Item of the Day: General Gage’s reply to Governor Trumbull’s letter (1775)

Found In: The Gentleman’s Magazine; for June, 1775. [p.262-4]

His Excellency Gen. Gage’s Answer to the foregoing Letter.

Boston, May 3, 1775


I AM to acknoledge the receipt of your letter of the 28th of April last, in behalf of the General Assembly of your colony, relative to the alarming situation of public affairs in this country, and the late transactions in this province. That this situation is greatly alarming, and that these transactions are truly unfortunate, are truths to be regretted by every friend to America, and by every well-wisher for the peace, prosperity, and happiness of this province. The intimate connection and strong ties of friendship between the inhabitants of your colony, and the deluded people of this province, cannot fail of inducing the former to interpose their good offices, to convince the latter of the impropriety of their past conduct, and to persuade them to return to their allegiance, and to seek redress of any supposed grievances in those decent and constitutional methods in which alone they can hope to be successful.

That troops should be employed for the purpose of protecting the magistrates in the execution of their duty, when opposed with violence, is not a new thing in the English or any other government. That any acts of the British parliament are unconstitutional or oppressive, I am not to suppose; if any such there are, in the apprehension of the people of this province, it had been happy for them, if they had fought relief only in the way which the constitution, their reason, and their interest, pointed out.

You cannot wonder at my fortifying the town of Boston, or making any other military preparations, when you are assured, that, previous to my taking these steps, such were the open threats, and such the warlike preparations throughout this province, as rendered it my indispensable duty to take every precaution in my power, for the protection of his Majesty’s troops under my command, against all hostile attempts. The intelligence you seem to have received, relative to the late excursion of a body of troops into the country, is altogether injurious and contrary to the true state of facts; the troops disclaim, with indignation, the barbarous outrages of which they are accused, so contrary to their known humanity. I have taken the greatest pains to discover if any were committed, and have found examples of their tenderness both to the young and the old, but no vestige of cruelty or barbarity. It is very possible, that, in firing into houses from whence they were fired upon, old people, women or children, may have suffered; but if any such thing has happened, it was in their defence, and undesigned. I have no command to ravage and desolate the country, and, were it my intention, I have had pretence to begin it upon the sea-ports, who are at the mercy of the fleet. For your better information, in inclose you a narrative of that affair, taken from gentlemen who were eye-witnesess of all the transactions of that day. The leaders here have taken pains to prevent any account of this affair getting abroad, but such as they have thought proper to publish themselves; and to that end the poll has been stopped, the mails broke open, and letters taken out; and inflammatory accounts have been spread throughout the continent, which has served to deceive and inflame the minds of the people.

When the resolves of the Provincial Congress breathed nothing but war; when those two great and essential prerogatives of the King, the levying of toops, and disposing of public monies, were wrested from him and when magazines were forming by an assembly of men, unknown to the constitutions, for the declared purpose of levying war against the King; you must acknoledge it was my duty, as it was the dictate of humanity, to prevent, if possible, the calamities of civil war, by destroying such magazines. This, and this alone, I attempted. You ask, Why is the town of Boston now shut up? I can only refer you, for an answer, to those bodies of armed men who now surround the town, and prevent all access to it. The hostile preparations you mention, are such as the conduct of the people of this province has rendered it prudent to make, for the defence of those under my command.

You assure me the people of you colony abhor the idea of taking arms against the troops of their sovereign. I wish the people of this province, for their own sakes, could make the same declaration. You enquire, Is there no way to prevent this unhappy dispute from coming to extremities? Is there no alternative, but absolute submission, or the desolations of war? I answer, I hope there is; the King and parliament seem to hold out terms of reconciliation, consistent with the honour and interest of Great Britain, and the right and privileges of the colonies; they have mutually declared their readiness to attend to any real grievances of the colonies, and to afford them every just and reasonable indulgence, which shall, in a dutiful and constitutional manner, be laid before them; and his Majesty adds, it is his ardent wish that this disposition may have a happy effect on the temper and conduct of his subjects in America. I must add, likewise, the resolution of the 27th of February, on the grand dispute of taxation and revenue, leaving it to the colonies to tax themselves, under certain conditions. Here is, surely, a foundation for an accommodations, to people who wish a reconciliation, rather than a destructive war, between countries so nearly connected by the ties of blood and interest; but I fear that the leaders of this province have been, and still are, intent only on shedding blood. . . .


(See also Item of the Day: Jonathan Trumbull’s Letter to General Gage )



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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Great Britain, History, Magazine, Massachusetts, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

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