[Boston: Edes & Gill], 1774. Broadside, 12 x 7 inches, mounted on 14 x 9¼- inch sheet. Signed in type by Benjamin Lincoln. Tanned. Large chips to upper corners and left edge, lower quarter of the sheet with loss of paper affecting five lines of text (about two dozen words) in final two paragraphs. Fair. Item #WRCAM57659
A rare and vitally important Revolutionary broadside, issued by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress just six months before the battles at Lexington and Concord, calling on citizens to organize militias as tensions with Royal authorities mounted. This is one of the first documents to come from the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, which met illicitly in Cambridge in October of 1774, shortly after the official legislature (meeting in Salem) was dissolved by General Gage in the wake of the Massachusetts Government Act. Coupled with the other Intolerable Acts, Gage's large troop presence, the fear that the British were seizing gunpowder and arms, and the aggressive disbanding of the colonial government, the Provincial Congress lays out their grievances while still attempting to leave room for reconciliation:
"Whereas in Consequence of the present unhappy Disputes between Great Britain and the Colonies, a formidable Body of Troops with warlike Preparations of every Sort are already arrived at...the Metropolis of this Province, and the expressed Design of their being sent is to execute Acts of the British parliament utterly subversive of the Constitution of the Province: And whereas his Excellency General Gage has attempted by his Troops to disperse the Inhabitants of Salem, whilst assembled to consult Measures for preserving their Freedom...and invaded private Property by unlawfully seizing and retaining large Quantities of Ammunition in the Arsenal at Boston....
"It is the Opinion of this Congress – that notwithstanding nothing but Slavery ought more to be deprecated than Hostilities with Great Britain – notwithstanding the Province has not the most distant Design of attacking, annoying or molesting his Majesty's Troops aforesaid, but on the other Hand will consider and treat every Attempt of the Kind as well as all Measures tending to prevent a Reconciliation between Britain and the Colonies as the highest Degree of Enmity to the Province – Nevertheless there is great Reason from the Considerations aforesaid, to be apprehensive of the most fatal consequences...."
In order to protect their people against those "fatal consequences," the Provincial Congress goes on to suggest that all militia units meet as soon as possible to appoint officers, organize themselves in a way that will be appropriate for active duty, "immediately provide themselves" with arms, and "use their utmost Diligence to perfect themselves in Military Skill." The text is signed in type by Benjamin Lincoln as Secretary of the Provincial Congress. The resolutions in this broadside came at a timely moment, as Gage would march on Lexington and Concord only a few months later.
Copies of this extremely important document are quite rare: we locate seven total copies, held by the Boston Public Library, New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, the American Antiquarian Society, the William Clements Library at the University of Michigan, Brown University, and the Huntington Library. Though a wounded copy, this is the only copy of this broadside that we can locate in the market since a copy offered by Rosenbach in 1948. A vital step on the road to the Revolution, recognizing the need for Massachusetts citizens to organize and take up arms in opposition to the Crown. EVANS 13416. FORD 1752. CUSHING, MASSACHUSETTS LAWS 820. ROSENBACH 14:64. ESTC W11159.