Chapter 16

    Instances of Persecutions in New England whilst the Country was in a state of Anarchy. 1774 [299]

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    September 1774

    Several of the Council were obliged to sign resignations of their Offices, in terms dictated to them by the people. The houses of such as were not found at home, were searched in every part, by the rude multitude, and the family compelled to swear that they were not concealed therein.

    One Mr. Willard, a Councellor, was taken in Connecticut by the people, and as he would not at first resign his Office, they condemned him to the Mines at Simsbury in that Government, which is a punishment inflicted on Malefactors, and they carried him [303] several miles on the road there before he yielded to their outrage and violence, but at length he submitted to make a resignation of his Office.

    Several Sheriffs and their Deputies who had issued Writts under the new Regulating Act, were compelled to renounce acting under its authority, and the persecution of the Addressors to Governour Hutchinson was all the while continued; and many of them were compelled to sign recantations, of the people’s drawing up, expressing their sorrow for having so done, against the opinion of the people. All these renouncings of the Councellors and Sheriffs, and recantations of [304] the Addressors, were published in the public Newspapers, and these Counsellors who had taken shelter in Boston were continually threat[e]ned by the people, and every means in their power was used, still to intimidate and compel them to resign.

    These several Gentlemen being now reduced; all, who were called Tories, or were any wise suspected to be friendly to government, became objects of persecution, and were compelled to sign such declarations as the body of the people thought fit to impose upon them, and many who delayed to submit to the terms prescribed to them met with very severe and cruel treatment. One person was put in [305] a coffin, and was near buried alive; another, was tyed by a log of wood which was sawed through, and he was near suffering the same fate.

    In most of the towns they had now erected very high Liberty poles, to serve as Beacons, or signals, and if any one was refractory, or did not submit to the demands of the People, it was usual to hoist him up on the pole till he complyed.

    Mr. [Timothy] Ruggles of Hardwick, one of the Council, having sheltered himself in Boston, the people vented some of their resentment against him, on a fine Stallion of his, which was esteemed of great value. This horse they poisoned. [306]

    Colonel Gilbert, who was a friend of Governor Hutchinson’s, and a reputed Tory, whilst he was in an Inn on a journey, and his horse was at the door, the people took off the saddle, and drove nails through it so that when he mounted, the nails pierced the horse which reared, and threw him off, whereby his Collarbone was broke.

    A little boy belonging to the Admiral’s Ship, was thrown down by a person who swore he would break his leg, and then he took it up, and wrenched it til it snap[p]ed.

    Another little boy, a child of Captain Holland’s, the Engineer, was seized at his own door by a man who with both his hands[,] squeezed his throat till [307] he had almost throt[t]led him, saying, he was a tory child and should be served so.

    Mrs. Oliver, the wife of the Chief Justice, was not allowed to come to Boston to her husband, nor suffered to write to him.

    When the people visited Mr. [Daniel] Leonard’s house, one of the Council, several shots were fired into one of the Chambers where he was suspected to be hid.

    Dr. Russel of Lincoln, who had given offence, as being a reputed tory, had his chaise fired at one evening, when another person was in it, and the ball passed between the young Gentleman’s legs who was in the Chaise.

    It were endless to relate all the various modes of persecution, and torture, practised on [308] those who were deemed by the People unfriendly to American liberty.

    A poor aged person in Connecticut, who had been severely treated by his breech being pounded on a stone hearth, was in great danger of his life, from the severity of the blows. One Dr. Beiby, who was sent for to attend him, expressing himself with some warmth at the cruelty and inhumanity of the treatment, was seized by the people, strip[p]ed, had hot pitch poured over him, then he was taken into the swine sty, and there rolled in their filth, and had it cram[m]ed into his throat, and Eyes. [309]

    One Man was sowed up in the skin of an Ox, just fleed,122 with the entrails in it. Some were put upon long pieces of sharp wood, and hoisted up and let down again, and tortured for some time in this manner, to the diversion of the people; some were tied by the hair of the head to an horse’s tail, and dragged along in this manner. One person was confined for several hours in a chamber with a smoky fire, and the chimney stopt at the top, so that he had near perished with the smoke; some were repeatedly doused out of a boat into the water, till [310] they were near drowned, to make them renounce their opinions, and subscribe to the terms imposed upon them.

    The Independant Ministers kept the people’s passions ever in a flame, by their prayers and sermons: fast days, and days of prayer, were often held; they roused the people’s resentment against the King, and Parliament, whom they charged with every thing tyrannical, and unjust; then expostulated with the Almighty, as being his chosen race, that he should not leave them, and urged the people to fight and die for their liberties. One of these pious [311] Ministers concluded a prayer with “and we pray, O Lord, thou wouldst take all the Tories both here and at home, and bind them hand and foot, and cast them into the bottomless Pit, where the smoke of their torments may ascend for ever and ever.”

    At the close of the month of September and early in October, the Inferior Courts of Common Pleas were to have been held at the Counties of Barnstable and Plymouth. But at the time of the meeting of the Justices, the people assembled at the Court Houses, and voted it inexpedient for the said Courts to sit, and compelled the Justices to sign Declarations expressive of their abhorrence of the late innovations, attempted in the Constitution, by sundry late Acts of [312] Parliament, that they would not aid or countenance the execution of the late Acts, or hold or exercise their Commissions in any other way than what is prescribed by the Charter; and they further compelled such of them as had signed Addresses to General Gage and Governor Hutchinson, to sign a paper, acknowledging their errors, and praying forgiveness.

    Many accounts are now received of outrages and violences committed on the Episcopal Clergy, in Connecticut.

    On the 6th at 2 in the morning, a dreadful fire broke out in the wood house adjoining to the dwelling house of Mr. Frye at Salem, which consumed 10 or a dozen houses. All his Effects were destroyed, and the family narrowly escaped with their lives. Mr. Frye had been an acting Justice [313] and while the General was at Danvers, he in several instances acted for the Crown, particularly in obliging the Committee to enter into recognizances, on the affairs of the town meeting and from several circumstances, there was strong reason to suspect that the house had been designedly set on fire.

    A subscription was entered into at Salem for the relief of the sufferers by the late fire, but after the collection was made, the people voted Mr. Frye, who had been the principal sufferer, and two others, to be Tories, and Enemies to their Country, and therefore that they should have no benefit from the Money that had been raised.

    November 5

    Advice was received from Baltimore in Maryland that a Vessel with some Tea on board being arrived at that [314] place from London and that the duty had been paid thereon by one Mr. A. Stewart, one of the Owners of the Vessel. They compelled him to go on board the said Vessel and burn the Tea on board, so that both the Tea and ship were destroyed. And this was represented to be done as his own voluntary act.

    Captain McGinnis of the 38th Regiment going home one evening, was questioned by the town Watch, and not answering quite to their satisfaction, one of the Watchmen took down a long pole, with a hook at the end of it, from the Watch house, and cut through his face from his ears to his mouth, yet no punishment was inflicted on the Offender for this outragious assault, whilst the soldiers have been severely [315] chastised for the slightest offences against the townspeople.

    In December, the Constable of the town of Hardwick, came to Boston, and paid over to the Treasury of the province the monies that had been collected by him for Taxes on the people of his town. On his return, the people compelled him to refund all those moneys out of his private stock, to be paid to the new named Treasurer by the Provincial Congress under the dread of condemning him to imprisonment in the mines at Simsbury in Connecticut. [316]

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