As the procession of Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution and the Frederick Town Fife and Drum Corps wound through downtown Frederick on Saturday, the crowd of people tagging along continued to grow in size.
Downtown shoppers in hoodies and women in 18th-century dresses mixed together as the group stopped traffic to walk in the footsteps of Fredericktonians 250 years ago, who took to the streets to celebrate the county judges’ repudiation of the British Stamp Act.
The 12 judges, the only governing body for a then-vast Frederick County which stretched to the colonies’ frontier, demanded on Nov. 23, 1765, that the court’s clerk carry on with business — without the special taxed papers required by the act.
The stamp tax had been denounced and protested throughout the colonies, but the resolution and order by the Frederick judges was the official act of disobedience.
The judges wrote that delaying commerce and court functions to wait for paper that had not yet arrived from Britain would cause “innumerable injuries to individuals and have a tendency to subvert all principles of civil government.”
A week later, the city celebrated by parading a coffin, with a copy of the act inside, through town, along with an effigy of the man who was hired by the British monarchy to collect the tax as the “sole mourner” of the court’s action.
Jonas Green, of Annapolis, had ceased publishing The Maryland Gazette upon news of the stamp act, but resurrected the paper after the parade, which was recounted in a lead story. The article, rich with descriptions of the Frederick Town celebration, was republished in papers throughout the colonies.
“To put yourself in the shoes of people who were right here 250 years ago is just incredible,” said Margray Poulin, of Middletown, who attended the event with her husband, Bill.
The Poulins knew the history of the repudiation of the stamp act and had looked forward to Saturday’s event for months, Margray said.
“It was the point at which we really asserted ourselves against the tyranny of the British,” Bill Poulin said. “Frederick is a pivotal city in the history of the U.S.”
Graham Duvall, at 11 months old, was one of the youngest celebrants at Saturday’s event and attracted a lot of attention wearing a tri-corner hat and cotton-ball “powdered wig.”
Allison and Jon Paul Duvall said they enjoyed learning about Frederick’s history; Allison learned more about the Stamp Act repudiation after seeing a plaque commemorating the event.
“We just love the history of Frederick,” she said. “It’s exciting when living history events are going on downtown.”
Gary Brennan, a U.S. History teacher at Brunswick High School, attended the celebration with nine of his students.
“I think it’s great to see everyone out, to see a community enjoying its history and not letting it fade,” Brennsan said, among the crowd at City Hall.
Isabel Damazo, a student in Brennan’s class, said they studied the primary documents and newspaper accounts of the repudiation earlier this semester.
Among other documents, the original court minutes book from 1765 was on display inside City Hall.
Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Theresa M. Adams and Circuit Court Clerk Sandra Dalton led a re-enactment of the showdown between the clerk and judges, who later became known as “the 12 immortals.”
“I continue to be amazed at the courage of these 12 justices,” Adams said at the end of the event. “This was a decision which could have cost someone his life. It was a really brave and courageous decision.”
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