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A Relation of the Proceedings of the People of the County of Cumberland, And Province of New-York



Cumberland County, March 23, 1775.

In June, 1774, there were some Letters came to the Supervisors of said County from the Committee of Correspondence at New-York, signed by their Chairman, Mr˙ Low; which Letters said Supervisors, through ignorance or intention, kept until September, when they had another


other meeting; and it is supposed that they intended always to have kept them; and the good people would have remained in ignorance about them until this time had it not been by accident that it was whispered abroad, so that Doctor Reuben Jones, of Rockingham, and Captain Azariah Wright, of Westminster, heard of it, and took proper care to notify those Towns.

A meeting was called in the two Towns aforesaid, and a Committee was chosen by each Town to wait on the Supervisors at their meeting in September, to see if there were any papers that should be laid before the several Towns in the County, and they found that there were papers come from the Committee of Correspondence that should have been laid before the Towns in June. The Supervisors made many excuses for their conduct; some plead ignorance, and some one thing and some another: but the most of them did seem to think that they could send a return to the Committee at New-York, without ever laying them before their constituents, which principle, at this day, so much prevails, that it is the undoing of the people. Men at this day are so tainted with the principles of tyranny, that they would fain believe that as they are chosen by the people to any kind of office, for any particular thing, that they have the sole power of that people by whom they are chosen, and can act in the name of that people in any matter or thing, though it is not in any connection with what they were chosen for. But the Committees would not consent to have a return made, until every Town in the County had Mr˙ Low' s letters laid before them, which was done, and a County Congress wag called, return was made, a Committee Was chosen to see that it was put in print, but, through interest or otherwise, it never was published in any of the papers.

Immediately after the people of the County aforesaid received the Resolves of the Continental Congress, they called a County Congress, and did adopt all the Resolves of the Continental Congress as their Resolves, promising religiously to adhere to that Agreement or Association. There was a Committee of Inspection moved for, to be chosen by the County according to the second Resolve of the Association aforesaid; but being much spoken against by a Justice and an Attorney, and looked upon by them as a childish, impertinent thing, the Delegates dared not choose one. At this time there were Tory parties forming, although they were under disguise, and had laid a plan to bring the lower sort of the people into a state of bondage and slavery. They saw that there was no cash stirring, and they took that opportunity to collect debts, knowing that men had no other way to pay them than by having their estates taken by execution and sold at vendue. There were but very few men among us that were able to buy, and those men were so disposed that they would take all the world into their own hands without paying any thing for it, if they could by law, which would soon bring the whole Country into slavery. Most or all of our men in authority, and all that wanted Court favours, seemed much enraged, and stirred up many vexatious lawsuits, and imprisoned many contrary to the laws of this Province and the statutes of the Crown. One man they put into close prison for high treason, and all that they proved against him was, that he said if the King had signed the Quebeck Bill, it was his opinion that he had broke his coronation oath. But the good people went and opened the prison door and let him go, and did no violence to any man' s person or property.

Our men in office would say that they did like the Resolutions of the Continental Congress, and they ought to be strictly adhered to until our General Assembly voted against them. Then they said that this would do for the Bay-Province, but it was childish for us to pay any regard to them. Some of our Court would boldly say that the King had a just right to make the Revenue Acts, for he had a supreme power, and he that said otherwise was guilty of high treason, and they did hope that they would be executed accordingly. The people were of opinion that such men were not suitable to rule over them, and as the General Assembly of this Province would not accede to the Association of the Continental Congress, the good people were of opinion that if they did accede to any power from or under them, they should be guilty of the breach of the 14th Article of that Association, and may justly be dealt with accordingly by all America. When the good people


considered that the General Assembly were for bringing them into a state of slavery, (which did appear plain by their not acceding to the best method to procure their liberties, and the Executive power so strongly acquiescing in all that they did, whether it was right or wrong,) the good people of said County thought it time to look to themselves; and they thought that it was dangerous to trust their lives and fortunes in the hands of such enemies to American liberty, but more particularly unreasonable that there should be any Court held, since thereby we must accede to what our General Assembly had done, in not acceding to what the whole Continent had recommended, and that all America would break off all dealings and commerce with us, and bring us into a state of slavery at once. Therefore, in duty to God, ourselves, and posterity, we thought ourselves under the strongest obligations to resist and to oppose all authority that would not accede to the Resolves of the Continental Congress. But knowing that many of our Court were men that neither feared or regarded men, we thought that it was most prudent to go and persuade the Judges to stay at home. Accordingly there were about forty good true men went from Rockingham to Chester, to dissuade Colonel Chandler, the Chief Judge, from attending Court. He said he believed it would be for the good of the County not to have any Court as things were, but there was one case of murder that they must see to, and if it was not agreeable to the people they would not have any other case. One of the Committee told him that the Sheriff would raise a number with arms, and that there would be bloodshed. The Colonel said that he would give his word and honour that there should not be any arms brought against us, and he would go down to Court on Monday the 13th of March instant, which was the day that the Court was to be opened. We told him that we would wait on him if it was his will. He said that our company would be very agreeable; likewise he returned us his hearty thanks for our civility, and so we parted with him.

We heard from the Southern part of the State that Judge Sabin was very earnest to have the Law go on, as well as many petty officers. There were but two Judges in the County at that time, Colonel Wells being gone to New-York. There was a great deal of talk in what manner to stop the Court, and at length it was agreed on to let the Court come together, and lay the reasons we had against their proceeding before them, thinking they were men of such sense that they would hear them. But on Friday we heard that the Court was going to take the possession of the house on the 13th instant, and to keep a strong guard at the doors of said house, that we could not come in. We being justly alarmed by the deceit of our Court, though it was not strange, therefore we thought proper to get to Court before the armed guards were placed, for we were determined that our grievances should be laid before the Court before it was opened. On Monday the 13th of March instant, there were about one hundred of us entered the Court-House about four o' clock in the afternoon. But we had but just entered before we were alarmed by a large number of men, armed with guns, swords and pistols. But we in the house had not any weapons of war among us, and were determined that they should not come in with their weapons of war except by the force of them.

Esquire Patterson came up at the head of his armed company, within about five yards of the door, and commanded us to disperse; to which be got no answer. He then caused the King' s Proclamation to be read, and told us that if we did not disperse in fifteen minutes, by G—d he would blow a lane through us. We told him that we would not disperse. We told them that they might come in if they would unarm themselves, but not without. One of out men went out at the door and asked them if they were come for war; told them that we were come for peace, and that we should be glad to hold a parley with them. At that, Mr˙ Gale, the Clerk of the Court, drew a pistol, held it up, and said, d—n the parley with such d—d rascals as you are; I will hold no parley with such d—d rascals but by this — holding up his pistol. They gave us very harsh language; told us we should be in hell before morning, but after a while they drew a little off from the house and seemed to be in consultation. Three of us


went out to trent with them; but the most, or all that we could get from them was, that they would not talk with such d—d rascals as we were, and we soon returned to the house and they soon went off.

Colonel Chandler came in and we laid the case before him, and told him that we had his word that there should not be any arms brought against us. He said that the arms were brought without his consent, but he would go and take them away from them, and we should enjoy the house undisturbed until morning, and that the Court should come in the morning without arms, and should hear what we had to lay before them, and then he went away. We then went, out of the house and chose a Committee, which drew up Articles to stand for, and read them to the company, and they were voted nem˙ con˙ dis˙, and some of our men went to the neighbours, and as many as the Court and their party saw they bound.

About midnight, or a little before, the sentry at the door espied some men with guns, and he gave the word to man the doors and the walk was crowded. Immediately the Sheriff and his company marched up fast, within about ten rods of the door, and then the word was given, take care, and then, fire! Three fired immediately. The word fire was repeated; G—d d—n you, fire; send them to hell, was most or all the words that were to be heard for some time; on which there were several men wounded; one was shot with four bullets, one of which went through his brain, of which wound he died next day. Then they rushed in with their guns, swords, and clubs, and did most cruelly mammock several more, and took some that were not wounded, and those that were, and crowded them all into close prison together, and told them that they should all be in hell before the next night, and that they did wish that there were forty more in the same case with that dying man. When they put him into prison they took and dragged him as one would a dog, and would mock him as he lay gasping, and make sport for themselves at his dying motions. The people that escaped took prudent care to notify the people in the County, and also in the Government of New-Hampshire and the Bay, which being justly alarmed at such an unheard-of and aggravated piece of murder, did kindly interpose in our favour.

On Tuesday, the 14th instant, about twelve o' clock, nearly two hundred men, well armed, came from New-Hampshire Government, and before night there were several of the people of Cumberland County returned and took up all they knew of, that were in the horrid massacre, and confined them under a strong guard; and afterwards they confined as many as they could get evidence against, except several that did escape for their lives. On the 15th instant, the body formed chose a Moderator and Clerk, and chose a Committee to see that the Coroner' s Jury of inquest were just, impartial men; which Jury, on their oath, did bring in, that W˙ Patterson, &c˙, &c˙, did, on the 13th of March instant, by force and arms, make an assault on the body of William French, then and there lying dead, and shot him through the head with a bullet, of which wound he died, and not otherwise. Then the criminals were confined in close prison, and, on the evening of the same day, and early the next morning, a large number came from the Southern part of the County of Cumberland and the Bay Province. It is computed that in the whole there were five hundred good martial soldiers, well equipped for war, that had gathered. On the 16th instant the body assembled, but being so numerous that they could not do business, there was a vote passed to choose a large Committee to represent the whole, and that this Committee should consist of men who did not belong to the County of Cumberland, as well as of those that did belong thereto: which was done. After the most critical and impartial examination of evidence, voted, that the heads of them should be confined in Northampton Jail, till they could have a fair trial, and those that did not appear so guilty, should be under bonds, holden to answer at the next Court of Oyer and Terminer, in the County aforesaid; which was agreed to. On the 17th instant, bonds were taken for those that were to be bound, and the rest set out under a strong guard for Northampton.

We, the Committee aforesaid, embrace this opportunity to return our most grateful acknowledgments and sincere thanks to our truly wise and patnotick friends in the Government


of New-Hampshire and the Massachusetts-Bay, for their kind and benevolent interposition in our favour, at such a time of distress and confusion aforesaid; strongly assuring them that we shall be always ready for their aid and assistance, if by the dispensation of Divine Providence we are called thereto.

Signed by order of the Committee: