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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Monday, July 01, 2024

“Deliberating upon the Steps to be taken on the present Exigencies”

On 17 June 1774, as Samuel Adams was orchestrating what would be the last session of the Massachusetts General Court under royal rule, his cousin John took the chair of Boston’s town meeting.

In Faneuil Hall, the first item of business was a report from the committee on ways and means.

The Adams family physician, Dr. Joseph Warren, stood up and said “they thought it best to defer making Report, till they had heard from the other Governments.” So enough of that.

Then the meeting got to the article stated in the warrant—i.e., the official reason for this meeting:
To consider & determine what Measures are proper to be taken upon the present Exigency of our public Affairs, more especially relative to the late Edict of the British Parliament for Blocking up the Harbour of Boston, & annihilating the Trade of this Town
Town clerk William Cooper recorded that there were “very serious Debates” on that very broad question. He also put on paper that only one brave voter (his name not recorded) dissented from this resolution:
That the Comittee of Correspondence be enjoined forthwith to write to all the other Colonies, acquainting them that we are not idle, that we are deliberating upon the Steps to be taken on the present Exigencies of our public Affairs; that our Brethren the landed Interest of the Province, with an unexampled Spirit and Unanimity, are entring into a NonConsumption agreement; And that we are waiting with anxious Expectation for the Result of a Continental Congress; whose Meeting we impatiently desire, & in whose Wisdom & Firmness we can Confide, & in whose Determinations we shall chearfully acquiesce
The meeting then broke for midday dinner, reconvening at 3:00 P.M.

The afternoon session, John Adams still in the chair, the gathering authorized the committee of correspondence to send thanks to other towns and colonies for their support, and then thanked the committee itself.

Some of those towns and colonies were sending donations for the Boston poor. The meeting delegated the distribution of that aid to the elected Overseers of the Poor “in Concert with the Comittee lately appointed by this Town for the Consideration of the Ways & Means of Employing the Poor.”

Finally, the meeting ordered Cooper to “Publish the Proceedings,” paying the town’s chosen printers, Edes and Gill, to issue a broadside based on his record.

All those afternoon actions were obviously designed to show support for the standing committees, validating them in defying the Crown and refusing to seek a compromise.

By the end of the month, there would be pushback.

TOMORROW: The same town meeting continues, ten days later.

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