J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Fears in the Massachusetts Countryside

Yesterday I quoted a letter from Gen. Thomas Gage toward the end of September 1774, as he realized nearly all of New England was defying his authority.

Here’s a look at that month from the other end, and the other side. In the summer of 1774, Massachusetts Whigs began holding county conventions to organize against Parliament’s new Massachusetts Government Act and Boston Port Bill. That trend began in the west and spread east, preceding regular court sessions.

Here’s an extract from the minutes of the Worcester County Convention on 31 Aug 1774:
It was Moved, That whereas, it is generally expected, that the governor will send one or more regiments to enforce the execution of the acts of parliament, on the 6th of September [when the county court session was due to begin], that it be recommended to the inhabitants of this county, if there is intelligence, that troops are on their march to Worcester, to attend, properly armed, in order to repel any hostile force which may be employed for that purpose. The motion, after some debate being withdrawn;

Voted, That if there is an invasion, or danger of an invasion, in any town in this county, then such town as is invaded, or being in danger thereof, shall, by their committees of correspondence, or some other proper persons, send letters, by express posts, immediately, to the committees of the adjoining towns, who shall send to other committees in the towns adjoining them, that they all come properly armed and accoutered to protect and defend the place invaded.
The convention wasn’t yet ready to endorse armed resistance based merely on “intelligence, that troops are on their march,” but those men were ready to do so if a town’s committee sent word of “being in…danger of an invasion.” Within two days, thousands of Massachusetts militiamen was on the march. I’ll talk about that in Worcester on Sunday.

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