Chapter 14

    Proceedings of the People in the Province of Massachusetts Bay after the arrival of General Gage as Governor to the Close of 1774

    1774 may 13 general gage arrived at Boston as Governor of the Province and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Troops, and brought with him the Act for blocking up the Port of Boston, which was to take place the 1st June.

    Instead of shewing a disposition to comply with the conditions of the Act, the People sent Expresses to the other Provinces, to excite them to join in resisting the authority of Great Britain; and no sooner was the General Court met than the House petitioned the General to appoint a Fast [243] that, according to the trumpet of Sedition, might be sounded from the Pulpit. But instead of complying with their request the General adjourned them to meet him at Salem and he went to reside at Danvers near Salem.93

    The Port of Boston being now shut up and the Officers of the Customs removed from thence[,] the Commissioners established their Board at Salem.

    Early in June two Regiments of foot arrived at Boston from England, and towards the latter end two more. And encamped on the Common, under the command of Lord Percy. And on the 1st July Admiral Graves arrived in his Majesty’s Ship Preston, to relieve Admiral Montagu. [244]

    The other Colonies entered into Subscriptions for relief of the distressed inhabitants of Boston, and Vessels laden with provisions were sent by way of donations, from many parts; and the Assemblies of Virginia, and New Hampshire, were dissolved by their Governors, for adopting measures for support of the Bostonians.

    The Council, in their address to General Gage, charged his two predecessors as Authors of their grievances, upon which he stopt them short, and would hear no more, but answered them, that their address was an insult [245] on the King and his Privy Council, and an affront to himself and he would not receive their address.94

    The Governor finding the Assembly were about appointing Members to a General Congress and other matters than what belonged to the business of the Province, he sent the Secretary to prorogue them. The House suspecting his errand, locked the doors against him. Upon which he returned to the General who sent him back immediately, directing him to dissolve them. which Order he published on the outside the House, the doors being still locked against him.95 [246]

    As the Governor would not consent to appoint a Fast, the Ministers of Boston took upon them to appoint a day of prayer through out the Province for Sunday, July 17.

    A form of an agreement was now circulated through the Country which the people were called upon to sign, being a Solemn League and Covenant, whereby they engaged not to hold any intercourse or consume any manufactures of Great Britain. And the Governor issued a Proclamation against the Publishers and Signers of the said Solemn League and Covenant.

    At a Town Meeting at Boston it was proposed [247] to dismiss the Committee of Correspondence, which motion was supported by the Addressors to Governor Hutchinson, but after warm debates it was carried against the proposal and the Addressors became more particularly the objects of resentment.

    In the month of July the General went from Danvers to Boston, and remained there about ten days. But notwithstanding the presence of the General and so large a military force encamped, and the operation of the Port Act, yet no disposition appeared in the people to comply with the requisitions of it. Nay, they were supported in their resistance by the Donations and promises from the other Colonies. No one stood forth in the cause of Government, the liberty spirit [248] increased in the Country, and the people in the back parts of the Province, inflamed by false reports of taxes to be raised upon them, and the alteration of their Government, adopted every measure that was proposed to them of resistance to the authority of Great Britain. The town meeting of Boston fomented this Spirit and at the latter end of July, sent a General letter to all the Towns in the Province, urging them to advise and act in this dangerous Crisis: in consequence of which, it was resolved that County Meetings should be held.

    Early in August the Scarborough Man of War arrived from England, with the New Acts of Parliament, for an alteration of the Charter, and regulating the Government of the province which took place the 1st August. [249]

    The 59th Regiment from Halifax and the 23rd from New York arrived at Boston. And one Lt. Col. [Charles] Lee, on half pay in his Majesty’s Service who had been stirring up Sedition in the Southern Provinces, arrived at Boston from New York and associated himself with the leaders of the Faction.

    August 8

    The New Council were sworn in at Danvers. Four Gentlemen named to be Counsellors, took time to consider, only ten qualified this day, and were not enough to act.

    The next day a town meeting by adjournment was held at Boston, and on the 10th the Delegates from the Province to the Continental Congress, set out from Boston for Philadelphia.

    August 12

    The General sent for the Select Men of Boston, [250] and acquainted them, that if they had any business that they thought necessary to call a town meeting upon, if they would propose it to him, he would consider it. They said they had an adjournment of one already to be held. Upon which he said, that by the late act that could not be and that he should take care the Act should be carried into execution. However, not only Town Meetings are about to be held in other places, but Country Meetings are also performed, by Delegates from the several Towns, to advise and act at this alarming Crisis.96

    August 16

    The General met the Council at Salem, when they who qualified this day, with those who had before accepted, made twenty five Members. [251]

    Before the meeting of the Council, it was strongly reported that the Country Members would not qualify, they being greatly threatened by the people. However, when they got together they seemed to pluck up their spirits, and when the Board broke up they appeared satisfied with what they had done; and they who had not before seen the Governour, were quite happy and pleased with his spirit, and behaviour.

    The next day, the Council met again, and proceeded on business with great harmony, good dispositions, and spirit. But the people in the Country are yet in a state of infatuation, and madness. They have begun to hold their County Meetings, and have resolved not to suffer the Courts of Justice to be held, under the new Acts. [252]

    August 23. The Town Meeting was notified to be held at Salem the next day, in defiance of the new Act for regulating the Government of the Province. The next morning early the General came to Salem from Danvers, sent for the Committee, and ordered them to disperse the people that were assembling. They accordingly seperated, but before they had notice in an hurrying manner, below stairs, they named sundry persons to appear at the County Meeting. The Governour published a proclamation against these illegal town meetings, and a few days after, Mr. Fry, a Justice of the peace, issued a Warrant for arresting the Committee of Correspondence at Salem, two of them entered into Bonds to appear to answer the charge, the rest [253] refused to recognize. And the Justice had not the fortitude to commit them. Immediately, town meetings were held in many places, and they proceeded in all the towns, to chuse Delegates to their County Meetings.97

    Now followed a general persecution of the new Councellors, and a resistance to the Courts of Justice.

    At Barrington, the people prevented the Inferior Court of Justice from proceeding in business, though prior to the new Act taking place; they seized and detained the person of the Judge, and obliged him to adjourn the Court sine die,98 saying they would have no more Courts.

    At Springfield, they compelled the whole Court to [254] appear before the people then assembled, to the number of 3000, and obliged them to sign an engagement, not to take or execute any office, under the new Regulating Act.

    At Worcester, the Committees of Correspondence for the County met, and published resolves to urge the Inhabitants to prevent the sittings of the Courts of Justice under the new act and to devise ways to reassume their original mode of Government: and the people assembled, when the Court of Justice was to have sat, and prevented their proceeding to business. Several Gentlemen of that town, having protested against the proceedings of the people on a former occasion, were now compelled to sign a recantation, as were six of the Justices of [255] the County, for having aspersed the people in their Address to General Gage.99

    At Concord, they prevented the Court from proceeding to business, and at Boston the Jurors all refused to act, denying the legality of the Court.100

    The people now assembled in many parts of the Country, and visited the dwellings of the several new Counsellors. Some were intimidated, and resigned their seats. Others were compelled to resign by threats of violence, from numbers of people in Arms; and the rest were obliged to fly to Boston for security. So that though twenty-six had qualified in August, only fourteen were remaining, and in Boston, early in September.

    On the 1st September, the General caused the powder in the Magazine at Medford, near Cambridge, [256] to be removed to Castle William.

    The next day the people from many towns to the number of 3 or 4000, assembled at Cambridge, seized the persons of Mr. [Thomas] Oliver, the Lieut. Governor, of Mr. Phips, the high sheriff, of Mr. Lee and Mr. Danforth, Counsellors. The two latter resigned their offices and the high sheriff was compelled to sign a paper that he would not issue the Writs under the new Act.

    Mr. Oliver was permitted to go to Boston, to see the Governour, and returned to the people again; he was not apprehensive of all their designs and gave such an Account of the matter to the Governor as made him not suspect any danger to the Lieut. Governor, otherwise, the Governor would [257] have taken measures for his security, and protection.

    When Mr. Oliver returned home, the people grew more violent, and outragious, and they finally compelled him to sign a paper, renouncing his seat as Counsellor. Whilst the people were assembled at Cambridge, and were waiting the return of Mr. Oliver from Boston, the Commissioners of the Customs passed through the town, on their return from Salem. The people suffered the first chaise to pass quickly along, but soon pursued Mr. Hallowell and he narrowly escaped being taken. He happened to have a brace of pistols. The cry was “stop him, stop him, he has [258] killed a Man. When the chace grew warm he got out of his chaise, mounted his servant’s horse and, with a pistol in each hand, kept the people off, and got safe to the Guard on Boston neck, and that evening all the Commissioners of the Customs went into Boston for safety.

    Upon occasion of removing the powder from the Magazine at Medford, and the affair of the following day at Cambridge, a report was spread through the Country, that the troops had fired upon the people, and that several of them were killed; and that the Admiral had fired on the town of Boston, and was laying it in Ashes. Immediately expresses were sent off from place to place with this intelligence, and it was carried in a short time to New York.101 [259]

    The people from several towns of Connecticut marched out with their Arms, towards the relief of Boston, and were with difficulty persuaded to return, when the Account was contradicted. One Justice of the Peace remonstrated with them, and told them it was high treason to take up Arms against the King; upon which he was brought before the Tribunal of the people, and obliged to sign a recantation, of their drawing up.

    From this time appearances grew every day more hostile. The people were preparing their fire Arms, and melting all the lead they could get into bullets, and there was not a musket to be sold in Boston, but was bought up. Town meetings, and Country meetings were frequently holding [260] and the people were training in Arms, and assembling in bodies in many parts. The Courts of Justice were shut up, and all civil Officers were either silenced, and intimidated, or parties in the forwarding Anarchy, and rebellion.

    The General now thought fit to bring some Cannon to the neck, and to throw up an Entrenchment thereon, and he caused the 59th Regiment, that was stationed at Salem, to encamp on the neck, to cover the works that were carrying on. Five Regiments were in the town, and one at the Castle; notwithstanding which, the people expressed themselves in the most insolent manner, and threatened to come down, and destroy the fortifications that [261] were erecting. They secretly removed several Cannon from Boston, and dragged them into the Country beyond Watertown.

    The Governor now removed the province papers from Salem, which had been the Established seat of Government, and the Board of Customs, since the Boston Port Act took place; and the Commissioners of the Customs ordered their officers from thence to Boston. Several transports were dispatched to Quebec for two Regiments, and to New York for one from thence.

    Whilst things were in this state of confusion, and disorder, and people’s minds were in a constant ferment, it is no wonder that their passions were vented in frequent acts of outrage and violence. [262]

    The latter end of August, and early in September, County Meetings were held for Middlesex, Suffolk, and Essex, in which they entered into many resolves, denying the authority of the British Parliament, and determining to resist the operation of its acts, and giving their opinion that a provincial Congress was necessary. Refusing obedience to the Courts of Justice under the present Constitution, requiring the Counsellors to resign their seats, forbid[d]ing the Collectors of taxes to pay any Monies to the provincial Treasurer, and urging the people to appear in Arms.

    It is said the intention of the people, is to resume their original Charter, that the Representatives now to be chosen, shall appoint a new Governor, and Council, and that the Government is to be established at Worcester. [263]

    The Select Men waited on the General, with an Address, expressing the apprehensions of the Town, and Country, from the Fortress erecting at the entrance of the Town, and soon after, the Delegates of the County of Suffolk, presented another, on the same subject, and assured him that nothing less than an immediate removal of the ordnance, and restoring the entrance of the town to its former state, could place the inhabitants in that state of peace, and tranquility they ought to live.102

    All this time they were arming, removing Cannon, and making every hostile preparation in their power; which the General mentioned to them in his answer.

    Bricks were bought at Medford, for the Barracks [264] which were laden on board two Vessels, but no sooner was it known they were for the use of the Army, than the people rose, and sunk the Vessels and the person who sold them was obliged to fly for shelter to Boston. Straw that was bringing from the Country, for bed[d]ing for the soldiers, was taken, and burnt, by the people at Roxbury.

    September 25

    The Episcopal Clergy in Connecticut are now the objects of persecution. Those Ministers at a Convention held at New Haven, were drove out of the town; one of them, a Mr. Peters, had his house searched for papers, and at this meeting was very ill used by the people, his gown was striped off his back, and torn to pieces, they crying out, it was the Emblem of the Whore of Babylon; a little Girl, his Daughter, who clung about him whilst they were abusing him, had a sword [265] run into her thigh. He is since come to Boston for safety.

    The people are now greatly elated with the news from the Congress, which has approved, and adopted, the resolutions of the County of Suffolk.103

    The convention of committees for the county of Worcester, have divided the county into seven districts, each of which is to raise a Regiment. The Captains and subalterns are to be chosen by the private men and the field officers by the Captains, and subalterns, and it is recommended to each of them, to provide themselves with one, or more field pieces, and the Civil Officers under the Charter, prior to the first day of June, are desired by them to exercise their respective Offices.

    September 26

    A number of Carpenters have been employed for [266] several days past, in preparing Barracks for the Troops, but the select men and Committee of Correspondence now order them to desist.

    Several Cannon are now mounted on the fortification lately thrown up on the Neck.

    A Provincial Congress is to be held the second Tuesday of October, at Concord; the town of Boston has chosen Delegates there, and instructed their Representatives to join them, after they are Dissolved, which they take for granted will follow, as soon as they meet as a General Court, which is to be at Salem the 5th October.

    September 29th. The Governour’s Proclamation was published for the General Court not to meet as was intended the 5th October.104

    The General having purchased some Ordnance Stores of [267] one Mr. Scott, the people having notice, would not suffer them to be carried away, and a guard of soldiers was obliged to be sent to the store to bring them off.

    The people afterwards assembled about Mr. Scott’s house, threatened him severely, and marked him as an object of their resentment.

    The building of the barracks having been suspended by the orders of the Committee of Correspondence to the Workmen, and one Master Carpenter having dared to continue to work for the military notwithstanding, he was this Evening seized by a number of men who put him on board a Boat, and carried him with a halter about his neck to Cambridge, where after much ill usage, they suffered him to go [268] about his business. And he returned the next morning to Boston.

    October. Whilst the people were training themselves to Arms, and making every hostile preparation on their parts, they seemed greatly dissatisfied with the general proceedings, for the defence of the town, and the security and accommodation of the troops; and they prevented the bringing in of straw, and materials for the Barracks, and the Carpenters and Labourers from being employed in the service of Government. They even would not suffer a Boat to be built for the use of the Navy in the town, and in their behaviour towards the Military, they shewed the height of insolence, notwithstanding which, the General, the Officers, and Troops, behaved with great temper, forbearance.*105 *Their acts of outrage were not resented, and many impertinent requisitions of the Committee were acquiesced to, but all was construed into fear, for upon every concession they grew more audacious. And the [269] Committees of Boston, and Worcester, had the presumption to send to the General, that if he did not level the Works he had prepared on the neck, the Country would come in, and demolish them.106 [270]