Boston Committee of Correspondence records

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Collection Data

Description
The Boston Committee of Correspondence was formed at the Boston Town Meeting of November 2, 1772 in response to the British government’s decision to pay the governor and Superior Court judges of Massachusetts with Crown stipends, thereby making them dependent on the Crown rather than the people in assembly. With the participation of Samuel Adams and others, the Committee prepared statements of the colonists’ rights and the violation of those rights by Great Britain, and sent them to other Massachusetts towns in pamphlet form, asking for their support and advice. In response to what became known as the Boston Pamphlet, similar committees formed in towns across Massachusetts and in other American colonies, helping to create a network of colonial communication ultimately leading to independence from Great Britain. The Boston Committee of Correspondence records, dated 1772-1784, document the Committee’s initiatives in colonial political action in Massachusetts, from the writing of the Boston Pamphlet in November 1772 through the early months of war with Great Britain in 1775, as well as the Committee's contact with other colonies. The records also document its continued work as the Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety, 1777-1784, largely concerned with investigating suspected enemies of the American cause.
Names
Boston Committee of Correspondence (Creator)
Adams, Samuel, 1722-1803 (Creator)
Church, Benjamin, 1734-1778 (Creator)
Cooper, William, 1720-1809 (Creator)
Otis, James, 1725-1783 (Creator)
Quincy, Josiah, 1744-1775 (Creator)
Warren, Joseph, 1741-1775 (Creator)
Young, Thomas, 1732-1777 (Creator)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1772 - 1784
Library locations
Manuscripts and Archives Division
Shelf locator: MssCol 343
Topics
Massachusetts -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
Massachusetts -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783
Massachusetts -- Politics and government -- 1775-1783
Massachusetts -- Politics and government -- To 1775
United States -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Causes
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Committees of correspondence
American loyalists
Politicians
Statesmen
Genres
Documents
minute books
Notes
Biographical/historical: The Boston Committee of Correspondence was formed at the Boston Town Meeting of November 2, 1772 in response to the British government’s decision to pay the governor and superior court judges of Massachusetts with Crown stipends, thereby making them dependent on the Crown rather than the people in assembly. With the participation of Samuel Adams and others, among them James Otis, Josiah Quincy, Joseph Warren, Thomas Young and Benjamin Church, the Committee prepared statements of the colonists’ constitutional rights and the infringements and violations of those rights by Great Britain, with particular reference to events in Massachusetts. These were accompanied by a letter opening correspondence with other Massachusetts towns, asking for their support and advice. The report was approved on November 20th and distributed to the towns in pamphlet form. In response to what became known as the Boston Pamphlet, similar committees formed in towns across Massachusetts and in other American colonies, helping to create a network of colonial communication ultimately leading to independence from Great Britain. Communities responded with news of the reception of the pamphlet, sending copies of the proceedings of their town meetings with their votes and resolutions, often noting agreement with the grievances outlined by the Committee while stating their own views. Under a growing system of mutual advisement, the Committee informed towns and other colonies of British actions in Boston, notably the arrival of East India Company tea shipments in Boston in 1773 and the impact of Britain’s punitive Coercive Acts in 1774, especially the closing of the Boston’s harbor. The Committee also sought ways to relieve Boston’s poor. As military action seemed increasingly likely, the Committee tried to prevent colonists from aiding the British army with their labor, skills or supplies, and asked nearby towns to monitor British military manoeuvres, while local militias prepared to be called. With the gradual establishment of self-government and the evacuation of the British from Boston in March 1776, the Committee of Correspondence, now known as the Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety, attended to public safety activities in the Boston area by monitoring the actions of Loyalists and others until the end of the Revolutionary War, while continuing to communicate with other towns to strengthen American interests. The Committee’s meetings were usually chaired by Nathaniel Barber. William Cooper, Town Clerk of Boston, was clerk of the Committee throughout its existence.
Content: The Boston Committee of Correspondence records, dated 1772-1784, document the Committee’s initiatives in colonial political action in Massachusetts under the leadership of Samuel Adams and others, from the writing of the Boston Pamphlet in November 1772 through the early months of war with Great Britain in 1775, as well as the Committee’s contact with other colonies. The records also document its continued work as the Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety, 1777-1784, largely concerned with investigating suspected enemies of the American cause. Materials consist of the Committee’s meeting minutes, correspondence with town and provincial committees of correspondence and transcripts of their proceedings, miscellaneous letters and documents, and legal communications regarding suspects and records of their interrogation. Minutes, 1772-1774, 1777-1784 and index are mainly in the hand of William Cooper, the Committee’s clerk. In addition to meeting minutes, the volumes transcribe certain incoming and outgoing letters and proceedings of towns and other bodies designated for recording. Date spans for volumes 1-12 identify the first and last entry in the volume; due to the nature of the content, interior dates may precede or even follow those dates. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence and transcripts of proceedings sent to the Boston Committee from Massachusetts towns and other colonies, notably Connecticut, along with copies of the Committee’s outgoing correspondence to them. Massachusetts towns include communities now part of Maine. For the period 1772-1775, the collection documents the Committee’s efforts to connect patriot leadership in Boston to town governments in Massachusetts and committees in other colonies, in order to advise them of the impact of British imperial policies on Boston’s citizens and the actions of the British military force stationed there, and to learn of political and other developments in their area. Records from 1777 to 1784 for the Committee chiefly concern its role of monitoring and investigating suspected enemies, many of them Loyalists returning to Massachusetts from Halifax and other points, contrary to law. Communications with towns generally concern public safety issues, with committees advising of suspect activities and requesting advice. Other matters discussed include the state’s 1777 Act to Prevent Monopoly and Oppression, establishing a system of price controls, and the use of legal means to prevent the return of Loyalist refugees at the end of the war. Miscellaneous letters and documents, 1772-1783, in chronological order, are closely related to the correspondence with town and other committees. Materials consist of the Committee’s circular letters addressed to more than one town, advising of the state of affairs or calling for attendance at a meeting; letters sent or drafted, resolutions, and other documents written by Committee members not pertaining to individual towns; copies of documents created by other Massachusetts bodies, such as the Provincial Congress or House of Representatives; and incoming letters addressed to individual members of the Committee, including Samuel Adams, James Otis and others, or to the Committee at large. A copied letter dated 1776 May 2 from the committee of Salem to the Massachusetts House of Representatives concerns the sighting of a British troop transport at sea, and 1783 letters are correspondence between private individuals, possibly held for evidence. Notable content includes records of the Boston Town Hall Meeting of November 20, 1772, especially its rough minutes, and the Committee’s manuscript report drafted by multiple authors, forming the substance of the Boston Pamphlet. The remaining folders in the collection concern the Committee’s public safety duties. These contain minutes documenting the examination (interrogation) of suspects or persons providing information about them, and legal communications with Massachusetts state government and local authorities requesting the apprehension, holding or prosecution of suspects. Documents include warrants, complaints, evidence and correspondence, as well as a few letters and statements from individuals concerning their own actions or the disloyal behavior of others. Minutes, 1772-1774, 1777-1784 and index are mainly in the hand of William Cooper, the Committee’s clerk. In addition to meeting minutes, the volumes transcribe certain incoming and outgoing letters and proceedings of towns and other bodies designated for recording. Date spans for volumes 1-12 identify the first and last entry in the volume; due to the nature of the content, interior dates may precede or even follow those dates. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence and transcripts of proceedings sent to the Boston Committee from other towns and colonies, along with copies of the Committee’s outgoing correspondence to them. For the period 1772-1775, the collection documents the Committee’s efforts to connect patriot leadership in Boston to town governments in Massachusetts and committees in other colonies, in order to advise them of the impact of British imperial policies on Boston’s citizens and the actions of the British military force stationed there, and to learn of political and other developments in their area. Records from 1777 to 1784 for the Committee chiefly concern its role of monitoring and investigating suspected enemies, many of them Loyalists returning to Massachusetts from Halifax and other points, contrary to law. Communications with towns generally concern public safety issues, with committees advising of suspect activities and requesting advice. Other matters discussed include the state’s 1777 Act to Prevent Monopoly and Oppression, establishing a system of price controls, and the use of legal means to prevent the return of Loyalist refugees at the end of the war. Miscellaneous letters and documents, 1772-1783, in chronological order, are closely related to the correspondence with town and other committees. Materials consist of the Committee’s circular letters addressed to more than one town, advising of the state of affairs or calling for attendance at a meeting; letters sent or drafted, resolutions and other documents written by Committee members not pertaining to individual towns; copies of documents created by other Massachusetts bodies such as the Provincial Congress or House of Representatives, and incoming letters addressed to individual members of the Committee, including Samuel Adams, James Otis and others, or to the Committee at large. A copied letter dated 1776 May 2 from the committee of Salem to the Massachusetts House of Representatives concerns the sighting of a British troop transport at sea, and 1783 letters are correspondence between private individuals, possibly held for evidence. Notable content includes records of the Boston Town Hall Meeting of November 20, 1772, especially its rough minutes, and the Committee’s manuscript report drafted by multiple authors, later known as the “Boston Pamphlet.” The remaining folders in the collection concern the Committee’s public safety duties, containing minutes, or notes, documenting the examination (interrogation) of suspects, or persons providing information about them, and legal communications with Massachusetts state government and local authorities requesting the apprehension, holding or prosecution of suspects. These include warrants, complaints, evidence and correspondence, as well as a few letters and statements from individuals concerning their own actions or the disloyal behavior of others.
Funding: Digitization was made possible by a lead gift from The Polonsky Foundation.
Physical Description
Extent: 2.4 linear feet 8 boxes, 1 oversized folder
Type of Resource
Text
Identifiers
MSS Unit ID: 343
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b14421947
Archives collections id: archives_collections_343
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 96a3f7b0-d01a-0132-bb27-58d385a7b928
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