Monday, October 11, 2010

A Warm Place - Hell

   After repeal of the Stamp Act,  the British Government still had a need to collect revenue from her American colonies and in 1767 passed a series of measures that came to be known as The Townshend Acts. The colonists rose, once again, in protest. James Dickinson of Pennsylvania published his essays titled "Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania,"  and they became widely read and very influential, arguing that there was no difference between an "internal" and an "external" tax and that any tax imposed on the colonists by Parliament was unconstitutional. One of the responses to the Townshend Acts by The Massachusetts House of Representatives was to send a letter to the other colonial assemblies asking them to resist the acts. The British Ministers were so outraged by this that the King himself ordered Governor Francis Bernard to order the Massachusetts Circular letter to be rescinded. The Legislature refused by a vote of 92 to 17 to do so. The seventeen who voted to rescind the vote were labeled "Rescinders" and were treated with contempt.
   Paul Revere,  copper engraving being one of his talents, began to engrave a caricature titled  "A Warm Place - Hell" as a piece of political propaganda in defiance of the British Government. The delineation was a pair of monstrous open  jaws, resembling a shark, with flames issuing from them. Satan, with a large pitchfork, is seen driving the seventeen "Rescinders" into the flames shouting - "Now I've got you! A Fine haul by Jove!" The man first in line and making an effort to resist being forced into hell is Timothy Ruggles, ( a former Speaker of the House and delegate to the Stamp Act Congress who later became a prominent Tory and served as a Brigadier General in charge of Loyalist militia troops) who is being urged on by a flying devil uttering the words "Push on Tim!"  The man with the calf's head is Dr John Calef of Ipswich who, many years later, apologized for his vote. (I have not done the research to determine why Dr Calef was so singled out by Revere.) Over the upper jaw of the "shark" is seen the cupola of the Province House (the Indian with bow and arrow represents the arms of the Province) where the Governor resided.
   While Revere was in the process of executing this engraving, Dr Benjamin Church Jr, by Revere's own account many years later, walked into Revere's office and, seeing what Revere was about, took a pen and wrote these words to accompany the engraving:

                                  On brave Rescinders! to yon yawning cell,
                                  Seventeen such miscreants sure will startle hell.
                                  There puny villains, damned for petty sin,
                                  On such distinguished scoundrels gaze and grin;
                                  The out done Devil will resign his sway,
                                  He never curst his millions in a day

   Not a bad improvisational riff from colonial America's finest political satirist and poet!

  As a result, Paul Revere was given a commission by 15 members of the Sons of Liberty, of which organization Revere was a member, to make a silver punch bowl to commemorate the activities of the "Glorious 92." This bowl has become an icon of the American Revolution and is now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. One side of the bowl is dedicated to John Wilkes, the English radical to whom Church was appointed to write as a member of the Committee of Correspondence.



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