Engraving: A New Hampshire protest against the Stamp Act in 1765
Sir Richard Saltonstall arrived in Salem aboard of the Arabella with the Winthrop fleet on June 12, 1630. His son Richard, was born in 1610, became a miller and a prominent citizen of Ipswich, but returned to England, where he died there in 1694. His son Nathaniel settled at Haverhill, where he is considered to be a founding father.
Richard Saltonstall, the sixth generation from Sir Richard was born in 1732, and became a colonel during the French and Indian War. He escaped the slaughter of British and American soldiers at Fort William Henry and remained in active service until the close of the war. He was appointed Sheriff of Essex County and resided at the family estate in Haverhill.
A steady Loyalist, Saltonstall defended the right of the Crown to tax the Colonies. In 1765, a mob from Haverhill and neighboring Salem, NH proclaiming themselves to be “Sons of Liberty” marched to his home, armed with clubs. Saltonstall opened his door and told them he was under the oath of allegiance to the King and therefore was bound to discharge the duties of the office he held under him, but that he was as great a friend to the country as any of them. He then ordered refreshments for the assembled crowd, who soon began to relent, and requested them to go to the nearby tavern at his expense, upon which the rioters began to sing his praises.
In October of that year, Saltonstall was removed as regimental commander, and a second mob appeared at his house, led by Timothy Eaton, a member of Haverhill’s Committee of Correspondence, proclaiming that his “bold and unpatriotic words were obnoxious to the public opinion of the town.” Saltonstall promised “to give them no more cause for offense” and was forced to signed a loyalty oath.
In March, 1775 Captain James Brickett of Haverhill raised a company of men “in the cause of liberty” who voted at a meeting that they adopt a uniform consisting of a blue coat with yellow plain buttons, buff or nankeen waistcoat & breeches, and white stockings with half boots or gaiters, and that the hats be cocked alike, and that they should all received a bright gun and bayonet.
Fearing for his safety, Saltonstall fled to Boston, still under control of the British, and was appointed as Captain in the Loyal American Association, assembled to “prevent all disorders within the district by either Signals, Fires, Thieves, Robbers, house Breakers or Rioters.” He left America forever when the British evacuated Boston in March, 1776 and settled in London. Refusing to enter the British service against the Colonists, he stated that although he could not conscientiously engage on the side of his native country he would never would take up arms against her.
Prosecution of Tories in Essex County
The treatment of Loyalists is documented in Thomas Gage’s book, The history of Rowley, anciently including Bradford, Boxford, and Georgetown, from the year 1639 to the present time:
“From the commencement of the troubles with the Mother Country up to 1774, there where those in Rowley who favored the royalists, not because they were actually enemies to the best interests of the Colonies, but because it would in the end, (in their opinion,) prove worse than in vain for the Colonies at that time to contend with Great Britain. All such declined signing the Whig Covenant, and were denominated tories, enemies to their country, &c. It is believed, however, that, during this year, nearly all such persons, in Rowley, made and signed their recantations, which were published in the prints of the day, and their persons restored to favor. Their recantations were variously expressed, one or two of which follow, viz.
“‘ Whereas there have been several acts passed of late, by the British Parliament, contrary to our natural and charter rights, which have occasioned some measures to be entered into by the people in general in the Ameri-can Colonies, in order to defeat such pernicious bills, which are so dangerous in their consequences, from taking place ; among which was a Covenant from the Committee of Correspondence in Boston to the towns in this Province, tending to a general non-importation from, and exportation to the island of Great Britain ; and said Covenant has been offered to us to sign, and we have refused it. Therefore we now take this method to inform the public, that we are heartily sorry for our so refusing, and do now solemnly promise, that we will sign said Covenant the first opportunity we have. We further solemnly promise, to agree to and be assisting in carrying into execution, as far as in us lies, any measures that shall be thought most proper, and be entered into by the people in general, or by the result of the General Congress of these United Provinces. And we do further humbly ask the pardon, and beg forgiveness for our so offending, of the honorable gentlemen now present, and of all the people who are friends of American liberty, as we are deeply sensible we have behaved directly contrary to the welfare and prosperity of the insulted Provinces of North America.” Rowley, October 7, 1774’.
“These recantations or submissions were usually made and signed in the presence of a voluntary meeting of the citizens, called for the purpose. At these meetings it was their practice, in Rowley, to proceed to organize themselves by the choice of a clerk and a committee, who were to draw up articles that had been alleged against the individual or individuals then before them for examination and trial. The articles being drawn up and read to the meeting, witnesses were then examined, and a vote taken, to see if the evidence was sufficient to support the charges. It was usually decided in the affirmative, as the accused found it difficult to prove the negative side of the question. The committee then prepared a paper, containing the terms of submission and confessions of political transgressions, which the accused were required to sign, by a force too powerful to admit of a refusal.”
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.
In 1778, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts banished hundreds of Loyalists from returning, and his Haverhill home passed into the hands of his brother, Dr. Nathaniel Saltonstall, who had sided with the Patriots.
- Untapped History: “I Have No Remorse of Conscience for My Past Conduct” – Haverhill Loyalist Richard Saltonstall”
- Loyalists of Massachusetts and the Other Side of the American Revolution by James H. Stark