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Details about  1774 CALL FOR AMERICAN COLONIAL SELF-GOVERNMENT Cambridge to Join For “Liberty”

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1774 Dated Political Document Asking the Town of Cambridge, Massachusetts to Join The Call of “Liberty” in America

December 26, 1774, Manuscript Document Signed, Docketed on January 2, 1775, Cambridge, (MA) to the Call For American Colonial Self-Government, On The Advent Of Active Military Resistance, Choice Very Fine.

This is the original Manuscript Document, 2 pages, measuring 12” x 7.5”, written on fine quality British watermarked laid period paper, with some slight edge splits along the folds. The writing is crisp and clear. It calls for a Town meeting at Cambridge, Massachusetts, to determine whether it will stand for America's "just Rights and Liberties." This original document was written just four months prior to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775 at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. This document was also docketed (by the County of Middlesex) “To Mr. Benja. Dana, Constable of the Town of Cambridge”, who was to "notify and warn the Freeholders & other Inhabitants of the South side of the Charles River in Said Town, Qualified to Vote for Representatives, that they Assemble at the Court House in Cambridge aforesaid, on Monday the Second Day of January next at One of the Clock in the afternoon of said Day (January 2, 1775)."

This historic document demonstrates the survival of active resistance to the Unconstitutional Tyranny of the British Crown in a pivotal New England town, calling a meeting to consider their Constitutional (Chartered) rights. It reads, in part:

“To know the Minds of the town whether they will [be] agreeable to the recommendations of the Provincial (Massachusetts) Congress” ...also, "To take under their Consideration such of the important Resolves, either of the Continental Congress (1st Continental Congress, PA), or the Provincial Congress (Colonial Mass.), to act and do as they think fit any thing that they shall think proper for the recovering and securing our Just Rights and Liberties."

This original document comes directly from the heart of American Colonial resistance to British rule. Cambridge ultimately became the very site at which the first American troops would gather after the Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775), and where George Washington would form America's Continental Army, later that year. An extremely important original manuscript document, pertaining directly to America's ultimate Independence from Britain. This document reads, in full:

“December. 26th. 1774. Middlessex... To Mr. Benjamin Dana Constable of the Town of Cambridge in said County Greeting - In his Majesty's Name you are hereby required to notify and Warn the Freeholders & other Inhabitants on the south side of Charles River in said Town; Qualified to Vote for Representatives that they Assemble at the Court House in Cambridge aforesaid on Monday the second Day of January Next at One of the Clock in the Afternoon on said Day.

1st. To know the Minds of the Town whether they will agreeable to the recommendation of the Provincial Congress Elect and Depute one or more Members to represent them in a Provincial Congress to be held at Cambridge on the first Day of February next ensuing; or sooner at said Cambridge or elsewhere if necessary and expedient.

2dly. To know whether the Town will hire a Sum of Money to pay Henry Gardner Esqr. Their proportion of the Tax granted by the General Court in June last, as a large Sum of Money is wanted in the Treasury sooner than it can be collected by the Collector of Taxes upon the immediate payment of which the Safety and Preservation of our inestimable Rights and Liberties much depends.

3rdly. To see if the Town will appoint a Committee of Inspection for effectually carrying into Execution the Non-Importation, Non-Exportation, & Non-Consumption Agreement; agreeable to the Resolves of the Continental and Provincial Congresses.

4thly. To take under their Consideration such of the important Resolves, wither of the Continental, or the Provincial Congress as to them shall seem meet, and to act upon the before-mentioned Clauses as they shall think expedient; also to act and do any thing that they shall think proper for the recovering and securing our Just Rights and Liberties.

Hereof fail not and make Return of the Warrant with your Doings thereon, at or before the Day and Time above mentioned. Dated at Cambridge the Twenty Sixth Day of December A.D. 1774 and in the Fifteenth Year of his Majesty's Reign. By order of the Selectmen And: w Boardman Town Clerks.

[In another hand]

Cambridge Jany ye 2d. 1775 - In obedience to this warrant I have Notified the Inhabitants on the South Side of the river to Meet at the Place and time within Mentioned for the Purposes affore Said - Benja. Dana Const.(able).”

Truly a remarkable, unique historic document, attesting to the Revolutionary War sentiments of Cambridge’s sentiments.

The Center of Colonial Resistance Organized at Cambridge, Massachusetts. When British troops came to Boston in great numbers after the Boston Tea Party of 1773, the final phase of tension between Britain and America began to erupt. Cambridge voters had spoken out earlier against illegal taxes imposed by the British Parliament. Beginning in 1765, the Cambridge Town Meeting recorded its opposition to the “Stamp,” “Townshend,” and “Tea” Acts. At least two Cambridge residents, John Hicks and Joshua Wyeth, participated in the destruction of tea in Boston Harbor, later called the “Boston Tea Party”. As punishment, the British Parliament enacted its new series of "Intolerable" Acts, including the “Regulatory” Act, which abolished most elected governments in Massachusetts, and replaced them with officials appointed directly by the British Crown. Three Cambridge Loyalists, Lieutenant Governor Thomas Olive, Judges Samuel Danforth and Joseph Lee were named to the Governing Council created by this Act.

A conflict over gunpowder being stored in the Provincial Powder House, near Cambridge, heightened anti-Crown tensions. The Province and its towns were to share in the gunpowder stores, but then various towns removed their various allotments. When William Brattle, a Cambridge Loyalist, so informed the British Military Commander, Thomas Gage, the British became extremely concerned that Patriot elements, such as “The Sons of Liberty” might seize the remaining Provincial powder, as well. On September 1, 1774, British soldiers removed 250 half barrels of gunpowder from the Powder House. One detachment of British Regulars marched into Cambridge proper and also carried off two cannons.

The next day, thousands of citizens gathered on the Cambridge Common to protest both the seizure of the cannon and powder, and the arbitrary appointments of the Loyalist townsmen to the British Council. A surprise appearance by one of the despised Customs officials resulted in shots being fired into the air, and rumors began to circulate that War had broken out in Cambridge! That night, citizens demanded that Lt. Governor Oliver resign from the Council. He obeyed, noting: "My House at Cambridge being surrounded by about Four Thousand People, and in Compliance with their Commands, I sign my Name."

In late 1774, the newly organized Massachusetts Provincial Congress requested that towns elect officers who, in turn, would select representatives, appoint “Committees of Safety,” and organize Colonial Militia regiments for defense, such as the famous “Minutemen”. At such meetings, a quarter of the militias were requested to form special companies which would be equipped and held ready, "on the shortest notice" by the Committee of Safety to move to prescribed rendezvous points. Each company was to elect a Captain and two Lieutenants, in addition to developing rules for order and discipline.

When, on the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and William Dawes (of the Committee of Safety) were notified that the British Regulars were planning to march on nearby Concord to confiscate the militia stores, Dawes embarked on horseback. Taking the eight-mile land route, leaving Boston by way of Roxbury Neck, safely passing through the British sentries posted there. He entered Cambridge over the Great Bridge, and rode toward Menotomy (now known as Arlington).

Later that night, the British Regulars rowed from Boston Common across the Charles River to present East Cambridge, landing near today's Second Street. Due to a shortage of boats, it took about two hours for all of the troops to cross. About 2:00 am, the “Redcoats” finally began to march down today's Gore Street. They re-entered Cambridge at Beech Street and took the Great Road to Lexington. At about 5 am, the first shots of the Revolutionary War were exchanged between the British Regulars and the Minutemen on Lexington Green. A second engagement took place four hours later, at Concord's North Bridge.

That morning, 1,000 British reinforcements under Lord Percy had left Boston following the land route taken by William Dawes a few hours earlier. Upon reaching the Great Bridge, they discovered that the residents of Cambridge had removed its planks to prevent their crossing. The thrifty citizens, however, had merely stacked the boards on the South bank of the Charles River, so the British troops quite easily replaced them and continued through town unmolested. At Lexington, Percy's detachment encountered the retreating British.

The Camp at Cambridge and America's First War Government. The Battles of Lexington and Concord marked the opening of the American Revolutionary War, and the Committee of Safety bent its energies to raise forces and concentrate them around Boston as rapidly as possible. The Provincial Congress was not in session, and responsibility in the crisis rested with the Committee of Safety. On April 19, 1775, the War for Independence had truly begun. That night, the provincial Committee of Safety met in Cambridge. General Artemas Ward was chosen as the first Commander-in-Chief of all the New England militias.

In the weeks following the Battle of Lexington, a new organized American Army was desired. The Committee of Safety issued enlistment orders, assigned to the towns the quota of men they were to raise, and ordered them to be ready to march at once to Cambridge. A circular letter was sent to the different Massachusetts towns, setting forth in the strongest terms the need of a general army, and begging them to encourage the enlistment of soldiers and to send them forward to Cambridge. They determined to raise eight thousand capable men from the Massachusetts forces, to organize them into regiments and place them under proper discipline. In this way, it was hoped, the nucleus of an efficient American army would be formed.

Within days, more than twenty thousand armed men from all over New England had gathered at Cambridge. The empty Tory Church, and even Harvard's brick buildings, all served as barracks, officers' quarters, and hospitals. By order of the Committee of Safety, Harvard College canceled classes on May 1. The Committee also saw that cannon and entrenching tools were collected and repaired. All was made ready for the siege of Boston along the Cambridge Road south to Roxbury.

General Washington's First Continental Headquarters at Cambridge: It was at Cambridge that the Continental Army was formed. Responding to the crisis in Massachusetts, on June 15, 1775 the Continental Congress appointed George Washington commander-in-chief of a Continental Army. Arriving in Cambridge on July 2, Washington met that evening with the New England generals at Hastings' house. The next day he took command of the army and visited the troops in Cambridge and the New England lines south of the Charles River toward Roxbury Neck. The Massachusetts Provincial Congress had arranged for the commander-in-chief to stay in the college president's home, but Washington ordered the mansion of John Vassall, Jr. [now the Longfellow National Historic Site] prepared for his occupancy. The Vassall house would be the army's headquarters throughout its stay in Massachusetts.

During the Siege of Boston, the general supervised the construction of three earthenwork forts along the Charles River and several earthen works along the southern Cambridge Road. The remains of one redoubt, Fort Washington, can still be seen in Cambridgeport.

Washington wrote that he expected to leave Cambridge by autumn 1775, but as the stalemate with the British dragged on into the winter, he sent for his family. Martha Washington, her son, and his wife, arrived in Cambridge on December 11, 1775, and remained here until the army's successful departure in April 1776.

Item Number: 73601
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