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Mooning and Hillsborough Treats as the Revolution Comes to a Boil

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Joseph Scott was a Tory who owned a shop in Boston during the run up to the American Revolution. But he didn’t sell Hillsborough treats. Nor would anyone want one.

hillsborough treats

British Troops Entering Boston to Enforce Taxation and Other Colonial legislation (woodcut)

Scott’s properties were confiscated during the war, but in 1774 he was still aiding the British in propping up their weakening grip on the colonies.

Scott agreed to sell weapons to the British — cannon, shot, and mortars— which the army planned to move to their fortified battery (now at Rowes Wharf).

Confronted by the Committee of Correspondence, Scott first said that the guns were the rightful property of the British governor. He then denied selling the weapons. Finally, Scott demanded a British officer stop removing the weapons from his shop, and he closed and locked his cellar.

It was too little, too late. On September 28, 1774 the British returned with 100 men and broke in the door to Scott’s shop and carted away the remaining ammunition — leaving Scott to face the angry mob.

Boston merchant John Andrews recorded the event in his letters to his brother in Philadelphia.

“The countrymen that happened to be in town seemed to be more enraged than the townspeople, whose passions were full high enough likewise. One of the former, seeing Scott standing near is shop, told him if he would come across the gutter, he would be the death of him, and think in doing so, he should do God service.”

Hillsborough Treats

The animosity toward Scott erupted again on the night of September 29th. “Sometime last night they gave Scott a Hillsborough treat, and not content with disfiguring the outside of his shop, they by help of a ladder opened his chamber window and emptied several buckets full into it.”

Hillsborough treats were a mixture of mud and human and animal waste that both loyalists and rebels threw on their opposition to express their displeasure.

“Should be glad for the honor of the town that they would leave off such beastly practices — as there are many much better ways of showing their resentment,” Andrews wrote.

The rebels weren’t the only ones behaving as bullies, however.

Andrews recounts in August of 1774 some British soldiers took the opportunity to moon a group of angry American rebels and generally bullied anyone they came across.


“A few days since fifteen officers dined at a house towards New Boston, improved by one of the Miss Erskines (a family noted for their hospitality and kindness to strangers, in admitting all comers to their bread and hoard) where towards evening they committed all manner of enormous indecencies, by exposing their anteriors, as well as their posteriors, at the open windows and doors, to the full view of people, either men or women, that happened to pass by. with a great deal of opprobrious language, which caused a number of boys to gather round the house, at whom they presented pistols, and threatened to fire among them.

“When at dusk they began to break up and go off, two or three at a time, insulting people as they passed the streets. I happened to be going up that way (to Breck’s) at the time, when I met two who had just come out of an apple shop, where they had been turning over all the old woman’s things. They’d scarcely passed me when they insulted two men by running their fists in their faces and damning them.”

The confrontation degenerated into a brawl with several serious injuries on both sides. The government eventually offered apologies and offered to make good on damages.

From: Letters of John Andrews esq., of Boston, 1772-1776This story updated in 2022.

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