REVOLUTION 250. Commemorations Bring People Together

People dressed in period costumes in Boston,pose for a photograph.
Reenactors dressed up for Revolution 250 at Faneuil Hall, in 2017.

NPS photo

Faneuil Hall 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts is not the Faneuil Hall of 1767, Nor is Boston for that fact. Today, Faneuil Hall, and the adjacent Quincy Hall Marketplace, is an international destination for shoppers to the historic marketplace in the oldest part of Boston. Faneuil Hall, a gift to the residents of Boston from Peter Faneuil, allowed for a more formal marketplace and meeting hall which became the meeting place in Boston by the 1770’s. As tension grew with the mother country, Great Britain, meetings became more frequent and more contentious.

Lower classes often expressed their displeasure to issues of the day by gathering and protesting in the streets. These groups had a history of fighting one another in physical brawls during “Guy Fawkes Day,” a holdover from the attempt to blow up Parliament by Guy Fawkes in 1605.. In New England, the holiday, was known as “Pope's Day,” where the North End gang would battle the South End gang and fight in the streets to capture the opposing gang’s pope, devil and tax collector effigy. A transformation began to take place by 1765 as duties imposed in the form of “The Stamp Act,” inspired the rival gangs to unite in resistance to British taxes. .

Parliament soon repealed the Stamp Act, but tried again in 1767 to raise a revenue in America. The new law was known as the Townshend Act, which imposed customs duties on imports of glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea. It also provided for a vigorous enforcement of customs laws which would hopefully stop illegal smuggling and help collect the new duties. Again, the people of Boston resisted. White, property-owning men voted in town meeting to ban the importation of British manufactured goods. For everyone else: laborers, apprentices, sailors, dock workers, men, women, and people of color, the street was the place where they gathered to express their disapproval.

“The Devil and the Crown,” a multi park effort to interpret the events which laid the foundation for the American Revolution took place Saturday, November 4, 2017 at Faneuil Hall and the Old State House. Joining together with The Bostonian Society and Revolution 250, National Park Rangers offered a day full of events and talks at Faneuil Hall. At 4:00pm a “special town meeting” was called for all to participate in to discuss the Townshend Act.

When the meeting was over, visitors were greeted with a rowdy crowd of colonial residents of Boston, who continued the program in the streets. Wearing nondescript masks volunteers gathered around a cart with an effigy of the devil, the tax collector and Nancy Dawson. Riling the audience up, the reenactors wheeled the cart up Congress Street to the Old State House, where “the sheriff” met the crowd and read the “riot act” and ordered the protesters to disperse.

Instead of dispersing, visitors were invited into the Old State House and visit the site, which served as the historic office of royal authority in Boston during most of its colonial history. The crowd partook of the invitation and ventured into to see exhibits, talk with the reenactors, and enjoy the history they witnessed before them.