Throughout colonial Boston Massachusetts, until about 1770, Pope’s Day was celebrated to commemorate the discovery and thwarting of a Catholic plot to overthrow King James in 1605. Occurring on the 5th of November, this anti-catholic celebration served as a way to unify the colonists religiously and through their mutual hatred of the Catholic church. The event often included violence, rival mobs, and the burning of effigies to signify disgust in the Devil, Pope and even Tax Collector. It was an unofficial holiday upon which the “have-nots” and poor workers of town would gather, demanding coins from households and brawling in the streets.
In Boston, upon this day of celebratory madness, two rival mobs would generally form: a North End Mob and a South End Mob. Meeting in the middle of town, these two mobs would commence to brawl, the winners partaking in the burning of the effigies. During the time in which the Stamp Act emerged, other mobs developed in opposition to the act, proving to be a vital patriotic aspect of the coming Revolution. The 5th of November, leading up to roughly 1770 in which processions for the Boston Massacre superseded, was defined by protests to the many parliamentary taxes enacted by the British. After the Revolutionary War, Pope’s Day ceased to be celebrated.
This historical event was significant in that it highlights the violent, maddening and overall bloody nature of conflict in the colonies during the 18th century that is often insufficiently mentioned in textbooks. Akin to an outright civil war, the events leading up to the Revolution were hardly peaceful. The mobs, brawls and death at the hands of colonists within their communities paints the decade in a grim light. The transition from British rule to Independence did not arise without sacrifice. Revolutions in general are often glorified to reflect the societal change as beneficial and to prove that the many glaring sacrifices were not made in vain. The families that were torn apart, the children that were killed needlessly and the disruption of economic order are hardly discussed in detail.
Of course, it’s impossible to guess where the United States would be today if the Revolution had never occurred. Most likely, its citizens can thank their freedom and economic opportunity to the very revolution that was carried out in blood and death. What’s important to realize is that the details and possible motives of any major societal change are never completely pretty. November 5th in the original colonies is just one example. Pope’s Day is merely a window into the true passion, desires and animosity of the colonists. However, we can use it as a way to see clearly and factually what the fog of glory has obscured from the mainstream belief.
Remembering the “who” and what” is never enough. Always search for the “why” and “how” and the cause and effect. Only then can the truth of any event be unveiled.