A half century before "Let them eat cake"
On this day in 1713, more than 200 people rioted on Boston Common over the high price of bread. The lieutenant governor tried to intervene but was shot and wounded for his efforts. This was the third such riot in four years. With grain in short supply, merchants were hoarding it to drive up prices. If they exported the grain to the West Indies, they could make even greater profits by selling to the sugar planters there. Boston selectmen tried without success to restrict grain sales to the domestic market. The riots helped persuade the colonial legislature to pass regulations designed to manage food shortages. Even with these laws on the books, however, hoarding and food riots continued throughout the eighteenth century.
Bostonians like to think of themselves as cultured, law-abiding people, but in fact colonial Boston had a well-deserved reputation for street violence. Between 1700 and 1764, there were four riots in New York and six in Philadelphia. Boston had 28.
Compared to other cities, Boston's economy was stagnant in the eighteenth century. There was an ever-wider gulf between the "haves" and the "have-nots." A significant number of men were barred from voting because they owned no property. Mariners, unskilled craftsmen, apprentices, common laborers, slaves, indentured servants, free blacks, men under the age of 21- and, of course, women - were all excluded from the political process. When the hardships seemed unendurable, disenfranchised Bostonians essentially "voted with their feet": they rioted.
There were frequent protests against customs regulations, brothels, and the impressment of sailors; several "Pope Day" riots targeted Catholicism. A common cause of rioting was the chronic shortage of the grains produced and consumed by people in Massachusetts - corn and rye. And this was fifty-six years before the French Revolution and "Let them eat cake".
Many Houses in the Path of the Flames Destroyed -- The Most Disastrous Fire in the Cape's History -- Thirty Fires to be Seen from Gouverneur -- Even the Earth Is Burning
On this day in 1896 the New York Times front page shouted the news that a forest fire which destroyed such a large amount of property in and around Sandwich only a month ago was at the time considered the worst ever heard of on the Cape, but the Tremont fire, which started at Kelly's sawmill yesterday afternoon, has surpassed even that in the amount of damage done to property. The photo is of a firefighting apparatus of the era.
Flames were worse than the famous fire of a month prior, read the story below.