A Stated Meeting of the Society was held in the Hall of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, on Wednesday, 18 March, 1896, at three o’clock in the afternoon, Dr. Benjamin Apthorp Gould in the chair.
The Records of the February Meeting were read and approved.
Mr. John Noble read the following paper: —
NOTES ON THE LIBEL SUIT OF KNOWLES V. DOUGLASS IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF JUDICATURE.
1748 and 1749.
The story of the Knowles Riot, as it has been called, a somewhat famous event in our Provincial history which gave rise to the suit of Knowles v. Douglass, is more or less fully told in all historical accounts of Boston.153 Many papers pertaining to this suit are among the Early Court Files of Suffolk, which fill out various details of the Riot, and give a life and color and vividness that can come only from the testimony of eye-witnesses and actual participators in the occurrences. So much of the story of the Riot as is necessary to an understanding of the suit may be briefly told.
The arrival of Commodore Knowles in command of a part of the Louisburg fleet, in company with Sir William Pepperrell; the refitting of his vessels disabled by the storms encountered on the way; his riding at anchor in Nantasket Roads for the assembling of the fleet of merchantmen he was to convoy; the numerous desertions of his sailors and the scarcity of enlistments; his ships left short-handed; his resort to that method of relief, common enough in the English service, but especially obnoxious and injurious to the Province; the press-gang sent out in the early morning of the seventeenth of November, 1747; the seizure of seamen from the merchant vessels in the harbor and along the shore, sometimes of nearly their entire crews; the taking of men off boats plying to and fro, unlucky enough to run in their way; the capture of sailors, landsmen, craftsmen, apprentices, and laborers found about the wharves, in fact, of almost anybody along the water front of the town; the storm stirred up in town by an impressment of such severity; the exultation in the victory of Louisburg, and the pride in all concerned therein, now forgotten in what they felt to be an encroachment on their rights and an assault on their liberties; the mob that gathered about the Governor’s house, that filled King Street, and flung their missiles into the Council Chamber windows; Shirley’s futile attempt to address them and quell the outbreak; their refusal of any terms but the retention as hostages of such officers as happened to be in town, and prompt and full redress of their grievances; Shirley’s letter to the Commodore asking a release of the impressed men, or a suggestion of some terms of reconciliation; the order of the Governor for a parade of the militia and the mounting of a guard, in response to which “not men enough turned out to form a line,” or, as he himself put it, “not a man appeared but the officers;” the Governor’s flight to Castle William; Knowles’s wrath at the turn things had taken, and at what seemed to him arrant rebellion; his threats and preparations to bombard the town, — this summarizes the situation.
The action of the authorities needs but brief mention. All is fully set forth in the records of the respective Bodies.
The appointment by the General Court upon the seventeenth, the first day of the Riot, of a Committee to inquire into the matter and report thereon; the Resolutions adopted by it upon the nineteenth, without waiting for that Committee to report, denouncing disturbances that “tended to the destruction of all government and order,” asserting their determination to “stand by” the Executive, but at the same time to have all grievances redressed; the waiting of a Committee of the body with the resolutions upon Governor Shirley at the Castle; the appointment of another Committee to consider “what further it might be proper for the Court to do;” the Order of the Council for the release of all of Knowles’s officers detained or on parole, and for their protection on their return to their vessels; the application of “a Number of the Inhabitants” to the Selectmen of Boston, setting forth that “great Disorders for several Days past have been committed within this Town, and Insults and abuses offered to his Excellency the Governour and the Honble the Council, when sitting, by a number of Persons (chiefly Strangers) who this week assembled together and Committed great outrages, putting the Inhabitants of the Town in great Terror of their Lives;” the meeting of the Selectmen “to Consider what is necessary for the Town to do to Evidence their Disavowing and Detestation of this unjustifiable affair;” the call for a town-meeting; the great town-meeting at five o’clock on the same day, with its dignified and decided action, clearing the town or “the generality of the Inhabitants” from the charge of “Abetting or Encouraging the late Tumultuous Riotous Assembly,” resolving that it “consisted of Foreign Seamen, Servants Negroes and other Persons of mean and Vile Condition,” declaring “the utmost Abhorrence of such Illegal Criminal Proceedings,” and that they “will to their Utmost Discountenance and Suppress the same, and will at the same time encourage by all ways and means whatsoever any of their Inhabitants in making a Regular orderly Application to the proper Power for redressing all and every Grievance;” the appointment of a Committee, “the Honb Edward Hutchinson Esqr the Moderator of the Meeting and the Selectmen of the Town” “to wait upon his Excellency Governour Shirley the Honble his Majesty’s Council and the Honble House of Representatives, and in the Name of the Town present’ em with” a copy “of this Vote or Resolution of the Town;” the waiting of this Committee upon the Governor at the Castle, who was “pleased very favourably to Receive the same and to Express his Satisfaction therein;” the various explanations and negotiations that took place; the return of the Governor to his house under an escort with fuller ranks than had “been known in any Regimental Muster for diverse Years past;” the reading of the Governor’s Proclamation at the head of the regiment; the reward offered for the apprehension of the ringleaders of the mob; the assurance given that “all due care should be taken for maintaining their just rights and liberties, and redressing all & every grievance;” and all matters at length satisfactorily adjusted, the storm was over.
The temper of the town was quite ready for such an outbreak. Impressment, it is true, had the sanction of custom and the force of law, regulated as it was by Acts of Parliament from the time of Mary; but Boston was always restive, and questioned its exercise here.
The records of the town proceedings, articles in the newspapers of the day, and other discussions of the subject show the state of feeling, and that the practice of “Impresses” was regarded as one of the main “Discouragements and Hindrances of the growth of our Plantations.” The Minutes of the Selectmen, 21 August, 1745, contain a vote for a memorial to Spencer Phips, “the Lieut. Governour and Commander in Chief for the time being over our Province,” and to the Council, praying for “immediate relief” against the doings of “a small Schooner Cruizing in our Bay” as a matter that “nearest effects the Libertys of the People and is a great Insult upon this Government.” And again, on the twenty-second of November in the same year, there is another memorial praying for relief against the distress from scarcity of fuel occasioned by taking coasters for “service in the late expedition against Cape Breton,” and the seizure of sailors “in a most arbitrary and illegal manner out of others of ’em that were not taken up.”
The Town Records of the tenth and eleventh of March, 1746, give a full account of the proceedings in town-meeting as to “the Grievances this Town Labour under by reason of the Arbitrary and illegal proceedings of the Governour and Council in repeatedly Granting press Warrants, as also the male behaviour of some of their officers.” A very spirited petition to the House of Representatives was adopted. A tone of wounded pride and indignation runs through it, as it touches upon the distress occasioned lately by “no less than three Several Warrants,” “executed in a manner before unknown to Englishmen,” and upon the effects on “the once Cherishd now Depressd, once Flourishing now sinking Town of Boston;” but it winds up with a sturdy assertion that such warrants are “Breaches of Magna Charta, The Charter of the Province, and an Act of Parliament.” There was a reconsideration two weeks later, and it was voted “That the said Petition and the Motion whereon it was grounded, contains Expressions disrespectful and reflecting upon his Excellency the Governour, and the Council, — and so far as it relates to the disrespectfulness the Town disavow the same.” But though disavowing the disrespectfulness, the town seems to have receded from none of its positions. With all this strong feeling in the matter the town throughout looked only to lawful measures of redress, as signally appears by its course in the recent Riot. Matters were again quiet, but the town was still sensitive and jealous for its reputation as to order and loyalty. A new grievance arose. Two letters of Governor Shirley to the Secretary of the Province, written from the Castle in the first days of the Riot, before the town moved in the suppression of it, appeared in the Post Boy of the fourteenth of December. This, so long after the events, gave “uncommon concern” as having “a tendency to put the Town in a disadvantageous light with his Majesty.” “A Number of the Inhabitants” at once applied to the Selectmen, as their Minutes of the sixteenth show, to call a town-meeting “to consult upon proper measures to Vindicate their Injur’d Characters and secure their Invaluable Priviledges;” and a town-meeting was called for the eighteenth. Meantime a “further Account of the Riot, and the proceedings thereupon,” appeared in the Weekly News-Letter of the seventeenth, in a shape tending “to clear up the Character and Reputation of the Town.” This, however, did not remove the grievance, as the one publication was presumed to be by Authority, while the other did not so appear. Town-meetings were held on the eighteenth, twenty-fourth, and twenty-ninth, and at length, after long debates, a petition to the Governor was got in satisfactory shape and unanimously adopted. The Governor’s reply upon the same day assured them the publication of his two letters “did not in the least proceed from an inclination to prejudice the Carecter and Reputation of the Inhabitants, but was wholly occasioned by an insinuation in a late Pamphlet which appeared,” he said, “to have a tendency to put part of my own Conduct upon this Occasion in a wrong light; and which I apprehended my Publication of those two Letters would Vindicate it from;” likewise that the account in the News Letter was published by his direction, and that fact was sufficient to show that he “had no desire to Represent the Behaviour of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston in a disadvantageous light,” and to “remove all concern which might have been occasioned,” and that the affair appeared to him “in a favourable light.” This reply was immediately voted to be “fully satisfactory.”
It was just at this time that the alleged libellous publications appeared. The libel declared upon in the suit is contained in a passage in Dr. Douglass’s famous Summary,154 — a work perhaps too well known to need more than a casual reference here, — in that part of his treatise where he discusses some of the “Discouragements and Hindrances of the Growth of our Plantations.” Among others he sets forth the disastrous effects of the practice of impressments, as preventing the increase of shipping and seamen, discouraging business enterprises and occasioning tumults and tragedies, and refers for a striking illustration to the recent disturbance in Boston, giving some account of the Riot, and indulging in some extremely abusive and savage strictures upon Commodore Knowles. The passage occurs in the Serial Number of 24 December, 1747.155 An extract from this had already appeared in the Evening Post of the fourteenth, and a longer extract in its issue of the twenty-first. This last newspaper also contains upon the same page a concise and full summary of all the official proceedings at the time of the Riot, evidently occasioned by the matter in the Post Boy of the fourteenth already mentioned.
A copy of these libellous publications is said to have been sent directly to Admiral Knowles at Jamaica by Governor Shirley, who added a suggestion that “the author was beneath his notice.” Knowles, however, evidently thought otherwise, or cared little, and determined to proceed at once against Dr. Douglass. A power of attorney was executed by him on 7 April, 1748, the original of which, duly authenticated by the proper officials of Jamaica, is on the files of the Court. It empowers Charles Apthorp, Thomas Hancock, and Jeremiah Gridley, or either of them, to prosecute actions against all concerned as authors, composers, printers, or publishers of certain scandalous and defamatory libels in the Evening Post of the fourteenth and twenty-first of December and in the Summary; to carry them through the Provincial Courts, and if need be to appeal to his Majesty in his Privy Council. Suit was accordingly begun in the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, at the July Term, 1748.
Both the plaintiff and the defendant are striking and picturesque personalities. Knowles traced his ancestry to a Crusader with Richard I. in the Third Crusade, with an irregularity in his own generation. Born in 1702, he had been in the British Service since he was fourteen, and was now a Rear-Admiral. He had already seen various and brilliant service, and distinguished himself as an officer, an engineer, a mechanician, an inventor, and to some extent as a man of science. His various commands and offices on this side of the water had brought him at different times into somewhat close relations with American affairs. Even as late as the spring of 1747, as Governor of Cape Breton, he had been able to render the Province efficient help when a scarcity of coal was apprehended. Governor Shirley sent to the Selectmen of Boston an extract from his letter of 25 May, wherein he says: “I desire you will be pleased to acquaint the Town of Boston that I will order’ em to be supplyed with Coal without Staying till the Garrison is first provided, being glad of an Opportunity to oblige your Excellency, and serve the Province,” — an offer which was gladly accepted, and a hearty acknowledgment sent by the Selectmen on the third of July, in which they say, “This Repeated Expression and Proof of your favourable Regards for this Town and Province require a repeated acknowledgement,” and “hearty thanks” are given for his “good Will and Affectionate Regards.” After the desperate attack had been made by the French and Indians, under the command of Joseph Boucher de Niverville, upon the frontier fort in Township Number Four, on the fourth of April, 1747, and a three days’ siege successfully resisted, Knowles, in admiration of the bravery and skill shown in its defence, is said to have sent a sword to Captain Phinehas Stevens, who was in command of the post; and the place, when afterward incorporated, is said to have been named Charlestown in Knowles’s honor.156 When the demands of the public service came in conflict with private rights and interests, in his judgment the latter must yield. In the matter of the impressments of November he seems to have acted with extreme rigor, but it is to be said that he claimed that his officers had exceeded their instructions; and further, that he was exasperated at the reports which reached him that deserters from his fleet were still skulking in Boston, who had not availed themselves of the forgiveness asked and given, while others were on board the very merchantmen he was to protect. When the impress had been made, he was ready to right any wrongs until he found the mob had taken things into their own hands, and he was obliged to “await the event,” as shown by the depositions on file in the case. They also indicate an impetuous, imperious temperament, jealous of interference, together with a British officer’s unquestioning respect for constituted authority, and a sensitiveness to any encroachment upon it. His only thought, apparently, was that now, the Governor having sought refuge in the Castle, it devolved on him, as the representative of the royal authority, to restore order and reinstate the ousted official by force, without waiting for the slower process of the laws and the civil power. Other depositions bear witness to the warm affection of his sailors for him. Shortly after the Riot he sailed for Jamaica, to assume the command of the fleet stationed there. He was appointed Governor of Jamaica in 1752, as the successor of Trelawny, and in 1756 asked leave to resign. Governor Shirley seemed then likely to be his successor. His subsequent career was one of distinction. After more than fifty years in the British service, and when he seems to have been on the retired list on half-pay, he entered, with the consent of his own government, the service of Russia, where he remained from 1770 to 1774. He died in 1777, having been “in thirteen general actions during the wars within his time, and had commanded in six.”
For his eminent services he was made a Baronet in 1765. To the typical characteristics of an English sailor he seems to have added a versatility rarely found in that profession. He has been called “a statesman of no mean capacity,” and a comment of a Lord Chancellor has been quoted, that “his civil administration as Governor and Chancellor of Jamaica has never been surpassed;” and of an Attorney-General, that “but for his naval profession he should have thought he had been bred to the Bar.”157
Dr. William Douglass came from Scotland in 1716 at the age of about twenty-five years, and began practice in Boston two years later. He was born in Gifford, a town in the County of Haddington, near Edinburgh, and was the second son of George Douglass, the factor of the Marquis of Tweeddale, and a portioner in Gifford. Educated in Leyden and Paris, he was for a time the only regularly graduated physician in Boston. He seems to have been a man of decided character, varied accomplishments, much learning, extensive reading, wide and various information, and good abilities. He was a leader of the opponents of Inoculation in the famous controversy of 1721, finding, perhaps, an additional interest and motive in the fight from the fact that the clergy were on the other side. But in the small-pox epidemic in 1752 he favored and used the practice. In “the Plague in the Throat” epidemic in 1735 and 1736, which baffled medical skill and spread consternation, he wrote a practical history of the disease, which, republished ninety years later, was called “one of the best works extant upon the subject,” — an estimate which recent discoveries and advances in medical science would somewhat lower to-day. It has also been said that “Medicine in Boston owed the reform of its Materia Medica largely to Dr. Douglass.” He figured also in other fields, — as a botanist, an astronomer, and an almanac-maker. He was a ready and prolific writer for the newspapers of the day, and the author of some pungent pamphlets. His style, though harsh, clumsy, and not always grammatical, had much of aggressive force and point. His more ambitious work, the “Summary,” appears in connection with the Libel. A noticeable feature of it is the soundness of his views on many abstract questions of public policy, finance, government, the conditions of the British dependencies in America, and economics in general. The strength of his prejudices, his love of a fight, and the slashing quality of his style not unfrequently color his statements of fact. He was a born controversialist. It has been so neatly said of him that “he was always positive and sometimes accurate,” that it will bear quoting again. Possibly, however, historic accuracy may have here yielded somewhat to epigrammatic point. He was supposed to be one of the writers for the Courant, variously denominated “respectable characters,” “free thinkers,” and “the hell-fire club,” according to the point of view. He was evidently a man of intense prejudices, extreme views, with the courage of his convictions, not afraid or ashamed of inconsistency, quarrelsome, impulsive, self-confident, fulll of energy and force. Honest, too, he was, and ready to acknowledge his mistakes; always planting himself on the side that seemed right to him at the moment, without regard to previous opinions or positions. He was a landed proprietor and benefactor in the town in Worcester County which perpetuates his name, and the holder of considerable real estate in Boston, which latter possession gave him a chance to be at issue with the assessors. One of his houses here was the famous Old Green Dragon Tavern Estate, in which he wrote his Summary, and where he died 21 October, 1752.158
The case, beginning in the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, went through all its stages to the Court of last resort in the Province, ably and strenuously fought upon either side by some of the most eminent lawyers in the Province, whose fame has come down to us through a century and a half. The Court Records present the case as fully and succinctly as is possible.
The record in the Court of Common Pleas is as follows: —
Suffolk ss. Anno Regni Regis Georgii Secundi Magnæ Britanniæ Franciæ & Hiberniæ vieesimo secundo.
At an inferior Court of common pleas begun & held at Boston within and for the County of Suffolk on the first Tuesday of July being the fifth day of the said month Anno Dom 1748. Charles Knowles Esq. now residing at the island of Jamaica Plt. vs William Douglass of Boston in the County of Suffolk Physician Deft in a plea of trespass on the case, for that whereas the said Charles is a true faithful & honest subject of our kingdom of Great Britain, has been so reputed from his nativity to this time, & gained a valuable character by his prudent behavior & faithful services in our fleet, & on account thereof been promoted to be a Commodore in the same; & also for his loyalty courage & experience in military affairs been appointed Governor of our island of Cape Breton, & since appointed Rear Admiral of the white squadron in our fleet, & Commander in chief of our ships of war, & the other ships at the said island of Jamaica, in all which stations his behavior had in all points answered the trusts reposed in him, all which the said William well knew; yet the said William maliciously contriving to hurt the sd. Charles’s good name & bring him into disgrace as a person behaving ill in his posts aforesaid & altogether unworthy of the same, & to put him in danger of losing his aforesaid posts of Governor of the said island of Cape Breton, Rear Admiral of the white squadron of our fleet, & Commander in chief of our ships of war & the other ships at the island of Jamaica with the profits thereof, to his utter ruin, did on the twenty fourth day of December last at Boston aforesaid compose write & publish in the sight & hearing of many of the good & faithful subjects a scandalous & infamous libel intitled, A Summary historical & political of the first planting, progressive improvements, & present state of the British settlements in North America; with some transient accounts of the bordering French & Spanish settlements, & Printed & sold by Rogers & Fowle in said Boston; wherein among other things the said William falsely & maliciously affirms & declares of the said Charles the following false & scandalous words, viz. “Novr 17th Anno 1747 Commodore Knowles” (meaning the said Charles Knowles) “made a general impress in a most illegal unprecedented manner; seized or rather in the night time in surprise,by his press gangs stole away ship builders apprentices & whole crews of ships not only outward bound but actually cleared out, without leaving any of his own people on board to take care of the ships & merchants interest. This naturally occasioned a considerable tumult: The rioters seized the sea officers that the Commodore” (meaning the said Charles Knowles) “had imprudently left ashore, by way of reprisals, but used them well. The Commodore” (meaning the said Charles Knowles), “threaten’d & did actually make some advances with his fleet towards the town of Boston to bombard it or land his men there (doubtless if he had arrived to the point of putting this furious madness in execution, his officers would have confined him as a maniac) but this paroxysm abated, & he returned a few of the impressed men.” Also these farther false & scandalous words, viz. “Mr Kn—les” (meaning the said Charles Knowles) “as a sea Commander perhaps may be noted in the future history of our colony for his unprecedented arrogance by insulting the governments & distressing of trade. He” (meaning the said Charles Knowles) “is of obscure parentage, in his youth served aboard the navy in the meanest stations, & from some unaccountable whim or humour of some of the officers (thus some ladies take a liking or fancy to a monkey, lapdog or parrot) at present in high station, & some smattering in the engineering business he is arrived to be a warrant Commodore in America, where like a beggar on horseback he rides unmercifully. A succession of such Commodores would contribute to alienate the affections of the Colonys from their mother country. Such petty tyrants in the Colonys answer no intention. His” (meaning the said Charles Knowles’s) “courage is not genuine & true, but a sort of frenzy. Witness his ill conducted, therefore unsuccessful, expeditions against La Guira & Porto Cavallo in New Spain, anno 1743. This foible renders him naturally incapable of any chief command, but qualifies him to act under direction pointing his courage right, as master of a fireship, or as a private Captain upon some desperate attempt or forlorn hope. Madmen will run into the greatest general dangers, but at the frown of their keeper or austere threatning of any single person are intimidated. Thus our Commodore dreads any private challenge, as appeared by vouchers which may be produced. His” (meaning the said Charles’s) “present state is rash, inconstant, valetudinary friendship, hated by the common sailors, & not beloved by his best officers; laboriously indefatigable in running to & fro, & in expending of paper, true symptoms of madness. Mr. Kn—les” (meaning the said Charles Knowles) “is very apt to misplace his application. We have a plain instance of this last summer while he resided in command at Louisbourg. Instead of blocking up the mouth of Canada river to prevent supplies being sent to Canada, at that time much in want of stores, & preventing the french cod fishery in the northern harbors of Newfoundland, he busied himself in small concerns which properly belonged to some inferior officers, viz. cleaning the streets of Louisbourg, the business of scavengers: disciplining of tipling houses, the affair of orderly sergeants; inspecting & distressing our coasting vessels that carried live stock, liquors & other provisions for the comfort of the garrison; this might have been delegated to the naval officers. I shall give a few instances of his” (meaning the said Charles Knowles’s) “madness & bad conduct. 1. In Antigua he impressed all the men of Capt. Purcell’s privateer, which had been hired by the island for the protection of their trade & made a property of the vessel. 2. His insulting the government & forts of Barbadoes & the custom house office there. 3. The La Guira & Porto Cavallo’s unsuccessful affair, with the loss of many men & great damage of the King’s ships. 4. Last summer, instead of cleaning his ships when at Boston (the properest & most convenient of all the Colonys for that use) he carried them to Annapolis in Nova Scotia; but because the officers of the garrison did not do him the honors which he expected, pretending the tides were too slack he returned to Louisbourg. 5. This autumn 1747 he left the trade of the southern district of the British North America exposed to the enemies privateers (they took several of our vessels) by ordering the station ships of Carolina & Virginia to rendezvous at Boston to form a fleet of parade or vanity for the Commodore” (meaning the said Charles Knowles. Whereas in truth the said Charles Knowles was not guilty of any of the misdemeanors or misconduct composed written & published as aforesaid; but by color of the said several false malicious and defamatory words so published as aforesaid, he is greatly hurt in his good name, fallen into great scandal & reproach, & is in danger of losing his aforesaid two last mentioned posts of Rear Admiral of the white squadron in our fleet, & Commander in chief of the ships of war & the other ships at the island of Jamaica, & the profits thereof accruing; and to discover the falsehood & malice of this libel & words therein before recited, the said Charles hath been put to great pains & travel, & forced to expend several sums of mony; all which is to the damage of the said Charles Knowles (as he saith) the sum of ten thousand pounds lawful money of Great Britain. The deft appeared by John Overing Esq. his attorny, & saving his pleas in abatement which were overruled by the Court, for issue farther said that he was not guilty in manner & form as the plt complains against him, & thereupon submits himself to the Country; upon which issue being joined, the case after a full hearing was committed to the Jury, who being sworn according to law to try the same, returned their verdict therein upon oath, that is to say, they find for the deft cost. Tis therefore considered by the Court, that the said William Douglass shall recover against the said Charles Knowles cost of suit. The plt appealed from this Judgment unto the next Superior Court of Judicature to be holden for this County, & entered into recognizance with suretys as the law directs for prosecuting his appeal to effect.
The case was then taken to the Superior Court of Judicature upon an Appeal by Knowles, and entered at the August Term, 1748, and thence continued to the February Term, 1748–49.
The record begins with the usual statement of the case, sets out the record in the Court of Common Pleas, the proceedings upon the Appeal, and concludes as follows: —
“And now both parties appear’d and the Case after a full hearing was committed to the Jury who were sworn according to Law to try the same and return’d their Verdict therein upon Oath, that is to say, they find for the Appellant reversion of the former Judgment — seven hundred & fifty pounds sterling money of great Britain Damage & cost of Courts.
“It is therefore Consider’d by the Court that the former Judgment be & hereby is reversed and that the said Charles Knowles shall recover against the said William Douglass the Sum of seven hundred & fifty pounds sterling money of great Britain Damage and cost of Courts.”159
[N. B. The Appellee gave Bond to review this Action at next Term.]
The alleged libel in the “Summary,” contained partly in the text, but mainly in a footnote, is about one half the entire passage therein; the remainder, a comparison of Knowles with Sir Peter Warren, a further account of the disturbance and what might have been its consequences, with some more strictures upon the Commodore, though rough and harsh, is less virulent and abusive. There is also in a later number of the work a somewhat full account of the Riot, and references to Commodore Knowles in connection with it, here and in several other passages. Though Dr. Douglass was generally understood to be the author, and “W.D., M.D.,” appears upon the titlepage, direct evidence appears in a deposition, used at the first trial in the Superior Court, made by two printers, which declares that —
“the Sheets printed under the Title of a Summary &c have been delivered them from Time to Time by William Douglass, of Boston, Physician, in Parcels, and particularly No 15, with the things therein contained, as we Suppose, in his own Hand writing; which No 15 is hereto annexed, and that they have from Time to Time printed them from him as the Author.”
The work was then coming out in numbers, subsequently collected into a Volume I. in 1749, and a Volume II. considerably later. There were evidently more editions than one, or at any rate changes in the form. There are among the papers on the files two sets of a titlepage and the eight following pages, the same as in Volume I., 1749, certified and made to serve as copies of some earlier issues by erasures and additions in ink, the introductory address of the “Author to the Reader” becoming that of the “Printers,” with the necessary changes in language, and the titlepage changed variously and lacking the bold Latin motto from Cicero, —
“Ne quid falsi dicere audeat, nequid veri non audeat.”
There are also the printed pages 235 to 238, corrected in ink to correspond with the Libel declared on, duly certified. When the collected numbers were issued in the form of Volume I. sometime in 1749, and at all events before the final trial in the Superior Court, the obnoxious passage was entirely omitted, as appears from the Introductory Address to the Reader, both of the Author and that of the Printers. There is a copy of the 1749 edition in the library of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and also in that of the Massachusetts Historical Society, where the paging on each side of the original libellous passage is the same as in the original issue; but the libel is omitted and the space neatly filled in by some discussion of the late Act of Parliament of 1746, and some further consideration of the general subject of impressment and suggestions for the improvement of the naval service. There is also a copy in the latter library which bears the autograph of Benjamin Lynde, and the date of 1750, with the titlepage and the subsequent pages of the edition of 1749, which contains the whole of the original passage, text and footnote. Perhaps the explanation is that Judge Lynde had the original numbers bound up and prefixed the new titlepage, as apparently even at the time of the trial the original titlepage of 1747, judging from the copies used, had become scarce. Douglass not only suppressed the passage, — for what reason does not appear and can only be drawn by inference, the attributed motive varying with the estimate of the man, — but also gave, in the Address to the Reader before referred to, an explanation of his purposes and motives in the original reference to the matter and his strictures upon Commodore Knowles, and his reasons for the subsequent omission in the completed history, the magnum opus of his life. This explanation is as follows:
“The Writer with Candour acknowledges that in the Affair of Commodore now Admiral Knowles’s Impress in the Harbour of Boston, Nov. 1747, there was somewhat of passionate Warmth and Indiscretion, meerly in Affection to the port of Boston, and Country of New-England, his Altera Patria; but not with Rancour or Malice, having no personal Acquaintance nor Dealings with Mr. Knowles; therefore from common Fame, he (as Historians do) only narrates his peculiar Temper, his Severity in Discipline, and not so much Regard as some other Sea-Commanders have for the mercantile Interest, by impressing their Men, when he thought the publick Service required it: His general Courage as a Sea-Officer was extolled; The Insinuation concerning his personal Courage, has been construed amiss; the refusing of passionate Challenges from private Masters of Merchant Ships, whose Men he had impressed, which perhaps might deprive the Nation of his Service, is no Slur.
“The Writer declares that he had no other Intention, than that by setting the Affair in a strong Light he might perhaps contribute towards extending to the Continent Colonies, particularly to New England, a late Act of Parliament against impressing of Sailors in the Sugar West India Islands. Therefore as this Affair was temporary, of no Use, and may give Offence, we by his direction do suppress it in our present Publication of this first Volume of the Summary. Admiral Knowles since he sail’d from Boston, has been gloriously happy in gallant successfull naval Expeditions, particularly in reducing the Fort of Port Louis of Hispaniola, and in beating a superior Spanish Squadron, off the Havannah; he has been in a Course of Preferments; and prosperous as to his private Fortune.”
It might be of some interest to take up the various points of the alleged Libel, its statements, its charges, its historical allusions, and the many matters therein contained, — for they open a some-what wide field for consideration, — but the limits of this paper do not allow it, and the account must be confined to a narrative of the legal controversy and the matters therewith connected.
Douglass brought his Writ of Review, and Knowles, dissatisfied with the amount of damages recovered in the second trial, did likewise. Both of the original writs are on the files of the Court, the writ against Douglass attaching his real estate in Suffolk, enumerating among others the Old Green Dragon Tavern Estate. The two suits were tried together, and the record is as follows: —
Province of the Massachusetts Bay
Suffolk ss. —
Anno Regni Regis Georgii secundi Magnæ Britanniæ, Franciæ et Hiberniæ, vicesimo tertio —
At his Majesty’s Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize and general goal Delivery, began & held at Boston, within & for the County of Suffolk on the third Tuesday of August, (being the 15th day of sd Month), annoq. Domi. 1749.
By the honble Paul Dudley, Esqr. Chief Justice
“William Douglass of Boston in the County of Suffolk, Physitian, Plaintif agst Charles Knowles, Esqr now residing at his Majesty’s Island of Jamaica, Defendant, in a plea of review of a plea of tresspass on the Case commenced by the said Charles Knowles against the said William Douglass at an inferiour Court of common pleas held &c &c —”
[Then follows the record of the case in the Court of Common Pleas, and on the appeal in the Superiour Court of Judicature, with the judgment therein, and the record proceeds:] “which Judgment the said William Douglass saith is wrong & erroneous and that he is thereby damnified the Sum of eight hundred pounds Sterling;
“Wherefore for reversing thereof and for recovering Judgment against the said Charles Knowles for cost of Courts, the said William Douglass brings this Suit.
“And the said Charles Knowles also brought forward his Writ of review of the said Action against the said William Douglass for recovering Judgment against him for the further Sum of nine thousand two hundred & fifty pounds lawful money of great Britain, to compleat the aforesd Sum of ten thousand pounds, being the Damage laid in the original Writ and costs: —
“And to the Suit brought by the said William Douglass against the said Charles Knowles as aforesaid, the said Charles Knowles by Robert Auchmuty Esqr his attorney defends and for Issue pleads the former Judgment as in nothing erroneous save that instead of being for the Sum of seven hundred & fifty pounds sterling Damages, it ought to have been for the sum of ten thousand pounds lawful mony of great Britain, and costs, and of this puts &c —
“And to the Suit bro’t by the said Charles Knowles against the said William Douglass, the said William Douglass by Richard Dana Esqr his Attorney comes & defends &c and saith that the aforesaid Judgment of this Court is not erroneous saving that instead of being for the plaintif to recover the said seven hundred & fifty pounds, it ought to have been for the said William to recover his costs, and thereof puts &c.
“Upon which pleas by the said parties respectively made as aforesd issue was joined & the Case after a full hearing, with both Writs of review, was committed to the Jury who were sworn according to Law to try the same, and return’d their Verdicts therein upon Oath, that is to say, in the Suit brought by the said William Douglass against the said Charles Knowles, they find for the plaintif reversion of the former Judgmt and cost of Courts, and in the Suit brought by the said Charles Knowles against ye said William Douglass they find for the Defendant costs of Court.
“It is therefore considered by the Court that the former Judgment be and hereby is reversed & that the said William Douglass recover against the said Charles Knowles cost of Courts in both Actions, immediately after this Judgment was entered up the sd Charles Knowles by his Attorney moved the Court that he might be allow’d an Appeal from the same unto his Majesty in his privy Council, which is granted him and Bond is given pursuant to the Royal Charter.”161
Whether the case was carried to the Privy Council does not appear. Douglass was left the victor in the Court of last resort of the Province. The plea was the General Issue. What was the line of defence in the trials is not shown, except as it may be inferred from such evidence and exhibits as are on the files; but as this is evidently but a small portion of the entire evidence, any inference from such insufficient premises would be unsafe.
Among the Early Court Files of Suffolk are some fifty papers, including copies and duplicates, which pertain to this case, nearly all belonging to the case in review. These were plainly the Court papers in the case; but in the vicissitudes of a hundred years they had lost their file arrangement, been separated from the case and mixed indiscriminately in that large and miscellaneous collection, till now they have been brought together again. Many of the original papers, however, have disappeared, including all the pleadings. Among these papers, besides those already alluded to, are copies of Knowles’s Commission as Rear-Admiral of the White, 15 July, 1747, and as Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty’s Ships of War at Jamaica, 12 September, 1747; depositions as to his conduct in the affair of the Privateer Poultney; as to his bearing as an officer by men who had sailed with him; full accounts of the impressment by men impressed, the captains of the vessels, and eye-witnesses of the events; of his actions on the morning of the eighteenth of November when he learned of the Riot and the Governor’s flight; and his preparations to come to the rescue of the imperilled royal authority and to bombard the town. Some of these depositions are very vivid and graphic. A few of them are here given in full; and to these a list of all the papers in the case which are still preserved in the Suffolk Court Files is subjoined.
Iames Barnard Junr: of Lawful Age Testifieth and Saith That about the 18th of November 1747, he was at Work on board of his Majesties Ship the Cantebury, under the command of the Honble: Charles Knowles, Esqr who was then Commodore of his Majesties Squadron then in Nantasket Road — and saw the Commodore read a Paper (wch: as Mr: Ball told him he had lust delivered a Letter from Govr: Shirley to the commodore he supposed to be that Letter) As soon as he had done reading it he was in a very great Paſsion & in the deponts: hearing said Give the word for the Lieut: when the Lieut: came to him he Ordered him to give the Signal for all the Captains of the Fleet to repair on Board his Ship, & then said where is my Gunner, give the word for the Gunner, when the Gunner came he said to him, how many rounds have you filled, he answered Nine, the Commodore replyed fill twenty four & Shot the lower Tier — he then gave Orders to Unmoor the Ship wch: was done and at the same time the Signal was given for the other Ships to unmoor wch: was also done, and the Ship was in right good Order for an Engagement, then, said the Commodore By God I’ll now see if the Kings Government is not as good as a Mob — while the Ship was getting ready Mr: Benja: Hallowed told the Commodore, that the Wheel was not Ship’t, he replyed; Damn it let it be ship’t Immediately — the Depont: asked Mr: Mortimore162 whether they would certainly go up to the Town of Boston he answered Yes, by God, & we’ll show ’em Pumpkin Play.
James Barnard, Jur.
I, Joseph Ballard of Lawful Age, Testifie and Say that about the 18th: day of November 1747, being at Work on board his Majesties Ship Cantebury in Nantasket Road under the Command of the Honble: Charles Knowles Esqr: who was then Commodore of his Majesties Ships of War there, Meſsrs: Wyer & Flag came from Boston and Informed me, there had been a Mob there Occasioned by the Men of War’s Boats coming up to Town & Impreſsing Several Inhabitants Apprentices &c, Just upon which the Kings Ships were Ordered to Unmoor. I Asked several of the Lieutenants why they were going up to Town, they Answered to Defend the Governour whom the Mob had drove out of Town to the Castle & to Subdue the Mob — while I was putting a Lock on the Cabbin Door, the Commodore paſsed by me, and I told him I understood the Ships were going up to Boston, and Asked him if it was so he Answered Yes, I then said I hope Sir I shall Lodge with my Wife to Night, he replyed he could not tell whether I should or not, — I then Asked him what the News was at Town, for I heard there was a great Disturbance there, he answered Yes there was. I then Desired him to tell me what the Ships were going up for, to which he Answered that the Rebels had drove the Governor out of town down to the Castle, & that he was going to Subdue them. I replyed Oh! how will that do, Sir the Righteous will suffer with the Wicked, how will you find out the Rebels he Answered the North End People were the Rebels. I told him I should suffer then for I lived there he replyed no, no I’ll take care of that I will punish ye guilty I told him he must be very curious in throwing his Shot then — at which he smiled — The Signal was made for the Commanding Officers of the other Ships to come on Board the Cantebury, & I heard the Commodore give Orders to one of the Lieutenants (who I was Informed was a Lieut: of the Warwick,) to get his Ship ready & to prepare a number of Rounds of Powder & Ball, And to my best remembrance I heard him give the same Orders to another officer. And all the Ships Except the Canterbury & Warwick, the Next morning came to sail & Anchored in King Road.
Nathaniel Parkman of Lawful Age, Testify’s in substance to the truth of what Mr: Joseph Ballard Deposeth, and further saith that he saw a paper in the hands of Commodore Knowles which one on ye Quarter Deck said was a Letter from Govr: Shirley, and which in a great paſsion he tore in pieces, and with a severe stamp ordered the Guns to be got Reddy to be Loaded (& a number of rounds to be in readineſs) with double round & Partridge & the Carpenter to fix the Wheel in order to bring the ship to Sail, he likewise gave the Signal for the Commanding Officers of the other Ships to come on Board the Cantebury, and when they came he ordered them to prepare a number of Double rounds & partridges and to get their Ships Immediately Redy to be under Sail to go up to Boston, he was asked what he was going to Do to the Town, he answered he was going to suppreſs the Mob who had drove the Governour down to the Castle — As they were getting ready to come to Sail, one of the Lieutenants who was detained at Boston, came on Board, to whom the Commodore said What? have you got out of the hands of the Phillistines? he answered Yes, well said the Commodore we’ll be revenged of them by and by — The Depont: understood from Mr Ball163 the Pilot who was in the Round House, that he was very Ill used because he would not undertake to Pilot the Cantebury up to Gallows Bay.
Gershom Flagg of full age testifieth & saith that in the month of Novemr: 1747 about ye 18th Day that I was going on Board His Majestys Ship the Canterbury when the gun was fired & the fore Topsail Loosd: the signal for sailing and when I Enterd the Ship found they ware Heaveing up there ankor I then asked the admiral Charles Knowles Esqr what was the matter he told mee he was going to Knock your Town Down. I told him Sr I am sorrey that the Inocent should suffer with the gilty and further told him that no men of Distinction or of any free Hold ware among the mob or Riot. he then said he would Down with any that Opposed the King’s Governour, I told him that my House stood in a vally & so I Repaird to my Duty being at work on Board His Ship & further saith not.
Sworn to by the Depont in Superior Court at Boston April 25, 1749.
Att: Saml Winthrop, Cler.
There is a deposition by Ebenezer Rockwell, the Pilot of the Shirley, a characteristic story of an old salt, who had sailed with Knowles on various voyages, and tells how he “never see so contented a Ship’s Company nor no Gentm ever took Better Caire of his men, Neither would he Allow ye Boatswaine nor his Mates nor no other officers to Abuse them, and was beloved very much amongst ye Seamen, and they said They thought themselves Happy that could Git on board of his Ship with him.” And in a sort of postscript he remembers “that upon the arrival of Mr Knowles at Annapolis he was not Saluted by the fort or Castle, but upon his going away received the usual Salutes.”
Josiah Gains of Lawful Age Testifieth & Saith that in November 1747 he was Second Mate of the Ship Mercury John Cathcart Master, bound to Madera and that to the best of his remembrance they came to sail with a Design of proceeding the Intended Voyage on the 14th day of the sd month, but the Wind proving contrary they brought sd Ship to an Anchor a little above the Castle where She lay till the 17th following. On the morning of which day about 4 oth’ clock the Deponent was Suprized with four Barges & about 80 men well armed belonging to the Squadron under the Command of Commodore Knowles then in Nantaskett Rhoad — who Boarded the sd Ship & in a Rough manner demanded all the Keys of the Ship. The Deponent asked them what they wanted they replyed your Men. The Deponent then told them scl Ship was Outward bound they Damned him & Order’d him to go Immediately into their Boat, or they would drive him, he then said if you preſs me you must take charge of the Ship they Damned me again & said their Orders from the Commodore was to take every Man Except the Captain out of the Ship — at length One of the Lieutenants who seemed to be the Commanding Officer among them told this Deponent that as the Captain was not aboard he might stay, but that Mr. Knowles’s Express Orders were if the Capt: was on Board to Impreſs every Man but him — & so they carried of all the Ships Crew the Depont. & two Small Boys only Excepted soon after the Wind blew very hard & the Ship was in the utmost distreſs for want of hands the Depont every minute Expecting she would drive Ashoar, & that a few days after, with the Aſsistance of a number of hands from the Town, they with much difficulty got the Ships Anchors up but her Cables were all cut to pieces. Afterwards the sd Ship was carried down to Nantaskett, & moored, but before a sufficient number of hands was procured to Man her an Exceeding hard Gale of Wind came on which drove her Ashoar, by means whereof she suffered great damage in her Bottom, besides the Loss of her Anchors & Cables — in this Condition she lay beating among the Rocks about three Weeks & it was thought she never would be got of again, however after she was Unloaded & Cables & Anchors brought from the Town she was with great Labour got of & brought to Town where she was under the Carpenters hands upwards of three Weeks afterwards she was carried down to the Island where she drove Ashoar to take in her Cargo, but One half was greatly damaged & great part utterly lost— The said Deponent also saith that soon after the hands were Impreſsed he went with Capt: Cathcart on Board the Commodores Ship, when the sd Capt: sent a Letter to Mr: Knowles (wch he ye sd Capt wrote himself) Intreating that his Men might be released, but an Officer came out of the Cabbin from Mr Knowles for Capt Cathcart was not permitted to speak with him & told him the Commodore said it would take two or three days Consideration before he could Answer his Letter.
And further the Deponent Saith not.
The Deponant Adds that he was not on board ye Ship when she went aſhore, but was Told of it by ye Men belonging to the same Ship, by whom ye Deponent Also understood there was Seven & Twenty Men on Board when the Ship went ashore & when ye Deponant Left ye Ship he Left so many men on board her.
There is the deposition also of John Cathcart, Master of the Vessel, who on learning of the impressment of his crew obtained a letter from Gov. Shirley to the Commodore; an account of the measures for the relief of his distressed ship; the delay therein from the suspicion of the Commodore that his men were to be decoyed up to town; the final clearance for Barbados, the dangers encountered on the way, and the sale of the vessel there, as unsafe for a return, at great loss to the owners.
There are also depositions of two apprentices overhauled on their trip to Noddles Island, who with Yankee independence insisted that they could not be touched as “they were about their Master’s business,” but were answered “that was no matter for the Commodore’s orders were to impress every body,” and who were detained “till the Sabbath evening following.”
Jonathan Tarbox, a caulker, tells of the seizure of his men in a boat on their way to a caulking job, his subsequent recognition,— “Aha you’ve got our caulker,” and the release of the whole party upon his intercession.
Benjamin Hallowell testifies to communications made to the Commodore that about thirty of his men of war’s men were in Boston, who would return if forgiven, but who did not avail themselves of the offered forgiveness; and of other deserters on board outward bound vessels; of boats sent up to recover these, returning with men, when Knowles told him he “would not keep a man that belonged to the town [of Boston] or the Colonys; he wanted nothing but strangers,” and tried to sort them out, but “frequent messages from town that the Mob continued & more of his officers were secured,” made him decide “that now he could not discharge them before he knew the event.”
LIST AND SUMMARY OF PAPERS IN RE KNOWLES v. DOUGLASS IN THE EARLY COURT FILES OF THE COUNTY OF SUFFOLK.
Volume CCCCVII., Group-number 65.550, Twenty-six papers: —
1. Original Writ of Review, Douglass v. Knowles, containing entire record and proceedings in original Case up to date, with return of service, etc.
2. Original Writ of Review, Knowles v. Douglass, likewise containing same, return of service, etc.
3. Copy of Power of Attorney from Charles Knowles to Charles Apthorp, Thomas Hancock and Jeremiah Gridley to prosecute suits for Libel.
4. Copy of Deposition of Thomas Allen of Jamaica as to exhibition to him by Knowles of his Commissions as Rear-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty’s Ships at Jamaica, etc.
5 and 6. Copies of same Commissions, dated 15 July and 12 September, 1747.
7. Copy of Certificate of Wastel Briscoe, Secretary of his Majesty’s Island of Jamaica, etc., that Edward Manning, before whom the deposition of Thomas Allen (see No. 4, ante) was taken, is an Assistant Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica and Custos Rotulorum.
8. Copy of Certificate of Edward Trelawny, Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief, etc., of Jamaica, etc., Chancellor, and Vice-Admiral, etc., as to office and authority of Wastel Briscoe.
9. Deposition of Joseph Ballard as to the occurrences on board his Majesty’s Ship Canterbury, 18 November, when the news of the Riot, etc., was received.
10. Deposition of James Barnard as to same.
11. Deposition of John Cathcart, Master of Ship Mercury, as to impressment of his men, the consequences, etc.
12. Deposition of Gershom Flagg as to the occurrences on board the Canterbury, 18 November.
13 and 14. Copies of same.
16 and 17. Copies of Deposition of Benjamin Hallowell, the original being No. 19, post.
18 Deposition of Benjamin Hallowell as to occurrences on board the Lark, when Knowles received a message from town on 18 November.
19. Deposition of Benjamin Hallowell as to reports of deserters in town and on board outgoing vessels, before the impressment, and as to action of Knowles before and after the impressment with regard to the men.
20. Deposition of John Jones, part owner of the privateer Poultney, as to affairs concerning her and Knowles’s action.
21. Deposition of Battison Oakley, lieutenant of the ship Boston, as to Knowles’s flying the flag of Rear-Admiral in Jamaica, and being recognized as such and as Commander-in-Chief, etc.
22. Deposition of Nathaniel Parkman as to occurrences on board the Canterbury, 18 November.
23. Copy of Deposition of Vincent Pearse, late commander of the ship Boston, as to Knowles being recognized at Jamaica as Rear-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief, and taking the qualifying oaths in January, 1748, on arrival.
24. Deposition of Ebenezer Rockwell, pilot of the Shirley, who had sailed with Knowles on voyages, as to his bearing as an officer and his reputation among the sailors.
25. Deposition of Jonathan Tarbox, a caulker, as to his company of men, tradesmen, etc., in a boat on its way to Mistick, being impressed 17 November.
26. Deposition of James Tyleston, as to occurrences on the Canterbury, 18 November.
Volume CCIX., Group-number 24871, One paper: —
Verdict in Douglass v. Knowles, on Review.
Volume CCIX., Group-number 24961, One paper: —
Verdict in Knowles v. Douglass, on Review.
Volume CCCXCV., Group-number 63469, Two papers: —
2. Copy of the Commission of Knowles as “Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s ships and vessels employed and to be employed at and about Jamaica,” etc.
Volume CCCXCIX., Group-number 64145, One paper: —
Copy of Record of Case of Knowles v. Douglass in Inferior Court of Common Pleas.
Volume CCCC, Group-number 64272, Two papers: —
1. Original Power of Attorney, Knowles to Apthorp, et al. (same as CCCCVII., 65.550: 3, ante), and
2. Copy of same.
Volume CCCCI., Group-number 64502, Two papers: —
1. Original Deposition of Vincent Pearse (see ante, CCCCVII., 65.550: 23), and
2. Copy of same.
Volume CCCCI., Group-number 64529, Five papers: —
1. Printed original sheets: Titlepage of “Summary,” etc., 1749; Address to the Reader; and Table of Contents, 8 pp., with erasures, interlineations, and corrections in ink, certified as copy.
2. Printed sheets: pp. 235–238 inclusive of “Summary,” erased, interlined, and corrected in ink, certified as copy.
3. Another set of printed leaves, duplicate of No. 1, ante.
4. Deposition of Gamaliel Rogers and Daniel Fowle, printers, as to delivery of “the sheets printed under the Title of a Summary, &c,” “and particularly No. 15. being delivered to them by William Douglass, in his supposed own handwriting, from time to time.”
5. Copy of same Deposition, with a copy of the titlepage of No. 15 of the “Summary,” made in manuscript annexed.
Volume CCCCII., Group-number 64662, Five papers: —
1. Same as CCCCVII., 65.550: 4, ante.
2. Same as CCCCVII., 65.550: 8, ante.
3. Same as CCCCVII., 65.550: 7, ante.
4. Same as CCCXCV., 63.469:1, ante.
5. Same as CCCXCV., 63.469: 2, ante.
Copy of Record in Superior Court of Judicature upon the Appeal.
Volume CCCCVI., Group-number 65.515, Two papers: —
1. Deposition of Samuel Brown; and
2. Deposition of Joseph Hammond, two apprentices impressed on their way to Noddle’s Island in a boat.
Mr. Henry H. Edes read the following correspondence164 between Secretary Willard and Commodore Knowles: —
Sir, — I doubt not but you will condescend to allow me the Freedom to acquaint you with my Grief & Surprize to hear the Name of God prophaned yesterday. It seems to me a great Unhappiness that the distinguished Reputation you enjoy (& I believe very justly) of a publick self denying Spirit & generous Love to your Countrey, and those Abilitys of Mind which render these Vertues in a Gentleman of your high Rank eminently useful to Mankind, should be in any Degree impaired by such a Practice. I presume you have observed the Sense which the Legislature of Great Britain has expressed of this too common Evil in their late Act for surpressing it. Because the Rules of Hospitality might seem to forbid my interposing in this Case yesterday tho with the greatest Modesty & Humility, I have chosen this Method to discharge my indispensible Duty as well to you as to that glorious Being upon whom I depend for every Moment of my Existence & for every Blessing which I enjoy, & at whose awful Tribunal I must very soon appear to receive the decisive Sentence of my eternal State.
I have the utmost Confidence of your Goodness to excuse this Liberty.
I remain with great respect & with sincere desires of your best Prosperity, Sir,
Your most humble, &
Boston, April 30th., 1747.
Sir, — I have the favour of Your Letter, and beg to assure You I receive Your kind admonition wth great Candor as I perswade myself You intended it; and am truly Sorry I shou’d transgress the Great Comands of Our Maker, as well as the Laws of Hospitality; permit me to assure You I have as great an Abhorence of the Crime as any man living has; and tho’ I cannot charge my memory with the particular Subject I might do it upon; Yet I am perswaded it must have slipp’d from me or You cou’d not have laid it to my Charge; however do me the Justice Sr. to believe that it is not a common Practice with me; and that I stand convicted, and shall have a more watchfull regard for the future;
I sincerly thank You for Your good Opinion of me, & kind wishes, and beg to assure You I entertain the Same Sentiments towards You, & am with great truth
Sir Your most Obedt. Humble. Sert.
Josiah Willard, Esqr:.
In the discussion which followed, remarks were made by Mr. Philip H. Sears, Mr. Andrew McFarland Davis, and Mr. Edward Wheelwright.
Mr. Edes then communicated some interesting facts connected with the ownership of the pews in King’s Chapel at the time of the Evacuation of Boston. He also alluded to the fact, that, after the defeat of Braddock, Col. George Washington came to Boston to acquaint Governor Shirley with the particulars of the death of his son, whose life was lost in that engagement. Mr. Edes stated that Washington attended service in King’s Chapel during that visit, and sat in the State Pew.
Messrs. John Ward Dean, of Medford, and Richard Middlecott Saltonstall, of Newton, were elected Resident Members.