Politically Charged Doctor’s Excuse Note

in by Warren

Date: March 21, 1765

“This may certify that about six Weeks ago I was called to visit Samuel Richardson son of Capt. Nathl Richardson. I found his nerves much disordered with frequent Twitchings and partial Convulsions attended with a Delirium. I bled him largely and gave him several Doses of Physick – upon which the Delirium ceased and his Nerves grew quiet. Upon Enquiry I found that He had at Times been liable to Disorders of this Kind in his Childhood.

[signed] Doctor Joseph Warren”

A memorandum in Clerk Samuel Winthrop’s hand across the foot of the document records that “upon the above Certificate he was discharged.”

Source: Ms document in Minute Books, Superior Court of Judicature, Office of the Clerk, Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County, Boston) 81, March Term 1765 SF #100482. Analysis in: Zobel, Hiller B. 1970. The Boston Massacre, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1970, p. 38

Commentary: This instance of friction between Crown officials and Bostonians relative to enforcement of revenue measures predates the Stamp Act riots of the summer of 1765. This doctor’s note by a young Dr. Joseph Warren is politically neutral on the face of it. However, its context suggests that it is politically charged. This is the earliest evidence I have encountered that Joseph Warren might have become sympathetic to Whig activists and was willing to take a concrete action in support of them.

According to Hiller Zobel’s Boston Massacre, “[Samuel] Richardson and Theodore Bliss “were bro’t into Court to give Evidence in behalf of the King.” Upon their refusal to be sworn, the court ordered them ‘to his Majesty’s goal.’… He instead produced this, a kind of excuse note, directed to the judges.

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