The Bostonians in Distress. (London, November 19, 1774)
This print is entitled The Bostonians in Distress. It appeared in a London newspaper on November 19, 1774, shortly after the Boston Tea Party. The print provides a unique perspective on British attitudes toward colonial rebellion.
As a consequence of the Boston Tea Party, Parliament enacted the "Intolerable Acts," one of which closed the port of Boston. In this print the artist symbolized the closing of the port by placing the Bostonians in a cage suspended from the Liberty Tree. One of the men in the cage holds a paper inscribed "They cried unto the Lord in their Trouble & he saved tham out of their Distress. Psalm cvii 13." This scriptural passage may be a reference to the religious heritage of Massachusetts.
The three men in the small boat attempting to feed the hungry men in the cage represent the other American colonies that sent supplies to aid the citizens of Boston during the crisis. The fish have been placed on the ends of poles that are then thrust through the bars of the cage. British soldiers on the shore with cannons, and warships in the harbor symbolize the continued blockade.
Although published in a London paper, people on both sides of the conflict could have viewed this print favorably. A patriot viewer might see the print as a representation of the "poor Bostonians," caged and starving because of Great Britain's unfair policies and restrictions. A loyalist viewer might see the print as depicting a "we've got them now" attitude, showing colonists boxed in by their own illegal actions and paying the appropriate consequences for defying the authority of the Crown.
This article was written by Beth Burney, elementary school teacher, Atlanta, GA.