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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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Learning about the Treaty of Watertown

I’ve been discussing the negotiating that led up to the Treaty of Watertown in July 1776, and how it intersected with news of the Declaration of Independence. This page offers links to an image of that treaty and a transcription of its text. It’s said to be the first diplomatic pact that the new U.S. of A. entered into.

However, this “Treaty of Watertown” isn’t discussed in many chronicles of the American Revolution. In fact, the phrase doesn’t appear in any titles in Google Books’s database before the 1990s. I was therefore dubious about its place in history.

I wondered if this was simply a pact between Massachusetts and local Native nations which by coincidence got signed shortly after U.S. independence. Oh, those Watertown folks, I thought—puffing up the importance of a document that happened to be signed in their town.

But the text of the treaty makes two things explicit:
  • Massachusetts and the other United Colonies had just become independent from Great Britain. Indeed, it appears that the Mi’kmaq and Malecite representatives held off on formalizing their alliance until the United States officials felt they were legally able to do so.
  • James Bowdoin and his fellow Council members signed the agreement as “We the Governors of the said State of Massachusetts Bay and on behalf of said States, and the other United States of America.” Massachusetts had undertaken to speak for the entire alliance represented at the Continental Congress.
So I’m sorry I ever doubted those Watertown folks. The document wasn’t known as the Treaty of Watertown at the time, it appears, and its effects were limited, but it was the new nation’s first treaty.


RJO said...

What a wonderful story. And kudos to the people at watertowntreaty.org for keeping this history alive. Thank you.

Crzbaby420 said...

i am a mi'kmaq and there is someone currently involved heavily in this case.and it is a case,that unfortunatly noone wants to admit it exists.even though its there and heavily signed.it sad really because we still send our warriors to military.if you are interested in speaking to him more of this it would be wise if you are also a native american buff.and in which i say."if you love America,and it's your home.thank a mi'kmaq"but if you would like to chat with him.he is very educated and knows what he is doing.just he has no support.he even has so much materials he wants to pen a book. mitchell.kristina@ymail.com