Fighting Irish

In 1780, some privateer friends and relations of Samuel Smedley found themselves jailed within the notorious British prison ship Jersey at what is now the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was enough to get their Irish up. From the journal of William Wheeler:

The winter of 1780 was much the severest that had occurred in 40 years, the Snow filled the roads from side to side, & the air was proportionately keen. In one of the coldest nights of that dreary winter, 7 captives having got out of the Ship (one of them, Ebenezer Bartram, our neighbor, had his toes frozen) waited on the ice for about 40 more. They not coming, they took to their heels, amidst a shower of bullets which were fir’d from the surrounding guardships, & made for the land.

When they arrived at Long Island they came to a house where they were dancing & went in.

A British officer present sent off for a guard to secure them & placed himself at the door to obstruct their retreat, but their comrade, a huge Irishman, with one blow felled him to the floor.

After further adventure and evasion, the party safely returned to Connecticut.

As the saying goes: violence may not be the answer — but it sure cuts down the questions. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

The Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble

The genius that is Baylen Linnekin:

The proper situs of the Assembly Clause, research reveals, is in its birthplace: colonial America’s taverns. Colonial taverns served not just as establishments for drinking alcohol but as vital centers where colonists of reputations great and small gathered to read printed tracts, speak with one another on important issues of the day, debate the news, organize boycotts, draft treatises and demands, plot the expulsion of their British overlords, and establish a new nation.

In 1779, Samuel Smedley’s ship Defence wrecked on a shoal off New London. Smedley blamed the pilot, and was so worried about his reputation that he requested, and was granted, an immediate court of inquiry to clear him of wrong-doing. The court met, of course, at a tavern.

Baylen’s paper is free and easy to download. He also has a longer, so-crazy-it’s-brilliant thesis wherein he traces “how America’s experience with food and drink, British common-law protections of food rights, and — especially — British attacks on the food rights of the colonists after 1763 directly influenced the text of the Bill of Rights.” That paper’s unpublished — so far. I’m looking at you, American book publishers.

The First Amendment to the Constitution1 is “a cluster of distinct but related rights.”2 The
freedom of assembly protected therein3 is one right that Americans exercise every day.4 With
perhaps the exception of speech, assembly is the most widely and commonly practiced action
that is enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
This freedom is also one of our least understood and least considered rights. Sometimes
ignored and other times grouped with other freedoms, the right of those in America to come
together peaceably deserves to be studied, respected, and celebrated.
To better understand the freedom of assembly in America, one must explore and
understand its origins.5 Tracing the evolution of the freedom of assembly requires placing this
freedom “within the context of culture.”6 Exploring the origins of the freedom of assembly in the
context of culture requires tracing the right—as practiced—back to its fundamental situs, a term
that can be used to ground rights in their proper place or places.7
The proper situs of the Assembly Clause, research reveals, is in its birthplace: colonial
America’s taverns.

Happy Birthday, Nathan Hale

Whilst driving in Long Island to visit the in-laws, the subject of Connecticut state hero Nathan Hale somehow arose. Mrs. Kuhl informed the boys and me that Hale came ashore and was seized by the British in her hometown, in a neighborhood since dubbed Halesite. I was astonished; I knew the story, but didn’t realize he was captured in the Loyalist stronghold of Huntington. Upon asking if there is a plaque commemorating the event, I learned that not only is that the case, said memorial lies but a hundred yards from my father-in-law’s boatyard.

The tires squealed and a detour was made. We disembarked and examined the marker — whereupon we realized coincidentally today is the 255th anniversary of Hale’s birth.

So happy birthday, Nathan Hale! Though your career in espionage was short, we remember you many years after your murder.

And hey, New York — how’s that King George thing working out?