Mercy Scollay’s Declaration of Independence

in about Warren

Author: Mercy Scollay

Date: May 21, 1776

Will Mr. Hancock permit an obscure Friend to intrude upon him in those moments that he retires from the complea affairs of his country to taste the sweets of sociability that ever attends Domestic happiness? If he will, Miss Scollay puts in her claim and begs an audience. She has not been in attentive to the voice of Time, that Proclaim’d your firmness and disinterested Patriotism, has join’d her feeble voice with the applauding Plentitude upon that August Body of which you’re a member, she has traced you in your retired moments, rejoiced with you upon every acquisition you gain’d in domestic felicity and now most feelingly sympathizes with you in the loss you have sustained, but which she mourns the loss of your amiable relations to you, and to the many which her diffusive benevolence relied. She follows her idea to those manshions of Bliss! Where Happily placed, beyond the reach of those cares which annoy this fluctuating state, she beholds her singing the Parises of her Great Creator! And smiling with benignity on her belov’d son, happy Being, rather to be envied than regretted. May all who remember her virtues strive to initiate them and in time partake with her in those joy’s she now experiences. You will perhaps wonder that I have not acquainted you with any of my movements since you left Worcester, your indisposition, and the hurry of Business, at that time deprived me of your assistance and advice respecting my little charge and the distress I soon after suffered with any uncertain situation, rendered me for a time incapable of writing or feeling any animating sensations, however the tenderness of good Doctor Dix and his wife alleviated in some measure my sorrows, and their Hospitable house has (till within this month) been my home.

Shall I give you a little History of myself since I saw you, then ask your advice and solicit your assistance? I am no Historiographer my friend, and shall exhibit but a lame figure in the narrative way, shall perhaps tire your patience with the prolicity of my performance and you will not want to hear from me again, however hope for your candid attention and thus begin my ritual.

About a fortnight after you left Worcester the Doctors brother, who is the farmer came up in order to take from me the two little boys, I remonstrated against those proceedings, beg’d (as they were so happily placed from danger in the asylum which their Papa had hope for their residence and under the care of those he confided in that they would permit them to remain with me at least `till there was more safety nearer Boston. I told him what you had said respecting Josey and that I had wrote your aunt concerning Betsey and as I was ready to give them all the instruction their little minds was capable of receiving at present that it a pity they should be deprived of those advantages by a separation. He was very thankful to Mr. Hancock for his kindess but Mr. H never said anything to them about the matter and [—- ] seemed to doubt my word as to your proposals – he said their grandmother wanted to see them and that very hard they should be kept from her as it was impossible anybody could love them so well as blood relations. I found it was in vain to oppose their measures and with as chearfull an air as I could assume gave up my two little boys, thankfull that they had left me the Dear little girls, and I hoped something would intervene that might countenance my detaining them as they claim’d my fondest attention-For two months I was actuated by the most anxious hopes and distressing fears, I heard nothing from them all this time and was ignorant of their determination `till the uncle again made his appearance for the purpose of taking from me the other two. Oh! Mr. Hancock my pen here refuses to paint the same and my eyes are surcharged with tears as resolution brings to view the Dear little creatures clinging round my neck, and begging every body not to let uncle Eben take them from Miss Mercy. I said everything I could so did my friend Mr. Dix the Dr. was from home – I offered to take the youngest immediately as my own and did not doubt but I should be assisted by my friend in my care and I would with pleasure maintain her and myself should it Please Heaven! To deny me the sight of my parents.- This offer was like wise rejected and he intimated in an ambiguous manner that my anxiety for the Children might be owing to my not having a place for myself – you may judge what an affect such a hint had upon me, I resented it as I thot I ought to and believe it helped to support me thro’ the parting since w’h beggans discription. They were taken from me in October and I did not see them `till within this week – I made several attempts for that purpose but my friends dissuaded me from it. They said I had suffered eno’ and as I could not keep with `em it would be a fresh opening an unhealed would, since I’m to Town I have been over to see them and find their tenderness for me unabated, Poor Betsey still cries to come and live with me, which my little favourite Polly joins her [—-] voice to her sisters and with a sensibility that would astonish you for one of her years discovers by her looks how rejoiced she would be at such a count. They have had no schooling since they left me and Josey thou’ eight years old can little more than tell his letters, his uncle told me he head provided a school for him at Roxbury but Sarah says he cries when his grandmother mentions anything to him about going and the old Lady’s misplaced fondness is such that she cant her to grive him and he takes advantage of that weakness and I’m afraid will not be prvail’d on to pursue any studies. Those old Lady treats me with a great deal of tenderness and says there’s noone she should rather have than me to superintend their education, uncle Eben behaves pretty well but I fear will be loth[e] the children should come to Boston, least any monies should go beside his pocket. This is between ourselves. My wish is this, tell me if I’m right that after the danger from the smallpox and further Invasions from our enemies is at an end the little folks may be brought to Boston, Josey and Dicky placed with some school master where I can often see them and know what progress they make – the two little girls I would wish to have under my care and would exert every talant I’m mistress of for their benefit. Had I [had] an affluent for tune I would not hesitate one moment would take them immediately home and give them all the advantages I could but prudence forbids such a step – what is your advice my friend? It will be a reflection upon the Province should they remain in obscurity and I cant relive them without help – They ought to be educated befitting the Noble mind of their Heroic Parent and I fear his affairs are in too perplexed a state to afford them proper supplies at least for some time. No one has administered the Estate and his affects are scattered in a distraught manner. Papa has what of the furniture remain’d in Town under his car[e], but ’tis very trifling – Some is at Worcester and some at Roxbury and Milton. Their uncle John who seems to take the lead is now at New York with the Army must follow it wherever it goes and ’tis uncertain when he will return. All this time, the children are suffering for want of culture. Doctor Bullfinch whose worth you are not unacquainted with had entered into a plan with our poor friend to erect an Inoculating Hospital which had it been affected would be of great advantage since I came to Town the Doctor mentioned it to me and wanted to carry the scheme into execution that the Dear little children might be benefited by their Fathers part of the Profits. I exulted in the thought that there was a probability of their being provided for without dependence and imagined our Honorable Court [i.e. the Massachusetts Provincial Congress or General Court as the legislature is sometimes known] would be glad of an opportunity to testify their gratitude to our illustrious Hero, buy placing his children in such a situation but how was I astonished when upon mentioning it to one of the members of that great body (no other than the great Mo[ses] Gill) he refused me his assistance as the scheme he knew would not answer and delivered his opinion in so descisive a manner that convinced me there was no appeal from his superior judgement. Alas! Mr. Hancock our counselors are not as at the beginning if hes a specimen. I have now as far as I am able given you an account how affairs are situated, beg you will write me your sentiments on the matter, there is nothing I should think too hard a task for the service of those dear Children and look on myself religiously bound by the promise I made my friend that in case he fell a victime to the rage of Power I would be Protectress of his little offspring – help me my good friend to perform it and by your influence solicit friend[s] for them. So may yours be blessed and to the latest period of time never supplicate in vain. The memory of my friend is Dearer to me than ever and I take a melancholy pleasure in surveying those places he once animated with his preference happy should I think myself could I be enabled to form the minds of his children and [—] late them to copy the great example his memory holds forth to them. Our G—t C—t has some time ago taken a soporiferous dose the effects of which is not yet over, therefore fear little is to be expected from that quarter except they are soused by leaders of greater influence than at present presides. I must then appeal from them to your body [the Second Continental Congress] in behalf of the dear little orphans assist me my Dear friend to hold them up to view that their innocent looks and helpless state may please for compassion and relief.

Source: In John Collins Warren Papers and reel 2 of the John Hancock Family Papers. Transcription by the author of ms letter by Miss Mercy Scollay to Mr. John Hancock. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA.

Commentary: On her return to her father’s household following the Siege of Boston, Mercy Scollay solicits John Hancock’s intervention for her to resume the role of caretaker for Joseph Warren’s orphaned children. Wording suggests that she was well acquainted socially with Hancock in Boston prior to the outbreak of war. She also relates her heart-wrenching separation from the children at Worcester in the months following her fiancé’s death at the Battle of Bunker Hill. In August of 1775 Mercy had appealed unsuccessfully to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress to legitimize her supervision of the orphans. On her return to Boston in late April or May of 1776, she found the care of the children to be wanting.

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