Monday, June 23, 2014

Boston Coffee Party

In this excerpt from a 1777 letter, Abigail Adams describes for her husband, John Adams, how a group of women nearly rioted when they learned that a merchant tried to profit from the scarcity of goods during the trade embargo with England. Passive resistance became increasingly effective as the women colonists enacted boycotts of British goods.

Although tea was a very popular beverage in the colonies, as in England, America changed from a tea-drinking to a coffee-drinking nation in opposition to the tax on it. Women of the Revolutionary era refused to serve tea to their families or friends, usually substituting coffee, imported with no assistance or tax from England.

July 31 [1777]

"I have nothing new to entertain you with, unless it is an account of a New Set of Mobility which have lately taken the Lead in B[osto]n. You must know that there is a great Scarcity of Sugar and Coffe, articles which the Female part of the State are very loth to give up, especially whilst they consider the Scarcity occasiond by the merchants having secreted a large Quantity. There has been much rout and Noise in the Town for several weeks. Some Stores had been opend by a number of people and the Coffe and Sugar carried into the Market and dealt out by pounds. It was rumourd that an eminent, wealthy, stingy Merchant (who is a Batchelor) had a Hogshead of Coffe in his Store which he refused to sell to the committee under 6 shillings per pound. A Number of Females some say a hundred, some say more assembled with a cart and trucks, marchd down to the Ware House and demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver, upon which one of them seazd him by his Neck and tossd him into the cart. Upon his finding no Quarter he deliverd the keys, when they tipd up the cart and dischargd him, then opend the Warehouse, Hoisted out the Coffe themselves, put it into the trucks and drove off. It was reported that he had a Spanking among them, but this I believe was not true. A large concourse of Men stood amazd silent Spectators of the whole transaction."

Source: Adams, Charles Francis, ed. Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams During the Revolution (1876). Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1970.

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