Colin Nicolson, a
lecturer in American history at Stirling University also claims that it
was the failure of the British government to clamp down on this
intimidation which led directly to the revolution and the loss of the
Scots immigrants had been
arriving in Boston since the establishment of Massachusetts in the
1630s. They attained wealth, power, and privilege, but never great
numbers. By the 1760s, less than five per cent of the state population
were first or second-generation Scots, but they accounted for nearly
one-in-five of pro-British Loyalists.
"The Scots were
very, very unpopular and very wealthy," says Dr Nicolson.
"Resentment of them became manifest when, in protest at new duties
being levied on colonial commerce, Boston’s merchants and shopkeepers
launched a boycott of British goods. The Scottish merchants and
shopkeepers were, to a man, defiant importers."
In the mid-1760s Boston
was home to several prominent agents for Scottish-based exporting
companies. They were caricatured by the Patriots as clannish
krypto-Jacobites, a myth designed to engender hatred in the Puritan
hearts of native-born colonists. And, although evasion of the boycott
was widespread, the Scots soon found themselves made scapegoats for its
Dr Nicolson says:
"At one town meeting, Samuel Adams, the great and
feted revolutionary actually stood up
and said, ‘I have a plan to banish all Scotsmen’."
By January 1770, crowds of more
than a thousand were demonstrating at persistent importers’ homes and
stores. Three Scots brothers —Patrick, James and Daniel McMasters who
had amassed a small fortune by importing British goods —were subjected
to some particularly rough treatment. Patrick McMasters was even
seized-by the mob and stripped naked, ready to be tarred and feathered,
before "some prudent persons present" saved him.
According to Dr Nicolson’s
new book, The Infamas Govener: Francis Bernard and the Origins of the
American Revolution, that episode and others demonstrated how little
protection was available to friends of the Government, either from
British troops stationed in Boston or the colonial judiciary.
The book published today
to coincide with Evacuation Day, the anniversary of the final withdrawal
of the British garrison from Boston, focuses on the role of Bernard,
English governor of Massachusetts, in the run-up to the 1775
His mismanagement and
misreporting of the situation in the colony is widely believed to have
led to independence. It was his ill-judged speech to the Boston
legislature, saying they had "no choice" but to accept
taxation without representation, that led to the Boston Tea Party,
probably history’s most famous act of civil disobedience.
an appalling English snob, failed to cultivate friendship with the
Scots, who were some of the most ardent supporters of retaining British
rule, so easing the way for the rebels," says Dr Nicholson.
"During the 1776
Siege of Boston, Scots formed one of the earliest Loyalist regiments,
the Royal Highland Emigrants. Bernard ignored all that potential.
of the Loyalists of the revolutionary era is often cited as a paradigm
of Yankee tolerance, but this tends to neglect the basic fact that those
who opposed the struggle for independence, and comprised about one-fifth
of the colonial population, were the revolution’s most conspicuous
Among those who deliberately
exploited anti-Scottish feeling to keep revolutionary fervour on the
boll were Samuel Adams, his cousin John Adams - who went on to become
the second president of the United States — and John Hancock, first
signatory of the American Declaration of Independence.
Matters came to a head in
1769 when John Mein, a bookseller and printer recently arrived from
Edinburgh, published in his newspaper, the Boston Chronicle, the names
and cargo manifests of more than 280 merchants who broke the agreement.
Many of them — including to his great embarrassment, John Hancock —
were at the forefront of the colonial protest movement.
that the boycott provided an opportunity for wholesalers such as Hancock
to squeeze out their smaller competitors, have been vindicated by modern
historians but, at the time, they led to his near-lynching.
In response to the
destruction of £9,000 worth of East India Company tea in December 1773,
the British closed Boston Harbour and replaced the elected upper chamber
of the legislature with royal appointees.
Dr Nicolson explains:
"Today, that would be akin to Westminster closing down the
Parliament in Edinburgh and the Assembly in Cardiff. Understandably,
that was the spark of the revolution.
"There are lessons
for politicians today. Bernard was not a good listener. He was arrogant,
he was a snob, but he saw himself as a moderniser and it is often the
things that modernisers do to strengthen the central authority of the
State that bring about revolutions."
The Infamas Govener:
Francis Bernard and the Origins
of the American Revolution is
published by Northeastern