"If King George had only left the war to Nabby Freeman, the rebellion would soon have been quelled."
It is recorded that Captain Samuel Crocker once made that remark. At this time in history, young courting men were advised not to discuss politics with their female acquaintances (a subject 'too strenuous for the female mind', according to the same Captain Crocker.) Abigail Davis Freeman, fiercely Loyalist, not only held her own in political debate with her male neighbors, she apparently was perceived as being a threat to the Patriot cause.
Abigail was widowed at a young age and didn't remarry. Instead of settling in with a family member to share the household chores, as did many women in her situation, she instead chose to go it alone, eking out a living running a small shop, which she did successfully into her senior years. When other shopkeepers of the Revolutionary era were struggling due to the fluctuations in the value of the currency, Abigail managed to hang on by falling back on the bartering system.
|At first, the trouble was over English tea, which she insisted on keeping even when "Vigilance Committees" were hunting for it. The problem wasn't just the tea, however; it was her feisty defiance and loud Loyalist opinions. She said what she thought and stuck to her convictions.|
Nobody knows the names of the "Patriots" who executed the deed which we are about to relate. One night, some young men waited up until they were certain the old woman had gone to bed, and then they broke into her home, dragged her from her sleep, took her outside, and smeared her with tar and feathers. A fence rail was produced, and they sat her upon it. As she struggled, one member of the party restrained her, and the others paraded the rail about the village green. Finally, when the old widow was completely terrorized, and had promised to keep her political opinions to herself, she was released.
Most of the authors who recorded this event are appalled that these Patriots would be compelled to stifle anybody's freedom of speech. Amos Otis, however, lays some of the blame on Abigail for being a better debater than her adversaries. He also says that the ardent, overzealous young men who were involved were caught up in the emotions of the time. Some local residents of Sandwich and Barnstable actually approved of the act. [Abigail Freeman Page 2]