Faneuil HallHistory

The Massachusetts Circular Letter, February 11, 1768

The Massachusetts Circular Letter was a statement written by Samuel Adams and James Otis Jr., and passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives on February 11, 1768 in response to the Townshend Acts. In the course of a year, the letter was received by assemblies throughout the Colonies. The letter greatly disturbed Parliament, and Governor Bernard was ordered to demand that the vote of the House should be rescinded, under penalty of his dissolving the General Court.

John Calef cartoon by Paul Revere
In this political cartoon by Paul Revere, John Calef is portrayed with a calf’s head (beneath the pitchfork).

Dr. John Calef represented the town of Ipswich in the General Court, but was among only seventeen members of the Massachusetts Assembly who voted to retract the Circular Letter. Paul Revere responded with a print entitled “A Warm Place Hell,” showing the devil with a pitchfork pushing the 17 men into the mouth of Hell. Dr. John Calef is represented in the engraving with a calf’s head. Anger by Ipswich citizens at Calef’s vote resulted in his replacement in the assembly by General Michael Farley. During the Revolution, Calef fled to Ft. George at Penobscot.

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Ipswich MA joins the Revolution Ipswich and the breach with Britain - 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.

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