Ipswich in the Revolutionary War

(Excerpts 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.


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.”

Related posts:

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the fate of the American Revolution - I listened today to an interview with author Nathaniel Philbrick on NPR, and was impressed with his fresh take on the social dynamics of the Revolutionary War, portrayed in his book, Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution. His account of the Revolution and the tragic […]
Ipswich Price Act 1777 The Price Act, passed at Ipswich, February 1777 - In 1777, the Ipswich Selectmen and the Committee of Correspondence and Safety, acting under the authority of the General Court, issued a schedule of prices covering all articles of food, clothing, wages of labor of every kind, entertainment at hotels, shipping rates etc.
Newburyport Tea Party: Patriots burning tea in Market Square The Newburyport Tea Party - When Parliament laid a tax on tea, the British locked all the tea that had arrived in Newburyport into the powder house. Eleazer Johnson led a group of men who shattered the door and burned the tea in Market Square.
Faneuil Hall The Massachusetts Circular Letter, February 11, 1768 - Dr. John Calef represented Ipswich in the Massachusetts Assembly and was one of only 17 members who voted to retract the Circular Letter opposing the Townshend Acts. An engraving by Paul Revere portrays Calef being pushed into Hell.
The Essex Convention The Ipswich Convention and the Essex Result - Delegates from 67 towns arrived in Ipswich on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 1774 and began deliberations regarding a Constitution for Massachusetts. "Surely a state of nature is more excellent than that in which men are meanly submissive to the haughty will of an imperious tyrant."
Great Ispwich Fright, John Greenleaf Whittier The Great Ipswich Fright, April 21, 1775 - A rumor spread that two British ships were in the river, and were going to burn the town. The news spread as far as New Hampshire, and in every place the report was that the regulars were but a few miles behind them, slashing everyone in sight.
Memorial on South Green Ipswich ma The Arnold Expedition arrives in Ipswich, September 15, 1775 - A memorial sits in the intersection between the South Green and the site of the former South Congregational Church in Ipswich. It reads, “The expedition against Quebec, Benedict Arnold in command, Aaron Burr in the ranks, marched by this spot, September 15, 1775."
The “Detested Tea” and the Ipswich Resolves - aking 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."
The “Commonwealth” - "Commonwealth" is defined as a state in which authority is vested in the citizenry. In the 17th Century it was the radical philosophy the work and the proceeds thereof should be shared by the people.
Boston circular let ter 1772 Reply by the Town of Ipswich to the Boston Pamphlet, December 28, 1772 - A document known as the “Boston Pamphlet” was distributed throughout the colony, asserting the colonists’ rights. Ipswich held a Town Meeting and established its own “Committee of Correspondence."
Paul Revere's ride handing out handbills Paul Revere’s not so famous ride through Ipswich, December 13, 1774 - On the cold icy morning of December 13, 1774, Paul Revere headed out on a 60 mile gallop from Boston along the Old Bay Road through Ipswich to warn the citizens of Portsmouth that British troops may be landing.
Madame Shatswell’s cup of tea - Madame Shatswell loved her cup of tea, and as a large store had been stored for family use before the hated tax was imposed, she saw no harm in using it as usual. News of the treason spread throughout the town.
Lieutenant Ruhama Andrews and the Battle of Quebec - On Christmas Day 1823, Gen Benjamin Pierce of Hillsborough, NH held a reunion of twenty-two citizens who had served in the War of Independence. The oldest attendee was Ammi Andrews, born in Ipswich, MA, aged 89 years.
Cartoon portraying Loyalist John Calef as a calf Ipswich mob attacks Loyalist Representative Dr. John Calef - Dr. John Calef was among a handful of members of the Massachusetts Assembly who voted to retract the "Massachusetts Circular Letter" which was adopted in response to the 1767 Townshend Acts. Ipswich citizens' anger at Calef lingered as war with England approached.
Ipswich in the Revolutionary War - 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.
How Ipswich celebrated the end of the Revolutionary War - The manner in which residents of Ipswich celebrated the end of hostilities was recorded in "The Life, Journals and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler."
General Michael Farley - In 1774, the Town of Ipswich chose Michael Farley, a tanner, as a delegate to the Provincial Congress. He was appointed major-general of the Militia of Massachusetts in 1777. Farley is buried at the Old North Burying Ground beside his wife Elizabeth. The site of his home is now the Richdale store on Market St..

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 ?

Leave a Reply to Donn Lathrop Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.