Ipswich and the Breach with Britain

From The Breach With Great Britain” by Thomas Franklin Waters, author of “Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.”

“The march of critical events now became rapid. In March, 1770, the clash between the soldiers and citizens, known as the “Boston Massacre” caused the death of several Boston men. In 1772, the “Gaspee,” a British armed vessel, stationed in Narragansett Bay to prevent smuggling, ran aground and was captured and burned by an attacking party from Providence.

The Rev. John Wise

A pamphlet was published in Boston, reciting the encroachments by the Crown upon the liberty of the Colonists, which was circulated among the towns.


In the Essex Gazette, Jan 7-14, 1772, proposals appeared for reprinting by subscription in a handsome volume, the famous “Vindication of the Government of New England Churches” by John Wise, the minister of the Chebacco Parish, first published in 1717. That bold and brilliant book had produced a profound impression by its impassioned advocacy of democracy in the government of the churches. “The end of all good government,” he affirmed, “is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all, and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor and so forth, without injury or abuse to any.”

It’s no wonder that the writer of that sentence was called up from his grave by the men who were getting ready for the Declaration of Independence.

Ipswich Town Meeting resolves, December 28, 1772

At a Town meeting on Dec. 28, 1772, Ipswich made its response to the Boston Protest in a lengthy and elaborate series of Resolutions, which included:

  1. The right of the Colonists to enjoy and dispose of their property in common with all other British subjects
  2. The unwarranted assumption of power by Parliament to raise a revenue contrary to the minds of the aggrieved and injured people,
  3. The expenditure of this revenue in providing salaries, which rendered the Governor and Judges independent of the people
  4. The neglect of their petitions for redress,
  5. Establishment of a Committee to correspond with the Committees of other towns.

The Committee, which reported these Resolves, appended their names : Francis Choate Mr. Daniel Rogers Capt. Michael Farley, Deacon Stephen Choate, John Calef Esq., Maj. John Baker, William Storey Esq., Mr. John Crocker, Mr. John Hubbard, Mr William Dodge, Mr. Daniel Noyes, Mr. John Treadwell, Joseph Appleton Esq. The Report was read and put to vote paragraph by paragraph, and unanimously adopted.

Capt Farley, Mr. Daniel Noyes and Major John Baker were chosen the Committee of Correspondence, “to Receive and Communicate all salutary measures that shall be proposed or offered by any other Town.”

Ipswich Town Meeting resolutions, December 23, 1773

On Dec. 16, 1773, the tea, which had been brought into Boston harbor was thrown into the sea. A week later, the Ipswich citizens met in most violent mood, and adopted a series of Resolutions:

  1. That the Inhabitants of this Town have received real pleasure and Satisfaction from the noble and spirited Exertions of their Brethren of the Town of Boston and other Towns to prevent the landing of the detested Tea lately arrived there from the East India Company subject to a duty for the sole Purpose of Raising a Revenue to Support in Idleness and Extravagance a Set of Miscreants, whose vile emissaries and Understrappers swarm in the Sea Port Towns and by their dissolute Lives and Evil Practices threaten this Land with a Curse more deplorable than Egyptian Darkness.
  2. That we hold in utter Contempt and Detestation the Persons appointed Consignees …. who have rendered themselves justly Odious to every Person possessed of the least Spark of Ingenuity or Virtue in America.
  3. That it is the Determination of this Town that no Tea shall be brought into it during the Term aforesaid and if any Person shall have so much Effrontery and Hardiness as to offer any Tea to sale in this Town in Opposition to the general Sentiments of the Inhabitants he shall be deemed an Enemy to the Town and treated as his superlative Meanness and Baseness deserve.

Prosecution of Tories

As the War continued, Tory sentiments were met with severe measures. Jonathan Stickney Jr. of Rowley was so unwise that he used very uncomplimentary language regarding the patriot cause and its leaders. He was arrested and sent to the General Court. Its decision was quick and sharp:

“To the Keeper of Ipswich Jail: You are ordered to receive into your custody Jonathan Stickney Jr., who has been apprehended by the Committee of Inspection, Correspondence and Safety of the Town of Rowley and sent to the General Court for having in the most open and daring manner endeavored according to the utmost of his abilities to encourage & introduce Discontent, Sedition, and a Spirit of Disobedience to all lawful authority among the people by frequently clamoring in the most impudent insulting and abusive Language against the American Congress, the General Court of this Colony and others who have been exerting themselves to save the Country from Misery & Ruin all which is made fully to appear.

You are therefore to keep him safely in close confinement (in a Room by himself & that he be not allowed the use of pens, ink nor paper, and not suffer him to converse with any person whatever unless in your hearing) till the further order of the General Court or he be otherwise discharged bv due course of Law.”

—-In the Name and by the order of the Council and House of Representatives John Lowell, Dep. Sec. Council Chambers April 18, 1776.”

The Committee of Safety of Rowley petitioned the Court on June 5th, 1776, that, in view of his penitence he be removed from jail to his father’s house, under such restrictions as may be imposed.

Declaration of Independence

The Summer of 1776 was brightened by one luminous event, the Declaration of Independence, on July 4th, the thought of which had been indignantly disclaimed by the votes of Ipswich not many months before, and by Washington himself and all the patriot leaders, but which had been forced upon the Colonies by the trend of events.

On June 10th, 1776, the men of Ipswich, in Town-meeting assembled, instructed their Representatives, that if the Continental Congress should for the safety of the said Colonies Declare them Independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain, they will solemnly engage with their lives and Fortunes to support them in the Measure.

Source: Thomas Franklin Waters: “The Breach with Great Britain”

The Ipswich Instructions

From Kelsey Anne Diemand: “Life, Liberty…” and the Law: John Adams’ political thought during the American Revolution”

The “Ipswich Instructions” were a result of a 1687 tax which the governor of Massachusetts had imposed on Ipswich Residents. The citizens of Ipswich protested the lack of representation in the British government. The Ipswich Instructions provided a basis for his argument that the British Parliament taxed the colonies unlawfully and without consent in 1765 with the institution of the Stamp Act.

John Adams mentioned the importance of preserving the colonists’ rights in his “Dissertation on the Cannon and the Feudal Law,” a 1765 document written in opposition to the Stamp Act.Adams concluded that the Stamp Act and the Ipswich Instructions were both an injustice demonstrating taxation without proper representation, he wrote, “This is a Principle which has been advanced long ago…Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible divine right.”

2 replies »

  1. Gordon, Does Volume 2 of Ipswich in the MA Bay Colony say anything about the clock in the First Cgurch? Any clocks mentioned ?


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