Samuel Adams to R. H. Lee
Boston, March 21, 1775.
SIR: I am much obliged to you for your favour of 4th of February last, by Captain Layton. From the beginning of this great contest with the Mother Country, I have seen Virginia distinguishing herself in the support of American liberty; and in the liberal donations received from all parts of that Colony for the sufferers in this Town we have had abundant testimonies of their unanimity and zeal for that all-important cause. I have the pleasure to assure you, that the people of this Colony, (saving a few detestable men, most of whom are in this Town,) are also firm and united. General Gage is still here, with eleven Regiments, besides several detachments; yet, it is generally supposed, that there are not more than two thousand five hundred effective men in all. They have been very sickly through the winter past; many have died, and many other
v2:177have deserted. I have seen a joint list, and I believe it to be a true one, of the Royal Irish, and the detachments from the Fifty-Sixth, in which the whole number was one hundred and sixty-seven, and only one hundred; and two of them effective. But though the number of the Troops is diminished, the insolence of the Officers (at least some of them) is increased. In private rencontres, I have not heard of a single instance of their coming off other than second best. I will give you several instances of their behaviour in publick. On the 6th instant there was an adjournment of one of our Town-meetings, when an oration was delivered in commemoration of the massacre on the 5th of March, 1770. I had long expected that they would Jake that occasion to beat up a breeze, and, therefore, (seeing many of the Officers present before the orator came in,) as moderator of the meeting, I took care to have them treated with civility, inviting them into convenient seats, &c˙, that they might have no pretence to behave ill; for it is a good maxim, in politicks as well as in war, to put and keep the enemy in the wrong. They behaved tolerably well until the oration was finished, when, upon a motion made to appoint another orator, as usual, they began to hiss, which irritated the assembly to the greatest degree, and confusion ensued; they, however, did not gain their end, which was apparently to break up the meeting, for order was soon restored, and we proceeded regularly and finished the business. I am persuaded, that were it not for the danger of precipitating a crisis, riot a man of them would have been spared. It was provoking enough to the whole corps, that while there were so many Troops stationed here, with the design of suppressing Town-meetings, there should yet be one for the purpose of delivering an oration to commemorate a massacre perpetrated by Soldiers, and to show the danger, of Standing Armies; they, therefore, it seems, a few days after, vented their passion on a poor simple countryman, the state of whose case is drawn up by himself, and sworn to before a Magistrate, as you will see by the enclosed; thus you see, that the practice of tarring and feathering, which has so often been exclaimed against by the Tories, and even in the British House of Commons, as inhuman and barbarous, has, at length, been revived by some of the polite Officers of the British Army, stationed in this place professedly to prevent riots. Some gentlemen of the Town waited on the General On this occasion; he appeared to be angry at it, and declared that he knew nothing about any such design; he said that he had, indeed, heard an irregular beat of the drum, (for they passed by his house,) but thought they were drumming a bad woman through the streets! This, to be sure, would not have been a riot. The Selectmen of Bilerica, an inland Town, about thirty miles distant, to which the abused man belonged, have made a remonstrance to the General, a copy of which is enclosed. The General promised them that he would inquire into the matter, but we hear nothing more about it. Some say that he has lost the command over his Officers, and is afraid of displeasing them; how this may be I cannot say.