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Tar & Feathering of British Tax Collector "John Malcom"

c. 1784, Exceptional Copper-Plate Engraved Print Depicting the Tarring & Feather of "John Malcom," a British "Tea Act" Tax Collector and Loyalist in Boston, measuring 8" x 9", French, Choice Very Fine.

Depiction of the Bostonians' treatment of a British Loyalist and Customs Tax officer, John Malcom. In Boston in January 1774, John Malcom argued with Bostonian George Hewes over Malcom's rough treatment of a boy in the street. Malcom struck Hewes with his cane and fled the scene. Word of the assault spread, and Bostonians congregated at Malcom's home, eventually dragging him outside. He was thrown into a cart and driven through the city streets. The crowd had Malcom stripped and covered first with tar and then feathers, giving him a "modern jacket." The riotous parade continued through the city, stopping periodically to demand Malcom renounce British authority, which he refused to do. The mob drove on past the Liberty Tree, where they threatened to hang Malcom. They put a rope around his neck, tied him to the gallows, and beat him with clubs. Malcom, severely injured, was eventually driven back to his home and unceremoniously rolled off the cart.

This rare, historic and finely Engraved Print printed in French text measuring 6.8 x 5.1 inches on a heavy wove paper period sheet, measuring fully 9" x 8". It depicts the famous incident on Boston of the Tarring and Feathering of John Malcom in January 1774. Malcom was a British tax collector and loyalist in Boston. This incident was one of the most publicized events during the Revolutionary period. The print appeared in Nicolas Ponce and Francois Godefroy's "Recueil d'estamples representant les differents evenements de la guerre qui a procure l'independance aux Etats unis de l'Amerique." This was the First French Publication to name the "United States" in its title. Some light foxing at the left and top edges, the paper remains crisp and is well printed. The printing plate's embossed edge impressions are still evident within the paper attesting to its originality. This important Engraving is extremely crisp and dark, with exquisite sharp detail being ready to frame and display in any Revolutionary War Era collection. Ref: Howes: #C576.

Additional Information:

John Malcolm (died 1788) was a Sea Captain, British Army Officer, and is most famous in his employment as a British Customs Tax Official who was the victim of the most famous publicized "Tarring and Feathering" incident during the days leading up to the American Revolution.

A Bostonian, Captain Malcolm was a staunch supporter of the King of England, George III, and his royal authority. During the "War of the Regulation," he traveled to the province of North Carolina to help put down the uprising. The "War of the Regulation" or the "Regulator Movement" was an uprising in the British North America's Carolina colonies, which lasting from about 1765 to 1771, in which local citizens took up arms against British Colonial officials. Though the rebellion did not change the power structure, some historians consider it an important catalyst prior to the American Revolutionary War.

While working for the Customs Service, Malcom pursued his duties with a zeal that made him highly unpopular. The fact that he was a Loyalist during the Tea Act, the Three-pence Tea Tax detested by the patriots did not help his reputation.

In November 1773, sailors in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, tarred and feathered him. Malcolm got off relatively easy in this attack, since the tar and feathers were applied while he was still fully clothed.

As a hard-line Loyalist, Malcolm often faced abuse and provocation from Boston's Patriots, the critics of British authority. People often "hooted" at him in the streets, but Governor Thomas Hutchinson urged him not to respond.

A confrontation with Patriot shoemaker George Hewes thrust Malcolm into the spotlight. On January 25, 1774, according to the account in the Massachusetts Gazette, Hewes saw Malcolm threatening to strike a boy with his cane. When Hewes intervened to stop Malcolm, the two men began arguing, with Malcolm insisting that Hewes should not interfere in the business of a gentleman. When Hewes replied that at least he (Hewes) had never been tarred and feathered, Malcolm struck Hewes hard on the forehead with the cane, knocking him unconscious.

That night, a crowd seized Malcolm in his house and dragged him into King Street in order to punish him for the attack on Hewes and the boy. Some Patriot leaders, believing that mob violence hurt their cause, tried to dissuade the crowd, arguing that Malcolm should be turned over to the justice system. Hewes, who had recovered, also protested against the attack on Malcolm. The crowd refused to relent, however, citing (among other arguments) the fact that Ebenezer Richardson, a customs official who had killed an 11 year old Bostonian Christopher Seider, had escaped punishment by receiving a royal pardon.

Malcolm was stripped to the waist and covered with tar and feathers. The crowd then took him to the Liberty Tree and told him to apologize for his behavior and renounce his customs commission. When Malcolm refused, the crowd put a rope around his neck and threatened to hang him. This did not break him, but when they threatened to cut off his ears, Malcolm relented and was sent home. The event was reported in newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic.

After these events, Malcolm moved to England, where he unsuccessfully ran for Parliament against John Wilkes, who was the controversial champion of American Colonial rights.
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