And it wasn’t any shallower 237 years ago. Rivington’s Gazette for March 9, 1775 reported that “Two Tories, William Cunningham…and John Hill, are handled roughly by ‘a mob of above two hundred men’ near the liberty pole [in New York City]. The former is called upon ‘to go down on his knees and damn his Popish King George,’ but he exclaims instead ‘God bless King George.’ This so enraged the people that they ‘dragged him through the green, tore the cloaths off his back, and robbed him of his watch.’” [Quoted in Stokes, I. N. Phelps, The iconography of Manhattan Island 1498-1909 (v. 4)(New York: Robert H. Dodd, 1915-1928.)]
The victims couldn’t have expected a reaction any less violent: passions were high as the government’s stranglehold on the colonies tightened and its lackeys in New York cooperated with the Crown.
I’m trying to imagine deeming any ruler a friend worthy of defense — rather than the direst of enemies out to rob and exploit me — without two hundred men threatening me. But to deliberately enrage them for sake of a plundering politician?
Cunningham’s loyalty eventually had its reward: a British commander made him provost marshal. He earned a reputation for monumental cruelty to American prisoners in the upcoming Revolution — later generations would have called him a “war criminal.” You can read about some of his atrocities in my novel, Halestorm, available for Kindle (and in paperback), Nook, iPad, Sony, or your computer.12:34 pm on September 1, 2012 Email Becky Akers