Tuesday, September 4

The New Hanover Barbecue Party

From the sauce-stained keyboard of guest blogger Robert Moss.
It’s political convention season, and the so-called Tea Party has been stirring up passions on both sides of the political fence. The group’s name, of course, is taken from the occasion in 1773 when a bunch of irate Bostonians donned Mohawk warrior garb and dumped three shiploads of tea into their harbor to protest British taxation.

A similar but less remembered event took place seven years earlier in North Carolina. At the time, tensions were high over the recently enacted Stamp Act, which levied taxes on legal documents, newspapers, and magazines. Carolinians weren’t particularly receptive to the measure, and in 1766, the militia companies from several counties expressed their discontent by marching to the town of Brunswick and refusing to let a cargo of stamped paper be brought ashore.

Alarmed by the unrest, Governor William Tryon chose a conciliatory path. At the next militia muster in New Hanover, he prepared a feast for the troops that included a whole barbecued ox and several barrels of beer. Now, that seems like a pretty crafty move to me, but as it turns out, it wasn’t nearly enough. When called to the feast, the soldiers mocked Tryon’s hospitality, poured the beer onto the ground, and pitched the ox, untasted, into the Cape Fear River.

For two centuries, colonial American history was written with a focus on New England, and one can only assume that’s the reason the New Hanover Barbecue Party never achieved the historical status of that more famous tea party up in Boston. But, when you think about it, which shows more gumption: disposing of a few crates of tea, or tossing out an entire feast’s worth of barbecue and beer?

Follow Robert Moss on Twitter at @mossr.