"liberty tree", 1765, 1766 (antedating 1776)

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Mar 6 18:30:35 UTC 2010

OED 2nd edition has "liberty tree" in 1776 -- and no other
quotations, earlier or later.  The earliest I find are 1765 and 1766.

(1)  [Datelined "Boston (Hanover Square) Dec 18, 1765."]
Your inserting the following Letter sent on Monday Evening last to
the Honorable Andrew Oliver, Esq; Commissioner for distributing
Stamps in this Province, with the Proceedings occasioned thereon,
The respectable Inhabitants of the Town of Boston ... desire that you
would, To morrow, appear under Liberty-Tree, at 12 o'clock, to make a
public Resignation.

[He did resign.  However, Wikipedia says he publicly resigned on Aug.
17, and later, "On December 17, the Sons of Liberty again forced him
to publicly swear that he would never act as stamp distributor."  I
don't swear to Wikipedia's account.]

Source:  [EAN, from download of masthead and entire issue.]  The
Massachusetts Gazette, No. 0. [sic] Thursday, December 19,
1765,  page [3], col. 1.  EAN classifies the Massachusetts Gazette
with the Boston News-Letter, for this article citing:
      "Boston News-Letter, published as The Boston News-Letter and
New-England Chronicle; Date: 12-19-1765; Page: Supplement [2]."
      According to the Harvard Library catalog, "When the Stamp Act
took effect, the Drapers changed the title of this paper to:
Massachusetts gazette, from Nov. 7, 1765-May 15, 1766, and abandoned
the volume numbering. With the repeal of the Act, they resumed the
former title and numbering."
      Note that EAN cites the page as "Supplement [2]"; I find no
heading "Supplement", and count to the 3rd page.  There are two pages
having the masthead, suggesting that this 6-page issue was 4 pages
with a 2-page supplement.  Sometimes EAN does not order the pages of
issues with supplements in the correct sequence, but I can't tell
here (for one thing, all 6 pages are unnumbered).
      Curiously, the 3rd of EAN's 6 pages ends with a hyphen, but no
later (or earlier) page begins with a continued word.  If any pages
are missing, it would be 2 (one sheet) -- but a total of 8 pages
seems unlikely.  The hyphenated end of page seems more like a printer's error.

The above is the earliest of the appearances of "liberty tree" (two
words, hyphenated, or one word) in 6 different newspapers in 1765,
all between Dec. 19 and Dec. 30 and all about Oliver's encounter with the tree.

(2)  EAN claims its earliest citation for "liberty tree" is November
27, 1765, but this actually is December 27, and the text refers to
the Dec. 17 event in Boston.
      EAN says "Connecticut Gazette, published as The New-London
Gazette; Date: 11-27-1765; Issue: 111; Page: [3]."  But the masthead
says "Friday, December 27, 1765 ... Number 111.  The New-London
Gazette."  And the issue contains news items dated Philadelphia,
December 12; Boston, Dec. 16; etc.

(3)  _A discourse: addressed to the Sons of Liberty, at a solemn
assembly, near ..._, 1766, 8 pages.  [Google Books, no
preview.]  This is _A Discourse, addressed to the Sons of Liberty ...
February 14 1766_, Providence, [1766]; Evans 10286; Early American
Imprints, First series.

(4)  The above is the only instance found by Google Books for 1766
and 1767.  In 1768, there are 4 British journals containing
"liberty-tree" [all full view].


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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