by James Lovell to Josiah Quincy, Jr.
“Nov.r 3.d 1774
From the same Reasons which I have given already for writing by Dundass (be the Name of his Vessel what it will,) I add a few Lines. You will receive the Proceedings of our [Massachusetts Provincial] Congress which is adjourned to ye 25.th and of the general Congress which is adjourned till May, from the Gazettes. Indeed you will know more of the last than I can give you as you will know the Contents of the Petition to the King, and the Address to the Inhabitants of Britain, if you do not of that to the Inhabitants of N.th Am.ca & Canada in particulars. The non-Imp.on & non Exp.on & non Cns.n [i.e. non-Importation, non-Exportation & non-Consumption resolution of the First Continental Congress] will fly by the Birds of Heaven doubtless:
We are in a little Snarl which I hope will be settled at this Day’s Town Meeting. Jimmy Richardson & Tho.s Crafts having often had Conversations with Majr Sheriff and sometimes with M.r Gage, where hereby induced to propose and carry, at a very small late Adjournment, a Commte to confer with sd Gage upon a Mode of keeping Peace & Quiet with 8 Regimts and more scatter’d among us this Winter, which you will justly conclude impossible. They receiv’d Proposals such as might naturally be expected from a Man who cannot possibly remember in the Hurry of his great military Employment. That he is the Head of our mangled civil magistracy. These Proposals were view’d in a proper Light and debate had upon them, in wch M.r Otis spoke cool & consequently up to the Hub, but Church’s Keeness rais’d such a Warmth that the Meeting was adjourn’d till Today When I hope the Comm.te will resign all Care of the Town back into the Hands of the Select Men This Proceeding has had too much the Aim of Coalescence with the Idea of a garrison’d Town, and wounded that Delicacy which had hitherto been observed upon than Heard .– I said the Gen.l forgot the Gov.r you are not to think he will not put Soldiers under guard, and thereby satisfy the grossest Abuse of Officers upon the civil magistracy. Wiswall whose first Wife died any how at Cambridge, and whose 2d the Brigadiers Doctor gave an Affidavit the Devil did not run away with, and whose 3d kept a Dram & Baudy House near the Ferry by which the Guard there was always intoxicated more or less, in particular one Even.g the whole being drunk wounded one of the Ferry men badly, and were all put under guard. This same Wiswall & Wife were order’d out of Town sec. Lag.[?] last May and upon fresh Complaints she was carry’d to Charlestn by a Const.ble y.e Day before Yesterday but Lt Coll.l Boquet of the 5.th upon Complaint of the flying Husband that he was persecuted for Connexion with Camp, sent a Party who pursued to Charlestown and seized the Woman from the Const.ble before the Charlestown People cou’d offer him Aid against Men who with loaded musquets & Bayonets fix’d threaten’d to destroy all Opp.n The Gen.l yesterday being pacif’d by our Select Men ordered Coll B to put the Soldiers under Guard, and I suppose will do the same as often as Coll B or Capt C— or Corporal D shall chuse to call the Lives of the Inhabitants to Risque, and if Death is the Consequence of that Call, he will send them under guard to Lord North who will most cordially thank them for their Services.
The Owners of a Quantity of Tea at Maryland have burnt Ship & Cargo of Tea after taking out other Things, as much for their own Accord as some Counselors on Mandamus have resign’d. I wish one of Today’s Papers may reach you, that you may see whether the Fugitives regard the Stigma of the Congress this being the last Day of Grace. …Adieu, Js L—
Capt. Trumbull the Governor’s oldest Son is now with me and I have a Letter from Major Parsons. Nothing can exceed the Spirit of that Colony in their military Aims. A Priest of Peter, whom you will have seen before this reaches, has wrote such Threats of the mighty Things he would do against their Charter that they are determin’d to be perfectly ready. However, the Episcopal Clergy his brethren there were in Convention, and drawing up his infamous Character to send to the Society whose Servant he is for Propagating the Gospel in that heathenish Land. Pray get some Knowledge of the Part Caness has taken, and compare it with what shall be given from Connecticut whence the [ ] is truly known. Judge Auchmuty & M.r T[ ] are ashamed of being even supposed to have taken Pasr with him, tho’ you will find he has used their Names in his published Letters.
There has been uneasiness at Newport in which there had nearly been broken Heads upon a Design of some to furnish Blankets. Maryland refused their Flour till the Congress advised them to send it to Lloyd for the Army. Such is the Sand-Rope. I might mention no more Lumber can they get from the Eastward. If no other Correspondent obeys you, I am sure you must allow I write according to Order, any Thing and perform it any how.
I imagine the Ministry will receive Letters by this Opportunity which will embarrass them more than how to get the Port open which God grant may be never unless the other Acts dye with the Port Bill. How are the obstinate miscreants who continue yet in this Town to be secured from Injury without a Garrison? You will receive the highest Paintings from them of Danger to their Lives & Property. The first they know in their Consciences are secured by the Education this Country, and to the other they must take their Chance. I believe myself that their grain may rot in the Fields for Want of Reepers, more than they can muster in their own Family. This & a long life of that Kind they may look for. They esteem themselves of such Importance that the Ministry must keep up the Discontent of whole Continents upon their Accounts only tho’ their personal Security is evident by the Rides they take to Cambridge & other places, and their passing & repassing from the Card Clubs at all Hours in the Dark as well as by Day Light.
[unsigned, James Lovell]”
Source: Quincy, Wendell, Holmes, Upham Family Papers, Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, reel 29. Transcribed directly from the microfilmed manuscript. Most of James Lovell’s letters were neither included in the 19th century Memoir of Josiah Quincy, Jr. nor have they been used by many modern historians. A transcription of this one appears in Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, June 1917, pp. 472-474. Lovell’s letter to Josiah Quincy, Jr. dated November 25, 1774 appears on pp. 477-479; and one dated December 9, 1774 on pp. 483-485. Ms on microfilm of the latter two are on reel 29 of the Quincy, Wendell, Holmes, Upham Family Papers.
Commentary: Quincy’s secret mission to seek an eleventh hour accommodation with Great Britain, by appealing to British Whigs sympathetic to American Liberties, was controversial even among more moderate New England Whigs. Written to keep Josiah Quincy closely informed of events in New England while on his errand in Great Britain, Lovell’s gossipy letter provides insight into Boston Sons of Liberty concerns and notable events around the time of the Suffolk Resolves and growing resistance to the Intolerable Acts. Patriots still acknowledged Governor General Thomas Gage’s office while pursuing their own agendas in proscribed county and provincial congresses. Absurdities resulted. In one Patriot delegation to Thomas Gage, Dr. Benjamin Church’s “keeness raised such a warmth that the meeting was adjourned” until the next day. What was the wily Dr. Church up to? Mandamus Counselors, British fortification of Boston Neck, disturbances by soldiers, and interference with supply of the British garrison were all topics of concern.
The younger James Lovell, the Boston Latin school teacher, evidently was a close associate of Dr. Joseph Warren’s, delivered the 1771 Boston Massacre Oration, and was involved with sub rosa activities. He was a witness to Josiah Quincy’s will just before the September 1774 departure for England. Lovell signed this letter with his initials J.L., as he did in subsequent letters to Quincy dated November 25, 1774 and December 9, 1774. He sometimes used pseudonyms within the letters. Lovell was concerned that the letters might fall into Loyalist hands.
Once hostilities commenced the following year, James Lovell was arrested and imprisoned within days of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Incriminating letters written by him were said to have been discovered in Joseph Warren’s pockets as the hero lay dead on the battlefield.
Addendum: Authoritative and amusing blogster J.L. Bell identifies “Caness” as Mr. Caner, rector of King’s Chapel in Boston.