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This Day in Boston History

August 11th, 1834

Protestants Burn Ursuline Convent

On this day approximately 100 Protestant laborers disguised as Indians looted and burnt a catholic-sponsored girls school in Charlestown. The mob celebrated as as the school's books and icons were thrown into bonfires. Students and teachers fled for their lives with only what they could carry on the run.

Though rebuked by town selectmen, the same mob regathered and destroyed the grounds of the convent the next night before leaving for Boston to attempt to burn its cathedral. The mob's leaders were eventually tried and found not-guilty of mayhem.

So for the next thirty years the ruins of the convent stood in the shadow of the Bunker Hill monument, a reminder that the promise of liberty extolled in that battle had not yet extended very far beyond the direct descendants of revolutionaries.


England's Prime Minister never expected this tea tax to cause an outcry, let alone revolution. In 1767, England reduced its property taxes at home. To balance the national budget they needed to find a mechanism for the American colonies to pay for the expense of stationing officials in them. The officials would generate their own revenue by collecting taxes on all imported goods, and once paid affixing stamps on them. This Stamp Tax generated more in the way of protests and smuggling than added revenue.

Religion. Politics. Rebellion. Boston’s pedigree was forged back in England in the midst of religious dissension, where Puritans and Pilgrims sought religious reform, and Cavaliers and Roundheads vied for political power. The question isn't where did Boston get its name – but how.

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