[Boston: Printed by Benjamin Edes], November 2, 1776. Broadside, 15 x 9 1/2 inches. Several folds, minor staining, fold lines reinforced with archival tape on verso. Good. Item #WRCAM49956
Early November 1776 was a dark moment for the American side in the Revolution. Washington had been routed from New York, the victory at Trenton had yet to occur, and the ability of the young United States to succeed seemed questionable. This important inspirational Revolutionary War broadside, issued by the Massachusetts House of Representatives only four months after the Declaration of Independence, sought to rally the Patriot cause. The address roundly denounces Great Britain and its government in polemical language in the style of the preamble of the Declaration. It also pledges the support of the American army by the General Court of Massachusetts, emphasizes the importance of Massachusetts soldiers, and urges them to re- enlist. Massachusetts soldiers were vital in the Revolutionary War effort, practically the backbone of the Continental Army. However, desertion had become a major issue by October 1776, and this message was issued as part of an effort by the Massachusetts government to stem the tide of desertion as well as motivate new recruits for the war effort. This fiery exhortation to take up arms against the British Crown reads, in part:
"When the tyrants of the earth began to transgress the sacred line of property, and claim their fellow men as slaves, and to exercise lawless power over them, the intentions of government were subverted, war in defence of the dignity of human nature was introduced, and men began to take the field of battle on behalf of freedom....For the free exercise of liberty, more especially in the worship of that almighty Being who supported them in the greatest distress, our venerable ancestors came to this land when it was a savage and dangerous wilderness, terrible to the civilized eye. Here they toiled and bled, with the pleasing hope of their posterity's enjoying that freedom for which they encountered every difficulty, and braved every danger, and could their virtue have been inherited with the fruit of their toil, and their simplicity of manners and integrity of heart been transmitted to all their posterity, America would now have been the seat of peace and plenty. But such has been the avarice of some, and the ambition of others, amongst us, that the King and Parliament of Great-Britain have been fatally persuaded to claim this whole continent, with its three millions of inhabitants, as their own property, and to be at their disposal. In opposition to this unjustifiable claim most obviously founded in tyranny, after loyally petitioning, and dutifully remonstrating without effect, you have gallantly taken the field, and the salvation of your country, the happiness of future generations, as well as your own, depends upon your noble exertions."
The American soldiers are promised supplies and every bit of support from their new government, but warned of the dangers of desertion in the face of the impending crisis: "exert every nerve in this glorious struggle; for should you for any reason quit your posts, and disgracefully turn your backs on your enemies, wild carnage, barbarous and bloody desolation must spread like a hideous torrent over your ruined country." The document also promises glory in posterity for the Continental Army, reminding the soldiers that their names will be "honourably preferred to the end of time" and that "each generation as it rises, shall learn to speak the same of those worthies, who nobly dared to face that death and despite that danger, which stood between them and their country's happiness."
The message ends by reiterating to the soldiers that their government stands firmly behind them, promising "comfortable supplies and necessary reinforcements" during their fight for freedom, at the end of which the American army will be "crowned with a glorious victory, and return honourably from the field, bringing deliverance to distressed America."
An eloquent entreaty from a besieged government attempting to galvanize its army, calling upon their "courage and patriotism" and promising them the immortality that awaits them at the end of their struggle. "A message of inspiration and encouragement for distribution among the troops of the State in the Northern and Southern armies" - Rosenbach. Rare. Evans lists copies at the Library of Congress, Boston Public, and New York Public. OCLC lists additional copies at AAS and the Houghton Library. EVANS 14868. FORD 1999. CUSHING 956. ROSENBACH 14:70. OCLC 5812765.