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When the Press Really Was Under Attack: Alexander Hanson and the 1812 ‘Mobtown’ Massacre

Published in New England Journal of History, Spring 2018

“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”
—Thomas Jefferson

Terms such as “fake news” and “alternative facts” may be relatively recent additions to the political lexicon, but attacks on the media are nothing new. Elected officials have been criticizing the journalists who cover them long before Thomas Jefferson, that putative champion of the free press, wrote the statement above in 1807.

Today, as throughout much of the nation’s history, “attacks” on the press are usually presumed to be figurative. Even at a time of heightened tension with the media, incidents of actual violence against journalists in this country are rare. That is not necessarily the case in countries where the institutions of democracy are less robust, and the freedom of the press less ingrained. Neither was it always the case in the United States.

Two centuries ago, with the young nation bitterly divided and on the brink of foreign war, freedom of the press was under attack in every sense of the word. In 1812 Baltimore, a fiery young Federalist editor named Alexander Contee Hanson took a stand in defense of a newspaper that dared express unpopular, anti-war views. His words provoked a bloody riot and precipitated a series of events in the summer of that year that crippled the city, stunned the nation, and left Hanson beaten to within an inch of his life.

The Baltimore mob attacks have been described as a pivot point in the nation’s history—a transition from the property-based rioting of the eighteenth century toward a more violent form of populist protest—motivated as much by class and racial tensions as by antipathy for the press. The unintended effect of such an analysis is to marginalize Hanson’s contributions to the establishment of the nation’s free press. He is often dismissed as a caricature of the partisan press era; an “erratic character,” who was “not great, but at least was colorful, and at times even volcanic,”[i] according to one Maryland historian.

Hanson was not the first newspaper editor to face threats of violence. The freedom of the press had been attacked before, notably during the reign of the Sedition Act, but even then most newspaper editors faced only the threat of legal jeopardy.[ii] Few put their lives on the line so resolutely as Alexander Hanson did, much less during a time of war, when the precarious balance of liberty and security is most imperiled. Hanson paid a heavy price for his sacrifice, but his willingness to jeopardize his own life for a principle gave the nation a lesson in democracy that resonates even now. It started with a headline.

“Thou has done a deed . . .”

But it was not the news of President James Madison’s official declaration of war against Britain that most drew the attention of Baltimore readers on a warm Saturday morning in June, 1812.[iii] The day’s newspaper was more notable for an editorial appearing on the back of the two-page broadsheet. Set in small type, the words were sandwiched between news of daily ship arrivals in the port of Baltimore, and a classified notice from a husband, cross about his wife’s spendthrift ways.[iv] The single-column headline only hinted at the content to come: “Thou has done a deed whereat valor will weep.”

The quotation hails from Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus, the story of a military leader who fails in the political realm and is assassinated.[v] The dramatic reference was no accident. The Federal Republican, one of a handful of newspapers covering Baltimore after the turn of the nineteenth century, was known for its incendiary rhetoric and strident views. Even in an era dominated by the partisan press, this radical Federalist newspaper stood out—thanks mainly to Alexander Hanson.[vi]

Hanson hailed from a prominent Federalist family in Maryland[vii] (he was the grandson of John Hanson, the ninth president of the Continental Congress), but his patrician upbringing belied a fierce temperament. Since launching the newspaper at the age of twenty-two,[viii] Hanson’s pointed editorials frequently targeted the city’s Democratic-Republican Party establishment, once landing him before a court-martial hearing,[ix] and once in a duel against a pistol-wielding naval officer (Hanson prevailed both times).[x] But those incidents would pale in comparison to the impact of his latest newspaper editorial. In fewer than 450 words, it laid waste to the Democratic-Republican case for war against England, calling out President Madison and comparing him to the dreaded Napoleon Bonaparte, a favorite Federalist bogeyman.[xi]

The Federalist vs. Democratic-Republican political divide was a microcosm of a broader conflict playing out on the world stage between Great Britain and France. Federalists saw Napoleon as the greater threat to American prosperity, while the Democratic-Republicans identified with France and shared its hostility to the British monarchy. Baltimore, a bustling seaport of about 46,500 residents, had nearly doubled in size since the turn of the century and in the process had become a Democratic-Republican stronghold. With many French, Irish and German immigrants, a strong mercantile class and reliance on commercial trade with Europe and its colonies, the city was not receptive to the Federalists, who were viewed as aristocratic, elitist, and—perhaps worst of all—pro-British.

Compared to its more established sister cities along the Eastern seaboard, Baltimore was a hardscrabble upstart: gritty, urban, and working-class.[xii] By the summer of 1812, this chunky stew of class, ethnic, and religious dissension was near the boiling point. Into the pot dropped Hanson’s Federal Republican.

The First Attack

Reports of the newspaper’s anti-war editorial spread quickly, and over the weekend angry residents gathered, in the salty, seafaring neighborhood of Fell’s Point, to plot their revenge.[xiii] The next evening, 22 June, a mob gathered outside the newspaper’s office in Baltimore’s Old Town neighborhood, some carrying candles, others with axes, ropes, and fire hooks.[xiv] The crowd, made up mostly of shopkeepers, craftsmen, merchant sailors, and laborers, formed a double line encircling the office and commenced tearing down the wood building.[xv]

Baltimore mayor Edward Johnson, a brewer by trade, was drinking tea at the home of a neighbor that evening when he heard the news.[xvi] Johnson was a popular figure and, like nearly every civic leader in the city, a Democratic-Republican. After expressing initial ambivalence, Johnson walked over to the scene to investigate. He later claimed to have no knowledge an attack was planned, but it’s likely he was at least generally aware.[xvii] As a member of the opposition party, the mayor may have been reluctant to insert himself into a conflict that pitted his own supporters against a despised Federalist newspaper.

The mob was still in the loosely orchestrated process of tearing down the newspaper building when Mayor Johnson arrived. He made half-hearted attempts to quell the violence, but was ignored. “The laws of the land must sleep, and the laws of nature and reason must prevail,” one hot-headed ringleader warned Johnson,[xviii] summing up the feelings of many. The destruction of the newspaper office continued into the night, and even after it was leveled to the ground the rioters continued their rampage. Not until the sun rose the next morning did peace return, temporarily, to the streets of Baltimore.

While his newspaper partner and co-editor, Jacob Wagner, had left Baltimore a short time before the attack, Hanson himself was at his home in Montgomery County, and did not learn of the incident until the next day. A friend advised him to stay away and let tempers cool,[xix] but there was little chance of Hanson going quietly. He was determined not to let the mob muzzle him, and he had much invested in his newspaper—politically and financially. While he and his wife, Priscilla, both hailed from prominent Maryland families, he was not a wealthy man, and he often wrote of his financial woes.[xx]

While Hanson prepared to revive his newspaper, disorder and chaos reigned in the city of Baltimore. Anti-Federalist mobs continued to roam the streets and lash out against anything remotely pro-British or pro-Federalist.[xxi] Religious and racial antagonisms resurfaced, and violence against African Americans became a flashpoint.[xxii] The rampant lawlessness across the city was duly noted in Maryland’s various newspapers, though in greatly differing tones. In the pages of Republican-leaning publications, the mob’s actions were frowned upon, but excused—the violence abetted as it was, in their eyes, by Hanson’s divisive rhetoric.

“We do not entirely approve of such assemblages, but in certain cases, in the present state of our country, they may be palliated,” wrote one.[xxiii] “Mobs ought not to exist, therefore let them not be excited,” said another.[xxiv] The reaction was much different across the ideological hall. The Federal Gazette, viewed as Baltimore’s “moderate” Federalist newspaper[xxv] decried the mob violence, and especially the failure of city leaders to take responsive action. Another pro-Federalist newspaper was blunter: “Law, order, and federalism are prostrate and mobocracy triumphant.”[xxvi]

Some prominent residents felt Baltimore was no longer a safe place to be. James McHenry, a contemporary of Hanson’s father and former Secretary of War, wrote that “the air of Baltimore is the air of a prison; that houses are no places of safety; that there is a mine under them ready to explode.”[xxvii] With those ominous words, the elder statesmen and signer of the U.S. Constitution left the city. Fort McHenry, the star-shaped citadel overlooking Baltimore harbor, protected the city—but apparently could not protect the man it was named after.

Return to Baltimore

Alexander Hanson arrived back in Baltimore on 26 July 1812, a little more than a month after the mob first silenced his voice. And this time he was ready for a fight. For Hanson, the act of defending his newspaper embodied a broader battle between liberty and tyranny. As a young child he read lurid accounts of the horrors of the French Revolution, and they left an indelible impact.[xxviii] His father’s generation had fought for liberty in the American Revolution and now, with war again at hand, he saw his own opportunity to make a stand. The freedom of the press was at stake, ­­and he advanced his crusade with growing fanaticism.

After dropping off his pregnant wife and children for safety, Hanson arrived at a “middling size” brick house located at 45 South Charles Street, which had formerly been rented by his co-editor.[xxix] To fortify his effort, he assembled a “Spartan band” of supporters to help him defend the newspaper should the need arise.[xxx] Reprisals were expected, but he hoped that a show of force would dissuade the mob and allow civil authorities to reassert control, so that his newspaper could continue publishing. Leading the band was General Henry Lee, better known as “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, who earned fame during the Revolutionary War. Lee took command of the house and implemented a blueprint for its defense. He recommended a series of tactical measures, including specifics on how many muskets, flints, and cartridge shots were needed, and where personnel should be stationed in each room.[xxxi] He also reminded Hanson about the importance of feeding the troops: “Water and biscuit be sure to have in abundance.”[xxxii] As instructed, great efforts were made to conceal weapons and avoid attracting attention, including marking a keg of powder as “crackers.”[xxxiii]

When Lee arrived, there were about a dozen men present in the house, including General James Lingan, also a Revolutionary War veteran. Lingan and Lee were the senior statesmen; the rest of the Federalist recruits were, mainly, contemporaries of Hanson. Some of the younger men who may have been reluctant to get involved found reassurance in the presence of the veterans, who had experienced the struggle for independence firsthand. On his way to Baltimore, General Lingan had stopped in at the home of one young Federalist. Henry Gaither was about to head off to church, and, although he was Hanson’s friend, wasn’t sure if he wanted to get involved. Lingan spoke powerfully of his own experience as a prisoner of war, and what it meant to serve the cause of liberty and help establish a government where freedom of speech and freedom of the press are guaranteed. The Baltimore mob threatened those “sacred privileges,” he told Gaither, and if they did not stand up to oppose such actions, “life itself was not worth possessing.”[xxxiv] The general’s words must have had an impact, as the next day Gaither left his home in Montgomery County and joined the Federalists at the house on Charles Street.

 “A Mobocracy

At nine a.m. on Monday, 27 July 1812, the newspaper delivery landed with a thud that was both literal and figurative. Blazoned across five columns of the new edition ran a caustic editorial, headlined simply “A Mobocracy.”[xxxv] What followed was Hanson’s pointed rejection of the city’s response to the initial riot, with particular blame laid at the feet of Mayor Johnson. His failure to restore order empowered the mob to squash the liberty of speech and extinguish freedom of the press in the city, Hanson charged; “they destroy Republicanism under the mask of supporting it, and violate the laws under the pretext of enforcing them.” He argued that the civil authority, in its zealous march to war, had trampled on the very principles of liberty it espoused, and declared that his newspaper “ascends from the tomb of a ‘martyred sire’” to exercise its rights to the fullest. If his June editorial was a shot across the bow, the message this day was a full-on broadside.

Word of this latest heresy spread quickly. In Fell’s Point, it was the main topic of conversation at the neighborhood coffee houses. One local called Hanson’s return an “imprudent act,”[xxxvi] and predicted it would trigger another riot. Even “respectable people” felt the newspaper was “so obnoxious that the editors must either alter its tone, or it must be stopped.”[xxxvii] Such talk was not uncommon, especially around the gritty dockside district, which welcomed all manner of ship and cargo to its deep-water port, but did not take kindly to Federalist interlopers or British sympathizers. The feeling was mutual; Hanson made frequent jabs Fell’s Point, and once labeled the local ward-leader “a notorious coward and unprincipled bully.”[xxxviii]

Hanson’s “Spartan band” grew during the day, and Lee reminded the men to keep the noise and candlelight to a minimum to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Spirits ran high, and the men spoke of their sense of duty while they waited for the inevitable.[xxxix] They did not have to wait long. After supper, a small group of mischievous boys gathered outside and began hurling threats and insults at the Federalists.[xl] Egged on by several older men, they soon progressed to bricks and paving stones. The noise attracted more attention and the parcel of boys grew quickly. By eight o’clock, “a herd of Irishmen and negroes and Frenchmen, and ragamuffins, had congregated and . . . commenced a most violent attack upon the house.”[xli]

From his vantage point, Hanson opened the window shutters and called down. This house was his “castle,” he warned; he and his men had a lawful right to occupy and defend it, and if rioters did not stand down he would be compelled to fire on them.[xlii] The words of warning did little to deter the mob, and they resumed their barrage of brickbats. “The crash of shivered glass, falling on all sides . . . was tremendous,” Hanson recalled.[xliii] While the battle brewed outside, seeds of contention were growing inside the house, primarily between Lee and Hanson. Lee counseled a conservative course: play defense and wait for city officials to intervene. Unless the assailants entered the house, the men were not to retaliate, he ordered—knowing the Federalists would be judged harshly for any bloodshed, unless it was a defensive act.[xliv] The brash young Hanson had less patience; he wanted to return fire and engage the mob.

Down the street, General John Stricker watched the violent scene with growing wariness. Stricker, aged fifty-three, was a successful banker and served as commander of the city’s militia brigade.[xlv] He had already been asked numerous times to intercede, but steadfastly maintained that he did not have authority without an official request from the mayor, who was out in the countryside, unaware of the unfolding drama. Left unsaid was the fact that Stricker was not eager to stick his neck out for a band of Federalists. If he mustered the troops, there was likely to be bloodshed, so strict adherence to the letter of the law provided political cover.[xlvi]

While the bureaucracy fiddled, Hanson and his Federalist cohorts remained barricaded in the house, trapped by a growing swarm of rioters. The ringleader egging on the crowd was an enigmatic Frenchman named Dr. Gale (who frequently touted the curative capacities of “medical electricity.”)[xlvii] Having delivered a rousing speech outside a nearby assembly hall, Dr. Gale further ginned up the rioters and called for a direct frontal assault. “I will lead you on, and we will kill every damn’d rascal in the house,” he shouted, and advanced through the door.[xlviii] The next sound was gunfire, as a lead ball from inside the house struck Gale, forcing him back onto the pavement. The musket fire startled the rioters, who had been growing accustomed to the Federalists’ practiced pacifism,[xlix] but they quickly responded, and when the brief exchange of gunfire ended, the body of Dr. Gale remained prone on the pavement. As the rioters realized their leader was dead, the drum-beating stopped and his body was promptly retrieved. The death of Gale enraged the mob even further, and soon a call came out to find a cannon. [l] Patience was wearing thin everywhere. Even after General Stricker finally relented and secured the necessary signatures to issue a militia order, his head cavalry officer had difficulty getting men to report for duty—even the trumpeter refused to muster.[li]

By midnight, the crowd outside 45 Charles Street had swelled to more than five hundred, though determining who was actively rioting was nearly impossible in the swarming mass.[lii] The mob continued to hurl rocks at the house and revel in the fray with huzzas, drumbeats, and occasional musket fire while they anticipated the arrival of a cannon. Hanson was taunted with chants and insults, called a “damned Tory” and “a British hireling.” The crowd even poked fun at his diminutive size with cries for “‘Little Ellick’ to show his eyes out the window.”[liii]

The Jail Break

Chaos continued throughout the night. By early morning Mayor Johnson returned to the city,[liv] and along with Stricker and a small cavalry troop they attempted to disperse the mob. After negotiations, the Federalists reluctantly agreed to surrender themselves to the city jail for safekeeping. They were fatigued, outnumbered, and running low on supplies, and Lee saw no other choice.[lv] Hanson initially dismissed the idea, believing it was “better to die there with arms in their hands, than to surrender.[lvi] But Lee, ever cautious, prevailed on him to accept the terms and rely on the “soldier’s honor” of General Stricker, who would protect them from the mob. After some tense moments, the band of Federalists, numbering about twenty, were escorted out of the house by the militia at around seven o’clock Tuesday morning. Jeers, rocks, and a rendition of the “Rogue’s March” greeted them as they made the journey, in carts, to the jail.[lvii] Many of the rioters dispersed once the Federalists were ensconced in their cell, but any hopes that this action would subdue the crowds and restore peace were illusory.

After supper, Stricker went home and dismissed his militia troops, believing the danger had passed, but the mob soon returned. This time a journeyman shoemaker, once convicted of tarring and feathering a British shoemaker for “anti-American” remarks,[lviii] led the rowdy rioters, described by the mayor as mostly “low Irish and Germans.”[lix] Working by the light of torches and armed with hatchets, clubs, and crowbars, the mob burst into the courtyard of the jail just after sunset.[lx]Where are those murdering scoundrels who . . . slaughtered our citizens in cold blood?,” the shoemaker yelled.[lxi]

Mayor Johnson and a handful of mostly unarmed citizens stood by, hoping to quell the mob. “It is not yet too late; support me, and we may prevent the horrid scene,” he implored,[lxii] but the crowd pushed forward and hammered away at the upper panel of the jail door. With the scene spiraling out of control, the mayor was grabbed on the arm by a friendly militia officer and pulled to safety. Johnson was clearly distressed. “My God! What shall we do? I am ruined forever,” he said aloud, according to one witness.

Trapped inside in a twenty-square-foot cell with a bare oak floor, a receptacle usually reserved for “rogues,”[lxiii] Hanson and his fellow prisoners clung to the hope that Stricker would honor his word and return to offer protection. At some point during the night the fire bell rang, but no help was forthcoming.[lxiv] The whoops and hollers of the rioters grew louder—one last barrier stood between them. The cell door was locked, but the rioters ended up with a key, probably given over by a friendly jail keeper.[lxv] As the final iron door swung open, the prisoners extinguished the lights and sprang into action.[lxvi] Hanson hoped to create enough confusion to allow some of his cohorts to escape—even if he could not. But a local butcher named John Mumma had other ideas.[lxvii] Posted at the cell door, Mumma identified the Federalists as they tried to flee into the darkness. A few made it past him, but most were less fortunate. Mob members rushed in, armed with clubs, rusty swords, bludgeons, and axes, and “a scene of horror and murder ensued, which for its barbarity has no parallel in the history of the American people.”[lxviii]

The Massacre

The Federalists were dragged outside and stomped on, clubbed, and beaten, their bodies thrown down the front steps into a pile like a “parcel of hogs.”[lxix] The rioters struck some men with penknives and dripped hot candle grease in their eyes, while others were threatened with castration, hanging, and dissection.[lxx] Some men pretended to be dead to avoid further abuse (and the tactic appeared to work; one local observer later remarked that “had they not acted as Falstaff did in feigning to be dead, might have been so in reality.”)[lxxi]

Hanson and Lee drew much of the abuse. After a severe beating, their limp, unconscious bodies were dragged into the yard. One man swung a knife at Lee’s face and slashed his cheek, the blow knocking his head to the side. It landed on Hanson’s chest, where it lay for several minutes, seeping blood. The effect was such that one man exclaimed, “See Hanson’s brains on his breast!”[lxxii] Later, another rioter jabbed at Hanson’s groin with a sharp stick and remarked, “This fellow shall be dissected.”[lxxiii] Lee’s injuries were the more severe; he was later described by one Federalist “as black as a negro, his head cut to pieces . . . one eye apparently out, his clothes torn and covered with blood from tip to toe, and when he attempted to stir he tottered like an infant just commencing to walk.”[lxxiv]

Still, Lee and Hanson were more fortunate than Gen. Lingan. The circle of rioters continued to pummel the aging general and mock him with cries of “Tory traitor!” At one point, Lingan opened his shirt to reveal a souvenir from the American Revolution–– a thirty-six-year-old purplish scar on his chest caused by a Hessian bayonet during the Battle of Fort Washington. “Does this look as if I was a traitor?” he retorted. He was stomped on and struck with blows in rapid succession, while one man exclaimed that “the damned old rascal is the hardest dying of all of them.”[lxxv] The decorated veteran survived three years as a prisoner of war, but lost his life within hours at the hands of the mob.

The massacre continued into the night with minimal effort by city officials to intercede. Reached at home, Stricker refused to even return to the jail and asked not to be disturbed, citing fatigue and the need to be with his family.[lxxvi] Mayor Johnson at least attempted to prevent the break-in, but when it became clear his own safety might be in peril, he left the scene and did not return until the next day.[lxxvii] Johnson felt he had done everything in his power and later blamed local constables for failing in their duties.

Witnesses described the crowd as a mix of natives and immigrants, mostly Irish and some German. Some of the leading rioters can be identified based on court dockets and other eyewitness accounts. Among them were Mumma the butcher, George Rodemeyer, a grocer from Fell’s Point; James Darling, a local shoemaker; George Hayes, a hack driver; and Kenelom White, a captain in the militia. White would later take out an advertisement in the local newspaper professing his innocence, though one Federalist identified him specifically as a leading assailant.[lxxviii]

Hostility to Hanson’s Federalist gang was not exclusive to one gender. A crowd of women also joined in the jail yard spectacle, egging on the rioters with taunts of their own. Described as “joyful and merry spectators,” the women brooked no mercy for the fallen men. In response to pleas from the victims to spare their lives, they yelled out “Kill the Tories.”[lxxix] A crew of small boys also mixed with the crowd, “exulting at the awful scene, clapping their hands and skipping for joy.” Even while doctors attended to the fallen men, the abuse continued. One physician recalled how “sarcastical and abusive remarks were made about [the Federalists’] foreign dress, Virginia boots, Montgomery coats.”[lxxx] It served as a reminder that the rioters’ hostility was built on class resentment as well as political division.

To celebrate the demise of their Federalist enemies, many of the men joined hands and danced around the pile of bodies to the tune of an old Revolutionary War song. Between verses, they offered cheers to their Democratic-Republican heroes, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. If they were still conscious, Lingan and Lee— two aging military heroes who had survived a war against the British, only to face death at the hands of an American mob—might have found irony in the words of the familiar chorus: “We’ll feather and tar ev’ry damned British tory, and that is the way for American glory.”[lxxxi]

The Aftermath

City business in Baltimore screeched to a halt. Trade and commerce ceased; many residents hunkered down, while skittish Federalists fled the city entirely. Federalist supporters who remained “spoke with caution and in whispers, lest they should be overheard.” On Wednesday, the criminal court opened its regular session, and then promptly adjourned, with the Grand Jury reportedly declaring “the Peace of the City . . . violated and all Laws being at an end.”[lxxxii]

Attempts to spin the events in the press, to deflect blame or achieve political gain, also began almost immediately. “To prevent the false statements from the Tory faction,” the Baltimore Whig jumped on the story and cast blame on Hanson’s Federalists—referred to as “Montgomery conspirators” to emphasize that they were not from Baltimore—for instigating the attacks. One respected Federalist attorney lamented what he saw as the rapid descent into partisan vitriol in the aftermath of the riots. Public reaction within the city was developing through a binary lens that refracted blame or praise, depending on which side of the aisle one inhabited. “This dangerous spirit was rapidly changing party-opposition into personal animosity,” he wrote.[lxxxiii]

News of the “Massacre at Baltimore” spread quickly across the country, by letter and stagecoach.[lxxxiv] The mob’s brutality shocked the sensibilities of many Americans, who were unaccustomed to such open warfare on their streets. Historians note that the “traditional” forms of rioting (involving looting and/or vandalism) practiced in the eighteenth century were giving way to a far more violent—and less cohesive—form of populist protest.[lxxxv] Criminal charges were filed against “Mumma the Butcher” and dozens of other rioters, but all save two were later acquitted,[lxxxvi] prompting a wry comment from one newspaper: “So far the thing seems to be a drawn battle. The Mummians had the most killed. The Hansonians the most wounded.”[lxxxvii]

Mumma himself came to regret his actions, claiming he was misled by partisan ambition. “We were told . . . that a nest of them had a press in Baltimore, and were every week publishing their treason to the world, and plotting the ruin of the nation,” he said a number of months after the attack, according to one report. “We thought it would be a good deed to destroy them.”[lxxxviii]

Resolutions passed by Federalists at public meetings from Boston to Georgetown decried the violence, and hailed Hanson and his band for their courage in defending the liberty of the press.[lxxxix] “While such men live, we do not despair of the republic,” wrote citizens in Kent County, Maryland.[xc] Some angry Federalists retaliated with violence of their own. Just days after the jailhouse massacre, a congressman from Duxbury, Massachusetts was attacked and beaten in neighboring Plymouth, by a mob angered by his pro-war vote.[xci]

A hastily organized City Council investigation, ostensibly bipartisan, reported on the “late commotions in the city,” but carefully avoided assigning blame or even using the word “mob.” Newspapers up the East Coast, primarily in Federalist-dominated New England, pulled no such punches. One Boston newspaper satirically referred to General Stricker and Mayor Johnson as the “Magistrates of Baltimore (MOB).” In the Democratic-Republican press, Hanson was blamed for provoking the mob’s excesses, though most stopped short of condoning the violence. One New York daily predicted that Federalists would use the riots to “expatiate with crocodile tears against mob law,” a sentiment also expressed by President Madison, who warned against use of the incident for political gain or “factious ambition.”[xcii]

Madison’s worries were well founded. Backlash from the incident fomented anti-war sentiment and served as a powerful motivator for the electorate, giving the once-fading Federalist Party a surge in support.[xciii] Even without a formal Federalist candidate opposing him, Madison eked out only a narrow re-election victory against a dissident member of his own party –– a split that foreshadowed the divisions that would later fracture the Democratic-Republican Party.

The murder of General James Lingan, as he was defending the rights of the press, became a rallying point for Federalists, and he was mourned as a hero in an elaborate funeral march,[xciv] and eulogized by the adopted son of George Washington.[xcv] Two centuries later, his name remains prominently connected to Baltimore’s “Mobtown” moniker. Lingan had not been a journalist himself, but he died in Journalism’s defense, in one of the first documented cases in the nation’s history.[xcvi] In 1996, Hillary Clinton, then First Lady, spoke at a dedication to Lingan, calling his death amarker on that road to democracy and tolerance.”[xcvii]

General “Light-Horse Harry” Lee never fully recovered from the wounds he suffered in the jail attack. He grew bitter about the war, and later traveled to the West Indies, hoping the warmer climate would help him recuperate. After five years, and in failing health, he attempted to return home to see his family, but could not complete the journey.[xcviii] Lee died on an island off the coast of Georgia in 1818. His young son, Robert E. Lee, grew up without ever seeing his father again.

Hanson’s Legacy

Alexander Hanson, despite his many bruises and broken bones,[xcix] remained stubbornly resolute in his beliefs, and insisted on reissuing the Federal Republican. A week after the attacks, the new edition was published from Georgetown, by co-editor Jacob Wagner, and included Hanson’s brief remarks: “My wounds are many and bad, but my spirits are unbroken and my determination to have justice is unaltered.”[c] Predictably, the mob mobilized again, planning to attack the post office where the newspaper was to be mailed. But this time the city official intervened promptly.

As the war against Britain intensified, Hanson channeled his energy into a new role—as a lately elected Congressman from Maryland’s Third District.[ci] The Federalist wave helped shift the balance of power in Maryland,[cii] and Hanson headed off to Congress on a high note. His beloved Federalist party had been resurrected; his bold actions in defense of the newspaper, and of freedom of the press at large, had been vindicated;[ciii] and he himself was venerated by a growing list of admirers around the country.[civ] But the glow did not last as long as he might have hoped.

Hanson’s combative, uncompromising style was ill-suited to the politics of Washington D.C. That, along with his recurring ailments, limited his effectiveness. He quickly angered his colleagues in the Democratic-Republican-controlled Congress by demanding extra floor space for newspaper reporters in the Capitol.[cv] He remained a thorn in the side of Speaker Henry Clay (and his successor) throughout his first term, and the opposition party in Baltimore used him as a poster-child for the Federalist menace, motivating the electorate by warning what a re-elected Hanson might do with “a horde of legislative janizaries at his heels.”[cvi]

Hanson was re-elected, and later promoted to U.S Senator, one of the youngest in history,[cvii] but his career never quite took off. He grew disillusioned with Washington and even his own party,[cviii] and may have suffered from depression[cix] (he grieved the loss of several children, including a son named after General Lingan “who winged his way to the mansions of bliss” at a young age.)[cx] In one of his final acts as a senator, in 1819, he voted to ratify a treaty with Great Britain to restore relations between the two nations.[cxi] It was fitting closure for a man who made his career opposing the war.

Two months later, at his country estate in Elk Ridge, Maryland, Hanson died quietly at the age of 33. His funeral was attended by a “respectable number of gentlemen,”[cxii] and his death was duly noted in the press, but with little fanfare compared to the passings of Generals Lingan and Lee.[cxiii] History has treated him much the same. The following year, with support from Hanson’s old Federalist friend Daniel Webster, the Massachusetts state legislature named a newly established town in Plymouth County in his honor.[cxiv]

Hanson, Massachusetts serves as one of the few visible markers of the incandescent career of Alexander Hanson, a man who risked life and limb for the city of Baltimore, the state of American journalism, and the nation’s promise of a free press.


[i]. Joseph H. Schauinger, “Alexander Hanson: Federalist Partisan,” Maryland Historical Magazine, December 1940, p. 354–364.

[ii]. The Newseum’s First Amendment Center has compiled a list of journalists who were prosecuted under the Sedition Act from 1798 through 1801. They document 22 incidents that resulted in formal charges, with ten convictions. Only three of the cases involved physical violence. See Gordon T. Belt, “Sedition Act of 1798: a brief history of arrests, indictments, mistreatment & abuse,” First Amendment Center, Newseum Institute, accessed 5 January 2018,

[iii]. Deposition of Peter White, Report of Grievances and Court of Justice of the House of Delegates of Maryland on the subject of the recent mobs and riots in the city of Baltimore, (Published by Maryland House of Delegates, Printed by Jonas Green, Annapolis, Md., 1813), 70; Father Abraham, Farmer’s Almanac for the year of our lord 1812, calculated for the meridians of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee (Warner & Hanna, 1812).

[iv]. Federal Republican, 20 June 1812, p. 2.

[v]. William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, Barbara A. Mowat, Paul Werstine, ed., Folger Shakespeare Library, accessed 5 June 2017,

[vi]. See Jeffrey L Pasley, The Tyranny of Printers: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic (University of Virginia Press, 2001), 229–257; and Si Sheppard, The Partisan Press: A history of media bias in the United States (Jefferson, NC: MacFarland and Company, Inc. 1972), 21–70 (partisan press generally); p 67 (as relates to Hanson).

[vii]. Edward Papenfuse et al., A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature 1635–1789, vol. 1 (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), 404, 405; “Biographical Sketch,” Maryland Republican Advocate, 31 January 1806, p. 4; “Mortuary notice,” Maryland Republican Star, 21 January 1806, p. 3.

[viii]. Hanson launched his newspaper in 1808, and the next year partnered with the North American and Mercantile Daily Advertiser, published by Jacob Wagner. The newly merged publication kept the Federal Republican masthead, with Wagner and Hanson functioning as partners. See Federal Republican, 10 October 1809, p.1.

[ix]. Trial of Alexander Contee Hanson, Esq. A Lieutenant in a Company of Militia, attached to the Thirty Ninth Regiment, Upon a Charge “conceived to be Mutinous and Highly Reproachful to the President and Commander in Chief of the Militia of the United States and in Direct Opposition to the Orders of the Commander in Chief of the Militia of Maryland” (Printed by J. Robinson, Baltimore, 1809).

[x]. See Boston Repertory, 19 Jan. 1810, p. 2; New Hampshire Gazette, 23 Jan. 1810, p. 3; “A Duel”, Hampshire Federalist, 25 January 1810, p. 3; Federal Gazette, 12 Jan. 1810, p. 2.

[xi]. Hanson’s aversion to France and the Jacobins is referenced in Colonial Mansions of Maryland and Delaware by John M. Hammond, (J. B. Lippincott Company, 1914), 181. For broader view of, see L. Marx Renzulli Jr., Maryland: The Federalist Years (Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1972), 144–146.

[xii]. For background on the city of Baltimore circa 1812, including Old Town and Fell’s Point, the state of the Federalist party, and the broader national political scene, I drew from a variety of sources, including Charles Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore: Workers and Politics in the Age of Revolution, 1763–1812 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984); Robert Brugger, Maryland: A Middle Temperament, 1634–1980 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988); and Col. J. Thomas Scharf, The Chronicles of Baltimore: Being A Complete History of ‘Baltimore Town’ and Baltimore City from the earliest period to the present time (Maryland Historical Society, 1874).

[xiii]. For reactions of Baltimore residents to the editorial, and plans for retaliation, see Grievances, 2; Deposition of Isaac Caustin, ibid., 318; Deposition of Edward Johnson, ibid., 174; Deposition of Christopher Raborg, ibid., 321; Deposition of William Gwynn, ibid., 22.

[xiv]. Deposition of James Sterett, ibid., 200; and Deposition of Samuel Hollingsworth, ibid., 336.

[xv]. See Deposition of Dr. John Owen, Grievances, p. 292, 296. Deposition of James Sterett, ibid., 200; Deposition of Samuel Hollingsworth, ibid., 336. The socioeconomic breakdown of the rioters is reviewed in rich detail by Paul Gilje, “‘Le Menu Peuple’ in America: Identifying the Mob in the Baltimore Riots of 1812,” Maryland Historical Society Magazine, spring 1986, p. 53–64.

[xvi]. See Deposition of Edward Johnson, Grievances, 160.

[xvii]. Deposition of William Gwynn, Grievances, 21–22.

[xviii]. Dr. Phillip Lewis, a French apothecary, is identified in several depositions and contemporary accounts. See Deposition of Edward Johnson, ibid., 161,176; Deposition of John Worthington, ibid., 241; Deposition of Christopher Raborg, ibid., 322; Deposition of Samuel Hollingsworth, ibid., 335; and Committee’s Executive Summary, ibid., 2. Lewis is also included in Fry’s Baltimore Directory for 1810, listed as a druggist living on Pitt Street in Old Town.

[xix]. John Howard Payne, who later earned fame as a playwright and songwriter best known for the ballad “Home Sweet Home,” offers insight into Hanson’s motivations after the first riot. See Deposition of John Howard Payne, ibid., 14–15, 18-19. See also, Cassell, 245. For more on Payne’s life and his connections to Hanson, see Theodore Sedgwick, “A Sketch of the Life of John Howard Payne,” Boston Evening Gazette, 1833.

[xx]. Hanson’s loan requests are detailed in a series of letters he wrote to Edward J. Coale, a Baltimore publisher and bookseller. See Maryland Historical Society, Alexander Contee Hanson papers, 1737–1877, MS 408. One of his earlier recorded letters is to Mr. George Carter, in 1806, in which he asked for a loan of “$200 to $300.”

[xxi]. Numerous incidents occurred in the aftermath of the newspaper attack. See Federal Gazette, 24 June 1812, p. 3 (vandalism of ships); Deposition of Mr. William Gwynn, Grievances, 22 (attack against Charles Smith); Deposition of William Stewart, ibid., 63, (attack on Richard Hutchins); Depositions of Samuel Sterett and William Barney, ibid, 202-203, 279 (religious based attack on Alexander Wiley); Deposition of John S. Abel and John Scott, ibid., 20, 307 (race-based attack on James Briscoe).

[xxii]. Baltimore had grown more ethnically diverse than other seaboard ports, and less reliant on slave labor than its Southern neighbors, but racial tensions remained. For more on the mob’s late-night shenanigans and multifaceted motivations, see Richard Chew, “Origins of Mobtown: Social Division and Racial Conflict in the Baltimore Riots of 1812”, Maryland Historical Magazine, no 3, fall 2009, p. 279–281. For background on African Americans and the history of slavery in Maryland, see “Legacy of Slavery in Maryland” Maryland State Archives, (accessed April and May, 2017). See also Executive Summary, Grievances, 3, 20; Deposition of John S. Abel, ibid., 307. Deposition of John Scott, ibid., 120.

[xxiii]. Republican Star (Easton, Maryland), 30 June 1812, p. 2.

[xxiv]. Washington Courier, 1 July 1812, p.3.

[xxv]. Pasley, 233, 241, 245.

[xxvi]. “Baltimore Mobs,” Hagers-Town Gazette (Hagers-Town, Maryland), 4 August 1812, p. 3.

[xxvii]. See Letter from James McHenry to Robert Oliver, 24 June 1812, as cited by Bernard C. Steiner, The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry (Cleveland: Burrows Brothers Company 1912), 580 (“McHenry’s Last Days”).

[xxviii]. See Colonial Mansions of Maryland and Delaware, 181.

[xxix]. For a description of the house, see Correct Account of the Conduct of the Baltimore Mob, by Gen. Henry Lee, One of the Sufferers, Published by a Particular Friend, To which is prefixed as Introductory Detail of the Circumstance, Substantiated by many Concurrent Evidences, John Heiskell printer, July 1814, p. 5.

[xxx]. Hanson and his crew of Federalist defenders were first dubbed a “Spartan Band” in some contemporary accounts. See deposition of John Worthington, Grievances, 245; and Federal Republican, 19 October 1812, p. 3. See also Cassell, 246.

[xxxi]. The details were included in an unsigned letter to Hanson, but is very likely from Lee. The Baltimore City Council in a later report identified Lee as the author. The letter is posted from Alexandria where Lee resided and the contents track with his own military experience. In his deposition Hanson’s friend Payne also described a paper written by Lee with details on the defensive measures similar to the unsigned letter. See Interesting Papers Relative to the Recent Riots at Baltimore, Philadelphia, 1812, p.11–12; and Deposition of John Howard Payne, Grievances, 19.

[xxxii]. Interesting Papers, 11.

[xxxiii]. Deposition of John Howard Payne, Grievances, 20.

[xxxiv]. Henry Gaither’s recollection of his visit with Lingan comes from his court testimony given during the Federalist trial. See “From the Testimony of Henry Gaither, Esq.,” Federal Republican, 18 Nov. 1812, p. 2

[xxxv]. Federal Republican, 27 July 1812, p.2.

[xxxvi]. Deposition of Dennis Nowland, ibid, 188.

[xxxvii]. Ibid.

[xxxviii]. James Biays was the “bully.” Federal Republican, 19 September 1810, p. 3.

[xxxix]. Narrative of John Hall, Exact and Authentic, 46; Narrative of Otho Sprigg, ibid., 54; and Deposition of Henry C. Gaither, Grievances, 192.

[xl]. Deposition of Dennis Nowland, ibid, 187; and Deposition of Thomas C. Jenkins, ibid., 43.

[xli]. “Extract of a Letter from one of the meritorious, though unsuccessful defenders of the freedom of the press at Baltimore, to his parents, dated 1 August 1812,” Exact and Authentic, 56.

[xlii]. Deposition of Richard Dorsey, Grievances, 339; and Exact and Authentic, 13.

[xliii] “From the Federal Republican,” by A.C. Hanson, Norfolk Gazette, 14 September 1812, p. 1.

[xliv]. Correct Account, 6–7. For details on the warning shot and the feelings inside the house, see Exact and Authentic, 7–8.

[xlv]. For background on General John Stricker, see Steve Vogel, Through the perilous fight; six weeks that saved the nation (New York: Random House, 2013), 294–295; Thomas Scharf, History of Baltimore City and County from the earliest period to the present day including biographical sketches of their representative men, Published by Louis H. Everts, Philadelphia, 1881, p. 92; and Paul A. Gilje, “Baltimore Riots of 1812 and the Breakdown of the Anglo-American Mob Tradition,” Journal of Social History, vol. 13, no. 4, 1980, p. 521.

[xlvi]. Deposition of Richard Magruder, Grievances, 75; Deposition of Dennis F. MacGruder, ibid., 116; Deposition of George Steuart, ibid., 216; Deposition of William Gwynn, ibid., 24–25; and Deposition of George Howard, ibid., 230.

[xlvii]. Dr. Gale is identified as the mob ringleader in multiple newspaper accounts and depositions. See Exact and Authentic, 9; A Dr. T. Gale advertised in the Baltimore newspapers circa 1812 touting his experience with the curative effects of “medical electricity.” See American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore), 9 July 1812, 16 July 1812, and 28 July 1812 for just a few examples. Dr. T. Gale is also the author of Electricity or Ethereal Fire, published by T. Moffit and Lyon in New York in 1802, which is cited in variety of medical and historical sources.

[xlviii]. Deposition of James Gittings, Grievances, 235.

[xlix]. The “forbearance” of the Federalists is described in Deposition of George Atkinson, Grievances, 313; Deposition of Christopher Raborg, ibid., 324; Deposition of John Howard Payne, ibid., 18; and Deposition of Thomas Buchanan, ibid., 102.

[l]. Deposition of Nixon Wilson, Grievances, 50, 150; Deposition of John Geiger, ibid., 191; Deposition of Andrew Boyd, ibid., 224; Deposition of Jim Gittings, ibid., 235; Deposition of Nicholas Brice, ibid., 247; Deposition of Henry H. Ducker, ibid., 287; Deposition of John Abel, ibid., 309; Deposition of William Barney, ibid., 275 and Exact and Authentic, 9.

[li] Deposition of Dennis Magruder, ibid., 117.

[lii]. Deposition of Middleton Magruder, ibid., 304.

[liii]. “From the Testimony of Henry Gaither, Esq.,” Federal Republican, Nov. 18, 1812, p. 2.

[liv]. Deposition of Edward Johnson, Grievances, 164.

[lv] .Exact and Authentic, 16.

[lvi]. Ibid.

[lvii]. Deposition of Andrew Boyd, Grievances, 225; Deposition of George Howard, ibid., 233.

[lviii]. George Wolleslagar, with spelling variations. See Criminal Dockets, Court of Oyer and Terminer for Baltimore County, July 1812, (“Wolleslager”); Deposition of Edward Johnson, Grievances, 169 (“Wooleslager”). For history of assaults, see Interesting Papers, 81.

[lix]. Deposition of Edward Johnson, ibid., 177.

[lx]. Narrative of John Thompson, Exact and Authentic, 42.

[lxi]. Deposition of Edward Johnson, ibid., 169.

[lxii]. Ibid., 170.

[lxiii]. Correct Account, 12.

[lxiv]. Deposition of Richard Owen, Grievances, 36.

[lxv]. See Deposition of John Owen, ibid., 294; Deposition of William Merryman, ibid., 110.

[lxvi]. Hanson’s plan is recounted in Exact and Authentic, 26.

[lxvii]. Ibid., 27.

[lxviii]. Michael Leib, A portrait of the evils of democracy submitted to the consideration of the people of Maryland,” Published by Committee of Grievances and Courts of Justice, printed in Baltimore, 1816, p. 16.

[lxix]. Deposition of Isaac Dickson, Grievances, 86.

[lxx]. Exact and Authentic, 28, 30.

[lxxi]. Letter from James W. Williams to John W. Stump, July 28, 1812, War of 1812 Collection, Maryland Historical Society, (MS 1846).

[lxxii]. Ibid., 29.

[lxxiii]. Ibid., 30.

[lxxiv]. Letter of James P. Boyd to James McHenry, 2 August 1812.

[lxxv] See Exact and Authentic, 36; and Dorsey, Ella Loraine, “A Biographical Sketch of James Maccubbin Lingan, One of the Original Proprietors,” Historical Society of Washington, D.C., vol. 13, 1910, p.19.

[lxxvi]. Deposition of Richard Magruder, Grievances, 83.

[lxxvii]. Deposition of Edward Johnson, ibid., 170.

[lxxviii]. Individual rioters can be identified from court-docket entries. See Criminal Dockets, Court of Oyer and Terminer for Baltimore County, July 1812, Maryland State Archives, MSA C183-7. Keenholm (or Kenelom) White, (entry 501); James Darling, (entry 503); and Hugh Beard (entry 502) were all charged with murder. George Hayes (entry 571) was charged with unlawful assembly, rioting and assault; and George Rodemeyer (or Rhodemeyer) (entry 686) faced charges for aiding and abetting. Occupations, when not listed in docket entry, were obtained from Fry’s Baltimore Directory, 1810 and 1812. White’s newspaper advertisement protesting his innocence was published in several newspapers, including the American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, 3 September 1812, p. 2. For a comprehensive look at the identity of rioters, see also Gilje’s “‘Le Menu Peuple’ in America: Identifying the Mob in the Baltimore Riots of 1812.”

[lxxix]. Details about the presence of women and boys outside the jail comes from a letter written by James Boyd to James McHenry (his father-in-law) a few days after the attack. See Letter of James P. Boyd to James McHenry, 2 August 1812, James McHenry Papers (MSS32177), microfilm reel 3, Library of Congress.

[lxxx]. Deposition of Dr. John Owen, Grievances, 295.

[lxxxi]. “Narrative of John E. Hall, esq.,” Evils of Democracy, 53.

[lxxxii]. Federal Republican, 7 August 1812, p. 3.

[lxxxiii]. Deposition of William Gwynn, Grievances, 31.

[lxxxiv]. Repertory (Boston, Massachusetts), 4 August 1812, p. 2.

[lxxxv]. Historians note that the Baltimore riots marked a pivot point in the nation’s history of social disorder. See Gilje, 547–548. Also, Gilje’s Rioting in America (Indiana University Press, 1996), 60–63.

[lxxxvi]. William M. Marine, The British Invasion of Maryland 1812–1815 (Baltimore: Society of the War of 1812 in Maryland, 1913), 10. See also Baltimore Patriot, 8 January 1813, p. 3; Repertory (Boston), 28 August 1812, p.2; Federal Republican, 26 August 1812, p. 3; ibid., 21 September 1812, p. 3; Scharf, 339.

[lxxxvii]. Columbian Telegraph (Norwich, New York), 18 November 1812, p. 3 (Quoting Virginia Argus).

[lxxxviii]. Peter Harvey, Reminiscences and Anecdotes of Daniel Webster (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co, 1877), 353–354.

[lxxxix]. Federalists gathered at Faneuil Hall in Boston on 6 August 1812, to adopt a set of resolutions decrying the “most outrageous attack on the Freedom of Opinion and the Liberty of the Press,” and placing blame on the mob, comprised of foreigners and “French emissaries.” Similar resolutions condemning the lawlessness were approved in by Federalists in Franklin County, Pennsylvania; Charleston, South Carolina; New York City; and across Maryland, including a Charles County effort that boasted of representation from Democratic-Republican members.

[xc]. Evils, 82.

[xci]. Congressman Charles Turner. See Public Advertiser (New York), 12 August 1812, p. 3; and Boston Patriot, 1 August 1812, p 1.

[xcii]. “From James Madison to John Montgomery, 13 August 1812,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified 29 June 2017,

[xciii]. Scharf, 339.

[xciv]. Dorsey, 19.

[xcv] George Washington Parke Custis, An address occasioned by the death of General Lingan (Boston: Bradford & Read, 1812).

[xcvi]. Rob Hiaasen, “When an editorial could get you killed,” Baltimore Sun, 24 May 1996, p. 1E.

[xcvii]. Ibid.

[xcviii]. Charles Colcock Jones, Reminiscences of the last days, death, and burial of General Henry Lee, Darlington Library Texts, 15–33.

[xcix]. “Letter to John E. Hall,” 22 August 1812, Maryland Historical Society, Alexander Contee Hanson papers, MS 408, p.1.

[c]. “The Massacre at Baltimore,” Federal Republican, 3 August 1812, p. 3.

[ci]. Massachusetts Spy, 20 May 1812, p. 3.

[cii]. Scharf, 339.

[ciii]. Cabinet (Schenectady, New York), 28 October 1812, p. 2; “Elections in Upper Counties,” Federal Republican, 10 October 1814, p. 3; and “Drowning men will catch at straws,” Maryland Gazette, 10 September 1812, p. 2; Constitutionalist (Exeter, New Hampshire), 8 September 1812, p. 1.

[civ]. Berkshire Reporter (Pittsfield, Mass.), 2 September 1813, p. 3.

[cv]. “Proceedings and Debates,” House of Representatives, History of Congress, May 1813, p. 113–118, 125–127. See also Schauinger, p. 355–356.

[cvi] Allegany Freeman (Cumberland, Maryland), 27 July 1816, p. 6.

[cvii]. Hanson was sworn-in as U.S. Senator on 2 January 1817 at the age of 30 years and 11 months. See A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875, 2 January 1817,, accessed June 20, 2017.

[cviii]. Hanson resigned his seat in Congress and ran for the House of Delegates in October, 1816 as a member of the “Violents” or “Blue Lights” ––a rival faction within the Federalist Party. He lost, but rebounded a few months later with appointment to the U.S. Senate. See Baltimore Patriot, 21 Dec. 1816, p. 2; “Maryland 1816 House of Delegates, Montgomery County,” A New Nation Votes,”, accessed 2 June 2017; Allegany Freeman (Cumberland, Maryland), 20 July 1816, p. 2.

[cix]. Hanson’s declining health, both mental and physical, is expressed in a series of letters he wrote to his wife and friends. See Letter to Priscilla Hanson, March 30 (no year), Maryland Historical Society, Alexander Contee Hanson papers, MS 408, (“I am daily more and more pressed down by torturing reflections”); Letter to Priscilla Hanson, June 28 (may have been 1818), ibid., 1. (“I suffer much with acid.”); Letter to Priscilla Hanson, Aug. 27 (may have been 1813), ibid., 1. (“My anxiety to be on the way to Boston increases.”); Letter to Edward Coale, “Monday,” (undated), ibid., (“I know my defects and feel my deficiencies.”)

[cx]. Hanson, letter to John E. Hall, August 1813, Maryland Historical Society, Alexander Contee Hanson papers, MS 408, p.1.

[cxi]. Known as the “Convention respecting fisheries, boundary and the restoration of slaves.” See, “Bilateral Treaties in Force as of November 1, 2007,” U.S. Department of State,, accessed 1 August 2017, p.39.

[cxii]. “Funeral of Alexander Hanson,” City of Washington Gazette (Washington, DC), 3.

[cxiii]. E.g., “Chronicle,” Niles Register, 1 May 1819, p. 176.

[cxiv]. An act establishing the town of Hanson, Massachusetts, was enacted by the state legislature 19 February 1820. See Acts and Resolves of 1819, Chapter 147, General Court of Massachusetts, 22 February 1820,,

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Alexander Hanson and the Mobtown Massacre by Josh S. Cutler