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Town Meeting at Salem



On Saturday, the 20th of August, 1774, printed notifications were posted up in this town, desiring the Merchants, Freeholders, and other Inhabitants, to meet at the Town House Chamber, on Wednesday the 24th, at nine o' clock in the morning, to appoint Deputies to meet at Ipswich, on the 6th of September next, with the Deputies of the other towns in the county, to consider of, and determine on such measures as the late Acts of Parliament, and our other grievances render necessary and expedient. These notifications purported, that it was the desire of the Committee of Correspondence that the inhabitants should thus assemble.

On Wednesday morning, at eight o' clock, the Governour sent a request to the Committee, that they would meet him at nine o' clock, telling them he had something of importance to communicate to them. They waited upon him accordingly, and were asked by him if they avowed those notifications? Being answered that it was known they were posted by order of the Committee, he then desired them to disperse the inhabitants, who, being assembled by them, they must abide all the consequences. It was answered, that the inhabitants being met together would do what they thought fit, and that the Committee could not oblige them to disperse. His Excellency declared it was an unlawful, seditious meeting; it was replied, neither the Committee nor the inhabitants supposed the meeting was contrary even to the Act of Parliament, much less to the laws of the Province. The Governour returned, "I am not going to enter into a conversation on the matter; I came to execute the laws, not to dispute them, and I am determined to execute them. If the people do not disperse, the Sheriff will go first; if he is disobeyed, and needs support, I will support him." This he uttered with much vehemence of voice and gesture. The Governour ordered troops to be in readiness. They prepared accordingly as if for battle, left their encampment, and marched to the entrance of the town, there halted and loaded, and then about eighty advanced within an eighth of a mile from the Town House. But before this movement of the troops was known to the inhabitants, and while the Committee were in conference with the Governour, the whole business of the meeting was transacted, (being merely to choose Delegates) and the Honourable Robert Darby, Esq˙, Mr˙ John Pickering, Jun˙, Mr˙ Jonathan Ropes. Captain Timothy Pickering, Captain Jonathan Gardner, Jun˙, and Captain Richard Manning, were chosen Deputies from the several towns in the County of Essex, to attend the meeting to be held at Ipswich, on the 6th of September. After the meeting was over, news came that the troops were on the march; but they were now ordered to return to their camp.

Peter Frye, Esq˙, (by express orders from the Governour, as he declared to the Committee) issued a warrant for arresting the Committee of Correspondence, for the unlawfully and seditiously causing the people to assemble by that notification, without leave from the Governour, in open contempt of the laws, against the peace, and the statute in that case made and provided. Two of the Committee who were first arrested recognised, each in one hundred pounds, without sureties, to appear at the next Superiour Court at Salem, to answer to the above mentioned charge. The rest of the Committee who were arrested some time after have refused to recognise.