Traitor in Williamsburg

Published in 2008; author Elizabeth McDavid Jones; illustrator Jean-Paul Tibbles


When another Williamsburg shopkeeper, Mr. McLeod, is accused of loyalty to the British crown, Mr. Merriman steps in to defend him. Mr. McLeod is especially grateful, as Mr. Merriman risks his own reputation in standing by a Scottish immigrant. It's not long before a mob kidnaps/arrests Mr. McLeod, intending to tar and feather him (something I didn't realize until I was in high school could be fatal). Mr. Merriman stops them, but in doing so becomes a target for the same anger. While the mob itself disperses, Mr. McLeod is found guilty of being a British sympathizer (there's not really any due process; it's a brief show trial) and his property is seized and sold. A man who once competed with Mr. Merriman for Mrs. Merriman's hand buys the McLeod store. Soon after that, a publication comes out insinuating that Mr. Merriman and Mr. McLeod are working together to betray the Patriot cause. It's signed "Mr. Puller," a name Felicity and her father are sure is fake. Who is Mr. Puller, and what does he have against the people he unjustly accuses?

With a bit of detective work, Felicity and Elizabeth find that "puller" is a term for type of worker involved in printing, and that the paper the publications are on came from the mill of the man who bought the McLeod's house. After some more sleuthing and some trickery, they're able to determine that a Mr. Capps, who's on the Committee of Safety (a group that watches for Loyalist subterfuge) is Mr. Puller, and that he's falsified Mr. Merriman's ledger to make it appear that he's aiding the British. His nephew works as an apprentice to a printer, so when Mr. Capps's store was having financial trouble he concocted the scheme to essentially steal Mr. McLeod's store, and when that was bought out from under him, he set his sights on the Merrimans' store. But while they know who the real criminal is, they need to be able to prove it. With some help from Ben and Mr. Capps's apprentice, they find several receipts like the ones used to "prove" Mr. Merriman was selling supplies under the table to the British, which shows that Mr. Capps has been framing people. Furthermore, he's gotten the receipts straight from the British themselves!

With Ben's help, Felicity is able to show the evidence at her father's trial, and things are set right. Mr. Capps's apprentice even finds a new job: he replaces Mr. Capps's nephew at the printing press.

Looking Back

In 1775, the Continental Congress convened in colonial America. The Congress started actions against British, including mandating a boycott on British goods. In a time before instant communication, it was difficult to enforce such a boycott, so communities elected a Committee of Safety to be sure everyone was in line with the boycott. Storekeepers were often caught up in the zeal of the Committees, similar to the way the Red Scare of the 1950s made people sees Communists around every corner. People accused of breaking the boycott were in danger of being tortured or even killed by unruly mobs. Of course, there were mobs of Loyalists as well as mobs of Patriots, so being on the wrong side of either was bad news. Scottish immigrants were considered particularly suspect, and they along with many Loyalists fled to Canada to escape the danger.


This book is dedicated "in memory of Lance Corporal Jason Scott Daniel, a brave Marine who served his country well." Rest in peace, LCpl. Semper fi.

Despite being published two years after Peril at King's Creek (the next review), this book takes place a few months before.

Felicity's family has the same rule mine does when playing games: winner picks up.

There's mention of a woman who's just had a baby being sick with "childbirth fever." I wonder if that's puerperal fever, a potentially deadly infection that used to plague new mothers. It's rarely seen nowadays, because we now know that obstetricians should wash their hands between patients. Doctors would sometimes even go straight from an autopsy to attending a birth with filthy hands. Midwives made it a habit to wash their hands and their patients had a far lower incidence of the fever. Once we came to understand germs, the reason for the correlation was clear.

I wonder if Felicity would have been allowed to testify in court, being not only female but barely eleven years old. Women couldn't vote in the US until under a hundred years ago, so it wouldn't surprise me.

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