Circular Letter of the Boston Committee of Correspondence


"A South-East View of the City of Boston in North America,"  b J. Carwitham sometime between 1720 and 1740

“A South-East View of the City of Boston in North America,”  b J. Carwitham sometime between 1720 and 1740

Circular Letter of the Boston Committee of Correspondence

Written by Samuel Adams and published on May 13, 1774

We have just received the copy of an Act of the British Parliament passed in the present session whereby the town of Boston is treated in a manner the most ignominious, cruel, and unjust. The Parliament have taken upon them, from the representations of our governor and other persons inimical to and deeply prejudiced against the inhabitants, to try, condemn, and by an Act to punish them, unheard; which would have been in violation of natural justice even if they had an acknowledged jurisdiction. They have ordered our port to be entirely shut up, leaving us barely so much of the means of subsistence as to keep us from perishing with cold and hunger; and it is said that [a] fleet of British ships of war is to block up our harbour until we shall make restitution to the East India Company for the loss of their tea, which was destroyed therein the winter past, obedience is paid to the laws and authority of Great Britain, and the revenue is duly collected. This Act fills the inhabitants with indignation. The more thinking part of those who have hitherto been in favour of the measures of the British government look upon it as not to have been expected even from a barbarous state. This attack, though made immediately upon us, is doubtless designed for every other colony who will not surrender their sacred rights and liberties into the hands of an infamous ministry. Now therefore is the time when all should be united in opposition to this violation of the liberties of all. Their grand object is to divide the colonies. We are well informed that another bill is to be brought into Parliament to distinguish this from the other colonies by repealing some of the Acts which have been complained of and ease the American trade; but be assured, you will be called upon to surrender your rights if ever they should succeed in their attempts to suppress the spirit of liberty here. The single question then is, whether you consider Boston as now suffering in the common cause, and sensibly feel and resent the injury and affront offered to here If you do (and we cannot believe otherwise), may we not from your approbation of our former conduct in defense of American liberty, rely on your suspending your trade with Great Britain at least, which it is acknowledged, will be a great but necessary sacrifice to the cause of liberty and will effectually defeat the design of this act of revenge. If this should be done, you will please to consider it will be, though a voluntary suffering, greatly short of what we are called to endure under the immediate hand of tyranny.

We desire your answer by the bearer; and after assuring you that, not in the least intimidated by this inhumane treatment, we are still determined to maintain to the utmost of our abilities the rights of America, we are, gentlemen,

Your friends and fellow countrymen.

Reaction to the May 13, 1774 Circular Letter from the Boston Committee of Correspondence

Proceedings of Farmington, Connecticut, on the Boston Port Act; May 19, 1774

Early in the morning was found the following handbill, posted up in various parts of the town, viz:

“To pass through the fire at six o’clock this evening, in honour to the immortal goddess of Liberty, the late infamous Act of the British Parliament for farther distressing the American Colonies; the place of execution will be the public parade, where all Sons of Liberty are desired to attend.

Accordingly, a very numerous and respectable body were assembled of near one thousand people, when a huge pole, just forty-five feet high was erected, and consecrated to the shrine of liberty; after which the Act of Parliament for blocking up the Boston harbour was read aloud; sentenced to the flames, and executed by the hands of the common hangman; then the following resolves were passed, nem. con.: ”

1st. That it is the greatest dignity, interest, and happiness of every American to be united with our parent state, while our liberties are duly secured, maintained, and supported by our rightful sovereign, whose person we greatly revere; whose government while duly administered, we are ready with our lives and properties to support:

2d. That the present ministry, being instigated by the devil, and led on by their wicked and corrupt hearts, have a design to take away our liberties and properties, and to enslave us forever.

3d. That the late Act which their malice hath caused to be passed in Parliament, for blocking up the port of Boston, is unjust, illegal, and oppressive; and that we, and every American, are sharers in the insults offered to the town of Boston.

4th. That those pimps and parasites who dared to advise their master to such detestable measures be held in utter abhorrence by us and every American, and their names loaded with the curses of all succeeding generations.

5th. That we scorn the chains of slavery; we despise every attempt to rivet them upon us; we are the sons of freedom, and resolved, that, till time shall be no more, that god-like virtue shall blazon our hemisphere.

Letter from the New York Committee of Fifty-One to the Boston Committee of Correspondence; May 23, 1774

The alarming measures of the British Parliament relative to your ancient and respectable town, which has so long been the seat of freedom, fill the inhabitants of this city with inexpressible concern. As a sister colony, suffering in defence of the rights of America, we consider your injuries as a common cause, to the redress of which it is equally our duty and our interest to contribute. But what ought to be done in a situation so truly critical, while it employs the anxious thoughts of every generous mind, is very hard to be determined.

Our citizens have thought it necessary to appoint a large committee, consisting of fifty-one persons to correspond with our sister colonies on this and every other matter of public moment, and at ten o’clock this forenoon we were first assembled. Your letter, enclosing the vote of the town of Boston, and the letter of your Committee of Correspondence, were immediately taken into consideration.

While we think you justly entitled to the thanks of your sister colonies for asking their advice on a case of such extensive consequences, we lament our inability to relieve your anxiety by a decisive opinion. The cause is general, and concerns a whole continent, who are equally interested with you and us; and we foresee that no remedy can be of avail unless it proceeds from the joint act and approbation of all; from a virtuous and spirited union which may be expected while the feeble efforts of a few will only be attended with mischief and disappointment to themselves and triumph to the adversaries of our liberty.

Upon these reasons we conclude that a congress of deputies from the colonies in general is of the utmost moment; that it ought to be assembled without delay, and some unanimous resolution formed in this fatal emergency, not only respecting your deplorable circumstances, but for the security of our common rights. Such being our sentiments, it -must be premature to pronounce any judgment on the expedient which you have suggested. We beg, however, that you will do us the justice to believe that we shall continue to act with a firm and becoming regard to American freedom, and to co-operate with our sister colonies in every measure which shall be thought salutary and conducive to the public good.

We have nothing to add, but that we sincerely condole with you in your un-exampled distress, and to request your speedy opinion of the proposed congress, that if it should meet with your approbation, we may exert our utmost endeavours, to carry it into execution.

Proceedings of the Inhabitants of Philadelphia; June 18, 1774

I. Resolved, that the Act of Parliament, for shutting up the port of Boston, is unconstitutional; oppressive to the inhabitants of that town; dangerous to- the liberties of the British colonies; and that, therefore, we consider our brethren at Boston as suffering in the common cause of America.

II. That a congress of deputies from the several colonies in North America is the most probable and proper mode of procuring relief for our suffering brethren, obtaining redress of American grievances, securing our rights and liberties, and re-establishing peace and harmony between Great Britain and these colonies on a constitutional foundation.

III. That a large and respectable committee be immediately appointed for the city and county of Philadelphia, to correspond with their sister colonies and with the several counties in this province, in order that all may unite in promoting and endeavouring to attain the great and valuable ends mentioned in the foregoing resolution.

IV. That the committee nominated by this meeting shall consult together, and on mature deliberation determine what is the most proper mode of collecting the sense of this province, and appointing deputies for the same, to attend a general congress and having determined thereupon, shall take such measures, as by them shall be judged most expedient, for procuring this province to be represented at the said congress, in the best manner that can be devised for promoting the public welfare.

V. That the committee be instructed immediately to set on foot a subscription for the relief of such poor inhabitants of the town of Boston, as may be deprived of the means of subsistence by the operation of the Act of Parliament, commonly styled the Boston Port Bill. The money arising from such subscription to be laid out as the committee shall think will best answer the ends proposed.

VI. That the committee consist of forty-three persons, viz., John Dickinson, Edward Pennington, John Nixon, Thomas Willing, George Clymer, Samuel Howell, Joseph Reed, John Roberts (miller), Thomas Wharton, Jun., Charles Thomson, Jacob Barge, Thomas Barclay, William Rush, Robert Smith (carpenter), Thomas Fitzimons, George Roberts, Samuel Ervin, Thomas Mifflin, John Cox, George Gray, Robert Morris, Samuel Miles, John M. Nesbit, Peter Chevalier, William Moulder, Joseph Moulder, Anthony Morris, Jr., John Allen, Jeremiah Warder, Jr., Rev. Dr. William Smith, Paul Engle, Thomas Penrose, James Mease, Benjamin Marshall, Reuben Haines, John Bayard, Jonathan B. Smith, Thomas Wharton, Isaac Howell, Michael Hillegas, Adam Hubley, George Schlosser, and Christopher Ludwick. Thomas Willing, John Dickinson, Esquires, chairmen.