William Jackson was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1731. By 1758, he partnered with his widowed mother, Mary Jackson, and opened a shop that sold groceries and general merchandise to the general public.
In 1763 Jackson broke out on his own and started to sell a wide range of fine goods imported from England. According to one period advertisement, he offered such goods as "buff, blue, and scarlet Broadcloth … German serges, stuffs for gowns, Linnen, Cambricks, and Lawns of all Prices, neat silk and black Russel Shoes, brass Kettles, London Pewter, frying and warming pans, Buckles, Buttons, Knives, Rasors, with a full Assortment of all kinds [of] London, Birmingham, and Sheffield Hard Wares, too many to enumerate . . . blue & white Tea-Cups, Saucers, Milk Jugs, English Loaf Sugars . . . Fresh Hyson, Souchong, Singlo, and Bohea Teas . . . Lisbon lemmons . . . Glocester cheese."
During the Stamp Act Crisis, one of the most effective methods used to pressure the government into repealing the Stamp Act was the boycott of imported British goods. Unfortunately for Jackson, he consistently defied the American non-importation efforts.
When the English government passed the Townshend Acts in 1767, Jackson once again ignored the non importation agreements his fellow merchants were actively promoting.
His actions quickly drew the the attention of the Sons of Liberty, who urged Bostonians to boycott his shop.
In 1770, anonymous broadsides declared “WILLIAM JACKSON, an IMPORTER; at the BRAZEN HEAD,North Side of the TOWN-HOUSE,and Opposite the Town-Pump, [in] Corn-hill, BOSTON It is desired that the SONS and DAUGHTERS of LIBERTY, would not buy any one thing of him, for in so doing they will bring disgrace upon themselves, and their Posterity, for ever and ever, AMEN.”
The same year, a newspaper advertisement listed Jackson as among “the Names of those who audaciously continue to counteract the united Sentiments of the Body of Merchants throughout NORTH AMERICA, by importing British goods contrary to the agreement.”
At the outbreak of the American Revolution, William Jackson professed his loyalty to the British crown and remained inside Boston during the siege. When the British evacuated Boston in March, 1776, he escaped on board the brig Elizabeth. While off the coast of New Hampshire, three Continental Navy vessels, including the Newburyport built USS Hancock, captured the vessel. The Elizabeth was escorted into Portsmouth, New Hampshire and sold as a prize.
Jackson recounts the events following his capture on board the Elizabeth in a July 6, 1776 letter. According to the loyalist, “Upon my landing . . . [a] Mr Wentworth Inform'd me he must Examine my Baggage as also what Money and Paper's I had, from the former he has detain'd about £35 . . . and from the latter five setts of Bills of Exchange amounting to £100-stirlg payeable to myself. Only, after he Examined my Baggage [I] had his leave to carry it with me but haveing no Acquaintance in the Town accepted his Offer of his store.”
The next day, Jackson and other Loyalists secured passes from New Hampshire authorities to travel to Boston to petition for protection and the return of their confiscated property.
After travelling twenty miles south by carriage, the party arrived in Newburyport. Upon entering the Wolfe Tavern, word quickly spread about the presence of a Loyalist party in town. An angry mob quickly gathered and descended upon the tavern. According to Jackson, “We set of for head Quarter's, but upon our reaching Newbury Port about 20 miles whare we stopt to refresh ourselves the popular Assembled and swore we should not ride and threatened to destroy the Carriadge.”
Horrified, Jackson and the other Loyalists quickly sought the protection of Newburyport’s Committee of Safety. “We sent for the Committe of safety to Appease them, but all to no purpose, finding ourselves in such a situation we comply'd, the Committe not thinking it safe they Appointed a Guard of five Men and Obliged us to pay the Expence the rest of the Journey.”
Unfortunately, the bodyguards did little to protect them. As Jackson recalled “as soon as we came out of the Inn we received Blow's, mud, stones, Eggs, and every other abuse.” The small band of refugees fled Newburyport and “proceeded to Boston being 40 miles on foot.”
Upon arrival in Boston, Jackson and the others were quickly arrested and imprisoned. The following year, jackson was tried for the crime of attempting to profit from the distress caused by the American Revolution. He was convicted and ceremonially banished from Boston. Shortly thereafter, Jackson fled to England. He was formally banished by the Massachusetts legislature in 1778.
He died in England in 1810.