Colonial Crowds Protest the Stamp Act
Colonists' protests against the Stamp Act took many forms, including hanging and burning effigies of British officials, and destroying the offices and houses of Stamp Act commissioners and royal officials. The following account of an attack on Andrew Oliver, Boston's stamp collector, appeared in the patriot newspaper the Boston Gazette and shows how effective such dramatic crowd actions could be.
Early on Wednesday Morning last the Effigy of a Gentleman sustaining a very unpopular Office, viz. that of Stamp Master, was found hanging on a Tree in the most public Part of the Town, together with a Boot, wherein was concealed a young Imp of the Devil represented as peeping out of the Top -- On the Breast of the Effigy was a Label, "in Praise of Liberty" -- …and underneath was the following Words, He THAT TAKES THIS DOWN IS AN ENEMY TO HIS COUNTRY.
The Owner of the Tree…endeavoured to take it down; but being advis'd to the contrary by the Populace, lest it should occasion the Demolition of his Windows, if nothing worse, desisted from the Attempt. -- The Diversion it occasioned among a Multitude of Spectators who continually assembled the whole Day, is surprizing; not a Peasant was suffered to pass down to the Market…'till he had stop'd and got his Articles stamp'd by the Effigy -- Towards dark some Thousands repaired to the said Place of Rendezvous, and having taken down the Pageantry, they proceeded with it…to Oliver's Dock, where there was a new Brick Building just finished; and they imagining it to be designed for a "Stamp Office," instantly set about demolishing of it, which they thoroughly effected in about half an Hour. In the mean Time the High-Sheriff &c. &c., being apprehensive that the Person of the then Stamp-Master, and his Family, might be in Danger from the Tumult, went and advised them to evacuate the House…the Multitude approach'd Fort-Hill, contiguous thereto, in order to burn the Effigy, together with the Timber and other Wood work of the House they had demolish'd…. they set about pulling down a Range of Fence upwards of 15 Foot high, which inclos'd the bottom of the Garden… stripped the Trees of the Fruit, dispoiled some of them by breaking off the Limbs, demolished the Summer House, broke the Windows in the Rear Part of the House, enter'd the same, went down the Cellars, and help'd themselves to the Liquor which they found there in the Silver Plate that the House afforded, none of which however was missing the next Day, altho' scatter'd over various Parts of the House….
The next Day the Transactions the preceeding Night was of Course the general Topic of Conversation; when the Stamp Master, in order to appease the Sensations which seemed to possess the Breasts of every one, at the Prospect of a future Stamp-Duty, sent a Card to several gentlemen, acquainting them that he had absolutely declined having any Concern in that Office; which being publickly read…it was tho't all Uneasiness would subside; but the Evening following the [crowd] again assembled…whereupon 'tis said the Stamp Master sent them a Letter with the aforementioned Resolution on Non-acceptance, and Assurance of Endeavors to serve the Province, &c. Upon which they thought proper to demolish the Bonfire and retire…