On the cold icy morning of December 13, 1774, Paul Revere headed out on a 60 mile gallop along the Old Bay Road to warn the citizens of Portsmouth that British troops may be landing.
Revere passed through Ipswich before noon, and arrived in Portsmouth about 4 pm, where he called on the members of the Portsmouth Council of Correspondence for an impromptu meeting at the home of Samuel Cutts. The news he carried was that two regiments of British soldiers would be arriving in the port to secure Fort William and Mary at New Castle.
Although this turned out not to be the case, it sparked the anticipated confrontation nonetheless. Loyalists in Portsmouth sent word to the fort, and a courier was sent by horse along the Old Bay Road to summon General Gage and General Graves in Boston. Graves ordered the sloop HMS Canceaux to head to Portsmouth, and while they were in transit, Revere rode back to Boston.
Four months later, Paul Revere would take the ride that made him famous, but this was a successful trial run. When the British soldiers arrived, Portsmouth men had stormed the fort, ripped down the British flag and stolen all of its weapons and gunpowder.
Contrary to the image portrayed in Longfellow’s poem of a lone hero, Paul Revere was a member of a secret Whig intelligence network known as the “Mechanics.” and undertook his heroic rides as an agent for the Boston Committee of Correspondence. On his passage back through Ipswich, Revere surely called on our own Committee of Correspondence, which had been formed two years earlier. In anticipation of the war, Capt. Michael Farley, Dr. Daniel Noyes and Maj. John Baker were instructed by town meeting to “Receive and Communicate all salutary measures that shall be proposed or offered by any other Town.”
The Town of issued the following manifesto:
- That infringements on our colonial rights are as stated by our brethren in Boston. It is of the utmost importance for this Province and others to stand firmly for their rights.
- All people of the American Colonies have a right, according to the British constitution, to dispose of their property as they see fit.
- Parliament, by assuming the right to legislate for the Colonies and to raise a revenue from them, acts contrary to the wishes of the people and the opinion of eminent men in Parliament.
- As a great grievance, the Governor is made independent of the Province for his support, and so the Judges of the Superior Court, the King’s Attorney, and Solicitor-General are all to be thus independent
- It is matter of alarm, that commissioners have been appointed by late acts of Parliament (for preserving his Majesty’s dockyards, magazines, ships, ammunition, and stores,) to inquire out persons who burnt the schooner Gaspee at Providence, because there is a remedy for such offences without commissioners.
- Every part of the British dominions have a right to petition the King and Parliament, and to continue to do it till their grievances are redressed. This town are aggrieved, that petitions of this Province have been so little regarded.
- We instruct our representative to maintain in the General Court, at its next session, the rights of the Province, to make exertion that the Governor and Judges be paid by the Legislature, and not by the Crown; that the Earl of Dartmouth be informed, that the dissatisfied of this Province are not a small faction, but most of the people, who are dissatisfied because the Governor and Judges, and Board of Commissioners of the Customs, are independent of the Legislature here, and also, because of enormous powers vested in the Court of Admiralty, of posting regular troops in the Province, raising a revenue in America, and appropriating this revenue without the consent of the people in person or by their representatives; and “that his Lordship be assured, that the good people of this Province are and always have been firmly attached to his present Majesty and his royal family, and are desirous, to the utmost of their ability, to support government and promote quietness and good order.” The representative of Ipswich is instructed to use his influence, that an agent of the House, separate from the Governor and Council, represent the condition of the Province to the King or his ministers, and, if the Governor refuse to allow grants of the House for such an agent, the representative is to try for the House to recommend to the several towns to pay the agent.
- We thank Boston for proceeding as they have, in their printed pamphlet, for informing the public of alarming encroachments on our Province rights, and for seasonably endeavouring to obtain the sense of the country.
- We will choose a committee to correspond with the committee of Boston and other towns on affairs of the Province.