Sunday’s Boston Globe West Weekly section (i.e., stories that aren’t even important enough for our whole readership, just one region) ran a story headlined:
Revolutionary secrets unfoldRevolutionary secrets? Of course I’m interested! Unfortunately, it turned out to be a case of trying to make 1 + 1 = 6. Or perhaps even 0 + 1 = 6.
Researchers' finding: Framingham had independent spirit of its own
The research started here:
[Framingham] Homeowners Rollin and Betsy Johnson were looking through a folder of historical notes on the house that had been assembled by a previous owner.So there are no primary documents yet, just unsourced notes from an interested party. Furthermore, if that’s an accurate description of the notes, they should immediately have raised doubts. In late 1772 Samuel Adams urged Boston to form a “Committee of Correspondence,” which wrote to other Massachusetts towns inviting them to do the same. “Committees of Safety” weren’t formed by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and some individual towns until late 1774 when there was a threat of imminent war.
The notes included an intriguing suggestion—that [John] Trowbridge, who owned the house during colonial times, may have hosted secret meetings of the Committee of Safety—a group founded by rebellious colonists in 1772 to galvanize towns outside of Boston against the British.
Framingham’s town meeting responded to the Boston Committee of Correspondence’s letter by forming an ad hoc committee to draft a reply on 1 Mar 1773. (Boston’s committee answered in turn on 13 April, the same day it responded to many other towns.) Framingham created its sitting Committee of Correspondence on 18 May 1774, when Massachusetts was hearing about the Boston Port Bill and Massachusetts Government Act. Those were official, public acts of the town, which was the point of such committees—they were supposed to have the force of law behind them, and to represent the whole town.
John Trowbridge (1730-1807) wasn’t selected for either of those committees. In 1776 he was commissioned as an officer in the Continental Army, and on 23 June 1777 Framingham voted “that Maj. John Trowbridge inspect any that shall be thought inimical to the U.S. of America.” So by that year the town clearly considered him important and reliable. But the question being investigated was whether Trowbridge had been involved in something like a “Committee of Safety” in 1772.
The Globe describe’s one researcher’s results this way:
[Kevin] Swope found a tantalizing mention of town moderator Captain Josiah Stone contributing muskets to Boston safety committee members. But nothing more.As town clerk, Stone carried out business for Framingham. (For example, the Boston Committee of Correspondence’s letter in April 1773 was addressed to him.) This mention might refer to town business or private business, therefore. But this description offers no source, no date, and no connection to Trowbridge.
The Globe gave more importance to another researcher’s discovery:
[Fred] Wallace finally hit paydirt in the Framingham town clerk’s office, where he spent hours poring over original Town Meeting minutes from 1772 to 1776, recorded in amber-colored quill-and-ink script.This is “paydirt”? A change in committee assignment in October 1775 says nothing about Trowbridge’s activities in 1772. Or about the prewar activity of anyone else in Framingham.
It was in a brief entry marked Oct. 9, 1775, recording that [Joseph] Buckminster had asked to be relieved of his Committee on Correspondence duties and that Trowbridge was named to take his place.
It’s reasonable to consider whether Trowbridge might have hosted town Committee of Correspondence meetings after late 1775. How centrally located was his house? Did he have a liquor license (as Buckminster had)? Significant meetings at Trowbridge’s house were even more likely in 1777 once he was appointed to “inspect” national enemies. But that wasn’t leading the way toward Massachusetts’s independence before the war; that was enforcing loyalty to the new nation during it.
The Globe article positions this historical question as whether Framingham deserves to have the same place in history books as towns where the first fatal battle of the Revolution was fought. It’s no reflection on Framingham (good or bad, colonial or modern) that the war began elsewhere. Gen. Thomas Gage sent troops to Concord because he had good intelligence about Provincial Congress weapons there. Simple as that.