Taverns as Revolutionary Spaces

Letter from Bathsheba H. Morse Crane

Bathsheba Crane describes the town of Westminster, Vermont. She extols the virtues of Vermont and its people, as well as its beautiful landscape. She also describes the old Tory Tavern in romantic terms, describing its elegance and beauty, as well as painting a rich Revolutionary story in the context of the tavern's uses.

In a letter published by Life, Letters, and Wayside Gleanings, for the Folks at Home, Bathsheba H. Morse Crane describes a tavern in Vermont known as the old Tory Tavern as such:

“The tavern derives its name from having been the headquarters of Tories during the Revolution. It is a large, two-story, gambrel-roofed house, and looms up out of the past full of historic interest, a centenarian in fallen majesty among the more modern structures…The sight of its gray walls brings afresh the dark deeds and hair-breadth escapes of a period in the nation's history, when the enemy most to be dreaded and avoided was often a man's nearest neighbor… Here friend met friend, and men gathered in knots to discuss the topics of the hour and the interests of the country, maintaining the closest surveillance, lest a fellow-lodger prove a spy in disguise to betray them. Here, too, the Tories, a proscribed and dangerous class, in their love of royalty and allegiance to the king, came when the world was asleep, to plan the defeat of our military operations, and deliver our men into the hands of the enemy. Near by, in the ancient cemetery, are the graves of two men shot by them, at a public gathering of citizens in the town house, March 13, 1775, said to be the first blood shed in the Revolution. The celebrated Ethan Allen, who so valiantly defended and assisted the state in securing its independence, was married in this old tavern. Legislators, judges, and counselors have graced its festive board” (North American Women's Letters and Diaries: Colonial to 1950, 1811). [1]

Here, Bathsheba Crane paints taverns as glorious establishments were histories were written, where friends and enemies met to conspire, to plan their independence and betrayals. She describes the tavern as a place filled with history and meaning, a place that is not only large and majestic in appearance, but rich with character and style. She then describes the people within it, the noble travelers, as gracious and amicable, meeting one another to share drinks and discuss the “interests of the country” and keeping an eye out for “spies.” She paints a vivid, romantic story of the Revolution. The old Tory Tavern’s role in the Revolution, in her opinion, is not to be understated. It housed revolutionaries and Tories as well as legislators, judges, and politicians. Taverns thus had not only a legal, economic, and social role in early America, but an idealistic, symbolic role in an imagined (and real) history. True patriots met for a drink. Taverns were places where dissent was voiced and thus were the birthing grounds for rebellion.   

[1] "Letter from Bathsheba M. Morse Crane." Letter from Bathsheba M. Morse Crane. 1880. In Life, Letters, and Wayside Gleanings, for the Folks at Home. Boston. North American Women's Letters and Diaries: Colonial to 1950.