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Findings from the Miscellaneous Personal Name Collection: 1774 Letter Describes Boston Tea Party and Its Aftermath

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The Miscellaneous Personal Name Collection consists of over 12,000 files on 18th, 19th, and 20th century American and European historical and literary figures. This collection has served as a catchall for the smaller files acquired by the Library's Manuscripts and Archives Division.

I have discovered a wide range of subject matter of varied archival significance, and it has been inspiring to work with these materials to improve intellectual and physical access. In this blog post, I’ll highlight some of my favorite finds.

Detail of 1784 John Barnes letter containing text on right.Detail of 1784 John Barnes letter containing text on right.On March 20, 1774, a gentleman named John Barnes wrote a letter to Thomas Sim Lee, the future Governor of Maryland, describing the Boston Tea Party and its aftermath.

Barnes refers to well-known events surrounding the Boston Tea Party, such as the Stamp Act and the blockade of Boston Harbor by British ships “till the Bostonians pay for the Tea destroy’d.”

What I find most interesting is his subsequent commentary about the event, which reflects the stirring of independence within the colonists’ minds:

"If the colonies are unanimous they will be free, and it appears very evident Parliament in general are more afraid of the Americans than the Americans are of their usurpt power to tax them, or their threats to inforce taxes by compulsive measures, they have a weapon much more deadly than the sword to the Mother Country, which will keep them free and make them a happy people.”

Barnes was correct in his prediction that separation from England was within the Colonies’ grasp; the Boston Tea Party famously preceded a series of events leading to American independence. While details of Barnes’s life are vague, his letter is a telling contemporary account of the Boston Tea Party and its immediate aftermath.

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