A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at No. 25 Beacon Street, Boston, on Wednesday, 18 April, 1900, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Edward Wheelwright, in the chair.
The Minutes of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
The President appointed the following Committees, in anticipation of the Annual Meeting: —
To nominate candidates for the several offices, — Dr. Charles Carroll Everett,1 and Messrs. Louis Cabot and Albert Matthews.
To examine the Treasurer’s Accounts, — Messrs. Andrew C. Wheelwright and Francis H. Lincoln.
The Corresponding Secretary reported that since the last meeting of the Society he had received letters from Dr. John Shaw Billings and Dr. Horace Howard Furness, accepting Corresponding Membership.
Dear Sir; — Yours of the 21st inst. I have just received, informing me of my election as a Corresponding Member of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts.
Kindly convey to the Society the expression of my great appreciation of the high and unexpected honor thus conferred upon me; and believe me to be, dear Sir,
Your obedient servant,
Horace Howard Furness.
23 March, 1900.
John Noble, Esq.
Mr. Robert N. Toppan, on behalf of Mr. Abner C. Goodell, who was unable to be present, communicated, with remarks, a copy of the Commission to Edward Randolph as Collector, Surveyor and Searcher of Customs within the Colonies of New England, dated 30 September, 1681,2 It was this commission that provoked the government of the Massachusetts Colony to defy openly the authorities at Whitehall: by declaring it inoperative without the ratification of the Colonial government; by forbidding it to be read in court; by passing an ordinance making it a capital offence to act under it without their permission; and, finally, by arresting and imprisoning Randolph’s deputies.3
Mr. Albert Matthews spoke as follows: —
At the meeting of this Society in November, 1897, Mr. Noble exhibited some papers in connection with the so-called Boston Massacre.4 So minute has been the study of that event, that it seems well-nigh impossible to unearth anything new in regard to it; yet there are a few documents which appear to be little known to historians. No apology, therefore, is needed for submitting these, especially as they relate to Captain Thomas Preston of the 29th Regiment.5 Five days after the tragedy, Preston published in a Boston paper a card thanking the public for the manner in which he had been treated on the night “of the late unhappy Affair.” Within a few days he had sent to England an account which, under the title of the Case of Capt. Preston of the 29th Regiment, was published in London in the Public Advertiser of Saturday, 28 April, 1770, No. 11052, p. 2. On the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of March various depositions in the interest of the soldiers were taken, and these were afterwards printed in the pamphlet,6 published in London, called A Fair Account of the late Unhappy Disturbance At Boston in New England. These Depositions and the Case of Captain Preston were doubtless carried to England by John Robinson, one of the Commissioners of the Board of Customs, who sailed from Boston on the sixteenth of March.7 Meanwhile, depositions were taken on behalf of the Town of Boston, and these were carried to England by Captain Andrew Gardner, who sailed from Boston on the first of April.8 The London papers containing the Case of Captain Preston and other documents relating to the Riot reached Boston on the eighteenth of June,9 the Case of Captain Preston was printed in several of the papers here, and a great stir was created. Captain Gardner left London on his return on the eleventh of May and arrived at Boston on the sixth of July.10 On the tenth of July a town meeting was held to consider the letters brought by Captain Gardner and the Case of Captain Preston, and a Committee was then appointed to draw up a Statement. This Committee reported at an adjourned meeting on the thirteenth at which the letter drafted by the Committee was accepted, and this letter was sent to England on the fourteenth.11 The Statement from the Town of Boston was not recorded in the Town Records nor printed in the newspapers here, and in a single historical work only have I found an allusion to it. It was, however, published in an English monthly magazine. The documents follow.
Boston-Goal, Monday, 12th March, 1770.
Messieurs Edes & Gill,
PERMIT me thro’ the Channel of your paper, to return my Thanks in the most publick Manner to the Inhabitants in general of this Town — who throwing aside all Party and Prejudice, have with the utmost Humanity and Freedom stept forth Advocates for Truth, in Defence of my injured Innocence, in the late unhappy Affair that happened on Monday Night last: And to assure them, that I shall ever have the highest Sense of the Justice they have done me, which will be ever gratefully remembered, by
Their most obliged and most obedient humble Servant,
CASE of Capt. Thomas Preston of the 29th Regiment.
IT is Matter of too great Notoriety to need any Proofs, that the Arrival of his Majesty’s Troops in Boston was extremely obnoxious to it’s Inhabitants. They have ever used all Means in their Power to weaken the Regiments, and to bring them into Contempt, by promoting and aiding Desertions, and with Impunity, even where there has been the clearest Evidence of the Fact, and by grossly and falsly propagating Untruths concerning them. On the Arrival of the 64th & 65th, their Ardour seemingly began to abate; it being too expensive to buy off so many; and Attempts of that Kind rendered too dangerous from the Numbers. — But the same Spirit revived immediately on it’s being known that those Regiments were ordered for Halifax, and hath ever since their Departure been breaking out with greater Violence. After their Embarkation, one of their Justices, not thoroughly acquainted with the People and their Intentions, on the Trial of the 14th Regiment, openly and publicly, in the Hearing of great Numbers of People, and from the Seat of Justice, declared, “that the Soldiers must now take Care of themselves, nor trust too much to their Arms, for they were but a Handful; that the Inhabitants carried Weapons concealed under their Cloaths, and would destroy them in a Moment if they pleased.” This, considering the malicious Temper of the People, was an alarming Circumstance to the Soldiery. Since which several Disputes have happened between the Towns-People and Soldiers of both Regiments, the former being encouraged thereto by the Countenance of even some of the Magistrates, and by the Protection of all the Party against Government. In general such Disputes have been kept too secret from the Officers. On the 2d instant, two of the 29th going through one Gray’s Rope-Walk, the Rope-makers insultingly asked them if they would empty a Vault. This unfortunately had the desired Effect by provoking the Soldiers, and from Words they went to Blows. Both Parties suffered in this Affray, and finally, the Soldiers retired to their Quarters. The Officers, on the first Knowledge of this Transaction, took every Precaution in their Power to prevent any ill Consequences. Notwithstanding which, single Quarrels could not be prevented; the Inhabitants constantly provoking and abusing the Soldiery. The Insolence, as well as utter Hatred of the In habitants to the Troops, increased daily; insomuch, that Monday and Tuesday, the 5th and 6th instant, were privately agreed on for a general Engagement; in Consequence of which several of the Militia came from the Country, armed to join their Friends, menacing to destroy any who should oppose them. This Plan has since been discovered.
On Monday Night about Eight o’Clock two Soldiers were attacked and beat. But the Party of the Towns-People, in order to carry Matters to the utmost Length, broke into two Meeting-Houses, and rang the Alarm Bells, which I supposed was for Fire as usual, but was soon undeceived. About Nine some of the Guard came to and informed me, the Town-Inhabitants were assembling to attack the Troops, and that the Bells were ringing as the Signal for that Purpose, and not for Fire, and the Beacon intended to be fired to bring in the distant People of the Country. This, as I was Captain of the Day, occasioned my reparing immediately to the Main-Guard. In my Way there I saw the People in great Commotion, and heard them use the most cruel and horrid Threats against the Troops. In a few Minutes after I reached the Guard, about an hundred People passed it, and went towards the Custom-House, where the King’s Money is lodged. They immediately surrounded the Sentinel posted there, and with Clubs and other Weapons threatened to execute their Vengeance on him. I was soon informed by a Townsman, their Intention was to carry off the Soldier from his Post, and probably murder him. On which I desired him to return for further Intelligence; and he soon came back and assured me he heard the Mob declare they would murder him. This I feared might be a Prelude to their plundering the King’s Chest. I immediately sent a non-commissioned Officer and twelve Men13 to protect both the Sentinel and the King’s-Money, and very soon followed myself, to prevent (if possible) all Disorder; fearing lest the Officer and Soldiery by the Insults and Provocations of the Rioters, should be thrown off their Guard and commit some rash Act. They soon rushed through the People, and, by charging their Bayonets in half Circle, kept them at a little Distance. Nay, so far was I from intending the Death of any Person, that I suffered the Troops to go to the Spot where the unhappy Affair took Place, without any Loading in their Pieces, nor did I ever give Orders for loading them. This remiss Conduct in me perhaps merits Censure; yet it is Evidence, resulting from the Nature of Things, which is the best and surest that can be offered, that my Intention was not to act offensively, but the contrary Part, and that not without Compulsion. The Mob still increased, and were more outrageous, striking their Clubs or Bludgeons one against another, and calling out, “come on, you Rascals, you bloody Backs, you Lobster14 Scoundrels; fire if you dare, G—d damn you, fire and be damn’d; we know you dare not;” and much more such Language was used. At this Time I was between the Soldiers and the Mob, parleying with and endeavouring all in my Power to persuade them to retire peaceably; but to no Purpose. They advanced to the Points of the Bayonets, struck some of them, and even the Muzzles of the Pieces, and seemed to be endeavouring to close with the Soldiers. On which some well-behaved Persons asked me if the Guns were charged: I replied, yes. They then asked me if I intended to order the Men to fire; I answered no, by no Means; observing to them, that I was advanced before the Muzzles of the Men’s Pieces, and must fall a Sacrifice if they fired; that the Soldiers were upon the Half cook and charged Bayonets, and my giving the Word fire, under those Circumstances, would prove me no Officer. While I was thus speaking, one of the Soldiers, having received a severe Blow with a Stick, stept a little on one Side, and instantly fired, on which turning to and asking him why he fired without Orders, I was struck with a Club on my Arm, which for sometime deprived me of the Use of it; which Blow, had it been placed on my Head, most probably would have destroyed me. On this a general Attack was made on the Men by a great Number of heavy Clubs, and Snow-Balls being thrown at them, by which all our Lives were in imminent Danger; some Persons at the same Time from behind calling out, “Damn your Bloods, why don’t you fire?” Instantly three or four of the Soldiers fired, one after another, and directly after three more in the same Confusion and Hurry.
The Mob then ran away, except three unhappy Men who instantly expired, in which Number was Mr. Gray, at whose Rope-Walk the prior Quarrel took Place; one more is since dead, three others are dangerously, and four slightly wounded. The Whole of this melancholy Affair was transacted in almost 20 Minutes. On my asking the Soldiers why they fired without Orders, they said they heard the Word “Fire,” and supposed it came from me. This might be the Case, as many of the Mob called out “Fire, fire,” but I assured the Men that I gave no such Order, that my Words were, “Don’t fire, stop your Firing:” In short it was scarce possible for the Soldiers to know who said tire, or don’t fire, or stop your Firing. On the People’s assembling again to take away the dead Bodies, the Soldiers, supposing them coming to attack them, were making ready to tire again, which I prevented by striking up their Firelocks with my Hand. Immediately after a Townsman came and told me, that 4 or 5000 People were assembled in the next Street, and had sworn to take my Life with every Man’s with me; on which I judged it unsafe to remain there any longer, and therefore sent the Party and Sentry to the Main-Guard, where the Street is narrow and short, there telling them off into Street Firings, divided and planted them at each End of the Street to secure their Rear, momently expecting an Attack, as there was a constant Cry of the Inhabitants, “To Arms, to Arms, — turn out with your Guns,” and the Town Drums beating to Arms. I ordered my Drum to beat to Arms, and being soon after joined by the different Companies of the 29th Regiment, I formed them as the Guard into Street Firings. The 14th Regiment also got under Arms, but remained at their Barracks. I immediately sent a Serjeant with a Party to Col. Dalrymple, the Commanding Officer, to acquaint him with every Particular. Several Officers going to join their Regiment were knocked clown by the Mob, one very much wounded, and his Sword taken from him. The Lieutenant Governor and Col. Carr soon after met at the Head of the 29th Regiment, and agreed that the Regiment should retire to their Barracks, and the People to their Houses; but I kept the Piquet to strengthen the Guard. It was with great Difficulty that the Lieutenant-Governor prevailed on the People to be quiet and retire: At last they all went off excepting about an Hundred.
A Council was immediately called, on the breaking up of which three Justices met, and issued a Warrant to apprehend me and eight Soldiers. On hearing of this Procedure, I instantly went to the Sheriff and surrendered myself, though for the Space of four Hours I had it in my Power to have made my Escape, which I most undoubtedly should have attempted, and could have easily executed, had I been the least conscious of any Guilt.
On the Examination before the Justices, two Witnesses swore that I gave the Men Orders to fire; the one testified he was within two Feet of me; the other, that I swore at the Men for not firing at the first Word. Others swore they heard me use the Word “Fire,” but whether do or do not fire they could not say; others, that they heard the Word “Fire,” but could not say if it came from me. The next Day they got five or six more to swear I gave the Word to fire. So bitter and inveterate are many of the Malcontents here, that they are industriously using every Method to fish out Evidence to prove it was a concerted Scheme to murder the Inhabitants. Others are infusing the utmost Malice and Revenge into the Minds of the People who are to be my Jurors by false Publications, Votes of Towns, and all other Artifices, that so from a settled Rancour against the Officers and Troops in general, the Suddenness of my Trial after the Affair, while the People’s Minds are all greatly inflamed, I am though perfectly innocent, under most unhappy Circumstances, having nothing in Reason to expect but the Loss of Life in a very ignominious Manner, without the Interposition of his Majesty’s Royal Goodness.15
The Freeholders and other inhabitants of this Town are to meet at Faneuil-Hall To-Morrow, at Nine o’Clock in the Morning, in order that certain Letters received by Capt. Gardner, in answer to those sent by him to our Friends in England, relative to the horrid Massacre on the 5th of March last, may be laid before the Town; so that such further Steps may be taken as shall be judged necessary, to counteract the Designs of those inveterate Enemies among us, who, there is reason to think, are still continuing their Misrepresentations, and using their Endeavours to increase the present unhappy Misunderstanding.16
Sundry Letters received by Capt. Gardner Master of the Packet taken up by the Town, in answer to those by him to our Friends in England, relative to the horred Massacre on 5th. of March last, were read to the Town —
The Article in the Warrant Vizt.—
And that such further steps may be taken as shall be Judged necessary, to counteract the designs of those inveterate Enemies among us, who there is reason to think are still continuing their Misrepresentations, and using their Endeavours to increase the present unhappy misunderstanding between Great Britain and the Colonies —
was read and considered whereupon —
- Voted, that The HonBLE. Thomas Cushing Esq.
- MR. Samuel Adams
- John Hancock Esq.
- Richard Dana Esq.
- MR. William Phillips
- MR. William Mollineux
- DR. Joseph Warren
- MR. Ebenezer Storer
- MR. William Greenleaf
be a Committee to draw up a true state of the Town, and the conduct of the Commissioners since the 5th. of March last; and to Report the same at the Adjournment.17
In the Ship Juno, Capt. Constant Freeman, arrived here since our last, from Bristol, came Passenger Capt. Andrew Gardner,18 who was sent by this Town last March with Dispatches concerning the horrid Massacre the 5th of that Month: It is said that Capt. Gardner’s Arrival in England with the Narrative and Depositions from hence, was very timely: That thereupon the Ships and Troops, mentioned lately in this and the other Papers, to be coming here, were stopped:— Capt. Gardner was introduced by Mr. Trecothick to a Number of the Members of Parliament, who enquired of him what Knowledge he had of the Affairs; and as he lived near the Place where the Affray began at the Rope-Walks, and was in King-Street when the Massacre happened, he related the whole in a very particular Manner: He brought Letters to the Committee from Governor Pownall, Mr. Trecothick, Mr. Bollan, Mrs. Maccauley, &c. A Meeting of the Inhabitants of the Town was called on Tuesday, at Faneuil-Hall; when the said Letters were read: — After which a Committee was chosen to enquire into the Transactions since the 5th of March; to counteract the Designs of those inveterate Enemies among us, who, there is Reason to think, are still continuing their Misrepresentations, and using their Endeavours to increase the present unhappy Misunderstanding between Great-Britain and the Colonies. — The Meeting was adjourned till To-Morrow, to Receive the Report of the Committee.19
The Committee appointed the 10 Instt. to draw up a true state of the Town and the conduct of the Commissioners of the Board of Customs since the 5th. of March last — Reported a draft of a Letter to be sent to our friends in England, and the same having been read and considered —
Voted, that said draft be accepted, and that the said Committee be desired to transmit fair Copys of said Letter to such Gentlemen in England as they shall think proper.20
At an Adjournment of the Meeting of this Town at Faneuil Hall on Friday last, the Committee reported a Draft of a Letter, design’d to prevent ill Impressions being made on the Minds of the People of England, from certain Representations sent Home by our inveterate Enemies here, in the Lydia, Capt. Hood, which sail’d about a Fortnight ago.21 Notice was also taken therein of a Paper printed in London, called the Case of Capt. Thomas Preston, giving an Account of the horrid Massacre of the fifth of March last, altogether different from the Truth, and manifestly with an Intent to prejudice the Town. The Draft was approv’d of by the Meeting, and Copies were order’d to be sent to such Gentlemen in England as the Committee should think proper; and they were accordingly put on board Capt. Hall’s Vessel, which sail’d on Saturday Morning.22
The City of Boston’s Account of their Conduct to Capt. Preston, after the Massacre of March the 5th.
WE were very apprehensive that all attempts would be made to gain an advantage against us; and as there is no reason to think that the malice of our enemies is in the least degree abated, it has been thought necessary, that our friends on your side the water should have a true state of the circumstances of the town, and of every thing which has materially occurred since the removal of the troops to the castle. For this purpose we are appointed a committee, but the time will not admit of our writing so fully by this conveyance, as we intend by the next.23 In the mean time, we intreat your further friendship for the town, in your endeavours to get the judgment of the public suspended upon any representation that may have been made by the Commissioners of the Customs and others, until the town can have the opportunity of knowing what is alledged against it, and of answering for itself. We must confess, that we are astonished to hear that the Parliament have come to a determination to admit garbled extracts from such letters as may be received from America by Administration, and to conceal the names of the persons who may be the writers of them. This will certainly give great encouragement to persons of wicked intentions to abuse the nation, and injure the colonies in the grossest manner with impunity, or even without detection. For a confirmation hereof, we need to recur no further than a few months, when undoubtedly the accounts and letters carried to Mr. — would have been attended with very unhappy, if not fatal, effects, had not this town been so attentive as to have contradicted those false accounts by the depositions of many creditable persons under oath; but it cannot be supposed that a community will be so attentive, but on the most alarming events. In general, individuals are following their private concerns, while, it is to be feared, the restless adversaries are forming the most dangerous plans for the ruin of the reputation of the people, in order to build their own greatness on the destruction of their liberties. This game they have long been playing, and though in some few instances they have had a losing hand, yet they have commonly managed with such art, that they have so far succeeded in their malicious designs as to involve the nation and her colonies in confusion and distress. This it is presumed they never could have accomplished, had not these very letters been kept from the view of the public, with design perhaps to conceal the falsehood of them; the discovery of which would have prevented their having any mischievous effects. This is the game which we have reason to believe they are now playing with so much secrecy as may render it impossible for us fully to detect them on this side the water. How deplorable then must be our condition, if simple credit is to be given to their testimonies against us, by the Government at home; and if the names of our accusers are to be kept a profound secret, and the world is to see only such parts and parcels of their representations, as persons who perhaps may be interested in their favour shall think proper to hold up. Such a conduct, if allowed, seems to put it in the power of a combination of a few designing men to deceive a nation to its ruin. The measures which have been taken in consequence of intelligence managed with such secrecy, have already to a great degree lessened that mutual confidence which has ever subsisted between the mother country and her colonies, and must in the natural course of things totally alienate their affections, and consequently weaken, and in the end destroy, the power of the Empire. It is in this extended view of things that our minds are affected. It is from these apprehensions that we earnestly wish, that all communication between the two countries, of a public nature, may be unveiled before the public, with the names of the persons who are concerned therein: then, and not till then, will American affairs be under the direction of Honest Men, who are never afraid or ashamed of the light; and as we have abundant reason to be jealous that the most mischievous and virulent accounts have been very lately sent to Administration from Castle William, where the Commissioners have again retreated, for no other reason. that we can conceive, but, after their former manner, to misrepresent and injure this town and province; we earnestly intreat that you would use your utmost influence to have an order passed, that the whole of the packets sent by the Commissioners of the Customs and others, under the care of one Mr. Bacon, late an Officer in the Customs of Virginia, who took his passage the last week in the brigantine Lydia, Joseph Hood commander, may be laid before his Majesty in Council. If the writers of those letters shall appear to be innocent, no harm can possibly arise from such a measure; if otherwise, it may be the means of exploring the true cause of a national and colonial malady, and of affording an easy remedy.
We have observed in the English papers the most notorious falshoods, published with an apparent design to give the world a prejudice against this town, as the aggressors in the unhappy transaction of the 5th of March, but no account has been more repugnant to the truth, than a paper printed in the Public Advertiser, of the 28th of April, which is called The Case of Captain Preston. — As a Committee of this Town, we thought ourselves bound in faithfulness to wait on Captain Preston, to enquire of him, whether he was the author. He frankly told us, that he had drawn a state of his case, but that it had passed through different hands, and was altered at different times; and, finally, the publication in the Advertiser was varied from that which he sent home as his own. We then desired him to let us know, whether several parts, which we might point to him, and to which we took exception, were his own; but he declined satisfying us herein, saying, that the alterations were made by persons, who, he supposed, might aim at serving him, though he feared they might have a contrary effect, and that his discriminating to us the parts of it, which were his own, from those which had been altered by others, might displease his friends, at a time when he might stand in need of their essential service.— This was the substance of the conversation between us, whereupon we retired, and wrote to Capt. Preston a letter, the copy of which is now enclosed.
The next day, not receiving an answer from Captain Preston, at the time we proposed, we sent him a message, desiring to be informed whether we might expect his answer: to which he replied, by a verbal message, as ours was, that he had nothing further to add to what he had said to us, the day before, as you’ll please to observe by the inclosed certificate.
As therefore Captain Preston has utterly declined to make good the charges against the town, in the paper called His Case, or to let us know to whom we may apply as the author or authors of those parts which he might have disclaimed, and especially as the whole of his case thus stated directly militates not only with his own letter published, under his hand, in the Boston Gazette, but with the depositions24 of others annexed to our narrative which were taken; not behind the curtain, as some25 may have been, but openly and fairly, after notifying the parties interested, and before magistrates to whose credit the governor of the province has given his full attestation under the province seal; we cannot think that the Paper, called The Case of Captain Thomas Preston, or any other Paper of the like import, can be deemed, in the opinion of the sensible and impartial part of mankind, as sufficient in the least degree to prejudice the character of the Town. It is therefore altogether needless for us to point out the many falsehoods contained in this paper, nor indeed would there be time for it at present for the reason above-mentioned.
We cannot, however, omit taking notice of the artifice made use of by those who drew up the state, in insinuating that it was the design of the people to plunder the king’s chest; and for the more easily effecting that, to plunder the centinel posted at the custom-house, where the money was lodged. This intelligence is said to have been brought to Capt. Preston, by a townsman, who assured him that be heard the mob declare they would murder the centinel. The townsman probably was one Greenwood, a servant to the Commissioners, whose deposition, Number 96, is inserted among others in the narrative of the town, and of whom it is observed in a marginal note, that “through the whole of his examination he was so inconsistent, and so frequently contradicted himself, that all present were convinced that no credit ought to be given to his deposition; for which reason it would not have been inserted, had it not been known that a deposition was taken relative to this affair from Greenwood, by justice Murray, and carried home by Mr. Robinson;” and further, “this deponent is the only person, out of a great number of witnesses examined, who heard any thing mentioned of the custom-house.”26 Whether this part of the case of Capt. Preston was inserted by himself, or some other person, we are not told. It is very much to be questioned, whether information was given by any other than Greenwood himself; and the sort of character which he bears, is so well known to the Commissioners, and their connections, some of whom properly assisted Capt. Preston in stating his case, as to have made them ashamed, if they regarded the truth, to have given the least credit to what he said. Whoever may have helped them to this intelligence, we will venture to say, that it never has been, and never can be supported by the testimony of any man of a tolerable reputation. We shall only observe upon this occasion, bow inveterate our enemies here are, who, rather than omit what they might think a lucky opportunity of slandering the town, have wrought up a narrative, not only unsupported by, but contrary to the clearest evidence of facts, and have even prevailed upon an unhappy man, under pretence of friendship to him, to adopt it as his own; though they must have known, with a common share of understanding, that its being published to the world as his own, must have injured him, under his present circumstances, in the most tender point; and so shocked was Capt. Preston himself at its appearing in this light on this side the water, that he was immediately apprehensive so glaring a falsehood would raise the indignation of the people to such a pitch as to prompt them to some attempts that would be dangerous to him, and he accordingly applied to Mr. Sheriff Greenleaf for special protection on that account. But the sheriff assuring him there was no such disposition appearing among the people, (which is an undoubted truth) Capt. Preston’s fears at length subsided;27 and be still remains in safe custody, to be tried by the superior court of judicature, at the next term in August, unless the judges shall think proper further to postpone the trial, as they have done for one whole term, since he was indicted by the Grand Jury.28
Before we conclude, it may not be improper to observe, that the removal of the troops was in the slowest order; insomuch, that eleven days were spent in carrying the two regiments to Castle-Island, which had before landed in the town in less than forty-eight hours. Yet in all this time, while the Number of the troops was daily lessening, not the least disorder was made by the inhabitants, though filled with a just indignation and horror at the blood of their fellow-citizens so inhumanly spilt. And since their removal, the common soldiers have frequently, and every day come up to the town for necessary provisions; and some of the officers, as well as Several of the families of the soldiers, have resided in the town, and done business therein without the least molestation; yet so hardy have our enemies been as to report in London, that the enraged populace had hanged up Capt. Preston.
The strange and irreconcileable conduct of the Commissioners of the Customs since March 5; their applying for leave to retire to the castle, so early as the 10th; and spending their time in making excursions into the country, till the 20th of June following, together with other material circumstances, are the subject of our present enquiry; the result of which you will be made acquainted with by the next conveyance. In the mean time, we remain with strict truth, Sir,
Your much obliged, and most obedient servants,
To the Hon. Gov. Pownall.29
Wednesday, A. M. July 11, 1770.
IN the interview we, as a committee of the town of Boston, had with you yesterday, you may remember we told you we were disposed to consider you as a man of too much honour to be the author of the publication, printed in London the 28th of April, called, The Case of Capt. Thomas Preston, and the letter to the Public in the Boston Gazette of the 12th of March, as those papers directly militate with each other: the letter we refer to is as follows:
Boston Gaol, Monday, March 12, 1770.
Messrs Edes and Gill.
PERMIT me, through the channel of your paper, to return my thanks in the most public manner to the inhabitants in general of this town, who throwing aside all party and prejudice, have, with the utmost humanity and freedom, stepped forth advocates for truth, in defence of my injured innocence, in the late unhappy affair that happened on Monday night last; and to assure them that I shall ever have the highest sense of the justice they have done me, which will be ever gratefully remembered by their much obliged, and most obedient humble servant,
In the course of our conversation you informed us, that the state of the case published was very different from what you first wrote, that your account of that unhappy affair was put into several hands here at different times, and much altered by the persons to whose judgment you submitted; and that it now appears different from the paper which you last saw, and which you finally determined to send home as the state of your case, but you declined pointing out the particular alterations which have been made, because you supposed those alterations were made by your friends with a design to serve you, and you were apprehensive that by particularizing the passages altered, you might give some offence. We are very sensible of the delicacy of your situation, and would by no means urge you to any thing which might lessen the Number or influence of your friends; but as we know that a conspiracy has long been formed against the rights and liberties of the people, and more especially of this town, and as we have the fullest proof of the most gross misrepresentations having been sent home to his Majesty and the Ministry, we cannot avoid requesting you, in behalf of the town, to explain, as far as you are able, some parts of that case published; and as we shall forbear touching upon any thing which has an immediate connection with your conduct in that affair, we think you cannot, consistent with your honour, suffer a paper published in your name, containing such injurious charges against a community, to pass unnoticed, when an explanation is desired by the persons affected.
The Case, as it is called, sets forth, “That the inhabitants have ever used all means in their power to weaken the regiments, and to bring them into contempt, by promoting and aiding desertions, and with impunity, even where there has been the clearest evidence of the fact.” We desire, if it is in your power, that you would point out one instance, where there has been clear proofs of any person’s having aided or promoted the desertion of any soldiers from the regiments in this town. It is asserted, “that on the arrival of the 64th and 65th regiments the ardour seemed to abate, but upon their being ordered away it began to revive.” For our parts, we observed no such abatement or revival, and cannot but wish to be informed how it became known to the author of the Case. But the most cruel charge which malice and guile could form against an innocent community, is contained in the following paragraph: “The insolence, as well as utter hatred of the inhabitants to the troops increased daily, insomuch that Monday and Tuesday the 5th and 6th inst. were agreed on for a general engagement: in consequence of which Several of the Militia came from the country armed to join their friends, menacing to destroy any who should oppose them. This plan has since been discovered.”
Is it possible for you, Sir, or any person on earth, to produce the least shadow of proof to support this barbarous accusation? If it is, we beg it may no longer be concealed from us, and we hope, if this is not one of those alterations above-mentioned, that you will inform us how it appears that such a plan was ever formed or even thought of; this cannot but be judged highly reasonable, as it is of the greatest importance to the Public, and can have no effect upon your private concern. If it is one of those alterations, we should be very glad to know whom we may apply to as the author.
We think the state of the case is, in many other respects, very exceptionable, but shall omit taking notice of any thing more at this time, as we would do nothing which might be detrimental to you, nor should we have troubled you at all in your present disagreeable circumstances, had we known any other method of coming to the knowledge of our accusers.
If we receive no answer to this by to-morrow ten o’clock, we shall conclude you have nothing to offer in defence of the passages referred to in the paper circulated as the Case of Captain Thomas Preston.
We are, Sir, your most humble servants,
Capt. Thomas Preston.
Boston County Gaol-House, July 12, 1770.
THIS may certify that Mr. Williston, Door-keeper to the Select-men, yesterday noon brought me a letter from the Committee of the Town of Boston, then sitting at Faneuil-Hall, directed to Capt. Thomas Preston, which I did immediately deliver him; and that Mr. Molineux, one of the said committee, came this morning about 11 o’clock, desiring I would ask Captain Preston whether he had or would give an answer to the said letter, upon which I waited on Capt. Preston with the said message, who made for answer, that he had not, nor should not, give any answer — he had nothing more to say than what he had said to the Committee yesterday.
Mr. MATTHEWS announced that he had in preparation new lists of the Addressers of Gage and of Hutchinson, and remarked upon the inaccuracy and incompleteness of previous compilations of these names, mentioning several instances in which, in consequence, the identity of Addressers had been lost or obscured.
Mr. Henry H. Edes said: —
A short time ago, I had occasion to go to Ipswich to make an examination of the early manuscript records of that ancient town. While making my search, my eye fell upon an entry relating to the payment of money, in 1642, to Samuel Symonds, then a representative from Ipswich to the General Court, who was made an Assistant the next year, and who, in 1673, succeeded John Leverett as Deputy-Governor upon Leverett’s elevation to the Chief Magistracy. Symonds was one of the principal gentlemen of Ipswich, and came of an ancient family in the English Essex, where he early allied himself, matrimonially, with the Harlakenden family. He died in office on the twelfth of October, 1678.
xs he paid to Mr. Endicott for the Towne, for the coppy of the body of lawes,
3s for six coppies delivered to Mr. Gardiner.32
This record is dated 29 December, 1642.
It is known to every gentleman present that no printed copy of the Body of Liberties of 1641, or of the first edition of the Laws, published in 1649, is known to be extant. Every item, therefore, which in any way relates to either of these publications is of interest and worthy of being printed.
I have copied the following passages from the Massachusetts Colony Records and from Winthrop’s History of New England, which show what legislation was enacted in 1641 and 1642 concerning these earliest publications of our Laws. It is also interesting to note, that there Rev. Nathaniel Ward, the author of the Body of Liberties, had been the minister of the Ipswich church, with which Symonds was long connected.
At the General Court, 7 October, 1641, —
The Governor [Bellingham] and Mr. Hawthorne were desired to speak to Mr. Ward for a Copy of the Liberties and of the Capital laws to be transcribed and sent to the Several towns (Records, i. 340).
Subsequently, at the same Court, under the date of 10 December, 1641, is the following entry: —
Mr. Deputy Endicot, Mr. Downing, and Mr. Hawthorne are authorized to get nineteen Copies of the Laws, Liberties and the forms of oaths transcribed and subscribed by their Several bands, and none to be authentic but such as they subscribe, and to be paid for by the Constable of each Town, ten shillings a piece for each copy, and to be prepared within six weeks (Records, i. 344).
Finally, at the end of this session, on the original record, is the written attestation of Governor Winthrop as follows: —
At this Court, the bodye of laws formerly sent forth among the Freemen, etc., was voted to stand in force, etc. (Records, i. 346).
This session continued three weeks, and established one hundred laws, which were called the Body of Liberties. They had been composed by Mr. Nathaniel Ward (some time pastor of the church of Ipswich: he had been a minister in England and formerly a student and a practiser in the course of the common law) and had been revised and altered by the Court and sent forth into every town to be further considered of, and now again in this Court, they were revised, amended and presented, and so established for three years, by that experience to have them fully amended and established to be perpetual (History, 1853, ii. 66).
The General Court ordered, 14 June, 1642 —
That the Governor [Winthrop], Mr. Bellingham and the Secretary [Nowell], with the deputies of Boston, shall examine and survey the orders of this last Court, and perfect the same for the publishing (Records, ii 21).
[Also,] That such laws as make any offence to be capital shall forthwith be imprinted and published, of which laws the Secretary is to send a copy to the printer, when it hath been examined by the Governor or Mr. Bellingham with himself, and the treasurer to pay for the printing of them (Records, ii. 22).
On the twenty-seventh of September, 1642 —
It is ordered, that every Court should have a copy of the laws at the public charge (Records, ii. 28).
It thus appears, that the copy of the Body of Laws for which Symonds paid Mr. Endicott ten shillings was, doubtless, one of the nineteen copies ordered by the General Court, 10 December, 1641, to be made and attested for the use of the several towns in the Colony; while the “six coppies” for which the modest price of three shillings was paid, were, probably, of the impression ordered by the Court on the fourteenth of June, 1642, of “such laws as make any offence to be capital.”
Mr. Andrew McFarland Davis expressed sympathy with the feeling which had induced Mr. Edes to copy these extracts, and referred to a statement which he had recently seen in one of the volumes of the Calendar of State Papers,33 to the effect that a volume of the Laws in force in Massachusetts had been submitted for inspection by some person who appeared before some of the public officials in England, in 1660 or 1661. As he remembered the date at which this person left the Colony, this volume might have been the first edition of the laws, although he felt sure that the event occurred at such a time as to make it possible that it was, after all, the second edition, — that which was published in 1660. The mere chance that we were here on the track of a copy of the original Book of Laws had made an impression upon him, and he alluded to it on the present occasion merely to show how much interest those who followed these matters up took in entries of the class of those communicated by Mr. Edes.
In the course of the discussion which followed the remarks of Mr. Davis, reference was made to the contest which was formerly waged between Dr. Moore and Mr. Whitmore, as to whether the first edition of the laws was to be cited as the Laws of 1648, or the Laws of 1649. On the one hand, we have Hutchinson’s statement that “in the year 1648” they were “then first printed,”34 — a statement corroborated by the contemporary evidence of Johnson’s Wonder Working Providence35 and Josselyn’s Observations,36 and further confirmed by the memorandum relating to one of Dunster’s suits communicated by Mr. Davis to the American Antiquarian Society and printed in its Proceedings for April, 1888 (pp. 299, 300). On the other hand, we have the conclusion of Mr. Whitmore that the title-page of the 1660 edition, bearing the words “published by the same Authority in the General Court holden at Boston, in May, 1649,” was taken from the original edition and allowed to stand substantially unaltered. The evidence seems conclusive that the laws were printed in 1648, and Mr. Whitmore’s conclusion that they were not issued until May, 1649, seems reasonable.37
Mr. Toppan mentioned that Secretary Rawson’s own copy of the laws of the Massachusetts Bay, of the folio edition of 1660, is now in the Library of the American Antiquarian Society. In it Rawson wrote his name several times, — Edward Rawson his book.”
President Wheelwright then addressed the Society in these words: —
We are assembled to-day on the eve of the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord Fight. It had become a custom with our late lamented associate the Reverend Edward G. Porter, on the yearly recurrence of this anniversary, to give the Society an informal talk rather than a set lecture or paper on the occurrences of that eventful day, the nineteenth of April, 1775. It was a subject with which he was preeminently familiar, having studied it for years on the spot. It is a matter of lasting regret that he never reduced to writing, as he fully intended to do, those most interesting and instructive utterances, with reproductions of the maps and sketches by which they were illustrated.
It is with no intention of supplying Mr. Porter’s place on this occasion, but rather to recall to mind what we lost in losing him, that I venture to follow humbly in his footsteps — to glean a little where he has richly harvested — by saying a few words about an incident of the first battle of the Revolution which I do not remember to have heard him mention, and with which my own family history appears to be, perhaps rather remotely, connected.
The story is told by several historians of the battle with varying and sometimes contradictory particulars, but all are agreed in this: that on the afternoon of the day on which the British regulars had begun their retreat from Concord, but before they had reached West Cambridge, or Menotomy as it was then called, a party of twelve soldiers sent out from Boston with stores and supplies for the retreating troops was intercepted and captured by a party of Americans in Menotomy; and that one or more of the soldiers and several of their horses were killed or wounded, while others of the men ran for their lives toward Spy Pond. Cutter, in his History of Arlington, subjoins the following note: —
The following story related by Smith concerning this affair, and regarded by many as apocryphal, is still worthy of preservation as a curiosity. The guards in fleeing followed the westerly shore of Spy Pond, till, near Spring Valley, they met an old woman, named Batherick, digging dandelions, to whom they surrendered themselves, asking her protection. She led them to the house of Capt. Ephraim Frost, and gave them up to a party of our men, saying to her prisoners, “If you ever live to get back, you tell King George that an old woman took six of his grenadiers prisoners.” The squib went the rounds of the English opposition papers, “If one old Yankee woman can take six grenadiers, how many soldiers will it require to conquer America?” (p. 63).
Mr. Samuel Adams Drake, in his Historic Mansions and Highways around Boston,38 says that, in spite of the seeming improbability “of Mother Batherick calmly digging early greens” under such exciting circumstances, “the relation being authenticated by persons of high credibility” he is inclined to believe it. At all events, there seems to be no doubt that there was an old woman named Batherick living in Menotomy at that time. In fact, there were several of the name. According to the fragmentary genealogies in Paige, Cutter and Wyman,39 the one in whom we are interested appears to have been Ruth (Hook), the widow of John Batherick (born 12 May, 1702, died 3 June, 1769), who died in the almshouse 14 September, 1795, at the age of seventy-eight. This would seem to make the date of her birth 1717 and her age on the nineteenth of April, 1775, fifty-eight, — not a very advanced age. Her husband, by a former wife Elizabeth, had a son John Batherick, baptized 8 November, 1730, who had, among other children, Phebe, born 21 August, 1757, who died, unmarried, at Brighton in 1837.40
At the time of the battle, this Phebe Batherick was servant or “help” in the family of John ‘Wilson, then residing at Menotomy, who was the father of my grandmother, Susanna (Wilson) Wheelwright, wife of Lot Wheelwright, Senior. According to the family tradition, Phebe had been bound out to John Wilson at the age of seven years. At the time of the battle she was eighteen. She remained, apparently, with the family of my great-grandfather Wilson until some years before his death, in 1815, when she was transferred to that of his son-in-law Lot Wheelwright, my grandfather, who, in an entry in his Journal under date of the first of January, 1838, in mentioning her death, which took place in his house in February, 1837, says that she had been a faithful domestic in his family for more than forty years. This would indicate that her entrance into his family occurred about 1797, which nearly corresponds with the birth-date of his eldest child, John Tower Wheelwright, 1 February, 1795. In my grandfather’s family, as in that of John Wilson, her chief employment had been the care of the children.
While a boy, I used frequently to see her, especially when, about 1830—1835, my father’s family and that of his father occupied together the house originally built by Wiggin on Nonantum Hill, Newton. Phebe was then very old and looked still older, being bent nearly double. I cannot remember ever seeing her do any kind of work except that of compounding a nauseous liquid which she called due [? diet] drink and in which dandelions was one of the ingredients. She always carried a stick or cane when out of doors and wore in summer a man’s broad-brimmed straw hat. She wore also what I heard called a “bed gown.” Thus accoutred she was fond of accompanying the third generation of children of the family, — myself and my brother and cousins — or rather, getting them to accompany her, on expeditions through all the fields and woods in the neighborhood in search of herbs of all kinds — I especially remember gold-thread — and in the autumn to gather nuts. She often talked of Concord Fight, as she always called it, but what she said related wholly to her own personal experience. She told how, in the morning, she was sent to hide the silver spoons on the small island in Spy Pond which belonged to the Wilsons and afterward to pack the children in a cart and convey them to a place of safety in the woods. Among these children was my grandmother Wheelwright, then about four years old.41 She returned home with the cartload of children in the evening, meeting with no adventures by the way, so far as I remember, except seeing a dead Red Coat lying beside a brook to which he had crawled to quench his thirst before dying; but what she especially dilated upon was the condition of the house she had left in the morning. The Regulars on their retreat through the town had broken into it — boards had been nailed up over the lower windows before it was abandoned by the family — and everything was turned topsy-turvy, barrels of beer, hogsheads of rum and molasses set abroad on the floor (Mr. Wilson seems to have kept a small shop) and flour, meal and kitchen implements scattered over the whole. Smith, in his list of houses plundered and sacked in Menotomy, does not mention by name that of John Wilson, but the scene of destruction described in one whose owner’s name he does not give, corresponds exactly with Phebe’s description.42
Mr. William Watson Goodwin commented upon some points in the President’s remarks, especially upon his reference to bed-gowns.
The President announced that Mr. Samuel Swett Green had been appointed by the Council to write the Memoir of the Rev. Edward G. Porter, and the Rev. Edward H. Hall that of George O. Shattuck.
The Rev. Edward Hale of Cambridge and Mr. Henry Lee Higginson of Boston were elected Resident Members.