From Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by Thomas Franklin Waters
In 1767, the Townshend Acts were passed, one of which provided for a tax on wine, glass, tea, gloves, etc, imported into the Province. During the winter, the General Court issued a Circular Letter, which was sent to the other Assemblies, notifying them of the measure adopted by Massachusetts with regard to resistance to the Townshend Acts and suggesting concerted action. Dr. John Calef was the representative from Ipswich to the General Court in Boston, but was among only seven members of the Massachusetts Assembly who voted to retract the Circular Letter. As war with Britain loomed closer and closer, Ipswich citizens’ anger at Calef grew.
Calef was immediately replaced as Representative by General Michael Farley. To deprive the Townshend Acts of all value as a measure for revenue, Boston, Ipswich and other large towns took spirited measures. At an Ipswich Town meeting, held on March 19, 1770, a committee, previously appointed, reported as follows :
“Taking under consideration the Distrest State of Trade, by Reason of a Late Act of Parliament Imposing Duties on Tea….Voted, that we will abstain there from ourselves & Recommend the Disuse of it in our Families, Until all the Revenue Acts are Repealed.”
Upward of three hundred “Mistresses of Families” in Boston bound themselves to “totally abstain from Tea (sickness excepted) not only in our respective families but that we will absolutely refuse it, if it should be offered to us upon any Occasion whatsoever.” A hundred and twenty-six young ladies of Boston signed a similar agreement. The women of the resistance called themselves the “Daughters of Liberty.”
Hannah Bradstreet Shatswell’s cups of tea
With the Revolutionary War impending, Richard Shatswell, whose home still stands on High Street was under suspicion of being a Tory, but his spirited wife Hannah Bradstreet rebelled against the patriotic prohibition of tea. Having stored a plentiful supply while the forbidden commodity was available, she continued to enjoy it. When town officials called upon her to remonstrate against her unpatriotic indulgence, she received them graciously and satisfied them that her love of the forbidden herb was not an act of treason. A few months later her daughter Hannah appeared in meeting on a Sabbath day in a new bonnet of exceptional elegance, which provoked another visit from the Town fathers, but the mother convinced them again that her daughter’s finery had nothing to do with treason.
Two years passed and the War was on. Hannah now had a lover who had joined other Ipswich soldiers to fight the British. The army had retired to winter quarters and the daughter’s suitor was expected home. Wishing to impress her lover, the daughter wove a new linen dress from flax raised at the homestead, and added some long-held ribbons as trimming.
When she appeared at church in her finery, it was fresh cause for alarm, and on Monday morning the official committee arrived at her door to protest against the extravagance. Hannah’s mother could take no more: “Do you come here to take me to task because my daughter wore a gown she spun and wove with her own hands? Three times have you interfered with my family affairs, three times have you come to tell me that my husband would be turned out of his office. Now, mark me ! There is the door. As you came in you may go out. But if you ever cross my threshold again you shall find that calling Hannah Bradstreet a tory will not make her a coward.”
The Ipswich Resolves of 1772
At a Town meeting on Dec. 28, 1772, Ipswich made its response to the Boston Protest in a lengthy and elaborate series of Resolves, which included the following:
- The right of the Colonists to enjoy and dispose of their property in common with all other British subjects.
- The unwarranted assumption of power by Parliament to raise a revenue contrary to the minds of the aggrieved and injured people, the expenditure of this revenue in providing salaries, which rendered the Governor and Judges independent of the people.
- The neglect of their petitions for redress
- A resolution to choose a Committee to correspond with the Committees of other towns.
The Report was read to the assembled Ipswich Town Meeting and put to vote, paragraph by paragraph, and unanimously adopted. Capt Farley, Mr. Daniel Noyes and Major John Baker were chosen as the Committee of Correspondence, “to Receive and Communicate all salutary measures that shall be proposed or offered by any other Town.”
The Resolves of 1773
On Dec. 16, 1773, the tea which had been brought into Boston harbor was thrown into the sea. A week later, Ipswich citizens met in most violent mood, and adopted a series of Resolutions, which are of unique interest:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
Wild rumors of bloodshed abounded. Delegates from all the towns, 67 in number, arrived in Ipswich on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 1774 and the Ipswich Convention began its deliberations, which required two days.. Jeremiah Lee Esq. of Marblehead was the Chairman. Resolutions were adopted by unanimous vote, binding themselves to stand together in opposition to the Crown, demanding the resignation of officials holding office by Royal appointment, and declaring the Provincial Congress, soon to assemble, absolutely necessary for the common safety. The Ipswich Convention was “held by adjournment” on April 29, 1778 to review the proposed Constitution framed by the Convention of the State. This Convention was then adjourned to May 12, to be held at Ipswich.
The First Provincial Congress met in Salem on Friday, October 7, 1774, Ipswich being represented by Capt. Michael Farley and Mr. Daniel Noyes. At the Town Meeting held on November 21, the Proposals and Resolves of the Continental Congress being read, the vote was put to the Town to approve of said Proposals and Resolves. It passed in the Affirmative unanimously.
On Nov. 21, 1774, the crisis was at hand. The enlistment of soldiers according to the Proposals of the Provincial Congress was approved, and a plot of land at the easterly end of the Town House, fifty feet long and twenty-five feet wide was granted in order to “Erect a House for the Encouragement of Military Discipline.”
On June 10, 1776, Ipswich Town Meeting voted the following:
“The representatives shall be instructed if the Continental Congress should for the safety of the Colonies declare them independent of Great Britain, the inhabitants here will solemnly pledge their lives and fortunes to support them in the measure.”
Soon the war was on. A price was put on the head of John Calef, and he fled with his family to Castine near the Penobscot Peninsula, where he worked as a surgeon for the British troops.