[James Lovell to Josiah Quincy, Jun.]
“Boston, October 28, 1774.
MY DEAR SIR: You will see by the papers, that immediately after you sailed, a Proclamation was issued to discharge the Members from attendance upon that General Court, for which precepts, you know, had been given out. They judiciously slighted sticking to Charter-rule; and upon finding Mr. Gage did not attend to his proper duty, they resolved themselves into a Provincial Congress, to meet at Concord to-morrow. They will be strenuous, I expect, in pressing the General to desist from his fortifications. Yet, what can he do? He cannot declare in plain English, that he is only striving to make the minds of his officers and men easy, and yet I believe that to be the truth and the whole truth.
I told you at parting, that if I was deceived in my countrymen, and found they turned out poltro[o]ns, I would not inform you of it, though such was your request. Let not that speech detract from my credit, when I tell you they rise every day in character. It is become a downright task for the warmest patriots of our Town and County to confine the spirit of the other Counties to an attention to the causes, rather than to the executors of our wrongs. I am really pained at finding that the wickedness of Ministerial conduct has brought the Province so generally to make the idea of an engagement between fellow-subjects so familiar to their minds. How would such a thought have shocked us all a few years ago! But the insolent appearance of the works on the Neck has roused the inclinations of the vigorous country youth to play over again the Niagara game of filling trenches with round bundles of hay, under which they advanced securely. The folly and weakness of the works may easily be proved to be fully equal to the insolence. Our besiegers, sensible how much nature is against them, talk of employing constantly great numbers of their soldiers to break the ice of the two Bays; little knowing, however, what mighty reparation will be made in only one of our freezing nights; and little considering, also, the non-importance of its being broken in Bays which are a dead flat upon every ebb. I wish again and again that the temptations to chastise the insult were not so glaring; as the Provincial Congress, with all their efforts to confine the inland spirits solely to the defensive, will surely fail, upon notice of Ministerial determination to continue hostile. Nothing, I think, but a speedy knowledge of a change of measures in England, can prevent a capital winter stroke. They press us to leave the Town in the strongest manner. Many are for doing it, and others for sending off their most valuable articles, to be in readiness.
Our friend, Molineux, overplied in the good cause, was last evening laid to rest, where the incomparable Mayhew and the brother patriots, Dana and Thatcher, await the morning of a glorious resurrection! and where you and I had nearly gone to rest before him. May it not prove unimportant to ourselves and to the publick that a gracious Providence has been pleased to mark down for us some later date.
I am informed that a letter was yesterday read in the Provincial Congress, from Mr. S[amuel]. Adams, purporting that things went in the Continental Congress without any motion of our Members, as perfectly to his liking as if he were sole director; and that in a very few days he doubted not his friends here would receive the most satisfactory intelligence.
Though the [HMS] Kingfisher has orders to sail, yet, the weather being bad, I had thoughts of risking the chance, that I may gain some further light concerning this matter; but finding a general suspicion of the insecurity of conveyance by a King’ s ship, I am led to think most of your friends will wait other opportunity. I therefore close for the present, that you may not think yourself neglected, in consequence of what I think an ill-grounded suspicion.
We have London news so late as September 2d. If the people of England, our fellow-subjects, will cease obstinately to shut their eyes to the justice of our cause, we ask no more; conviction must be the consequence of a bare admission of light. God preserve you, my friend.
I remain your friend and obliged humble servant,
Source: Force, Peter American Archives – 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, M. St Clair Clarke and Peter Force publishers, 1837, IVth series, Vol.1, p. 948-949.
Commentary: James Lovell, a radical Boston Whig and associate of Joseph Warren, remarks candidly to Josiah Quincy, Jr. on the political situation in Massachusetts in the Fall of 1774. Lovell followed closely the British fortification of Boston Neck. He contemplated armed Patriot military counter-measures should the British execute a military foray from Boston into the countryside. Quincy was then on a secret mission to England, as dispatched by Joseph Warren in September, to unite with British Whigs in a last-ditch effort to effect a reconciliation with Great Britain.
James Lovell, was a school teacher in Boston’s South Latin School, son and assistant to his tyrannical Loyalist father John Lovell of the same profession. Within days of the Battle of Bunker Hill, he was arrested and jailed by the British in consequence of an incriminating letter found in the pocket of Joseph Warren’s corpse. The British apparently decided that James Lovell was a spy and trouble maker, a view amply justified by this letter.