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Boston, 1775

Political cartoon of the Bostonians in a cage under British guard
image courtesy of the National Archives

During 1775, Boston was a dangerous place for loyalists. The destruction of 342 chests of tea in December 1773 provoked Parliament to pass what the colonists called the “Intolerable Acts” including the closure of Boston Harbor in 1774. Firmly under British control, the city was regarded as a haven for loyalists, but life in Boston was difficult. Food supplies were inadequate and, in many cases, residents had to rely on British military stores in order to feed themselves. This, combined with a constant fear of attack by revolutionary forces, led many residents to leave the city. By mid-July 1775, only one third of the city’s residents remained.

Henry Lloyd, a loyalist merchant prominent in Boston society, often traded on behalf of Oliver DeLancey and John Watts, two wealthy and powerful merchants from New York City. At the time this letter was written, Lloyd had already experienced loss directly related to the revolutionaries. On March 7, 1774 during the lesser-known Second Boston Tea Party, a group of people dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded a ship in Boston Harbor and destroyed 28 chests of tea, 16 of which were consigned to Lloyd. In this letter, Lloyd reports on the difficulty of obtaining supplies and the insecure state of the mails. At this time there were two competing postal systems – the British Parliamentary Post and the American Constitutional Post. In this period of unsettlement, interception and opening of mail by both British and revolutionary forces was common.

Lloyd’s letter reveals an attempt to bypass revolutionary interference by sending his letter out of the mails with a private carrier to Providence, Rhode Island where it was posted. A black two line hand stamp “Providence/May 5” is the only known example of the postmark. Explore below for more details, or create your own loyalist seal!

Full Size Cover | Transcript

Full Size Letter | Transcript

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