Thurdsday. April 25th. 1771.
Dined last Monday at Brighams in Southborough, and lodged at Furnasses in Shrewsbury. Next day dined at Mr. Putnams in Worcester, and at the same Place, dined on Wednesday. This day dined at Mr. Paines—with much Company. At about 2 O Clock this day We finished the famous Cause of Cutler vs. Pierpont and Davis—an Action of Trespass for compelling the Plaintiff to store his Goods with the Committee at Boston and carting him &c.1
We had Stories about Fort George, the Duke of York, and a warm Gentleman at Cambridge, Bob. Temple.
The D. of York was in a Battle at Sea, a cannon Ball hit a Mans Head and dashed his Blood and Brains in the Dukes Face and Eyes. The Duke started, and leaped quite out of the Rank. The Officer, who commanded, said, pray your Highness dont be frightened.—The Duke replyed Oh sir, I am not frightened but I wonder what Business that fellow had here with so much Brains in his Head.
The warm Gentleman at Cambridge was Bob. Temple. A Number of Gentlemen at Cambridge his Friends got into a Quarrell and Squabble and somebody knowing they all had a great Esteem of Temple begged him to interpose and use his Influence to make Peace. At last he was perswaded, and went in among the Persons, and one of the first Steps he took to make Peace was to give one of the Persons a Blow in the Face with his fist.
Strong insinuated privately at the Bar, another Story. He said the Defence put him in Mind of the Answer of a Young fellow to the Father of a Girl. The Father caught the young Fellow in naked Bed with his Daughter. The old Man between Grief and Rage broke out into Reproaches.—You Wretch, what do [you] mean by trying to get my Daughter with Child? The Young fellow answered him, I try to get your Daughter with Child! I was trying not to get her with Child.
Thus, the Defendants are to be laughed and storied out of large Damages no doubt.
However the Jury gave none. They could not Agree. 8 were for Defendants, 4 for Plaintiff.
1. In June 1770 Ebenezer Cutler, a merchant of Oxford, tried to run two wagonloads of boycotted English goods out of Boston under cover of night. The watch at Boston Neck having observed him, a crowd of indignant citizens pursued and overtook him at Little Cambridge (Brighton), and forced him to return with his goods, which were impounded by the committee to enforce the nonimportation agreement. Cutler brought suit against Robert Pierpont, the Boston coroner, and Caleb Davis, two of the more respectable persons who had been present and who had, according to evidence adduced at the trial, actually tried to protect Cutler from the mob. Cutler asked £5,000 damages for assault, false arrest, and other “enormities” and won his case in the Worcester Inferior Court in September. JA was first involved in the case as counsel for the defendants in their appeal. The case was tried de novo in the current term of the Superior Court at Worcester, but despite eighteen hours of deliberation the jury could not agree, and it was continued until September, when the jury found for the defendants. JA could not take credit for this victory, but a year later, thanks to a writ of review, the case was argued again; JA’s client Davis was cleared altogether, and Pierpont was found liable for £15. Cutler’s final frantic effort to appeal to the King in Council seems to have come to nothing.
Though “famous” in its day, as JA says, the Cutler case was soon forgotten. But since the trials took place in Worcester and the evidence was taken by deposition to avoid the cost of bringing witnesses from Boston, the record of this typical incident of the era of nonimportation is peculiarly full and graphic. Some 130 documents relating to it are on file in the Suffolk co. Court House. See Superior Court of Judicature, Minute Books 90, 97; Records, 1771, fol. 140; 1772, fol. 124–125; Early Court Files, &c., Nos. 152615, 152686; also Boston Gazette, 29 April, 23 Sept. 1771, 21 Sept. 1772.