On September 27, 1774, a meeting of the Committees of Correspondence of Boston and a dozen neighboring towns passed a resolution condemning any colonists assisting the Red Coats and calling for measures to oppose them.
This was one of many resolutions passed during this time period calling for resistance against British tyranny.
In early 1774, the British Parliament passed a series of acts together known as the “Coercive Acts” to punish the colonies — particularly Massachusetts — after the Boston Tea Party. These included the Boston Port Act closing the Boston Port, the Massachusetts Government Act stripping virtually all authority from the colonial government, the Administration of Justice Act stripping authority from local courts and authorizing trials to be held in Great Britain instead of Massachusetts, and the Quartering Act allowing British troops to take over private buildings.
Prior to the passage of the Coercive Act, colonists had already formed local political bodies known as committees of correspondence in response to increasing tensions with the British government. These representative organizations formed an underground communications network to promote the patriot cause and coordinate political action. These committees passed numerous resolutions urging colonists to resist British policies.
For instance, the Suffolk Resolves passed on Sept. 9, 1744, called for non-cooperation with British authorities and direct action to oppose what it condemned as illegitimate and unconstitutional acts by Parliament. The resolves went beyond mere condemnation of the British actions and called for an aggressive response by the people of Suffolk County, including a boycott of British imports, the curtailment of exports to Great Britain, a refusal to use British products, and a refusal to pay taxes until the Massachusetts Government Act was repealed. The resolves also called for the people of Suffolk County to support a colonial government in Massachusetts free from British authority and urged the colonies to raise a militia.
A few weeks later, on Sept. 27, a meeting of “the several Committees of the Towns of Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, Watertown, Charlestown, Cambridge, Mistick, Dedham, Milton, Malden, Braintree, Woburn, and Stow” passed a resolution condemning any person helping the British military in its occupation of Boston.
The resolution focused on the Boston Port Act, a parliamentary measure shutting down all commerce through the Boston Harbor. The bill also ordered the citizens of the city to pay a large fine to compensate for the tea thrown into the river during the Boston Tea Party.
The Sept. 27 resolution asserted the that Port Bill was causing “unspeakable distress arising from the entire prohibition of commerce, and the transportation of even necessaries of life by water, from one town to another.” It also called out Gen. Thomas Gage and the “admiral on station,” saying they “are now in exercise of the most licentious and arbitrary acts of oppression, by withholding provisions from this town, allowed by said Act of Parliament, by embarrassing, unnecessarily detaining, and thereby preventing the usual supplies of fuel to said town; by harassing, insulting, and vilifying the inhabitants passing and repassing to and from the town of Boston; by alarming the people with the most formidable fortifications at the entrance of said town; by continuing and increasing their apprehensions, with a design of erecting batteries and pickets to surround the town; thereby to awe and intimidate, if not to subjugate the inhabitants to a tame and unresisting state of servitude.”
After establishing their grievances, the committee condemned any colonists aiding the British.
“It is the opinion of these Joint Committees, that should any person or persons, inhabitants of this or the neighbouring Provinces, supply the troops now stationed in the town of Boston, acting in open hostility to the persons and properties of the inhabitants, with labour, lumber, joists, spars, pickets, straw, bricks, or any materials whatsoever, which may furnish them with requisites to annoy or in any way distress said inhabitants, he or they so offending shall be hold in the highest detestation; be deemed the most inveterate enemies of this people; and ought to be prevented, opposed, and defeated, by all reasonable means whatsoever.” [Emphasis added]
The call to “prevent, oppose, and defeat” anybody assisting the British encapsulated the spirit of resistance of the day.
John Dickinson, the “Penman of the Revolution” later summarized the principle driving the colonists in his Fabius essay IV, saying that keeping the government in line is ultimately up to “the supreme sovereignty of the people”
“IT IS THEIR DUTY TO WATCH, AND THEIR RIGHT TO TAKE CARE, THAT THE CONSTITUTION BE PRESERVED; Or in the Roman phrase on perilous occasions – TO PROVIDE, THAT THE REPUBLIC RECEIVE NO DAMAGE.”
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