Friday, August 8, 2008

Divine Providence

On this date in 1772, a violent storm struck Boston. In his diary, John Boyle implies that the storm was a divine judgment against Andrew Oliver, the Lieutenant Governor and former Stamp Act Officer:
This Evening (Saturday) between 11 and 12 o'Clock, a terrible Tempest arose, attended with the severest Thunder and Lightning that has been known for many years. It lasted very violent for about two hours but thro' the Goodness of Divine Providence, no Damage was done in this Town, except to the Dwelling-House of Lieut. Govr. Oliver, which was struck with Lightning and considerably shattered.
Although he doesn't make his interpretation explicit, Boyle often made cryptic remarks about the weather that implied a belief in omens/providential interventions. For example, during the British occupation of Boston, Boyle commented on a storm off of Newfoundland, exaggerating the number of dead and identifying them as potential occupiers:
. . . 4000 Persons were lost in the several Harbours of Newfoundland, who had nearly compleated their fishing Voyages. Most of them belonged to Great Britain, and intended to inlist in the Regular Service when their Fares were finished.
Boyle had no love for Oliver. His account of the assault on Oliver's house on August 14, 1765 was one of the first entries to reveal Boyle's strong Whig leanings. Until that time, Bole was a typical, loyal subject, celebrating British victories in Canada and writing long, admiring passages about the British Royals. It's possible that Boyle was just reporting the news of the day when he wrote about the lightning that struck Andrew Oliver's house, but it's difficult to imagine that he had forgotten the events of 1765. Perhaps there is not enough evidence to prove that Boyle interpreted the lightning strike as God finishing the work that the protesters had begun seven years earlier, but I would argue that he was thinking something along those lines.

Next Thursday, I'll be writing about the Glorious 14th of August, when a Boston mob (or crowd, whatever you want to call it) destroyed the Stamp Office and invaded Oliver's house.

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