’s queen and though her actions are not referred to directly by Bede, he does mention her clearly in a paragraph that again suggests that she was a woman of considerable power and status. Penda’s battles with both Oswald and Oswy of Northumbria continued for many years and eventually their disagreement came to a head at the Battle of the Winwaed, at which Penda was killed. Bede comments that Oswy’s son Egfrid, who was 10 or 11 years old: ‘was at that time held hostage at the court of Queen Cynewise in the province of the Mercians.’ It is a tiny mention, but it tells us a great deal. Penda had a named wife who was considered to be queen of the Mercians, she held her own court and was given the responsible position of being in charge of hostages. Hostage taking was common practice between warring kingdoms and it seems to have been used as a guarantee of friendly behaviour from the other side. When Oswy led his followers into battle against Penda he was putting his young son’s life at risk. As soon as Cynewise heard of her husband’s death, she would have been well within her rights to have taken her revenge by ordering Egfrid to be put to death – but Egfrid survived to become King of Northumbria on his father’s death. We don’t know what happened. Had Cynewise become fond of the young boy put into her care? Did she use him as a bargaining tool for her own safety or that of her sons? I have speculated imaginatively on the possibilities in BETTER THAN GOLD.

Both of these queens are shadowy figures mentioned extremely briefly by Bede, but we learn a great deal from his writings about their times, families and descendants.
ACHA was the daughter of Aelle, King of Deira. Bede mentions her only once as Oswald’s mother: ‘Oswald was nephew to King Edwin by his sister Acha; and it is fitting that so great a predecessor should have had so worthy a man of his own blood to maintain his religion and his throne.’

Acha’s life must have been fraught with difficulties as her husband Aethelfrid killed her father, took over his kingdom and drove her brother into exile – and yet she somehow survived, continuing to have further sons with him. On Aethelfrid’s death his sons fled North West to Dalriada where they were given protection and educated on Iona. The youngest son, Oswy, was only four at the time and so he cannot have travelled north alone. Was it Acha who took her sons to safety? Aethelfrid’s closest companions and war-band would have been expected to have gone down fighting at his side.

BEBBA is usually thought to have been Athelfrid’s queen and possibly to have been a Pictish Princess. She is mentioned twice by Bede, but only in the briefest manner as the queen who Bamburgh was named for. When speaking of Oswald’s relics, he says: ‘They are preserved as venerated relics in a silver casket at the church of Saint Peter in the royal city, which is called after a former queen named Bebba.’ This smallest of references does tell us that Bebba was a woman of power and prominence, who appeared to be in charge of her own fortress and had it named after her.

We do not know what she did to deserve such an honour, but this sort of uncertainty provides the perfect space for much imaginative thinking on the part of a historical novelist. Was Bebba Athelfrid’s first wife and Acha his second wife? Did Aethefrid have two wives at the same time? As a pagan this would be quite feasible. Was there enmity between the two women? I have speculated on the possibilities in THE TRIBUTE BRIDE and was pleased to see the idea that I went with mentioned as a valid theory by Max Adams in his book THE KING OF THE NORTH – The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria. If readers would like an in-depth, but very accessible study of these times, I’d recommend Max Adams book to them.

My latest fiction ideas are inspired by exciting recent archaeological discoveries – e.g. the Staffordshire Hoard and the mysterious Street House burial close to where I live – as well as a study of the works of the Venerable Bede, but I struggled to persuade publishers that this period could be presented to readers in an accessible and exciting manner – ‘such difficult names’ they said, ‘too complicated a period!’

Despite the lack of enthusiasm for this period, I was unable to let my ideas go, and so finally, with the support of my agent, Caroline Walsh, I self-published two adult historical novels using ACORN DIGITAL PRESS in both eBook and paperback form.

However, more recently, with the publication of BETTER THAN GOLD (Children’s Historical Fiction, due in November 2014 from A&C Black) I have hopes that traditional publisher’s reluctance towards 7th Century settings might be shifting a little.  

The version of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People that I’ve used is published by Penguin Books. Translated by Leo Sherley-Price revised by R.E.Latham

Fiction with Anglo-Saxon settings
A SWARMING OF BEES by Theresa Tomlinson – published by Acorn Digital Press Ltd 2012
UK Amazon 
US Amazon

THE TRIBUTE BRIDE by Theresa Tomlinson – published by Acorn Digital Press Ltd 2014
UK Amazon 
US Amazon

BETTER THAN GOLD by Theresa Tomlinson – published by A&C Black (Children’s Historical Fiction) November 2014-07-16

WOLF GIRL by Theresa Tomlinson – published by Random House Children’s Books (Young Adult Novel) 2011

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Tuesday Talk - More Puns

I am probably going to get readers leaving mt blog  in droves after publishing these dreadful puns...

1. King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates , the most valuable diamond in the ancient world.
Desperate, he went to Croesus, the pawnbroker, to ask for a loan.
Croesus said, "I'll give you 100,000 dinars for it."
"But I paid a million dinars for it," the King protested. "Don't you know who I am? I am the king!"
Croesus replied, "When you wish to pawn a Star, makes no difference who you are."
2. Evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were avid bowlers. Unfortunately, all the Swiss League records were destroyed in a fire, and so we'll never know for whom the Tells bowled.
3. A man rushed into a busy doctor's surgery and shouted, "Doctor! I think I'm shrinking!"
The doctor calmly responded, "Now, settle down. You'll just have to be a little patient."
4.. An Indian chief was feeling very sick, so he summoned the Medicine man. After a brief examination, the medicine man took out a long, thin strip of elk rawhide and gave it to the chief, telling him to bite off, chew, and swallow one inch of the leather every day.
After a month, the medicine man returned to see how the chief was feeling.
The chief shrugged and said, "The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on."
5. A famous Viking explorer returned home from a voyage and found his name missing from the town register. His wife insisted on complaining to the local civic official, who apologized
profusely, saying, "I must have taken Leif off my census."
6.. There were three Indian squaws. One slept on a deer skin, one Slept on an elk skin, and the third slept on a hippopotamus skin. All three became pregnant. The first two each had a baby boy. The one who slept on the hippopotamus skin had twin boys. This just goes to prove that the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides.
7. A sceptical anthropologist was cataloguing South American folk remedies with the assistance of a tribal elder who indicated that the leaves of a particular fern were a sure cure for any case of
constipation. When the anthropologist expressed his doubts, the elder looked
him in the eye and said, "Let me tell you, with fronds like these, you don't need enemas." 

And before you ask.... 
No, I didn't write these
I stole them from some other person
who also needs to get a life

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Oh Lordy, or perhaps not...

Tuesday Talk: Jeffrey Manton on Titles... 
no, not book titles, Nobility Titles in Historical Fiction...

Titles are a minefield. Hidden from many and yet ready to explode for those in the know. Does it matter if you get them wrong? Well, no, not really - and my saying goes something like this: ‘Those who matter don’t care, and those who care don’t matter.’ Only it does matter in Historical Fiction. Really it does. I read book after book, so painstakingly researched, and such evident labours of utter love by the writer, and then they wade in and get all the titles wrong. Now look, what’s the point of getting that illness of 1856 right, or the wicked sister who stole a country - in that gown of pale blue satin recorded in Prince Whatever’s diary - and yet get the titles all wrong?

'Arise..., baron.. earl...viscount...
oh damn it, Galahad, just get up!"
I hear you yell at me: ‘you trainspotter!’ - but if you’re seriously writing to make a reader live and breathe the period then rank mattered.
And you’re not in period if you don’t care.

Now, in all fairness, most of the howlers are post 1700s Britain because that’s the basis of everything we know today. If you are working in the Elizabethan period then just about any gentle-born woman would be ‘my lady’ and the King was often addressed as ‘Your Grace’. You have more leeway way back then. But if you’re doing anything from Jane Austen onwards then it matters. So, I’ll start with the prevalent mistakes and come on to foreign ranks...

Lords and Ladies
The ubiquitous howler - the wife of a baronet or knight (Sir John Smith Bt. or Sir John Smith) is not Lady Jane Smith. She is Lady Smith. Again and again this mistake is made. She will be addressed as ‘my lady.’ Their children will not have titles but the boys will be John Smith Esq. Oh...and knights don’t pass titles to sons but baronets do. 
I know it’s a minefield.
Keep up.

Lady Jane Smith will be the daughter of a Duke or an Earl - and when she marries Mr John Jones she will be Lady Jane Jones with the curious anomaly that a married woman is always Mrs John Jones while her ladyship keeps her first name - and is not Lady John Jones.  And just for fun...if Lady Smith’s husband is elevated from a knight to a peer she becomes The Lady Smith although her husband is now Lord Smith, Baron of London.
Keeping up are we?

Next howler - remember the family name. The Earl of London’s daughter is not Lady Jane London but Lady Jane Smith because the original family name is Smith. Why? Mr Smith gets a title of Earl of London but his family name stays the same. They are the Smith family and may gather any number of titles within that family. The younger sons of Dukes and Earls will be Lord John Smith but usually the eldest has some additional title hanging around so he will be Viscount Whatever and his children will be The Hon. John Smith or the Hon. Jane Smith.

Dear Reader...can you imagine the errors for a young hostess or those new to the system? And that’s the point, of course. Don’t know what to call them? Get the invitation card wrong? Then you’re not one of us, darling.

The Hon. This is a howler zone as well. It’s one of those strange titles bandied around and quite ubiquitous now that the British House of Lords is stuffed full with Barons and Baronesses whose children are all The Hon. It’s really only used on visiting cards or envelopes and it’s not quite done to introduce them as ‘The Hon. John Smith’ but you can give it a try.

We also string all our titles together to show how we rank. So, The Hon. Jane Smith marries Lord Bradley and becomes The Hon. Lady Bradley. It’s the same sort of one-upmanship (or Queen-manship) as the widow of King George used (him of the King's Speech) when her daughter became Queen. Not to be outdone ‘Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’ became ‘Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’ thus getting Queen twice in her title - while Her Majesty was merely Her Majesty The Queen. It depends how you look at it, of course.

While we’re here at the top of the pecking order - the precedence goes something like this: Royal Duke, Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron, Baronet, Knight. This article won’t go into the order of decorations such as Orders of the British Empire but if you are arranging a procession in order of rank (and in all Victorian and Edwardian households you absolutely went into dinner by rank) - then somebody with a decoration would precede somebody without. Best not to go there for now methinks - but you can imagine a scene where the young hostess is puzzling this all out or makes a faux-pas and is sniggered at by her elders. Actually, come to think of it, I was sniggered at...another story.

The Countess Howler –The Earl and Countess of London will be addressed as such on invitations, and announced as such when they enter a room, but an equal won’t call The Countess of London ‘Countess’ - she will be Lady London. Or plain Jane to her friends.  And when the Earl dies she becomes ‘Jane, Countess of London’ is addressed as ‘Lady London.’
Are you still with me?

There’s more of course. It gets better with Scottish and Irish titles which can pass down the line in different ways – and the European system is for another article. There are so many areas of complication – the various German princes (some Royal and some not, some Serene Highnesses and some not) and the enormously grand Spanish system where a woman often inherits the title when there isn’t a son (seldom allowed in Britain) and a plain Grandee will outrank the highest Duque if he isn’t a Grandee to boot.
He usually is, though.

We debate back and forth on the depth of research in Historical Fiction and how much in period we ought to be. It’s a balance to keep a modern reader with you. But if you want the reader to ‘be there’ – well, rank and precedence were an integral part of life, day in and day out.
There are several guides. Or feel free to email me. I won’t always be right. There will be better guides than me. But I may be able to steer your young hostess.

Jeffrey Manton
Jeffrey reads and critiques novels and scripts with a speciality in the lives of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of Windsor. He was tutored by Orange Prize nominee Liz Jenson at the Arvon Creative Writing Foundation and mentored by Pulitzer Prize runner-up Dick Vaughan and Booker long-listed John Murray.
He worked and lived in Paris, Madrid, New York, Dallas and Boston and ghost-wrote articles for newspapers and periodicals that included the Financial Times, the Boston Globe, El Pais and Le Figaro.

A member of The Author’s Society and The Historical Novel Society, Jeffrey is an avid Facebook chatterer with writing groups, and a regular reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads and is a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews. 
He can be contacted on Jeffrey.Manton AT rspartners DOT

Jeffrey, a most informative and interesting (if confusing!) article. Thank you sir... er.... mate. :-)

Tuesday 1 July 2014

The Rose, the Pitt, and the start of John Adams’ Career

an article by John Fitzhugh Millar to celebrate 4th July

When a military force is sent to execute a particular job and the facts on the ground change so that the force finds itself executing other jobs, either in addition or instead, that is known as “mission creep.”

At the end of the French and Indians War, British forces were stationed in a few places in America to deter any revenge attacks by the French (in retrospect, such attacks would have been highly unlikely, but officials in 1763 had little prescience), and to protect against any large-scale Indian attacks similar to Pontiac’s Rebellion. A second mission was to diminish the out-of-control level of smuggling prevalent along the New England coast.
Even before the end of the French and Indians War, British officials in Boston took note of the arrogance of local merchants, who felt they were entitled to smuggle all they wanted, and they detected a similar attitude in James Otis and his supporters in his vehement attacks on the British policy of Writs of Assistance in 1762.

Five years after the end of that war, the mission had changed. The situation in Boston had deteriorated to the point where the British felt obliged to send a few thousand troops and a handful of warships to the area, much to the chagrin of many locals. The Boston folk-artist Christian Remick painted a series of paintings showing the newly-arrived ships and the troops from various angles in 1768.

Boston Harbour - Christian Remick
The British warships arrived with their crews somewhat under strength, and continued to lose crewmembers to desertion, illness and death. Therefore, yet another new mission for the warships was to find additional crew. Very few young men could be persuaded to enlist in the Royal Navy on the strength of recruiting posters or inspirational speeches, so the navy knew that the majority of its recruiting would have to be by “impressment” or coercion at the hands of a “press-gang.” A press-gang consisted of several reliable and stalwart enlisted men armed with clubs, led by a junior officer. Press-gangs in England were limited to seaport towns (not inland towns), and they were intended to “impress” only trained seamen, and not landsmen, but such intentions frequently came up short of the recruiting goals, so landsmen were often among those who had been legally kidnapped. Parliament, even in a country that had adopted Charles II’s principle of Habeas Corpus in 1679 and an impressively comprehensive Bill of Rights in 1689, apparently had no problem passing legislation necessary to make impressment into the Royal Navy completely legal.

Therefore, the naval force in Boston, under the leadership of the capable Commodore Samuel Hood, undertook to fill its depleted ranks by impressment, just as if the force were anchored off a British port. Hood gave the impressment as low a profile as he could, by sending warships to intercept homeward-bound merchant ships. In that way, all the activity actually took place out of sight of the Boston waterfront. Hood typically exempted crewmembers who were married or who had some unusual hardship at home. Nevertheless, word quickly spread among the crews of merchant ships that called at Boston, and vulnerable crewmembers often learned to hide among the cargo when a warship was seen on an intercept course in the vicinity of Boston.
Samuel Hood
Whether Hood’s staff knew about it and ignored it, or whether they were blithely uninformed, Parliament had passed a law over 60 years earlier in 1707 (in the reign of Queen Anne) that exempted American seamen from impressment: “No Mariner, or other person who shall serve on board … any … trading ship or vessel, that shall be imployed in any part of America … shall be liable to be impressed or taken away, or shall be impressed or taken away, by any officer or officers, of or belonging to her Majesty’s ships of war.
Captain John Corner of the 50-gun cruiser Romney was likely aware of the old statute, as John Adams had drafted a position paper for the Town of Boston to be sent to its representatives in the legislature the previous year, in reference to impressment activities by seamen from Romney.

Several months after the arrival of Hood’s fleet at Boston, the frigate Rose (sometimes described as of 20 guns, sometimes 24 guns) joined the fleet, after having delivered former Massachusetts Governor William Shirley and his family from England to his new post as governor of the Bahamas.
Rose had previously been selected by James Cook for his first voyage around the world in 1768, but then Cook had found the flat-bottomed Endeavour, which he rightly thought could handle running aground on uncharted reefs better than Rose (as explained to me by the late Captain Alan Villiers; he briefly mentioned the Cook connection in his excellent biography of Cook).
Rose was then released for normal naval service, and Irish-born Benjamin Caldwell was made her captain. Under a different captain, James Wallace, Rose proved to be such a thorn in the side of Rhode Island smugglers in 1774-1775 that they were able to persuade Congress to found the Continental Navy on 13 October 1775.
Rose was supposed to carry a peacetime crew of 120 officers and men, as well as 24 marines, although in wartime the total number could swell to over 200. In Boston, Rose was about 35 men short of her peacetime complement, which could amount to a serious handicap to carrying out her duties.

 On 3 April 1769, Hood drafted orders for Rose to cruise with the schooner Hope in the entrance to Boston Harbor.
   “… from every Ship or Vessel from a foreign Port you will take a good man or two, according to the number on board, sending a man from the Rose in the room of each that you take … and when your Compliment is Compleat, and you have raised Ten in Addition, you will send them to me by the Hope schooner … And I recommend it to you not to distress any Ship or Vessel, & to guard your Officers against being in a passion, or making use of Language any ways unbecoming; who on their visiting a Ship or Vessel, are to ask if any men are inclined to enter for the King’s Service, and if all refuse, I wish the man (or men) to be taken the Master is most willing to part with, rather than a favourite, provided he is not distempered. This the Master of each Ship or Vessel is to be told, and whenever a man is taken without sending another in his room, I would have a note given, that the ship in Nantasket Road may be prevented from taking another from the same vessel … & cautiously avoid taking a man … married in this Province."

Rose was able to get to sea by 13 April, 1769 and during the next week stopped a few vessels and gained some additional seamen. On the 22nd, the lookout spotted a brig at sunrise, about 65 feet long on deck. The brig turned out to be the Pitt or Pitt Packet, commanded by Thomas Power, and owned by Robert “King” Hooper of Marblehead, one of the wealthiest men in Massachusetts. Including Power, the brig had nine men in the crew. She carried a cargo of salt from Cadiz, 600 lemons, three kegs of gin, and a small quantity of bubbly wine and sherry, all legal cargo. Rose had to fire three shots before the brig hove to in order to await a boarding party from the frigate.

The boarding party in the cutter consisted of Rose’s only lieutenant, Henry Gibson Panton, two young midshipmen, and seven seamen. Panton did not even look at the cargo documents that were handed to him to see that they were in order, but he demanded the crew list. He copied down the list of the crew, and assured Captain Power that he would not take any married crewmen. Then he gave an order that all the crew should muster on deck. Four of them failed to appear, so Panton and his men began to search the brig. They eventually found the four men barricaded in the fo’c’sle the other side of a bulkhead. The men loudly swore that they had no intention of coming out, and they announced that they were armed with a loaded musket, a hatchet, a harpoon, and a two-pronged fish-gig. Panton called for reinforcements from the Rose, including Master-at-Arms John Forbes. Forbes managed to rip a substantial hole in the bulkhead. After further argument with the barricaded crew, Marine Private James Silley fired a blank pistol shot through the hole, wounding Michael Corbet in the face with the blast of gunpowder.

Panton sat down to watch the demolition of the bulkhead, close enough that when the harpoon was brandished out through the hole (probably by Corbet) it nicked him in the jugular vein. One of the midshipmen reacted by firing his pistol through the hole, which smashed John Ryan’s arm. Despite the best efforts of the crew and the hurriedly summoned acting-surgeon, Panton was dead within thirty minutes. Ryan, meanwhile, had crawled out in great pain, and was later followed by Pierce Fenning, William Conner, and eventually Corbet. All four were clapped in irons and taken aboard Rose.

The wind was so light and fluky that Rose took several days to reach Boston, a sail that would have taken less than three hours with a favorable wind. Governor Francis Bernard came aboard, along with Commodore Hood, Chief Justice Thomas Hutchinson, Admiralty Judge Robert Auchmuty, and other dignitaries on 29 April. Preliminary testimony was taken from Corbet and his companions, and several members of the crew of Rose. These dignitaries plus seven other officials from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire would normally form a special admiralty court for hearing cases involving crimes committed at sea, including murder.

However, the court officials remained in a quandary for several weeks. The statute establishing admiralty courts, dating from 1536 in the reign of Henry VIII, clearly provided that such trials should be heard by juries, and it was obvious that a jury of Massachusetts men would not find the four men guilty. On the other hand, since England had no colonies in 1536, the statute called for trials to be held in England, where they could easily be found guilty, but taking the prisoners to England could be expected to cause riots in Boston. Prosecuting attorney Samuel Fitch solved that problem by finding a more recent statute that made a jury optional. There would be no jury in this case.

The next problem was that it was becoming obvious to the court that Rose’s boarding of the Pitt was not intended to search for contraband (which would have put the navy on solid ground), but rather to impress seamen into the navy (much shakier ground). After many postponements, a trial date was set for 14 June at the newly completed courthouse, a handsome structure designed by Peter Harrison with a double-decked Palladian portico on the front.

Peter Harrison - Palladian Style Architecture
The prosecution’s testimony took the bulk of two days, but cross examination established that Panton’s purpose for being aboard Pitt was impressment of members of her crew. The crewmembers had somehow assembled a brilliant defense team, consisting of James Otis and John Adams. Otis had worked on legal minutiae in advance of the proceedings, and Adams handled the actual trial. Adams was then able to call a few witnesses before he began his final summation. Adams had spoken only a few sentences when Hutchinson moved for an adjournment, something that no lawyer would welcome in the middle of his speech.

The following day, the court came back into session at 1pm. Governor Bernard showed such a serious expression on his face that most observers were expecting him to pronounce an immediate guilty verdict without even waiting for Adams’ defense. In stead, Bernard said: “The Court have considered the evidence in support of the libel against you, and are unanimously of the opinion that it amounts only to justifiable homicide; you are accordingly acquitted and discharged from your imprisonment.” Bernard then took his seat, and no one said or wrote anything about the grounds for the acquittal.

Adams, many years later, wrote that he thought that one of the justices had seen one of his law-books open to the statute of 1707 that forbade the impressment of Americans. If Adams had been permitted to read that into the record, all future impressment in America would be banned (unless Parliament were to repeal that statute, which would take many months or even years, if it could be done at all). However, if the case were ended before Adams could enter that into the record, impressment could quietly continue under careful management. It is significant that Commodore Hood, a member of the court, obviously concurred with the decision. Incidentally, when Adams became the first Ambassador of the United States to Great Britain about fifteen years later, Hood (by that time Vice Admiral Lord Hood) made a point of welcoming him warmly to London.

John Adams
Where did Adams learn about the relatively obscure statute of 1707? Five years earlier, in June 1764, the Royal Navy sent the six-gun schooner Saint John to Newport, Rhode Island. She was ordered to arrest any vessels smuggling molasses into Rhode Island, which practically meant that she was obliged to arrest every vessel arriving at Newport from overseas. The vessels in question and their cargoes were confiscated and eventually sold at auction for the benefit of the navy or the customs. Ordinarily, the loss of so much trade would have been a serious problem for Rhode Island, which made nearly all its money by the importation of free Haitian molasses, and by the sale to other colonies of the rum distilled from the molasses – rum that was used chiefly as a food preservative.

However, the commanding officer of the Saint John made the mistake of impressing seamen from the captured shipping and from among young men apprehended in the streets of Newport. Rhode Island’s elected Governor Stephen Hopkins happened to know the statute of 1707 (the year he was born), so he ordered the Saint John to leave Newport immediately and never to return. The schooner of course refused the order, so Hopkins ordered the master-gunner at Fort George on Goat Island at the entrance to the harbor to sink the schooner. He knew he was quite within his rights to do so. The Saint John, damaged by shots from the fort, departed that very day on 9 July 1764, the first shots of resistance fired against British authority in America. Hopkins may have been the only man in America in 1764 to be aware of that statute, but he took the trouble to make sure that Adams and possibly others in the Boston area were aware of it, presumably within weeks of the departure of the Saint John.

Adams was so overjoyed at the positive verdict in the case of the crew of the Pitt that he pushed his luck further. He filed suit against Midshipmen William Peacock, who had so gratuitously fired the shot that crippled Ryan’s arm. Once again, British officials wanted to make certain that no occasion should be offered to present the 1707 statute in court that Peacock, who had no money to speak of, offered to settle the matter for the princely sum of 30 Pounds. It is very likely that Hood paid the money out of his own pocket. When the miserly Massachusetts civil court insisted that the defendant should also pay the court costs, Hood is recorded to have paid the bill out of his own funds.

Many years later, Adams wrote that this case was pivotal to his own career. Up to that point, no other trial “had ever interested the community so much … No trial had drawn together such crowds of auditors from day to day; they were as numerous as those in the next year, at the trials of Preston and the soldiers [after the Boston Massacre].” In the light of that, it is difficult to imagine why David McCullough completely omitted any mention of the event in his biography of Adams.

John Fitzhugh Millar

John and wife Cathy
John says:
"I am greatly indebted to Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice (now retired) Hiller B. Zobel for sharing with me his research into the subject, some of which can be seen in his book, The Boston Massacre, W. W. Norton & Company, 1970.

Overlapping the Pitt story is the saga of the sloop Liberty, which should be briefly mentioned here in order to provide context. In the middle of 1768, British customs officials (led by architect Peter Harrison’s elder brother Joseph, who was the Boston Customs Collector, as well as a prominent amateur scientist) seized John Hancock’s 65-foot sloop Liberty for gross violations of the smuggling laws. The event caused riots, accompanied by considerable personal injury and property damage. The Royal Navy then bought Liberty at public auction and sent her to Newport, Rhode Island to continue the job that Saint John had been forced to abandon. Newport rioters took over the sloop and removed her crew in July 1769, before setting her on fire until she sank. This was only two months after Adams’ courtroom triumph in the Pitt case. For some reason, British authorities did not find this event to be as great a provocation as the nearly identical burning of the similar-sized schooner Gaspee was in Rhode Island three years later in 1772. One of the direct results of the destruction of the Gaspee was that the frigate Rose, the same one that had apprehended the brig Pitt, and a much more powerful vessel than Gaspee, was sent to Rhode Island at the end of 1774, and she succeeded in eliminating the molasses/rum smuggling industry there.

John F. Millar built a full-size, operational copy of Rose in 1970, which is now at the San Diego Maritime Museum, renamed Surprise, as a result of the role she played in the movie Master & Commander.

Further reading
HMS Rose / Surprise - Maritime Museum San Diego
[Helen: Rose/.Surprise is the ship I use as a template for Sea Witch ]

You can meet John and talk more about this subject while enjoying a wonderful vacation in Colonial Wiliamsburg, as John and his wife, Cathy, run a superb B & B there, which I can personally very highly recommend