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Williamsburg Tours News and Notes



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What IS the Cure for the Refractory?

 

 

The Boston Tea Party, along with other protests in the American Colonies, led to Britain’s demanding the right to tax, and this increased the Colonists’ stubborn resistance and defiance to pay any levy. Many posters and newspapers printed in England mocked, commented, and pictured (much like our editorial cartoons we have today) the events that led to the American Revolution.

 

 

A mezzotint (a print, etched on copper or steel) that represented events in Williamsburg is believed to depict an article that was printed in the London Chronicle, January 26th, 1775, referring to the signing of nonimportation (from England) agreements supporting American self-sufficiency. The paper noted “Many Virginians being reluctant to sign, a gibbet, inscribed ‘A Cure for the Refractory’ was erected in the capital, Williamsburg, from which were hung a barrel of tar and sack of feathers, which proved very effective in securing signatures.” (Read more, Williamsburg Before and After: The Rebirth of Virginia’s Colonial Capital by George Humphrey Yetter.) In the foreground, two wigged Tories, or Loyalists (colonists who sided with Great Britain against the Revolutionaries), are being intimidated and obligated to sign their names on the agreement by a group of patriots led by a cook holding a butcher’s knife and wearing a cockade in his chef’s hat. The statue of Lord Botetourt watches over the scene. (Pictured right)

 

 

So, if you had ever wondered what the Cure for Refractory was, it was a scare tactic for stubborn and disobedient colonists. If you decided to disobey (Refractory), you would get tarred and feathered (Cure). Sometimes this was a fatal cure for colonists, for some had even drown from the tar. Talk about cruel and unusual! What could have been a more civil way to scare these American Colonists? Would you have obeyed to pay the British more money that wasn’t rightfully theirs to take? Or defy them?

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