« AnteriorContinuar »
and vigilance (discovered on several occasions) in endeavoring to preserve our civil constitution from innovation, and to maintain the same inviolate. And we do assure them that our assistance shall not be wanting in the use of all such lawful proper measures as shall be thought expedient to be adopted for the preservation of our liberties, civil and religious.”
The calm and solemn declaration of sentiments, sent at this time to their representative, is as follows:
“ To Simon Tufts, Esq.
“ Sir, — You being our representative, we, your constituents, this day, in lawful town-meeting assembled, having taken into serious consideration the many and alarming grievances, as generally and justly complained of, which the Colonies in general, and this Province in particular, labor under, as being subversive of the essential rights and privileges of free British subjects, and repugnant both to the letter and spirit of our royal charter, take the freedom to lay before you our sentiments thereupon, and to enjoin you, as our representative, to use your best endeavors in the Honorable House of Representatives, at their next sessions, in promoting and assisting in such constitutional measures as shall appear best, and most likely to obtain redress of the same.
“It would be too tedious, as well as needless, to enumerate, and particularly remind you of all the grievances we suffer at this time from ministerial and parliamentary proceedings; but it may suffice to say generally that our sentiments of the claims we are justly entitled to, as free British subjects, and also of the infringements from time to time made upon them, are similar to those contained in the pamphlet (now read) which our patriotic brethren of Boston have generously furnished us with; which book we recommend to your serious perusal.
“ In particular, we desire that you inquire into the truth of a report currently spread and prevailing among us, namely, that the Hon. Justices of the Superior Court are in future to receive their salaries from the Crown. Since such a provision, which renders them so enormously dependent upon the Crown, is of so threatening an aspect, so dangerous to the free and impartial administration of justice, as must alarm every serious person who has the welfare of his country at heart, it gives us just reason to fear that the axe is now laid at the root of our liberty, with a fixed intention to hew it down.
“Therefore, sir, if, upon inquiry, you find this to be really the case, we trust you will zealously and vigorously exert yourself to avert so formidable an evil, and frustrate the wicked machinations of our inveterate enemies; and, in the mean time, that you will endeavor that the Hon. Justices of the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assizes, and General Jail Delivery, be amply and
honorably supported by grants from the General Assembly, and in such a manner as shall best tend to the maintaining of justice in the land. Finally, that you endeavor that the disputes and differences now subsisting betwixt Great Britain and the Colonies be speedily and amicably adjusted, and peace and harmony again restored."
A copy of the above was sent to the town of Boston.
The records of Medford are full of the most clear and stirring expressions of patriotism with reference to the oppressions of the Crown. So near to Boston, every pulsation of that central heart found an answering beat in the bosoms of our ancestors. They were among the first and steadiest supporters of colonial rights. There were men in Medford, in 1770, who knew their political, civil, and religious position, and who were ready to defend themselves from parliaments and ministers and kings. It will not be necessary to copy into this history the many declarations and resolutions which glow with the auroral light of liberty on the records of the town. It may be interesting to see into what form their views and feelings had settled in 1773; and these may be apprehended by the following record of a townmeeting held for the special purpose of expressing their opinion upon the Tea Question.
The record is as follows:
“ The town being informed, that, by reason of the American merchants generally refusing to import tea from Great Britain while subjected to the payment of the duty imposed thereon by the British Parliament, the East India Company there have been so greatly embarrassed in the sale of their teas, that they have at length determined (through permission of Parliament) to export a supply for the Colonies on their own account. Several ships have already arrived in Boston with large quantities on board, and several more are daily expected; and we are informed that the said duty will be paid upon all such teas.
“ To prevent, therefore, the many formidable evils consequent upon the success of this alarming and subtle attempt to rivet the chains of oppression, the town, after mature deliberation, comes into the following resolutions :
1. Resolved, That it is the incumbent duty of all free British subjects in America to unite in the use of all lawful measures necessary and expedient for the preservation and security of their rights and privileges, civil and religious. · 2. That it is the opinion of this town, that the British Parliament have no constitutional authority to tax these Colonies without their own consent ; and that, therefore, the present duty laid upon tea, imported here from Great Britain for the purpose of a revenue, is a tax illegally laid upon and extorted from us.
“3. That said India Company's exporting their own teas to the Colonies, while charged with said duty, has a direct tendency to establish said revenue acts.
“4. That we will exert ourselves, and join with our American brethren, in adopting and prosecuting all legal and proper measures to discourage and prevent the landing, storing, and vending and using those teas among us; and that whosoever shall aid or assist said India Company, their factors or servants, in either landing, storing, or selling the same, does a manifest injury to his country, and deserves to be treated with severity and contempt.
“5. That we are ready at all times, in conjunction with our American brethren, as loyal subjects, to risk our lives and fortunes in the service and defence of His Majesty's person, crown, and dignity; and also, as a free people, in asserting and maintaining inviolate our civil and religious rights and privileges against all opposers whatever.
“6. That the thanks of this town be and are hereby given to our worthy brethren of the town of Boston, for their unwearied care and pains in endeavoring to preserve our rights and privileges free from innovation, and furnishing this and our other towns with copies of their late proceedings.
“ Voted that a copy of these resolutions and proceedings be transmitted to the Committee of Correspondence in Boston.”
June 1, 1774: The Boston Port Bill, which prohibited all trade by water, brought the great question to its issue. Every one here was asking, Must we be slaves ? Can we be free? When men's labor is forbidden, and their bread fails, then “ bayonets begin to think.” Our fathers now felt that the hope of the country was in the union of the Colonies.
Men who could understand these acts of oppression, and could' thus talk, were ready and willing to act; and their first prophetic deed was that of abstinence. Nov. 14, 1774, Medford voted thus: “Resolved, That, if any person or persons sells or consumes any East India teas, the names of such persons to be posted up in some public place.” Again, « Voted that we will not use East India teas till the Acts be repealed.” This was equivalent to cleaning the rifle, and looking into the cartridge-box.
Medford had its stock of powder deposited in the powderhouse, on Quarry Hill, and, on the 27th of August, 1774, removed it. Governor Gage heard that the powder in that house was fast leaving it; and, as he called it the “ king's powder," he resolved to remove it to Castle William (Fort
). Accordingl four, two hunddison, embarktic
Independence). Accordingly, “on Thursday morning, September 1, about half-past four, two hundred and sixty troops, under the command of Lieut.-Col. Maddison, embarked at Long Wharf, Boston, in thirteen boats, sailed up Mystic River, landed at Temple's farm (Ten Hills), marched to the powder-house, and removed all the powder in it, two hundred and fifty half-barrels, to Castle William.” This clandestine act of power, executed on the very borders of Medford, called forth here the deepest indignation, and made every man ready for the issue which it foreshadowed. It is impossible now to conceive of the excitement which this act produced.
« Five boats” had been built, and “the Selectmen of Medford were ordered to take a party of men to Charlestown Neck, to launch them, and carry them up Mystic River.” And this was done.
We find the inhabitants of Medford again assembled; and, Feb. 1, 1775, two Representatives, Benjamin Hall, and Stephen Hall, 3d, are sent to the Provincial Congress at Cambridge. Medford now, as one man, enrolled itself, and stood ready at the first tap of the drum. Signs of terrible portent abound; and soon comes the 19th of April. A beacon-fire has been lighted; a horseman rides at full speed through the streets of Medford ; the bell rings, drums beat, all doors fly open. The awful tidings have already spread over the county, and will soon penetrate the adjoining States. The workshops, the brickyards, the counting-houses, and the cornfields are all deserted. The horse is suddenly loosed from the plough, and the plough left in the furrow. Women collect to ask if they can do any thing, and then hasten to help fathers, husbands, and sons. All eyes are strained to see, all ears to hear, and every heart palpitates as before the lightning flash of an overhanging cloud. The time has come. The British regulars are marching from Boston to Lexington for plunder and hostility. Patriotism reddens every American cheek at the announcement of this fact. The heart of the whole town moves as by one pulsation. There needs no conscription here. All are ready. The auroral blush of liberty is in the sky. They seize their rifle and their fowl. ing-piece, they fill their powder-horn and cartridge-box, they store their knapsack and roll up their blanket; and then, with quickened step and firm resolve, heart answering to heart, the fearless patriot band take up their solemn march
to meet the foe. Some Medford minute-men soon joined the ranks of their neighbors from Reading, who had volunteered already, under the command of their gallant young physician, John Brooks.
The Medford Company, fifty-nine in all, were out early on their march to the scene of danger, and, for five days, were in active service. The maxim at Medford was this: “Every citizen a soldier, every soldier a patriot.”
A Medford farmer, at the West End, as soon as he heard of the march of the British towards Lexington, ran to his house, seized his gun, and made ready for departure. Dinner was on the table, but he would not stop. His wife exclaimed, " Why, husband, you are not going without your dinner!” “ Yes, I am,” he replied; “I am going to take powder and balls for my dinner to-day, or to give them some.”
These were times when men had reasons shorter than logic. Their minds glowed like the burning furnace; and to put a stop to British oppression they were resolved. God and freedom now became watchwords. They felt that every true American was their ally ; and they knew that the first shot fired at their neighbors at Lexington would convert every citizen in the Colony to a minute-man and a soldier. These ancestors of ours were men; they have the right to be called MEN; and, with such men, liberty is safe. How faintly, at this day, can we conceive of the electric enthusiasm of the 19th of April! It seemed
“ As if the very earth again
Grew quick with God's creating breath ;
To battle to the death.”
The number belonging to Medford who were killed on that day is not known. A worthy old man told us that he knew of four who fell: William Polly and Henry Putnam, at Concord ; and a man named Smith, and another named Francis, in West Cambridge. The two last mentioned were killed by the flank guard of the British, on the retreat to Boston.
William Polly was brought to Medford alive, but died of his wounds April 25.
The Medford men followed the retreating British from Lexington woods to Charlestown ferry, and shot their last ball during the embarkation.