One of the earliest customers of the Liberty Paper Mill – August 19, 1770 – was Henry Quincy of Boston. He didn’t buy much (a ream of whitish-brown paper) so his influence on the mill was minimal, but his ability to acquire provisions for a special dinner in 1778 may very well have had a profound impact on the outcome of the Revolutionary War.
The Battle for Rhode Island – it was actually the battle for Aquidneck Island – was a joint venture between the American Army and French Navy on August 28, 1778. There were losses on both the British and French/American sides, and both claimed victory. However, the failure of the French Navy to win a clear victory and land at Newport led to a great deal of resentment – even some fisticuffs – when the fleet returned to Boston. The animosity among the Americans and the French in Boston threatened France’s future participation in the war.
Stepping in to douse the flames was John Hancock, a resident of Beacon Hill in Boston. Hancock hurriedly tried to assuage the angry French soldiers, inviting them to his mansion every day for meals and throwing them a ball.
Times were tough in Boston; there were shortages of all sorts of goods and supplies, but especially fine food for the French to dine upon. Hancock turned to Henry Quincy, formerly a Boston merchant now in Providence:
The Philistines are coming upon me on Wednesday next at Dinner. To be Serious, the Ambassador &c, &c, &c, are to dine with me on Wednesday, and I have nothing to give them, nor from the present prospect of our Market do I see that I shall be able to get anything in Town; I must beg the fav’r of you to Recommend to my Man Harry where he can get some Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Hams, Partridges, Mutton, or any thing that will save my Reputation in a Dinner, and by all means some Butter; Be so good as to help me, and you will much oblige me; is there any good mellons or Peaches, or any good fruit, near you? Your advice to Harry will much oblige me; Excuse me, I am verytroublesome; Can I get a good Turkey; I walk’d in Town to-day; I dine on board the French Frigate to-morrow; so you see how I have Recovered.
God bless you; if you see any thing good at Providence, do Buy it for me. I am Your Real friend John Hancock.
Many more meals were served at the Hancock house, with provisions from Henry Quincy, who just happened to be Dorothy Quincy Hancock’s brother. Many credit John Hancock’s efforts (and Dorothy’s as well!) with keeping the French involved in the war.