Writing about rough drafts in the previous post brought to mind a similar phrase, rough music. It is fortunately now archaic, but found quite common use in the eighteenth-century Anglo-American world. It did not refer to an orchestra out of tune.
Rough music was the fate meted out by a mob to someone it disdained, despised, or feared. Robert Shoemaker describes the custom in The London Mob: Violence and Disorder in Eighteenth-Century England (2007):
Rough music, Shoemaker notes, became “part of the vocabulary of urban protest” in America as well as in England. Two hundred-fifty years ago, in 1765, Parliament’s Stamp Act met with widespread protests in the American colonies, during which ‘rough music’ was administered either to the administrators of the stamp tax or, if they had fled, to effigies representing them. In November 1765, a mob in New York City coursed through its narrow streets with torches protesting the “death of Liberty.” Prominent among them was a seaman who bore on his shoulders a chair with a large paper effigy of the royal governor, Cadwallader Colden. Onlookers took potshots at the figure with pistols and shouted insults.
And then the mob decided it wanted more. Rowdies peeled off to the governor’s stable and fetched his fancy carriage to use in the parade as a representation of a papal throne. For in those days Protestants regarded the Roman Catholic pope as a symbol of tyranny. Indeed, for years in Boston an anti-Catholic celebration known as Pope’s Day was held annually, with rival mobs from the North and South Ends vying for the honor of getting up the more lively procession. Lanterns and torches surrounded carts bearing competing effigies of the Pope and Satan, as young boys with blackened faces paraded as devil’s imps.
Two hundred and fifty years later, the music will be sweeter, one can only hope, when Pope Francis makes his arrival in New York.
James West Davidson
Occasional thoughts on history, teaching, paddling and the outdoors