Saturday, September 4, 2010

The L30,000 Bribe

 The following entry is from Dr Ezra Stiles' Literary Diary and was written on 28 January 1777. Church, indeed, was incarcerated in the Boston jail and had been under arrest and confinement of one sort or another for approximately sixteen months. He would not be released from jail to sail into exile (and death)  for another year.
   Dr Church was wavering when he delivered his oration in 17__. He was a firm patriot at penning the Suffolk Resolves Sept 1774. he was already corrupted at the Battle of Lexington Apr. 1775.
         It is a matter of Inquiry, the time of corruption? I tho't his conduct odd and Bravado like, in going into B after Lexington, carrying in Letters, being taken up, carried before Gen Gage, in being suffered to talk so laconicly as it was said he did to gage. In the Summer of 1775 he was up at Newpt, but little seen by Friends of Liberty, his Cousin Ch. then said he was not good, Col Ezra R ______1. tells me Dr Chh. was at Newpt between 5th March Lexington, he spent Eveng with the Dr at Dighton & found him unaccountable & shrewd & sagacious. The Col. asked wt would the End of these things be? His answer vague, yet implying that after fightg awhile the affairs would be compromised, yet so that America would be conquered & G. B carry her point. Also said, he & Hancock &amp c had been invited to dine with Gen Gage who treated them with great Politeness & Affability, & beg'd them to use their Influence to prevent the oration  5 March -- that a week after Gage sent for him: __& says Chh, what would you think of L30000. __The Colonel thinks he realized 25 Thousd. So his conversion in March 1775; he is now in B goal.
  1.The editor of Dr Stiles' Diary identifies this individual as Col Ezra Richmond of Dighton. There was a Col Ebeneezer Richmond and his son Ezra Richmond in Dighton. I am still trying to determine precisely who "Col Ezra"  was and am not entirely convinced that the editor identified him correctly.

     It is very difficult to take this speculation seriously. Did such a conversation take place between Col Richmond and Dr Church? If so, is it an accurate representation of what transpired? Why would Church confide in Col Richmond that the colonials would lose this war to Great Britain when he was on the Committee of Safety and a delegate to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress at a time when he was being entrusted with serious responsibilities by the Patriots.

    The oration presumably referred to is the oration that Dr Joseph Warren gave on  March 5th, 1775 and not the one he gave in 1772. Dr Church was present for this oration.

   Could Church  have been in Newport, R. I. between  March 5th, 1775 and Apr 19th 1775? The Massachusetts Provincial Congress was in session in March and did not recess (at Church's suggestion, by the way) until April 15th. So, it is possible.

   What is not plausible is that General Gage offered Dr Church a bribe of L30,000 or L25,000, for that matter. It's impossible to correlate just how much money L30,000 would be in current dollars; and, I might add, that any time one sees an historian or other writer attempting to convert sums from a previous period into today's currency, ignore it. It just can't be done. But what can give are some examples of just how much money L30,000 was. The cost of building a British frigate at this time was L40,000. In 1764, John Hancock's uncle, one of the richest men in the colonies, left his nephew an estate valued at L80,000. It is just ludicrous to believe that General Gage offered that much money to stop an oration from being given or that  he even had that much money to offer. Just where would he get it - The Crown, Parliament, the Provincial Congress?

  Dr Stiles' analysis just doesn't stand up.


1 comment:

  1. Dr. Stiles’s diary is full of the most extravagant rumors, usually set down without a whiff of doubt. I believe he was what’s technically called a “sucker.”

    In this case, I agree that the rumor doesn’t make sense. Not only is the price too high, but it looks like Church started reporting to Gen. Gage by 21 or 22 February 1775 after a Committee of Safety meeting. That was, of course, before March 1775.