Posts Tagged ‘Boston’
The mood was charged, as though there was lightning flashing in the air, although there was no storm. Curious at the large crowds, he followed a mass of people to the square in front of the large brick church on the corner of Milk Street. The crowd had moved into the square from a meeting at Faneuil Hall, and now gathered in front of the Old South Meeting House. It was enormous, large enough so that it contained nearly every adult in the town. It was also very quiet. Every man, woman, and young person who had not been lucky enough to get a seat inside on this cold damp night stood at the big windows, straining to hear the speeches. Occasionally the voices inside would make a point or call for a vote, then loud “huzzahs!” and “fies!” would pour from the windows.
It was a typical December night on the New England coast. Jason pulled his collar closer, but didn’t mind. Coming from the north of England, he sort of liked it, but others found the freezing drizzle, constant rain, snow, cold and fog to be unpleasant. He shuffled his feet when the crowd moved, and listened. The arguments had been going on all week, and the crowds were here because of a shipment of East India Company tea – that small leaf, from a small plant, grown very far away, taxed by Parliament, and desired by nearly everyone. And held for ransom, it seemed, on three ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver – ships docked, but not yet passed by the customs men.
The three were loaded with legal tea, and their large cargo was ready to offload. The owners, who well understood the mood of the town, were prepared to sell cheap, just to maintain order, and give Parliament their bitty tax. But the mood of the town said that the ships should sail away with their cargo untouched.
The arguments in the Meeting House had to be finished this night because the ships had been docked for weeks, and tomorrow the customs men could legally seize the tea and sell it in the shops. What those same customs men did not know was that among Jason’s possessions on the Chardon, anchored just off Windmill Point, was a lovely little cargo of tea from Holland. Of course, his was not legal tea, smuggled as it was, and then seized as a prize from a French merchantman.
So, as far as the East India Company and their cronies were concerned, his tea, nicely hidden in wine casks, was to rot onboard. The only way he would be allowed to bring his tea into town was to smuggle it in on a dark night. Now, the governor, with his stubborn insistence that the captains of the three tea ships not return to London with their cargo, had made the town too ‘hot’ to sell any tea, even good quality Chinese tea, carefully smuggled.
It was unlike Jason to stand and listen to political discussions. Generally, he did not concern himself with Parliament and their doings. His brothers did that for him. He hadn’t heard from either of them in a while, and there wasn’t time at the present to get their intellectual, reasoned, Parliamentarian reading on the situation concerning the Boston tea. Governor Hutchinson was about to make his decision, and no doubt it would be to land the tea. The governor knew the mood of the town, but Thomas Hutchinson had never listened to the desires of his fellows, and he was not starting now.
It seemed odd, and yet not, to find himself outside Old South, with the young men of Boston. He had been a sailor since he was fourteen, and maybe he had always wanted to defy authority and carefully and methodically throw cargo off a ship into a harbor. Bostonians’ natural aversion to taxes and restraint of trade might be giving him a unique chance to fulfill that dream, and take part in what was sure to become an important moment in history, something rare in any life.
Jason knew he could not open his mouth to speak. He occasionally was able to sound like a lowly seaman, but he could never sound American. The handicap had never bothered him, and the last times he had stayed in Boston, it had not mattered. But tonight he might sound like a spy, and he was not in the mood to follow the tea into the cold, wet harbor.
After word came from the governor to land the tea, the crowd broke up. Slowly, small groups moved into taverns and parlors around the plaza. He found himself with a group walking up School Street to the Cromwell’s Head Tavern. There, a dark-haired girl, her own hat low on her head almost hiding her face, was distributing feathers and applying black war paint and burnt cork patches to disguise the participants.
The Huguenots were the French Calvinists.
By 1562, their numbers had reached 2,000,000 adherents, mostly in southern and central France. This was about 10% of the French population. Because they were seen by the Catholic Church and many of their fellow countrymen, as schismatics, something worse then heretics, they were prosecuted. There were numerous religious wars between the aristocratic houses, the Catholics fighting those that had converted to Calvinism, between 1562 and 1598. The worse single day in Huguenot history was in August of 1572, St. Bartholomew Massacre, when entire towns across the country were burned, and at least 10,000 people were killed. After this Huguenots believed that Catholicism was a bloody treacherous religion.
The government and monarchy tried to calm the sectionalism apparent in the religious warsn and in 1598 the Treaty of Nantes was signed by Henry IV. This gave Huguenots the right to worship, and travel through countries controlled by the Inquisition. The Treaty also gave Protestants civil rights, by separating civil from religious law. The Treaty of Nantes was revoked by Henry IV’s grandson Louis XIV, in 1685.
Although it was illegal, many Protestants had their lands stolen and goods confiscated, enduring countless episodes of persecution. Because of this, even before the revocation of the Treaty, thousands of Huguenots fled from France. They brought with them the French love of good tales, food and joie de vivre.
In her book on the history of fashion, Milla Davenport wrote about the Huguenots’ leaving from the perspective of the trades and skills they removed from France.
“The greatest mistake of Louis’ life, the Revocation of the Treaty of Nantes, for which the Church had longed… The Protestants who were among France’s most worthy and industrious citizens were driven to sympathetic neighboring countries; some of the most prosperous districts of France were depopulated and reduced to poverty as weavers, printers, watchmakers and goldsmiths set for England, Switzerland, Alsace, Holland and Germany on the road to rivalry and supremacy in these arts.” The Book of Costume: vol 1., Milla Davenport, Crown Publishers, New York, New York. 1948.
Matilda’s mother, like Boston’s Peter Faneuil and Paul Revere, was a Huguenot. She was born in Boston, the second stop after the family left France. The Huguenot church in London was established the century before, in1550 by the first emigres. As many Calvinists did, Phillipa’s family came to New England in 1660 and settled in Boston. Phillippa married John Huddleston in 1689. Her younger brother moved to New Rochelle, New York to apprentice with an uncle in his trading business, as Peter Faneuil did.
So with an Englishman, an Agawam, a Marranos and a Huguenot I’ve created the eighteenth American polyglot for my next book, The Silent Bell. Nothing in her captivity is like what Matilda read in her captivity legends, instead the reason for her captivity has its roots not in New France and New England but in a medieval legend, and old hatreds.
Matilda has the key to enable or to destroy the past. If she is not careful her family’s enemy will reclaim their power and she must prevent that by holding her secret tight.
In January of 1919 an enormous tank of molasses on Commercial St. in the North End of Boston burst. This disaster spewed hundreds of gallons of molasses into the streets, killing and maiming nearly two hundred people and horses and moved entire buildings off their foundations. This is a famous story, at least one definitive book has been written on it. I will leave known history severely alone and tell a different story. A sweeter one – of Boston, molasses, sugar and chocolate.
To do this some historical background is necessary.
Most of colonial America developed along a pattern, known as the Virginia model, of agriculture and extraction. Highly successful because land was fertile, cheap and plentiful. So was labor, mostly due to indentured and enslaved workers.
New England Farms grow rocks and children.
The New England colonies could not follow a model of agriculture and extraction. Labor was expensive because of available work on ships and at docks, and because the region’s thin rocky soils produced barely enough food to feed large families, certainly not enough to maintain a labor force that wasn’t needed anyway. This subsistence farming was the result of geology. From 30,000 to 10,000 years ago, the Wisconsin ice sheet, about three miles high, pushed rocks from upper Canada into New England rearranging everything in its way. Boston Harbor, the Blue Hills, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Long Island, NY are the nearby, obvious result of this ice. The size and shape of the north eastern mountain ranges, and the dearth of native rhododendrons are a few others.
While the ice took away to soil, it left deep harbors (and a never-ending supply of field stones that decorate the sides of roads and foundations for most of the region’s houses.) But before we move onto sweeter things, there is one extractive thing the mother country needed very badly: New England hardwoods for ship building and tall white pines for ships’ masts.
In brief, he who can make a leak-proof ship, can make a barrel that doesn’t leak. And New England shipyards produced the best fitting, leak-proof barrels and barrel staves in the colonial world. This was good because although the British Colonies in the Carribean tried to make sugar into cones from the cane they grew, the tropical heat caused the raw sugar to return to its drippy, syrupy state. Fortunately for the sugar producers of the Caribbean, barrels of dried cod, quickly returned to Boston with drippy molasses that was refined into sugar in the reliably cool New England town of Boston.
So Revere Sugar, Baker’s and now Taza chocolates, and of course Lindt and NECCO are not coincidentally located within reach of Boston, neither was the molasses tank that exploded on Jan 15, 1919, but for that you need to understand how molasses was made into smokeless gunpowder for use in WWI, and I’d rather make cookies.
Interesting fact. Dried cod is still used in many Caribbean dishes, a leftover from colonial times.