Joyce, Jnr.

Joyce, Jnr.

Joyce, Jnr. also written as Joyce, Junior or Joyce, Jun'r in Colonial times, is a nom de plume inspired by a little-known Bostonian, a Revolutionary hero who stopped the 18h century version of Conservatives in their tracks before they could undermine the American Revolution in Boston, Tories who were traitorously working behind the lines with our British enemies, halted by the collective, All-American institution of tar and feathering.

The original "Joyce" was Cornet George Joyce, a participant in the execution of Charles I (, and one of the few online references to his brief yet fascinating history is here. (You may scroll down to just after page 88, however it is worth looking at the whole document to get a flavor of the Revolutionary times in Massachusetts not covered in our high school American history textbooks.)

Who Was Joyce, Junior?

Esther Forbes introduced a strange figure in her classic biography of ,Paul Revere "Paul Revere - And The World He Lived In," (American Heritage Library, 1942:  "For years this threatening anonymous name appears in newspapers, placards, broadsides. Oily and deadly, 'Joyce Jr' weaves his way through the history of the town. Nothing upset his aplomb and dignity. For this quaint figure the folk mind had gone back for a hundred years and more, for it was Cornet Joyce who had captured Charles the First and delivered him over to the army.

It was believed that Joyce had been one of the two masked men who had stood beside the block when the king's head fell. And in the popular mind (but not in history) Joyce himself had actually beheaded the king. He was a symbol of popular revolt against government -- hardly a real man at all, as much as a masked crusader.

Boston had dropped his first name (It was George), taken him to herself, and added the "Junior."  As the masked leader who led the annual anti-Catholic Pope's Day parade in Boston (Guy Fawkes Day in England), Joyce morphed into a revolutionary leader who aided the Sons and Daughters of Liberty as their "Chairman of the Committee for Tarring and Feathering" in Boston and surrounding towns.

Joyce vs. the Tories

The Tories, the aristocratic party of yesteryear, not only spied on the colonials but many in the merchant class milked illegal profits from their fellow countrymen by selling scarce goods at inflated prices.  They also refused to accept payment in paper, favoring metal specie.  Black marketing was held in particular abhorrence by the Colonists.  The practice depreciated an already weak currency of the citizenry, who were struggling after the end of the devastating French and Indian Wars in 1763.  Many towns lacked an effective constabulary to arrest the war profiteers, so in Boston activists like Joyce took command of the "mobs" to seek out and punish the war profiteers and other Fifth Columnists.

From the time of the Stamp Act in 1765 through the middle years of the Revolution ending in 1777, throughout the Atlantic coast, American Tories were pursued by the colonial patriots.  If not summarily executed the Tories might be banished from the towns and cities when caught, hung in effigy when they evaded capture or, the most ignoble of punishments, stripped, tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.

Joyce's method was to post notices in public and in the press promising dire punishment for the those American royalists he named as traitors to their country. Failure to obey his commands was foolish as Joyce could lead mobs of up to a thousand angry Colonials ready to tar and feather their enemies.

Joyce Introduces Himself to Boston.

On Saturday morning, January 15th, 1774 - only a month after the Boston Tea Party - an announcement was posted all over Boston town and in the Boston Gazette, the Essex Gazette, and the Boston News-Letter.

    "Brethren, and Fellow Citizens! YOU may depend, that those odious Miscreants and detestable Tools to Ministry and Governor, the TEA CONSIGNEES, (those Traitors to their Country, Butchers, who have done, and are doing every Thing to Murder and Destroy all that shall stand in the Way of their private Interest), are determined to come and reside again in the Town of Boston. I therefore give you this early Notice that you may hold yourselves in Readiness, on the shortest Notice, to give them such a Reception, as such vile Ingrates deserve. JOYCE, jun.
    (Chairman of the Committee of Tarring and Feathering)
    If any Person should be so hardy as to Tear this down, they may expect my severest Resentment. J. jun."

And shortly after on March 28, 1774 we see that Joyce, Junior's services were already in demand by other townspeople in the Colony with Tory "problems."

    "A CARD. The Plymouth Protestors present their Compliments to JOYCE, jun. and ask the Favor of him to make Preparation for a Reception of a select Committee from their Body, who propose to honor the Metropolis with a Visit .
The "Plymouth Protestors" apparently met with Joyce, and as we shall see, those Tories who ignored Joyce's threats soon found out the threats were not idle ones."

A Contemporary Account.

An anonymous narrator writing in the Boston Daily Advertiser on November 9, 1821 credited Joyce, Junior and his cohorts with actions leading to the Boston Massacre, and ultimately the Revolution:

"A man used to ride an ass with immense jack boots and his face covered with a horrible mask and was called 'Joyce Jr,' he wrote. "His office was to assemble men and boys in mob style and ride in the middle of them, and in such company to terify the adherents to Royal Government, before the Revolution. The tumults which resulted in the Massacre, 1770, was excited by that means. -- Joyce Junior, was said to have a particular whistle which brought his adherents, whenever they were wanted."

Yet another contemporaneous description of Joyce, Junior surfaced in a letter to a London paper when a local Tory informer divulged the names of sixty-two Bostonians who were leaders of the local rebels - including John Hancock, Benjamin Church, Joseph Warren, and Paul Revere. He noted that one of the Revolutionaries was "...(name somehow ripped off in one version.  In another, he was identified as John Winthrop), Alias Joyce Jr., chairman of the Committee for Tarring and Feathering, who is now strolling the West Indies."

Even Revolutionary heroes had vacation time 200 years ago.

Joyce Criticizes Cruel Punishment For Villain of "Lesser Consequence."

In the beginning of his role as "Chairman," Joyce disassociated himself from a particularly vicious tarring and feathering of Tory John Malcolm on January, 25, 1774.  Malcolm, described by Forbes as "...fifty at the time, violently loyalist in his feelings, and undoubtedly touched" had run up to the second story of his house to escape a warrant for his arrest after assaulting a local resident, George Robert Twelves Hewes. Armed with a pistols, a sword and an ax, he was boasted to the crowd below that he would "split down the Yankees by the dozen and receive twenty shillings sterling a head."

"Ladders were put up. He was disarmed and passed down to a cart waiting below. He was taken to a wharf, stripped to the waist, and painted with tar. The contents of two feather pillows were stuck to the tar. By now over a thousand people had gathered. For four hours the poor creature was carted all over Boston. To King Street, the Liberty Tree, out to the gallows on the Neck (where he was forced to drink the health of all eleven members of the royal family in tea, and nearly burst). Back to the Tree and King Street again, then to Copp's Hill. At every stopping place he was flogged. After four hours of this torture, half frozen and seemingly half dead, he 'was rolled out of the cart like a log.'"

The Boston Gazette corroborated the event, noting that the mob "tore his Cloaths off, and tarr'd his Head and Body, and feathered him, then set him in a Chair in the Cart, and carried him through the main Street into King-Street, from thence they proceeded to Liberty-Tree, and then to the Neck as far as the Gallows, where they whipped him, beat him with Sticks and threatened to hang him."  (It was rare that Tories were tarred and feathered more than once, but Malcolm certainly was more obnoxious than most. According to the local papers he was 'genteely TARR'D and FEATHER'D' on the first of November,1773 -- fully clothed, which often indicated a minor offense.)

But Joyce thought the crowd went too far and posted a new handbill five days later on January 30th:

    "Brethern and Fellow Citizens This is to Certify, that the modern Punishment Lately Inflicted on the ignoble John Malcolm was not done by our Order. We reserve that Method for Bringing Villains Of greater Consequence to a Sense of Guilt and Infamy. Joyce Jun'r. Chairman of the Committee for Tarring and Feathering. If any person be so hardy as to tear this down, they may expect my severest Resentment Joyce jun'r

Intentions aside, Forbes says, "This is typical 'Joyce Jun'r' literature. His character is mild, lofty, unctuous. He rarely threatens more than 'resentment,' yet there is something definitely unpleasant in his studied courtesy...Oily and deadly 'Joyce Jr' weaves his way through the history of the town. Nothing upset his aplomb and dignity."

Banishment: Better Fate Than Tarring and Feathering.

A Letter in the Boston Gazette on March 17, 1777 written by one of the leaders of the Sons of Liberty to Joyce, Junior identified several Tories with "dangerous designs" by name. They asked their masked leader to use whatever methods he deemed "best" to drive the "Miscreant Tories" out of town.

    JOYCE, Junior, PRESENTS his most respectful compliments to those chosen few, who early and faithfully engaged in the Cause of Liberty and their Country, to oppose those Sons of Tyranny who took Shelter behind the British Tyrant's Edicts, and Band of Hireling Vassals, That he is once more returned from Correcting those Miscreants, after almost two Years Absence; That he will meet them at the *old place* of Rendezvous toMorrow Evening, 7 o'Clock, in Order to Consult the most effective Ways and Means to carry into Execution the Act of this State to prevent Monopoly and oppression; To see what is best to be done with those shameless Brass Faced Tories, who have the Audaciousness to remain among this much abused and insulted People, and still carry on their Trecherous Designs; To take the best Methods to get rid of a Set of abandoned Miscreant Tories, who have been drove out of the several Towns in this State for their Villainous Doings, and have taken Shelter in this Town; To take some effective Method to prevent their frequent Meetings, and Act upon all such Matters as shall come before them. N.B. I desire you would make a proper Enquiry of a Rescinding Calf, a Malden Porter, a Cape-Ann Serjeant and a Refugee Upham.

(The "Rescinding Calf," et. al. were nicknames for suspected Tories: The Rescinding Calf was Dr. John Calef of Ipswich, a Malden Porter was Dr. Jonathan Porter of Malden - later exonerated by the township in Malden in a letter to the Independent Chronicle, Epes Serjeant of Cape Ann was third man, and the Refugee Upham was was Joshua Upham of Brookfield, Massachusetts who "relocated" to Canada, becoming the Justice of the Superior Court of the Province of New Brunswick.)

And on April 19, 1777, on the second anniversary of the Battle of Lexington, Joyce, Junior and 500 men seized five "Tory Villains" marched them to Roxbury neck, commanding them never to return to Boston.

That night handbills were posted through the town. A lengthy warning was sent for publication to Benjamin Edes, the sympathetic owner of the Boston Gazette, addressing those "Villains of Greater Consequences, and published on April 21st":

    Mr. Edes, Omit publishing the following at your Peril. A NOTIFICATION. WHEREAS, by my express Command, this Day, five Tory Villains were carted over the Line on Boston neck, viz. William Jackson, Nathaniel Cary, James Perkins, and Richard Green, of this Town, and a certain Epes Sarjeant, of Cape Ann, Persons, whose Characters have been so uniform for some Time past, as not to be marked even with the Shadow of a Virtue: -- AND whereas there are many more of the same Stamp in this Town, and others daily coming in from the Country, because the Towns they resided in could no longer bear their unparalleled wickedness, lest they make others as bad as themselves. --AND whereas I have certain Information of a Gang of Tories, who have Weekly Meeting at particular Houses in this Town, under Cover of the Night, then and there consulting and wickedly contriving to ruin, if possible, this once happy Land: -- AND whereas there are several Merchants, Shopkeepers and others in the Town, who have a large Quantity of Dry Goods, and West-India Produce, which they have secreted, and still refuse to sell, altho' the good People of this State, and the Army, are in immediate Want of such Articles; and others that do sell, are guilty of many wicked and evil Practices, in adulterating certain of their Goods, and others refusing Paper Currency; -- AND whereas, notwithstanding the many good and wholesome Laws of this State, Villains of each of the foregoing Denominations, either by Evasions, or by having their Causes supported by Persons of a certain Class, called Moderate Men, alias Hypocrites, escape condign Punishment: -- I HAVE therefore thought fit to issue this my NOTIFICATION, strictly charging and commanding all Persons who are guilty of any or all of the Vices and Enormities herein before enumerated, that they forthwith cease from all such nefarious Practices, otherwise they may rely on Judgment without Mercy; and who, if I hear any more of their Impertinence, shall endeavour to teach THEM Wisdom. I DO hereby require, in Compliance with the good and wholesome Laws of this State, and for the Good of the Public, for whom I stand forth, That all who have left Butchering, Droving, Horse jockeying, Shoe-making, Sand-driving, and assum'd selling by Wholesale or Retail West India Goods, and all others in the same Business, and of Huxtering, that they forthwith open their Stores and shops, and sell openly and publickly, Rum Sugar, Molasses, Cotton-Wool, &c. &c. at the Prices stipulated by Law. I DO further command and require all Meetings of Tories to cease from this Time, or else I shall take an Opportunity of breaking up their further gossippings at the Widows. And I do Caution the said Widow from permitting her Son going with any more Letters to Reading and Concord. I most affectionately return my Thanks, to those free Sons who gave me their Assistance this Day. I shall notify when I would be glad to see them again. JOYCE, Junr.

Abigail Adams Confirms Fate of Tory "Villains."

In a letter dated the next day on April 20, 1977 Abigail Adams briefed future President, her husband John:

    "I hate to tell a story unless I am informed of every particular. As it happened yesterday, and to-day is Sunday, I have not been so fully informed as I could wish. About eleven o'clock yesterday William Jackson, Dick Green, Harry Perkins, and Sargent, of Cape Ann, and A. Carry, of Charlestown, were carted out of Boston under the direction of Joice junior (Abigail was an indifferent speller, but others applied different spellings to Joyce also), who was mounted on horseback, with a red coat, a white wig, and a drawn sword, with drum and fife following. A concourse of people to the amount of five hundred followed. They proceeded as far as Roxbury, when he ordered the cart to be tipped up, then told them if they were ever caught in town again it should be at the expense of their lives. He then ordered his gang to return, which they did immediately without any disturbance."

She added this paragraph on the next day:

    "Have now learned the crime of the carted Tories. It seems they have refused to take paper money, and offered their goods lower for silver than for paper; bought up articles at a dear rate, and then would not part with them for paper."

And finally, a "soldier" posted what was probably the prevailing feeling about their hero along with a call for action - a call for action needed today:

    "A True Friend to America, compell'd by the Necessity of the Times, presents his Compliments to Joyce, Jun'r, and tho' he acknowledges the Method of extirpating Tories, would come better from Government, yet he apprehends the Reins at present so lax, that spirited Measures should be taken by some Well wisher to his Country, and one who will proceed in this Business with Order and Regularity. -- He therefore earnestly calls upon this spirited Asserter of the American Cause, to proceed in such Manner as he, with the Advice of his Brethren shall think proper, to clear this Town of all noted and suspicious Persons, who are so injurious to this State in particular, and the United States in general, and who will sooner effect our Destruction by their secret Combinations, Consultations, and other diabolical Practices, than the whole Force sent against us by Great Britain. -- This Country being once Free from these Pests to Society, he trusts in God, Mr. Howe, with all his mercenary Troops, will never be able to effect their Design. The other Towns in this State, are also earnestly called upon, to exert themselves in the Salvation of their Country, by some Measures similar to those taken in this Town; and all Committees of Correspondence, Inspection, Safety and others, are desired to keep a strict Watch upon the Motions of these wicked designing Men. The Intelligence we have had of burning Stores at Danbury, is sufficient to rouse us from our present Lethergy, and I dare aver, many of these internal Enemies would, with pleasure, convey the British Troops to our most valuable Magazines - A Word to the Wise is sufficient.
Joyce, Jnr., my *nom de guerre* is inspired by an obscure Bostonian pre-Revolutionary War hero who, as the "Chairman of Tar & Feathering" in Boston, Massachusetts, led the people to seek out and punish or evict from the town the 18th century version of Conservative enemies; the fate of those unfortunate enough to find themselves caught by Joyce and his followers, was to be ushered out of town propped upon a wooden plank, and festooned from head to tail with tar and feathers.


Joyce, Jnr was a Vigilante.  Vigilantes, like those affected by assassins or terrorists, are thought in the eyes of the object of the tar and feathering as extralegal entities, but as Courts of Last Resort to the participants in the absence or ineffectiveness of legal institutions. (

The theory that Joyce was merchant John Winthrop, Jr., son of a Harvard professor and a 1765 Harvard graduate, is a fascinating one, if only to compare one of Winthrop's own ancestors in a painting with "V" - the protagonist from the film *V is For Vendetta.* ( or

Though vigilantism has a long history going back to ancient times, Joyce, Jr. was one of the first of a long line of vigilantes in the New World, citizen groups who felt that the law was unable, or unwilling to assist the downtrodden from criminal actions:  the Regulators in pre-Revolutionary North Carolina; the California vigilantes in the mid-1800s - notably the San Francisco Vigilance Movement; the Montana Vigilantes in the 1860s (; other groups in Tennessee and throughout the South; Indiana; Alaska; in the modern era vigilante groups in Finland, China, Thailand, Ireland, El Salvador, New York City; and numerous other countries - even on the seas we count the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ( - and on and on.

In fiction, from Robin Hood and his Merry Men to Batman and Robin to rogue cop Dirty Harry romanticize the vigilantes are celebrated as crime crusaders.

Not all vigilantism is morally correct, and some innocents have been victims especially when vigilantes have taken a racist turn - the Klu Klux Klan murdering African Americans and Arizona vigilantes looking to shooting down Mexican border-crossers are prime examples.

Yet Finally Conservatives' ally, the National Rifle Association, together with Conservative legislators and governors, is seeking to arm all citizens with an unstated aim of using firearms to gun down people of color (, a form of mass vigilantism.  (Were we not once taught in grammar schools that in the West the legality of average citizens carrying guns was abolished as the institutions of law - courts, marshals, and sheriffs - started to develop?)

Hopefully, the ghost of vigilantism will remain buried as we seek to abolish Conservatism by legal means through governmenta channels.


  1. Well now I know all about Joyce,jnr. Interesting reading.

    1. I'm happy that you found Joyce, Jnr. an interesting character, SuperTrout. Where *are* the Joyce, Jnr's of yesteryear?

  2. Great site, just ran across it. Keep up the good work!

  3. Interesting! But I must point out that there is nothing stopping "people of color" from legally having firearms along with other people who are not "people of color". The Second Amendment applies to all citizens, a large portion of whom are colorful. The Second Amendment doesn't discriminate, even if liberals do.

  4. 3 cheers for this site.
    Well done folks.
    Glad I stumbled here. I concur with you that conservatism throughout history is the antithesis of democracy. It is always the argument of the few privileged through existing hierarchy to rule over the many.
    How people do not see this when it is so obvious is a mystery.