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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Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Provincial Congress’s “Full and Free Pardon”

Many histories report Gen. Thomas Gage’s proclamation of amnesty to anyone who gave up resisting the royal authorities except John Hancock and Samuel Adams. That helped cement the reputations of those two men as the Massachusetts Whigs’ top leaders.

On 16 June 1775, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress considered a proclamation of its own, offering amnesty to anyone who had been on the Crown side of the conflict so far—with a few exceptions:

And, that our earnest desire to discover our tender regard to our few misguided fellow countrymen, and our readiness to forgive even those who have knowingly offended, we do promise and engage a full and free pardon to all persons who have fled to the town of Boston for refuge, and to other public offenders against the rights and liberties of this country, of what kind or denomination soever; excepting only from the benefit of such pardon, Thomas Gage, [Admiral] Samuel Graves;

those counsellors who were appointed by mandamus and have not signified their resignation, viz., Jonathan Sewall, Charles Paxton, Benjamin Hallowell;

and all the natives of America, not belonging to the navy or army, who went out with the regular troops on the nineteenth of April last, and were countenancing, aiding, and assisting them in the robberies and murders then committed; whose offences are of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration than that of condign punishment:

provided, they take the benefit hereof, by making a surrender of themselves to any general officer belonging to the Massachusetts army, and subscribe a declaration of their readiness to comply with, support, and abide by, all the resolutions and determinations which are already made by this or any former Congress, or that shall hereafter be made by this or any future Congress, or house of representatives of this colony, within thirty days from the date hereof.
The congress decided to schedule more discussion of that proclamation the following Tuesday. The next day, however, brought the Battle of Bunker Hill. Dr. Joseph Warren, president of the congress, was killed. Then came important messages from the Continental Congress. And this action was forgotten.


EJWitek said...

Charles Lee was an absolutely fascinating character who could most properly be called a "soldier of fortune." This particular caricature of him was drawn circa 1770-71 in England prior to Lee's emigration to the colonies and shows Lee with his beloved and famous Pomeranian named "Spado." Lee was absolutely devoted to this dog and brought him to the colonies where the dog became almost as famous as his master. Once, when in 1776 Spado became lost, Abigail Adams took note of it and worried about his return.
Lee was an eccentric and had his dogs with him constantly which upset "the ladies" something fierce. Lee's servant had orders from him not to feed Spado bacon since Lee felt it "made him stupid."
Not clear in the caricature is the fact that Lee had two fingers missing from his hand, shot off in a duel.
During Lee's first trip to the colonies to fight in The French and Indian War he married a Mohawk princess who fathered twins by him.
Lee's character is perhaps best summed up by the name by which he was known by the Mohawk - "Boiling Water."

J. L. Bell said...

I think the comment above was meant for this post. I wrote about the initial impression Lee made on his Continental Army colleagues here.

One of these days I’ll write about Abigail Adams’s personal meeting with Mr. Spado (or Spada). But it’s a complex tale with political implications, and I’ll need to prepare the ground.