Not Afraid to Provoke the Troops by Every Wanton Insult

in about Warren

Author: Anonymous

Application of Doctor Warren to General Gage

Boston, September 27, 1774.

A few days ago General Gage paid for, and deposited in his Majesty’ s Magazine, a quantity of military stores, which had been provided many years since at the desire of Colonel Bradstreet, and had laid from that time on the hands of Mr. Scott. The Selectmen and the Committee of Correspondence sent for Mr. Scott, and told him he deserved immediate death for selling warlike stores to the enemy; and a number of people instantly assembled to put this sentence in execution; but Mr. Scott was so fortunate as to make his escape; his house however suffered very much before the people separated, at the desire of the Selectmen.

Dr. Warren, the President of the Committee of Correspondence, came about nine o’ clock at night to the General, acquainting him that he was to write to the Congress immediately, and he desired for their information, that the General would answer the following questions: viz; What is the meaning of the fortifications? What is the meaning that the General buys military stores? Are the people at Boston to be made hostages, in order to compel the people of the country to comply with the new laws?

Dr. Warren received for answer, that as the country people were all armed, and collecting cannon and military stores from all quarters, which, as they were not soldiers by profession, or under the least apprehension of any invasion, could indicate nothing but their intention of attacking his Majesty’ s forces in that town, it became therefore the General, and it would be inexcusable in him to neglect to provide for their defence, and to enable them effectually to resist the attempts which it is no longer doubtful the people meditate against them. That the very construction of the fortifications show them to be defensive; and every body might easily discern that they are not calculated, in any respect, to annoy the town or disturb the inhabitants, or even to lay them under the least restraint. That it is notorious that many cannon have been conveyed, notwithstanding the works, from thence; and arms are carried out openly by every man that goes out of Boston without molestation.

That though the General, to ease the town of the burden of furnishing quarters for the troops, and to keep the troops from every possibility of giving offence to the inhabitants, hath ordered barracks to be erected for them, which he conceives to be of equal utility to the town as to the troops, nevertheless the Selectmen and the Committee have ordered all the workmen to quit this employ, though they were paid by the King. That orders are given to prevent all supplies for English troops. Straw, purchased for their use, is daily burnt; vessels, with bricks, sunk; carts, with wood, overturned; and thus even the property of the King is destroyed in every manner in which it can be effected. Yet such is the General’ s desire to preserve to the last, as far as in his power, the peace and quiet of the people, that all these disorders, though not the effect of rash tumult, but of evident system, are endured with patience. There can therefore be no reality in the apprehensions which it appears the people conceive of dangerous designs entertained by the troops against them, when these very people are not afraid to provoke the troops by every wanton insult they can devise.

Source:  Peter Force. American Archives. IVth Series. A Documentary History of the English Colonies in North America, from the King’s Message to Parliament of March 1774 to the Declaration of Independence by the United States, published by M. St Clair Clarke and Peter Force, 1837, Vol. 1, pp. 806-807.  The text can be found in contemporary newspapers in Connecticut and New York:  Norwich Packet, October 13, 1774, Vol. II, issue 54, p. 2;  Connecticut Journal, October 14, 1774, issue 365, p. 1;  New-York Journal, October 13, 1774, issue 1658, p. 3.  I have not encountered the source document from Boston.

Commentary:  Although it is unclear who wrote this piece, it describes Joseph Warren, in his role on the Committee of Correspondence, confronting Thomas Gage concerning British fortification of Boston Neck.  If the details are faithfully rendered, the 9 PM autumn meeting might well have taken place with few people present at the Province House, the governor’s residence located across the street from the Old South Meeting House.  Gage’s situation is described in a sympathetic manner.

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