Loyalist View of Colonial Unrest
(1774)

Ann Hulton

Colonists were determined to resist British authority which they felt were chipping away at their rights and freedoms, even in such cases where that authority might provide an economic benefit to the colonists.  A case in point:  the Tea Act of 1773.  In an effort to save the East India Company from bankruptcy, Parliament gave it a monopoly to sell tea in the North American colonies.  Even with the 3 pence tax added, the price of tea was still cheaper than smuggled tea without the tax.  Most colonists, however, called it a subversive effort to bribe Americans into accepting British supremacy.  The result was a colony-wide effort to prevent the importation of the Tea.  Among the most famous acts of resistance was the Boston Tea Party, but other states organized tar and feathering committees to intimidate local British officials.  Ann Hulton, a loyalist, describes such a scene in New York where the local Sons of Liberty persecute an official of the British Crown.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the historical context of this document?
  2. What were the reasons for tarring and feathering this man?
  3. Why was Ann Hulton fearful of mob actions?

        The most shocking cruelty was exercised a few nights ago, upon a poor old man, a tidesman, one Malcolm....A quarrel was picked with him.  He was afterward taken, and tarred and feathered.  There's no law that knows a punishment for the greatest crimes beyond what this is, of cruel torture.  And this instance exceeds any other before it.  He was stripped stark naked, one of the severest cold nights this winter, his body covered all over with tar, then with feathers, his arm dislocated in tearing off his clothes.  He was dragged in a cart, with thousands attending, some beating him with clubs and knocking him out of the cart, then in again.  They gave him several severe whippings, at different parts of the town.  This spectacle of horror and sportive cruelty was exhibited for about five hours.

        he unhappy wretch they say behaved with the greatest intrepidity and fortitude.  All the while before he was taken, he defended himself a long time against numbers; and afterwards, when under torture they demanded of him to curse his masters, the king, governors, etc. which they could not make him do, but still he cried, Curse all Traitors.  They brought him to the gallows and put a rope about his neck saying that they would hang him; he said he wished they would, but that they could not for God was above the Devil.  The doctors say his flesh comes off his back in stakes.

        It is the second time he has been tarred and feathered and this is looked upon more to intimidate the judges and others than a spite to the unhappy victim, though they owe him a grudge for some things, particularly, he was with Governor Tryon in the Battle with the Regulators....The Governor has declared that he was of great service to him in that affair, by his undaunted spirit encountering the greatest dangers.

        Governor Tryon had sent him a gift of ten guineas just before this inhuman treatment.  He has a wife and family and an aged father and mother who, they say, saw the spectacle which no indifferent person can mention without horror.

        These few instances among many serve to show the abject state of government and the licentiousness and barbarism of the times.  There's no magistrate that dare or will act to suppress the outrages.  No person is secure.  There are many objects pointed at, at this time, and when once marked out for vengeance, their ruin is certain.