Category Archives: Massachusetts

Item of the Day: Mr. Bridge’s Election Sermon (May 27, 1789)

Full Title: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq. Governour; His Honor Benjamin Lincoln, Esq. Lieutenant-Governour; The Honourable The Council, Senate and House of Representatives, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 27, 1789. Being the Day of General Election. By Josiah Bridge, A.M. Pastor of the Church in East-Sudbury. Boston: Printed by Adams & Nourse, Printers to The Honourable General Court, M,DCC,LXXXIX. [1789]

 

AN

Election SERMON.

PSALM LXXXII. VERSE I.

GOD standeth in the Congregation of the Mighty; He judgeth among the GODS.

THIS passage of scripture may well possess the minds of this mumerous and respectable audience, with reverence and a sacred awe, before him, who is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints; and who will be sactified in all them that come nigh to him: It is particularly adapted to arrest the most serious attention of our honoured Rulers; at whose invitation we are assembled in the House of God on this auspicious anniversay, –to supplicate the Divine Presence with them, and his smiles and blessing upon the special business of the day; and their admiration of government the ensuing year; and to enquire of him from his word, agreeable to the laudable practice of our pious Progenitors, from the first settlement of the country, to the present period.

Our text has a primary reference to the Rulers of God’s ancient covenant people. But as this passage of scripture is of no private interpretation, it will as fitly apply to our civil fathers now before God, as the the Jewish Sanhedrim of old.

The words before us, will naturally lead us —“To make some brief and general observations on government.” —The propriety and usefulness of an assembly, for conducting the important affairs of it. —The sublime characters rulers sustain. —The Surpeme Ruler present with them, as an observer, and judge; ready for their assistance and support, when acting up to their character; and carefully noticing whenever they lose sight of the great end of their appointment: And the powerful influence, the consideration of his presence and inspection must have, to engage them in a conscientious discharge of the duties of their exalted stations. May I be indulged your serious and candid attention, while I attempt to dilate a little, upon these several particulars; all obviously contained in, or easily deducible from our text. God standeth in the Congregation of the Mighty: He judgeth among the Gods.

That our text applies to the supreme government of a community, and involves the various departments of it, is readily seen by looking into the Psalm before us; where we find this congregation of the mighty, reproved for the improper use of their power, and a different mode of conduct enjoined upon them. “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Defend the poor and fatherless: Do justice to the afflicted and needy: Deliver the poor and needy, rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”

Civil government is both a dictate of nature, and revelation; and is accordingly indifferently denominated, the ordinance of God, and the ordinance of man. Man was originally formed for society, and furnished with faculties adapted thereto: Faculties for the improvement of which social intercourse is indispensably necessary. Some of the most important duties, and refined delights of human life are of the social kind.

In order to obtain the benefits of society, civil rule is essentially requisite. Those lusts of men, from whence come wars and fightings, are so prevalent in this apostate world, that they are obliged to form compacts and combinations, for mutual assistance and support. And there is perhaps no people no [sic] earth, however uncultivated and barbarous, but who have adopted some kind of civil polity.

The light and law of nature, which uniformly urges to this mode of procedure, may well be accepted, as an expression of the divine will: For God addresses the human mind in divers manners; and he does it by the voice of reason, as well as revelation.

The providence of God is particularly concerned, in elevating man to post of honour and dignity; and giving them a seat among the congregation of the mighty. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south: But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and fitteth up another.” “By me (says wisdom, or that glorious Being who is the wisdom of God) by me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” And in the New-Testament, we have the same idea held up, in terms equally express. “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power, but of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” Again, “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the King, as supreme, or unto Governours, as unto them that are sent by him for the pinishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God.”

These declarations apply to civil government in general, which is indispensably necessary to social felicity and safety. But they are by no means to be extended to every mode of government that has obtained among mankind: Not certainly to despotic and lawless domination. This is not the ordinance of God. Nor indeed any other government, but such a sprotects the subjects in the peaceable possession of their just rights, properties and priviledges.

. . . Power is an intoxicating quality; and for a single individual to be vested with sovereign rule, is subjecting him to a temptation too strong for human virtue. A desire of pre-eminence is a natural passion, and when properly restrained, may prove highly beneficial to society. But when it has a full free course, and attains the summit of its wish, and feels itself without controul; the  subject of this undue elevation, is apt to be puffed up with pride, to become intolerably supercilious and tyrannical; and to trample upon those rights of the community, and individuals, which it is the prime design of government to protect.

Wherever the will of a despot is the supreme law, the great end of government is usually perverted. This is sufficently attested by facts: And it is no other than what might justly be expected from the nature of man.  . . .

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Item of the Day: Appendix to the Canada Papers (c.1779)

Full Title: Appendix to the Canada Papers, Relating principally to the Convention Army after its Arrival in the Neighbourhood of Boston, in the Years 1777 and 1778. [Caption Title]

Philadelphia, 8th Nov. 1777.

Dear Sir,

By Lieutenant Vellancy, who arrived here on the 31st of October with your dispatches from Albany, I received with infinite concern the particular account of your misfortune.

The loss of your services with the services of General Phillips in this country, I exceedingly regret, and since the fortune of war has thrown you both out of that line, I shall request the Admiral to send a frigate for you, and necessary transports for the conveyance of the troops, as soon as they can be got ready and victualled: but as there is little prospect of light transports being able to get round to Boston at this late season of the year, it is thought most adviseable to send them with the frigate to Rhode Island, from whence you will be advised of their arrival, and I hope, on the above consideration, you will get permission to embark from Newport or some convenient port in the sound; otherwise it will be impossible for the troops to be embarked before the spring.

With the most perfect respect,

I have the honour to be,

Dear Sir,

Your most obedient

And most humble servant,

W. Howe.

Lieut. Gen. Burgoyne, at Boston.

________________

Philadelphia, 14th November, 1777.

SIR,

The season of the year not permitting the transports to proceed to Boston, they are dispatched to Rhode Island, at which place I flatter myself you will obtain permission to embark with your troops, as the spirit of the Convention will not be infringed in the smallest degree by their embarking at that port instead of Boston; and under these circumstances I am hopeful you will readily prevail in your application. But should it be refused, I can by no means object to your returning to Europe, leaving your troops under the direction of Major General Phillips, with orders for the foreign troops to prceed from thence to Plymouth, and the British to Portsmouth in Great Britain, with all convenient dispatch after the arrival of the transports. And if you should not obtain permission to go to Rhode Island, where you will find a frigate to receive you, by sending a letter to Sir Peter Parker, commanding his Majesty’s ships at that place, the frigate will be sent round to Boston.

With the most perfect respect,

I have the hnour to be,

SIR,

Your most obedient servant,

W. Howe.

Lieut. Gen. Burgoyne, at Boston.

_________________

State of Massachuset’s Bay.

Head Quarters, Boston, Nov. 8th, 1777.

Major General Heath commanding the Eastern department being disposed to treat Lieutenant General Burgoyne and his officers with politeness and generosity, and the soldiery with humanity and care, expects the utmost attention of General Burgoyne and his officers to cultivate and observe strict order and discipline among the British and Foreign troops, especially in the following particulars, which are laid down as standing orders, viz.

1st, That if any officer shall exceed the limits of his parole, it being a forfeiture of his honour, he is to be immediately confined within the limits assigned for private men, or if the General shall think proper, on board the guardship.

2d, All officers under the rank of Field Officers are to repair to their quarters, and not to absent them after nine o’clock in the evening.

3rd, As the legislature of this State, in order to accommodate the Officers and to prevent imposition, have appointed commissaries to supply the officers and soldiers with various sorts of provisions brought to Boston market, which are to be sold to them at the same prices as were given for them, and care has been also taken that the officers should be supplied with liquors at the market price, until they can be procured by themselves from the town of Newport on the island of Rhode Island, or such other place as may be fixed upon for that purpose; no officer or soldier is to purchase any article whatever either by himself or others, except of the commissaries and grand sutler, who are appointed as aforesaid. But in case the Council or General Assembly shall think proper to discontinue the supplying the officers and soldiers in the manner above-mentioned, or shall think fit to make any alterations in the mode of supplying them, this article to be void as far as their order may extend.

4th, The officers will carefully avoid disputes with and every kind of insult or abuse to the inhabitants; should they receive any they are to enter regular complaints.

5th, The servants belonging to the officers who are on parole are not to stroll from their master’s quarters; they may be sent to the commissaries or to the grand sutler, or ride to wait on their masters when they shall think proper to ride out, if they shall be found otherwise, they will be taken up and confined.

J. Keith, D.A.G.

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Item of the Day: Mr. Adams Election Sermon May 29, 1782

Full Title: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq; Governour; His Honor Thomas Cushing, Esq; Lieutenant-Governor; The Honorable The Council , And The Honorable The Senate, And House Of Representatives Of The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, May 29, 1782. Being the Day of General Election. By Zabdiel Adams, A.M. Pastor of the Church in Lunenburg. Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Printed by T. & J. Fleet and J. Gill, [1782]

 [Excerpted from pp. 17-20]

Republican governments are said not only to be destitute of energy, but to be slow and unperforming. This defect may be removed by allowing such prerogatives to a single person as are necessary to the vigor and dispatch of public measures. However, in large assemblies, where there is a diversity of interests and opinions, matters of importance will never be speedily discussed. This is an inconvenience to which we must submit, and it is the price we pay for our liberties. It ought to be remembred [sic] there is safety, tho’ there is expence in these slow and tedious discussions; and if we allow it a defect, we certainly can find no form of government, but what is chargeable with as great or greater.

In all free states the people have a right, not only to say who shall be their rulers, but also by what tenure they shall hold offices, and the steps by which they shall arrive at them.

In order to avoid the feuds and factions that the election of a chief magistrate would occasion in some large nations, the constitution provides, that certain families should rule by hereditary right. Though this establishment avoids some, it is exposed perhaps to greater inconveniences. By means hereof, they may oftentimes have for their first ruler, tho’ not a compleat ideot [sic], yet perhaps one separated therefrom, only by a thin partition. Further, when children are born heirs apparent to some high and important station in government, their education is commonly such, as to fill them with ideas of superiority, unfriendly to the rights of mankind. To govern well, we ought to be acquainted with human nature in the lowest walks of life.

In elective kingdoms, the election for the most part, is either for life or for a considerable number of years. The better way is to chuse our rulers frequently. The term ought to be known and ascertained; at the expiration of which we may omit them if we please. This is true if they conduct ever so well; and there is great reason for it, if they have been guilty of mal-administration. But tho’ frequent elections may be proper, yet it must be highly imprudent, frequently to change those who are qualified for their trust and disposed to do the duties of it. This observation is true of any officer, but more especially of those who are high in command. There may be reasons for electing the chief magistrate annually; but if a new person is yearly chosen, it will lessent the influence of authority, weaken the sinews of government, crumble the people into parties, and establish habits inconsistent with that spirit of submission which is highly necessary to the good for society. A monopoly of office should never be permitted; a rotation indeed excludes it; and changes at proper intervals, excite people to a laudable application to business and books, that they may become qualified for posts of eminence and distinction. But on the contrary, if the man who holds the first place in the government, knows that he shall enjoy it but a short space, let his deportment be ever so unexceptionable, he will hardly be warm in his office, get but a miserable acquaintance with his duty, acquire no facility in the performance of it, and lose a grand stimulus to excel. Unless therefore we were born governors, legislators, &c. it must be wise in a people to elect their principal officers for a succession of years, provided they answer the end of their elevation. In this way, we shall secure to ourselves more of the beneficial influences of government, than it is possible for us in the contrary practice.

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Item of the Day: In the House of Representatives, April 11, 1776

In the House of Representatives, April 11, 1776. [Massachusetts]

 RESOLVED, That the following Officers and Seamen be appointed for each of the Vessels now building by this Colony and the Pay per Month allowed them, agreeable to the Sums affixed viz.

Captain, Eight Pounds,

Lieutenant, Five Pounds eight Shillings,

Second-Lieutenant, Five Pounds,

Master, Four Pounds,

Mate, Three Pounds,

Boatswain, Three Pounds,

Boatswain’s Mate, Two Pounds four Shillings,

Steward, Two Pound eight Shillings,

Gunner, Two Pounds eight Shillings,

Gunner’s Mate, Two Pounds four Shillings,

Carpenter, Three Pounds,

Carpenter’s Mate, Two Pounds four Shillings,

Surgeon, Seven Pounds,

Surgeon’s Mate, Four Pounds,

Quarter-Master, and Master at Arms, Two Pounds ten Shillings,

Pilot, Two Pounds eighteen Shillings,

Cook, Two Pounds four Shillings,

Drummer, Two Pounds, four Shillings,

Sixteen Boys, at tweny Shillings each,

Eighty Seamen and Marines, at forty Shillings each.

All of which Officers, Seamen and Marines, shall furnish themselves with a good effective Fire-Arm, cartouch-Box, Cutlass, and Blanket.

And be it further Resolved, That the Captains be appointed as soon as may be; which Captains, when chosen, shall return a List of Persons suitable for the other Officers, and shall proceed to inlist the Number of Seamen, Marines and Boys proposed. And for further Encouragement to said Officers, Seamen and Marines; –It is Resolved, That they shall be entitled to one Third Part of the Proceeds of all Captures that shall be by them made, and finally condemned, to be distributed in such a Manner as this Court shall hereafter determine. And the said Vessels shall be armed and mounted with at least twelve Carriage Guns, all of one Size, viz. Six Pounders and with a proper Number of Swivels and Cohorns: And the honorable Council are hereby desired to commission them to cruise against all British Property, agreeable to the late Resolves of the honorable Continental Congress.

Resolved, That for further Encouragement to Seamen to inlist into the Colony Sea-Service, one Month’s advance Wages be paid to the said Seamen, at the Time of their passing Muster; and also that their Wages be paid at the End of every three Months, or as soon afterwards as they shall arrive in some Port of this Colony.

Resolved, That the Officers of said Vessels be, and hereby are allowed to inlist Men out of the Companies raised for the Defence of the Sea-Coasts; and the Officers of said Companies are hereby directed to permit any of their Men to inlist into the Colony and Continental Sea-Service only, and to inlist others to suppply Vacancies occasioned thereby, as soon as may be.

Resolved, That the Committee appointed to build and fix out Armed Vessels, or any one of them, muster the Men raised for the Armed Vessels of this Colony, and pay them their advanced Wages, and receive out of the Treasury, a Sum agreeable to an Abstract to be returned for that Purpose.

Resolved, That such Men as shall be inlisted for the Sea-Service of this Colony, and are not able to furnish themselves with Arms, agreeable to a former Resolve of this Court, be furnished with the same by this Colony; and that twelve Shillings be deducted from the Wages of each Man so furnished.

Resolved, That the Uniform of the Officers be Green and White, and that they furnish themselves accordingly; and the Colours be a white Flag, with a green Pine Tree, and an Inscription, “APPEAL TO HEAVEN.”

Resolved, That the Commanders of said Vessels receive their Orders and Instructions from a Committee hereafter to be appointed by this Court, and to be conducted as secretly as possible.

Resolved, That the Rations or Provisions allowed to the Officers, be the same as is or shall be allowed to the Officers of the same Rank in the Continental Service.

Resolved, That the Committee to be appointed as aforesaid, furnish each of the Commanders of the Armed Vessels of this Colony, with Instructions to regulate their Conduct, agreeable to the Resolves of this Court.

Resolved, That one Third Part of the Monies (after the Charges of Condemnation are paid) arising from the Captures that may be made by any of the Armed Vessels fitted out on Account of this Colony, and shall be finally condemens in any Court of Justice erected for the Trial and Condemnation of such Captures, shall be distributed among the Officers, Seamen and Marines, . . .

Sent up for Concurrence.

JAMES WARREN, Speaker,

In Council April 27, 1776.

Read and concurr’d.

PEREZ MORTON, Dep. Sec’ry.

Consented to,

JAMES OTIS

WILLIAM SEVER

BENJAMIN GREENLEAF

WALTER SPOONER

CALEB CUSHING

BENJAMIN CHADBOURN

JOHN WHETCOMB

JAMES PRESCOTT

ELDAD TAYLOR

MICHAEL FARLEY

JOSEPH PALMER

SAMUEL HOLTEN

BENJAMIN WHITE

MOSES GILL

JEDEDIAH FOSTER

A true Copy. Attes. PEREZ MORTON, De. Sec”ry.

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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

SIR,

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. . . .

THO. GAGE

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

 

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Item of the Day: Jonathan Trumbull’s Letter to General Gage (1775)

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

 

Copy of a Letter to his Excellency Gen. GAGE from the Hon. JONATHAN TRUMBULL, Esq; governor of his Majesty’s Colony of Connecticut, in behalf of the General Assembly of said Colony.

Hartford, April 28, 1775.

SIR,

THE alarming situation of public affairs in this country, and the late unfortunate transactions in the province of the Massachusetts-Bay, have induced the General Assembly of this colony, now sitting in this place, to appoint a committee of their body to wait upon your Excellency, and to desire me, in their name, to write to you relative to these very interesting matters.

The inhabitants of this colony are intimately connected with the people of your province, and esteem themselves bound, by the strongest ties of friendship, as well as of common interest, to regard with attention whatever concerns them. You will not, therefore, be surprised, that your first arrival at Boston, with a body of his Majesty’s troops, for the declared purpose of carrying into execution certain acts of parliament, which, in their apprehension were unconstitutional and oppressive, should have given the good people of this colony a very just and general alarm; your subsequent proceedings, in fortifying the town of Boston, and other military preparations, greatly encreased their apprehensions for the safety of their friends and brethren. They could not be unconcerned spectators of their sufferings in that which they esteemed the common cause of this country: but the late hostile and secret inroads of some of the troops under your command, into the heart of the country, and the violences they have committed, have driven them almost into a state of desperation. They fear now, not only for their friends, but for themselves, and their dearest interests and connections. We wish not to exaggerate; we are not sure of every part of our information; but, by the best intelligence that we have yet been able to obtain, the late transaction was a most unprovoked attack upon the lives and property of his Majesty’s subjects; and it is represented to us, that such outrages have been committed, as would disgrace even barbarians, and much more Britons, so highly famed for humanity as well as bravery. It is feared, therefore, that we are devoted to destruction, and that you have it in command and intention to ravage and desolate the country. If this is not the case, permit us to ask, Why have these outrages been committed? Why is the town of Boston now shut up? and To what end are all the hostile preparations that are daily making? and Why do we continually hear of fresh destinations of troops for this country. The people of this colony, you may rely upon it, abhor the idea of taking arms against the troops of their Sovereign, and dread nothing so much as the horrors of civil war; but, at the same time, we beg leave to assure your Excellency, that, as they apprehend themselves justified by the principle of self-defence, so they are most firmly resolved to defend their rights and privileges to the last extremeity; nor will they be restrained from giving aid to their brethren, if any unjustifiable attack is made upon them. Be so good, therefore, as to explain yourself upon this most important subject, as far as is consistent with your duty to our common Sovereign. —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? By that humanity, which constitutes so amiable a part of your character, for the honour of our Sovereign, and by the glory of the British empire, we entreat you to prevent it, if it be possible. Surely, it is to be hoped that the temperate wisdom of the empire might, even yet, find expedients to restore peace, that so all parts of the empire may enjoy their particular rights, honours, and immunities. Certainly, this is an event most devoutly to be wished for; and will it not be consistent with your duty, to suspend operations of war on you part, and enable us on ours to quiet the minds of the people, at least till the result of some futher deliberations may be known? The importance of the occasion will, we doubt not, sufficiently apologize for the earnestness with which we address you, and any seeming impropriety which may attend it, as well as induce you to give us the most explicit and favourable answer in your power.

I am, &c, &c,

JONATH. TRUMBULL.

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

 

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Item of the Day: A Speech Intended to Have Been Spoken (1774)

Full Title: A Speech Intended to Have Been Spoken on the Bill for Altering the Charters of the Colony of Massachusett’s Bay. The Third Edition. London: Printed for T. Cadell, in the Strand, MDCCLXXIV. [1774]

ADVERTISEMENT.

The Author of the following Speech might justify his manner of publishing it by very great authorities. Some of the noblest pieces of eloquence, the world is in possession of, were not spoken on the great occasions they were intended to serve, as seem to have been preserved merely from the high sense that was entertained of their merit.

The present performance appears in public from humbler but juster motives: from the great national importance of the subject; from a very warm desire and some faint hope of serving our country, by suggesting a few of the useful truths which great men are apt to overlook.

The Author has abstained most religiously from personal reflections. He has censured no man, and therefore hopes he has offended no man. He feels most sensibly the misfortunes differing from many of those whom he wishes to live and act with; and from some of as much virtue and ability as this kingdom affords. But the are also great authorities on the other side; and the greatest authority can never persuade him that it is better to extort by force, what he thinks may be gained more surely by gentle means.

He looks upon power as a coarse and mechanical instrument of government, and holds the use of it to be particularly dangerous to the relation that subsists between a mother-country and her colonies. In such a case he doubts whether any point ought to be pursued, which cannot be carried by persuasion, by the sense of a common interest, and the exercise of a moderate authority. He thinks it necessary to lay down the limits of sovereignty and obedience, and more unnecessary to fight for them. If we can but restore that mutual regard and confidence, which formerly governed our whole intercourse with our colonies, particular cases will easily provide for themselves. He acts the part of the truest patriot in this dangerous crisis, whether he lives at London or at Boston, who pursues sincerely the most lenient and conciliating measures; and wishes to restore the public peace by some better method than the slaughter of our fellow-citizens.

 

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Item of the Day: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency Francis Bernard (1766)

Full Title: A Serman Preached Before His Excellency Francis Bernard, Esq; Governor and Commander in Chief, The Honourable His Majesty’s Council, And the Honourable House of Representatives, of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England, May 28th. 1766. Being the Anniversay for the Election of His Majesty’s Council for said Province. By Edward Barnard . . . Boston: Printed by Richard Draper, Printer to the Governor and Council; and by Samuel Draper, at their Printing-Office in Newbury Street, MDCCLXVI.

An ELECTION SERMON.

NEHEMIAH V. 19.

THINK upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.

AN aquaintance with the history of past ages will lead us to observe, that a common method of the exaltation of a people, hath been by a succession of men of eminent ablitites and influence. A great genius appears at their head, and forms a general scheme of institutions and laws. This being adopted, active spirits follow, who carry it into execution, and the community swiftly ascends to the height of prosperity.

EVEN Israel taken under the peculiar tutelage of Jehovah thus arose to a flourishing state. Moses, by divine direction, gave them the rudiments of civil and ecclesiastical polity. Joshua, by the same influence, led them over Jordan, and fixed them in the destin’d inheritance.

IN a way somewhat similar may we well suppose a people emerging from the depths of distress to regain their national character, Patriots, perhaps of different qualities, exert themselves in turn, agreable [sic] to their circumstances, ’till they make a respectable figure as in the former period of their existence.

AN illustration of this we have in the case of Judah restored to Palestine and the rights and privileges of their fathers, after residence in a strange land, and subjection to a foreign yoke, for seventy years.

DURING so long a term, when public offices of religion could not be regularly performed, when they were conversant with the superstitions of Gentilism, and the manners of masters upon whom they were entireley dependant, it is scarce possible but that the knowledge of divine truth must be greatly lost, the ardor of devoiton cool’d with many, their spirits broken, and generous public temper well night extinguished.

LET us view these exiles going to a desolate country, and a capital in ruins, with intention to possess and improve their ancient patrimony, rebuild their city, set up the worship of God upon the Hebrew ritual, and settle the civil administration to advantage; at the same time despis’d and hated by their neighbours, and retarded as much as possible in every salutary projection.

THESE things considered, nothing can be clearer than the vast importance that they should have wise men for pilots to direct them, men of goodness and intrepidity, to animate them to every arduous undertaking.

ACCORDINGLY a gracious God not only favored them with his prophets to instruct and support them, but rulers to lead and protect them, and forward the enterprises to which they were called —first Zerubbabel and Joshua, under whom the temple was built, and altar for daily sacrifice; then Ezra a scribe well instructed to the kingdom of heaven, who restored the scripture to its primitive purity, and dissov’d those interdicted alliances which weakened their attachment to their religion and country.

BUT Jerusalem yet laid defenceless, enormities in part remained.

THE full accomplishment of the merciful intention of heaven toward that afflicted people was reserved for Nehemiah.

THIS man held a lucrative post in a cour the center of the wealth and glory of Asia, and had an intricate access to the mightiest monarch then living. But surrounded with affluence and honor, he mourned for Zion. His countenance betrayed a troubled sould to his master, who understanding the cause, gave him liberty of absence for a term, invested him with a public character in Jedea, and sent mandatory letters to his officers bordering thereupon to assist him.

HIS arrival to Jerusalem was like the light of the mroning which dissipates the incumbent gloom, and invigorates nature. Every heart was revived, every hand employed. Present with them the walls went up and the city filled with inhabitants. By his incessant care and labours grievances were redressed, and all things regulated in such a manner as to render them easy and happy.

THIS is the lover of his nation, whose words I have read. Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.

 LANGUAGE this consonant to the principes of reason and revelation. Natural religion dictates tha Tod is good, and a lvoer of righteousness. The sacrifical services of the temple as insituted for particular cases, or pointing to the promised Saviour, while they imply’d guilt, gave assurance that it was consistent with the rectoral holiness of God to have respect to imperfect virtue. Nothing therfore is here expressed but what is agreable to a justness of tho’t, to a due humility of mind. . . .

 

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Filed under 1760's, Colonial America, Massachusetts, New England, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion, Sermons

Item of the Day: A Discourse Delivered on The Day of General Election (1809)

Full Title:  A Discourse, Delivered Before the Lieutenant-Governor, The Council, and the Two Houses Composing the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 31, 1809. Being the Day of General Election. By David Osgood, D.D.

. . .  No arts however vile, no intrigues however base and wicked, are scrupled or declined by unprincipled men when circumstances are such as to give them any hope of success.  For the honors and emoluments of office, their thirst is insatiable, and they hurry on to their attainment per fas & nefas.  Though in themselves, weak and worthless, and, from their want of abilities or from their want of integrity, totally incompetent to the duties of a high station; yet, these are the men whose souls are devoured by ambition, in whom it reigns predominant.  They are always aspiring to the chief dignities, always on the watch to burst the doors of public confidence and thrust themselves forward to the chair of State; while, on the other part, the truly wise and good are too modest and diffident thus to obtrude themselves upon the notice of the public.  Instead of placing their happiness in the exercise of dominion over others, they are content with the due government of themselves, and prize the ease and freedom of private life.  It is with no small reluctance, that such men are drawn from their beloved retirement.  The olive tree, the fig tree, the vine, and every good and useful tree, are afraid to turn aside from that course of beneficence allotted them by nature and the author of nature.  Aware of the responsibility annexed to a high station, they dread its snares and temptations.  Doubting of their own capacity to serve the Publick in the best manner, they dread lest by some mistake in their administration, the peace, safety or prosperity of the State should be endangered.  They therefore wish to decline a province to which they fear their talents are not equal.  Nothing but a conviction of duty, of a call in providence will enable them to surmount these scruples.  On the other part, unprincipled men have no difficulties of this kind.  The bramble, whose very nature unfits it to be useful in any place or condition, boldly comes forward, self-assured and self-confident, to be made the head of the whole vegetative creation. . . .

In free governments, during the excitements and tumultuous scenes of popular election while the partisans of rival candidates are discussing the merits and exerting their in behalf of their respective favorites; unpleasant things are unavoidable.  But no truth in the bible is more certain than this, that great and good minds, upright and enlightened statesmen, possessed of a true patriotism, will retain no remembrance of these irritations afterward.  Placed at the helm, from that moment they will cease to know, and from every wish to know, who voted for or against them.  It will be their most studious concern throughout their administration, to show themselves alike blind to, and ignorant of, all parties; bearing an equal relation to, and an equal affection for, each individual and each class and description of the people; entertaining no other thought or design but by an equal, universal, most strenuous and impartial beneficence, to dissolve and melt down into one common mass, all party distinctions.  The will consider themselves as sustaining the representative sovereignty of the country for the good of the whole and of every part; and in the execution of their high office, will regard nothing but the general weal, peace, and prosperity. . . .

Legislators of the commonwealth, as the representatives of the people, chosen and deputed to make their laws, guard their liberties and take care of their concerns; it is natural to suppose that men thus selected and for such purposes, rank among the wisest and most upright of the community.  We have seen however, that a free people, on some occasions, confide these trust to hands unworthy of them.  They are in special danger of committing this folly at a time when the spirits of party is prevalent.  Under the influence of this spirit, the electors consider, not the talents and virtues of good rulers; but whether the candidates to be the bone and flesh of their party — having capacity and zeal to serve its interests.  Their inquiry is, whether he be a brother of the faction to which themselves are attached.  Thus circumstanced, the most violent partisan often obtains the vote.  Could we suppose a legislative assembly, composed of such characters, thus chosen and coming together with such views and dispositions; what would they be but a copse of brambles, the best of them a brier, the most upright sharper than a thorn hedge?

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Filed under 1800's, Early Republic, Federalists, Massachusetts, Political Commentary, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: An Appendix to a Letter to Dr. Shebbeare (1775)

Full Title:  An Appendix to a Letter to Dr. Shebbeare. To Which are Added, Some Observations on a Pamphlet Entitled, Taxation no Tyranny: In Which the Sophistry of that Author’s Reasoning is Detected.  By A Doctor of Laws.  London:  Printed for J. Donaldson, Corner of Arundel Street, in the Strand.  MDCCLXXV.

 . . .

The block up of the Port of Boston, and ruining the trade of North America, by a law now proposed to be made to starve the Americans, by preventing their fishing on the banks of Newfoundland, appears to me to be such severity as to be inconsistent with the treatment a government owes a free people; especially when it is considered, that the pretence for this severity is only this, that they refuse to submit to a Tax imposed contrary to their charters and the privileges they have been in possession of for 200 years.  There was a motion made in a great assembly, that had the appearance of moderation, by a minister, some weeks ago, but had no meaning in the opinion of people of understanding, but to divide the provinces of America, the only way to ruin them one after another; for no man of understanding can believe, that a minister, capable of ruining a whole province, where some hundred thousands of his Majesty’s subjects dwell, and which has distinguished itself by its zeal to sever Great Britain against its enemies, because a mob there threw into the Sea some chests of Tea, can have any good intentions to any province in America, who will not submit themselves to his absolute will.  By which submission the fund of corruption must be increased, to destroy the liberties both of America and Great Britain; and we should soon see pensioners and placemen multiply in America, as they do here and in Ireland, in order to carry on the arbitrary views of a minister. . . .

I hear the people in America are so alarmed on hearing the intention of our ministry to send a great army and fleet against them, that they are raising an army of observation, to prevent their being under the absolute power of that army, as to their lives, liberties and properties.  I wish, that before we had sent that army, our ministry, if they really mean to make up that matters with America in a peaceful way, had first tried the inclination of the Americans as to what proposals they had to make; for using force on one side, naturally produces force on the other, especially when that force is sent by people who had shown no friendly disposition towards them; and that old saying of a Trojan, when the Greeks professed friendship to them, has been always thought wise, Timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes.

I am told there has been a pamphlet published by one Becket, advancing a very extraordinary doctrine, viz. That it would be proper to impower the crown to raise taxes by its own authority, in times of necessity.  If this doctrine was approved by our parliament, our situation would be the same with that of Spain in Charles V. the emperor’s time, when the Cortez of Spain granted that power to the crown, under the pretence of necessity; which enabled the crown never to call a Cortez afterwards, for they always found out some cause of necessity for continuing that power.  I hear the house of peers have ordered that pamphlet to be burnt by the hands of the hangman — but is that sufficient punishment for an author, who durst advance a doctrine which at once destroys the British constitution, and establishes arbitrary power; which, as I have said before, I look upon as political damnation.  It appears how the Romans prized the least breathing by liberty, during the time of their emperors, by looking into Tacitus’s history of the reign of Trojan, which he calls Rara Tempora, when the Romans could speak or write what they thought, without being ruined by it:  for as the most part of those emperors were monsters of cruelty, so they persecuted every body who regarded virtue, and who did not approve of their vile actions.

Tavernier, the famous jeweller, who went round the globe oftener than once, and made a considerable fortune, at length bought an estate in Switzerland: afterwards being at the court of France, he was asked by Lewis XIV why he did not rather chuse to buy an estate in France, he made him this answer:  I chose to settle what I had acquired by so much pains-taking, in a country where I could call what I had my own, without its being in the power of any body to take it from me.

To conclude; I am so much of Tavernier’s opinion, that I would rather live in the wildest parts of the Highlands of Scotland, under our present happy constitution, than in the finest county of England, under an arbitrary prince.  And as I bore arms against the Pretender in 1715, in defence of the liberties and religion of my country, so I shall end life in wishing there may be always found a sufficient number of British subjects, who will be able to defend that happy constitution which that great prince king William put us in possession of, till time shall be no more — and for that purpose, hope some method shall be found to destroy luxury and dissipation, which at present threatens the destruction of this country — This, and a good correspondence with America, is necessary to save us from Ruin.

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, England, Massachusetts, Posted by Rebecca Dresser