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Petition from the Town of Salem


To the Honourable the General Court of MASSACHUSETTS-BAY:

The Town of Salem humbly sheweth, that many calumnies and misrepresentations having been made and industriously propagated, concerning the conduct or the Town upon and since the 19th of April last, in consequence of which its character has been greatly injured, and some of its inhabitants insulted and abused, the Town thinks it a point of duty to take effectual steps to vindicate its innocence, and procure a redress of those grievances which are too many and too heavy any longer silently to be endured, and therefore beg leave to give the following detail of facts:. On the 19th of April, very soon after authentick intelligence arrived of the barbarous deeds of the King' s Troops at Lexington, the inhabitants mustered in arms, and near three hundred marched off, and directed their course according to the intelligence they were continually receiving on the road of the situation of the Troops; but though they marched with as much despatch as was possible, consistent with their being fit for action after so long a march as they must necessarily make, yet they arrived in sight of the Troops not till the last of them were marching up Bunker' s Hill. Why the inhabitants of Salem should be so highly censured for their conduct on this occasion, the Town cannot conceive. Thousands of men, nearer, much nearer the scene of action, either staid at home, or arrived no sooner than the Salem Militia; from Milton, and its environs in particular, the Militia got as far as Cambridge only, at the same time that the Salem Militia arrived at Charlestown; yet, by a strange and unaccountable partiality, the inhabitants of Salem only are reproached, and the multitudes near at hand, who never stirred an inch, or, though they Lived but at half the distance, arrived as late as the Salem Militia, are entirely excused. In short, it is most absurdly declared by many, that if the Salem Militia had not been negligent and pusillanimous, the King' s Troops must have been entirely cut off; that is, fewer than three hundred men could have done infinitely more, in one or two hours, than the whole body of Militia assembled had been able to perform that day. Very soon after the battle at Lexington, (and at a time when considerable quantities of fresh meat were carried into Boston over the Neck and Charlestown Ferry,) in consequence of a letter from Captain Bishop, of the Lively, Man-of-War, then stationed off our port, his people were allowed to purchase one-quarter of beef for the ship' s use, and afterwards a few loose pieces of beef, in the whole less than one quarter; afterwards, at three or four different times, they were permitted to purchase one or two quarters of veal each time, for the use of the cabin. About two months ago, Captain Dawson, in a very obliging manner, requested the Committee of Safety to suffer to be procured, for his own use, a little fresh meat. The Committee allowed him two quarters of veal, and no more. These trifles are all the provisions suffered to be taken by the Committee from Salem, for the use of men employed in the King' s service, and about which some people have made such a clamour, as though the King' s Troops had from Salem a constant supply of fresh meat. There was, indeed, a quantity of old Quebeck bread stored at Salem so long ago as in July, 1774, the property of Mr˙ Brymer, of Boston, and which was offered for the use of our Army, but it was so bad that it was rejected; so Mr˙ Brymer desired leave to take it away, which was granted: this was at the time when persons had liberty, by a resolve of Congress, to retire to Boston with their effects. During the time that boats were continually passing to and from Boston, to bring out the distressed inhabitants, the Committee permitted a few things to be sent thither; but they are too trifling to be mentioned: a pot of about ten or twelve pounds of butter to Doctor Eliot; about half as much to the wife of one of the Selectmen; and, perhaps, a few pounds of meat to some others, sent by some Boston gentlemen, at the earnest importunity of their suffering friends. During the same period, the Committee were informed that one boat, under the direction of one Badger, formerly an auctioneer in Boston, had more than once carried beef and veal; and it was suggested that the Troops were thereby supplied. The Committee immediately ordered the boat should be stopped on her next arrival; and, as she sometimes arrived in the night, directed the Town Watchmen, in that case, to detain the people. This was done, and Badger and his partner were brought before the Committee and examined;


they declared that they supplied only the inhabitants of Boston; and from the testimony of some Boston people, and the certificates Badger brought from thence, the Committee judged they told the truth. Nevertheless, to prevent the possibility of misapplication of such provisions, the Committee ordered that no more should be carried to Boston; and effectually to guard against the unfaithfulness of anywhom inclination or the hope of gain might prompt to transgress, the Committee further ordered the pass should be taken from every boat and vessel as soon as it arrived at Salem, and not delivered, on their departure, till they had been thoroughly searched, and it was found that they had no provisions on board, except what were barely necessary for the use of the boatmen or crews in their passages backward and forward; and a Sub-Committee were appointed weekly to see that these orders were punctually complied with. Some complaint has been made because the Custom-House boat has been suffered to pass, now and then, to and from Boston; but for the particulars relative to this matter, the Town begs leave to refer the honourable Court to Mr˙ Derby, who is a member of the Committee of Safety; the Committee apprehended no evil could arise from it, and considering the occasion, judged it right that the boat should be permitted to pass. This, may it please the honourable Court, is a brief, though faithful narrative of facts; hence it may be judged how injuriously the Town of Salem has been treated. The Town cannot forbear to express its astonishment what could occasion the reproach so liberally thrown upon us. What motives could be imagined sufficient to tempt us to neglect the duty We owe to ourselves, our posterity, and our Country? What proofs have we given of our insensibility, that we should neither dread the curses of slavery nor feel the blessings of liberty? What could we have done more than we have done to secure the latter to ourselves and all our dearest connexions? When the balance of publick affairs being most doubtful; when neither money nor the means of payment were provided, and the sentiments of the Continent were unknown, then Salem furnished every needful supply in its power as soon as the Army' s wants were known; how readily and to how great amount the Committee of Supplies and the Treasurer can inform. We have continued these supplies, and the Town is drained. What more remains for us to do? Such, may it please the honourable Court, having been our conduct, as the Town has been publickly injured and defamed, we may justly pray for a publick vindication by the honourable Court; without which our wrongs will be continued, and probably increased.

A true copy:

In a legal and full Town-meeting at Salem, the 10th August, 1775, The foregoing Petition having been repeatedly read and deliberately considered, Voted, (without one negative voice,) That the Town approve of the same, and that the Town Clerk deliver an attested copy thereof to the Representatives of the Town, to be presented to the General Court. Attested: