This week, the Journal of the American Revolution will feature a 3-piece series I wrote on Boston Harborfest, the largest 4th of July celebration in the United States. The topic of the series: the integration of Loyalists into the narrative of the American Revolution. Here's a taste of my first article.
As a historian, I am interested in how people understand and interact with the past. I find the question of how present-day Americans relate to the American Revolution and War for Independence particularly fascinating. This curiosity led me to explore the 32nd Annual Boston Harborfest, the largest Fourth of July celebration in the United States.
While thumbing through the festival brochure, I discovered that out of more than 200 activities, only four advertised a discussion of the Revolution with a Loyalist, or Tory, perspective. I found this surprising as the broad scholarly view posits that during the Revolution and War for Independence one third of Americans supported the Patriot cause, one third remained loyal to the Crown, and one third sought to survive as neutrals or disaffected.
Therefore, I decided to visit these scarce Loyalist-related events to better understand their paucity. Did historic organizations in Boston find it difficult to interpret Loyalist viewpoints? Did Loyalist stories prove unpopular among Harborfest attendees? Both? I attended three of these four events in search of answers.
“Whispers of Revolution: Plotting the Boston Tea Party”
On Tuesday July 2, I attended “Whispers of Revolution: Plotting the Boston Tea Party” at the Old South Meeting House. Faneuil Hall hosted most public meetings in colonial Boston, but when the crowd outgrew its hall they repaired to the Meeting House.
On December 16, 1773, over 5,000 people gathered in and around the Meeting House to discuss whether or not to send the three “tea ships” back to England with their cargoes. The education staff at Old South Meeting House sought to express the sentiments that led to that meeting in their “Whispers of Revolution” program.
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