Lucius R. (Lucius Robinson) Paige.

History of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register online

. (page 14 of 73)
Online LibraryLucius R. (Lucius Robinson) PaigeHistory of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register → online text (page 14 of 73)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Some of these proposed amendments were subsequently
adopted, — such as universal suffrage, and election by plurality
of votes. In the Declaration of Rights, the first article was
interpreted to secure the freedom of the " blacks " in this State,
nearly a century before universal emancipation resulted from a
desperate attempt to extend and perpetuate the institution of
slavery ; and the proposed amendment of the Third Article was
adopted in 1833, since which time the maintenance of public
worship has been voluntary, not compulsory. So far, the inhab-
itants of Hardwick wei'e somewhat in advance of the age. In
some other respects, they exhibited that excessive love of liberty
which is unwilling to submit to any restraint, or to give the
government sufficient power to execute its proper functions.
The same spirit was manifested by a majority of the people here,
as in almost all the towns in the western counties of the State,
during the stormy period which followed ; and in 1788 it nearly
prevented tlie adoption by ]\Iassachusetts of the Constitution of
the United States, because it was supposed to invest the general
government with too much power.^

reason of time and cost in travelling and 2 The town voted, August 21, 1820,
attendance in the settling of estates, wid- "that it was expedient that Delegates
ows and orphans are put to great expense should be chosen to meet in Convention
which might be lessened by the proposed for the purpose of revising or altering the
amendment." Constitution of government of this Com-
1 June 14, 1780. The town modified monwealth ; " and on the 16th of the
its action in regard to delegates, as quaint- following October, Timothy Paige, Esq.,
Iv expressed by the town clerk : " Voted, and Dr. Joseph Stone were elected dele-
that the town does approve of Brig'r Jon- gates. Four unsuccessful ballots were
athan Warner as their delegate at the taken March 7, 1853, for the election of
Convention ; also voted, that the Hon''''' Delegates to the Constitutional Conven-
"Williani Paige be considered as a member tion which met in that year, and the town
in full communion of said convention." was not represented therein.



The Shays Insurrection. — Public and Private Debts Excessive. — Debtors
become Desperate, and forcibly resist Payment. — Demagogues stimulate
the Popular Discontent, which results in Open Rebellion. — The Towa
proposes a Convention at Worcester in 1782, and elects Delegates. — Con-
ventions in 1786. — Grievances. — General Warner discharges one of his
Aids, on Suspicion of Disloyalty : he promptly responds to the Governor's
Order for the Protection of the Courts at Worcester, but is unable to rally
a Sufficient Force. — The Courts prevented from sitting at Worcester and
Springfield in September and again in December. — Troops raised by En-
listment. — Hardwick Company. — Attack on the Arsenal at Springfield. —
Defeat of Shays : he is pursued by Lincoln, in a Terrible Night's March
from Hadley to Petersham, where the Insurgents are utterly routed. —
Oath of Allegiance taken by many Hardwick Men. — Some of the More
Active Partisans abscond. — One of the Most Prominent is arrested, con-
victed of Treason, and sentenced to be hung ; but is fully pardoned, and
receives Tokens of Public Approbation. — Other Pardons. — The Shays
Cause Popular, having a Majority in Hardwick, and generally through-
out the Western Counties ; even in the House of Representatives a Ma-
jority favor it. — Its Advocates afterwards become Good Citizens, but never
Friendly to a Strong Government.

The Constitution was adopted by the requisite majority of
citizens, but this did not relieve their financial distress ; on the
contrary, it was aggravated by the legal machinery thus provided
to enforce the payment of public and private debts which had
long been held in abeyance. The result was a forcible resistance
to the constituted government, which, from the name of a prom-
inent leader, was called the " Shays Insurrection," or " Rebel-
lion." Its immediate cause is succinctly stated by its historian : —

" The citizens were then left free indeed, and in full possession
of the valuable objects which they had fought to obtain. But
the price of those objects was high, and could not but be attended
with the usual consequences of great exertions, when founded on
the anticipation of public resources. Their private state debt,*
when consolidated, amounted to upwards of 1,300,000<£., besides
250,000 £., due to the officers and soldiers in their line of the


army. Their proportion of the federal debt was not less, by a
moderate computation, than one million and a half of the same
money .1 And in addition to this, every town was embarrassed
by advances which they had made, to compl}'- with repeated
requisitions for men and supplies to support the army, and which
had been done upon their own particular credit. The weight of
this burden must strike us in a strong point of view, if we com-
pare it with the debt before the war, which fell short of 100,000<£.,
and with still more force, perhaps, if we consider that by the cus-
tomary mode of taxation, one third part of the whole was to
be paid by the ratable polls alone, which but little exceeded
ninety thousand.^ True it is, that a recollection of the blessings
which this debt had purchased must have operated, in the minds
of a magnanimous people, to alleviate every inconvenience arising
from such a cause ; but embarrassments followed which no con-
siderations of that nature could be expected to obviate." ^

In this emergency, the people very naturally resorted to those
agencies which proved so effectual in the Revolutionary period, —
town-meetings, namely, and county conventions. These assem-
blies, like those of the former period, found more and more
grievances as they sought relief from the principal burden. The
government removed some of these alleged grievances by legis-
lative enactment, and uniformly manifested a forbearing and
forgiving spirit. The public discontent, nevertheless, increased,
being fomented and stimulated by political demagogues, until it
culminated in absolute rebellion and resort to arms. After the
rebellion was overpowered by superior military force, some of the
persons who had been actively engaged in the field became fugi-
tives from justice, and fled from the State ; the large majority of
them received a full pardon, on surrendering their arms and
taking the oath of allegiance ; a small number were fined, or
imprisoned, or both ; and a few of the leaders were convicted of
treason and sentenced to be hung, but not one of the number
was executed for the crime of treason only. I do not propose to
recite all the details of this unhappy conflict ; but some of the

1 Amounting:, exclusive of town and tion of the people Avere hopelessly in-
private (lel)ts, ^to £3,050,000, equal to debtcd to their fellow-citizens, who were
$10,166,666. becoming clamorous for payment and at-

2 The whole was more than a hundred tempting to enforce it by legal process,
and thirteen dollars for each tax-jiayer, involving heavy costs.

and one third was almost forty dollars ^ Wmot's Hist, of Insurrections, etc, i)-p.

for each ratable jioli. In addition to 5, 6.

this enormous public debt, a large por- ,


events, In which this town or its individual inhabitants had an
active agency, should be mentioned.

The first trace of opposition to the due course of law, which
appears on our records, is found under date of January 8, 1782,
when, upon petition of sundry persons "with regard to the
numerous law-suits that are or may be commenced, ^ — fearing
that the dangerous consequences thereof, unless some measures be
speedily adopted to prevent it, will reduce us to poverty and
distress," the town " Voted to address the General Assembly on
the subject," and chose William Paige, Ebenezer Washburn, and
Daniel Warner, to prepare the address. Two months later,
what seems to be the initial movement for a county convention
had its origin here, to wit: The town met March 4, 1782, under
a warrant " to take into consideration a petition which is as fol-
lows : the petitioners taking into considei'ation our public affairs,
and the great demands from the public for money by taxation,
and the multiplicity of law-suits, and a scarcity of money, which
renders it entirely out of the power of the good people of this
State to comply with the above demands, they therefore desire
that a town-meeting be called, to consider the articles following :
1. To see if the town will choose a committee, to write circular
letters to other towns in the county of Worcester, to meet in
convention, in the town of Worcester, at the house of Mr. Brown,
innholder in said Worcester, and choose a member or members
for said convention. 2. To see if the town will petition the
General Court for a redress of grievances." The town " voted
to choose a committee to write circular letters to the other towns
in this county, agreeable to the warrant, and made choice of
Ichabod Dexter, Col. Winslow,^ and David Allen, for said com-
mittee. Voted to adjourn to the 18*^ of March, at one o'clock
afternoon, and then met and chose Capt. Ichabod Dexter, Capt.
Daniel Egery, and Nathaniel Haskell, members to meet in con-
vention at Worcester on the second Tuesday of April next."

Apparently in response to this invitation, " on the 14**^ of
April of that year, the delegates of twenty-six towns of the
county assembled in convention, and attributing the px-evailing
dissatisfaction of the people to want of confidence in the disburse-

^ This grievance increased rapidly, the general difficulties drove away pur-

"In 1784, more than 2,000 actions were chasers." Lincoln's Hist, of Worcester,

entered in tlie County of Worcester, then p. 131.

having a population less than 50,000, and 2 i am unable to identify this person

in 1785, about 1,700. Lands and goods satisfactorily,
were seized and sacrificed on sale, when


menfc of the great sums of money annually assessed, recommended
instructions to the representatives to require immediate settle-
ment with all public officers entrusted with the funds of tlie Com-
monwealth ; and if the adjustment was delayed or refused, to
withdraw from the General Court and return to their constitu-
ents ; to reduce the compensation of the members of the House,
and the fees of lawyers ; to procure sessions of the Court of Pro-
bate in different places in the County ; the revival of confessions
of debt; enlargement of the jurisdiction of justices of the peace
to .£20; contribution to the support of the continental army
in specific articles instead of money ; and the settlement of ac-
counts between the Commonwealth and Congress, At an ad-
journed session, May 14,, they further recommended, that account
of the public expenditures should be annually rendered to the
towns ; the removal of the General Court from Boston ; separa-
tion of the business of the Common Pleas and Sessions, and in-
quiry into the grants of lands in Maine in favor of Alexander
Shepherd and others." ^ The convention then adjourned until
August ; and July 1, 1782, on the question " whether the town
will join any further in the county convention, which now stands
adjourned in the town of Worcester," it was " voted that they
look upon it expedient that they join further in the abovesaid
county convention." At the appointed time, however, vei-y few
delegates assembled, and the convention was dissolved witliout
further action.

The measures adopted by the General Court produced tempo-
rary quiet. No further disturbance occurred in this count}'^ for
nearly four years, except that a convention met in 1784, at the
request of the town of Sutton, in which, however, it does not ap-
pear that Plardwick was represented. This convention was com-
paratively orderly, but prepared a formidable list of grievances,
in the form of a petition to the General Court. Early in 1786
the agitation was recommenced, with additional energy. The first
concerted action of this town, which appears on the record, bears
date January 25, 1786. Under a warrant " to see if the towij
will give their Representative some instructions with regard to
the present difficulty that the inhabitants of the Commonwealth
labor under, for the want of a circulating medium, that he use his
influence in the General Court that some mode might be adopted
for their relief," it was " Voted, to instruct their Representative to
use his influence in the General Court to have a Bank of Paper

1 Lincoln's Hist, of Worcester, p. 132.


emitted, and chose a committee for that purpose, viz., Capt. John
Hastings, Capt. Ichabod Dexter, David Allen, Thomas Wheeler,
and Deac, William Paige."

" The want of a circulating medium," or the lack of money,
for the payment of debts and taxes, was the most pressing bur-
den which then rested on the people ; and how to remove it was
the problem to be solved. Hardwick recommended the issue of
paper money by the government. Other towns expressed the
same desire. Resort was had to county conventions, by which
the list of grievances was rapidly enlarged, and the measures
proposed for relief were multiplied. The historian of the Insur-
rection selects one of those conventions, as presenting probably a
more full statement of the whole difficulty than is elsewhere to
be found : —

" At a meeting of delegates from fifty towns in the county of
Hampshire, in convention held at Hatfield in said county, on
Tuesday the 22'' day of August instant [1786], and continued by
adjournments to the twenty-fifth, &c. Voted, that this meeting
is constitutional. The convention from a thorough conviction of
great uneasiness subsisting among the people of this county and
Commonwealth, then went into an inquiry for the cause ; and,
upon mature consideration, deliberation, and debate, were of
opinion that many grievances and unnecessary burdens, now ly-
ing upon the people, are the sources of that discontent so evi-
dently discoverable throughout this Commonwealth. Among
which the following articles were voted as such, viz. (1.) The
existence of the Senate. (2.) The present mode of representa-
tion. (3.) The officers of government not being annually de-
pendent on the representatives of the people, in General Court
assembled, for their salaries. (4.) All the civil officers of gov-
ernment not being annually elected by the representatives of the
people in General Court assembled. (5.) The existence of the
Courts of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace.
(6.) The fee table, as it now stands. (7.) The present mode of
appropriating the impost and excise. (8.) The unreasonable
grants made to some of the officers of government. (9.) The
supplementary aid. (10.) The present mode of paying the gov-
ernmental securities. (11.) The present mode adopted for the
payment and speedy collection of the last tax. (12.) The pi-es-
ent mode of taxation, as it operates unequally between the polls
and estates, and between landed and mercantile interests. (13.)
The present method of practice of the attornies at law. (14.)


The want of a sufficient medium of trade, to remedy the miscliiefs
arising from the scarcity of mone3\ (15.) The General Court sit-
ting in tlie town of Boston. (16.) The present embarrassments
on the press. (IT.) The neglect of the settlement of important
matters depending between the Commonwealth and Congress, re-
lating to monies and averages. (18.) Voted, that this conven-
tion recommend to the several towns in this county, that they
instruct their representatives to use their influence in the next
General Court to have emitted a bank of paper money, subject
to a depreciation ; ^ making it a tender in all payments, equal to
silver and gold, to be issued in order to call in the Common-
wealth's securities. (19.) Voted, that whereas several of the
above articles of grievances arise from defects in the constitution,
therefore a revision of the same ought to take place. (20.)
Voted, that it be recommended by this convention to the several
towns in this county, that they petition the Governor to call the
General Court immediately together, in order that the other
grievances complained of may by the legislature be redressed.
(21.) Voted, that this convention recommend it to the inhabit-
ants of this county, that they abstain from all mobs and unlaw-
ful assemblies until a constitutional method of redress can be ob-
tained." ^ Votes were also passed directing the transmission of
these proceedings to the county conventions of Worcester and
Berkshire, and " to the press in Springfield for publication ; " and
also directing the chairman to call another county convention, if
he should consider it expedient.^

One week earlier, August 15, 1786, a similar convention met
in Worcester, by adjournment from the previous May, which
enumerated a similar list of grievances, and further adjourned to
the last Tuesday in September. I find no record that Hardwick
elected a delegate to this convention ; but it seems evident that
one of its members was Major Martin Kinsley, an aid-de-camp
of Major-General Warner ; for, at a meeting. May 16, 1787, the
town " voted to Mr. Kinsley for his attendance at the county

1 " A more exact idea of this hopeful culating medium " having no permanent

financial scheme will be found from the value, is almost an hundred \ cars old.
action of Conway, whicli, on the 24th of ^ Whether this recommendation was

October, ' instructed its representative in honest or deceptive, it was followed with-

the General Court to use his influence to in a weelc by a " mob or unlawful assem-

have a bank of paper currency emitted biy" at Northampton, which effectually

that should sink one penny a ])ound per prevented the regular action of the Courts

month ! ' " Hist, of PitlsJicUl, i. 398. of Common Picas and Sessions.
The plan of paying honest debts by a " cir- ^ Minot's Hist, of Insurrections, pp. 33-



convention, last fall, the sum of <£2. 17. 5." Probably this indica-
tion of disloyalty to the government induced General Warner to
remove him from office,^ and to appoint in his stead Captain
Artemas Howe of New Braintree, who was commissioned aid-de-
camp August 28, 1786. The change was net made too soon ;
for within a few days the General had need of aids in whose
fidelity he could implicitly confide. In anticipation of the out-
break at Worcester, he received this official order : —

" Boston, September 2*^, 1786. Sir, I have received information
that the Court of Common Pleas and Court of General Sessions
of the Peace have, by a large concourse of people, in a riotous
and tumultuous manner, been prevented from setting at North-
ampton, in the county of Hampshire, on the day appointed by
law for that purpose. It is possible some people, not considering
the great criminality and dangerous consequences of such un-
warrantable proceedings, may attempt to prevent the Court
setting at Worcester on the fifth instant. It is of the utmost
importance that every lawful exertion should be made by every
friend to the present Constitution of Government to suppress all
such riotous proceedings. You are therefore hereb}'^ directed to
aid the Sheriff of the county of Worcester, if he should request
it, by furnishing him with such a number of the militia belonging
to your Division as he may judge sufl&cient to suppress any such

1 Three months later, Major Kinsley disputation within this county, and as I
published an appeal to the public, of have not only not had the usual formality
which it does not appear that General of a court martial, but have even been
Warner took any notice whatever: — kept in the secret for (I suppose) some
" To the impartial public. As it is a mat- months since his son-in-law has been
ter of public notoriety that 1 have lately commissioned, and finally have come to
been superseded in the office of aid-de- the knowledge of it only by common re-
camp to the Hon. General Warner, with- port, 1 take the liberty in this public
out a resignation of my commission on manner to call upon the worthy General,
my part, or the usual (and heretofore in- and desire him, or whoever it may con-
dispensable) formality of a Court Martial cern, to inform me and the public with
on his ; and as it is now a matter of pop- regard to the cause or propriety of the
ular conversation and public dispute, procedure. I do not wish to trouble the
whether or not it is in the power of a public with this appeal to their impar-
Major General to remove any officer who tiality on account of any particular fond-
has been duly commissioned ; or whether ness I have for holding a commission of
every officer, so commissioned, must not the worthy gentleman, or any other au-
by the militia law of this Commonwealth, thority; but because I conceive that any
and by the established military custom man, who has been in commission and
throughout the civilized world, be offi- will peaceably suffer himself to be kicked
cially arrested and formally tried before out, discovers as great a meanness as the
a regular court martial, purposely ap- _person who attempts to do it. I am with
pointed, and properly authorized and em- due respect, &c., M. Kinsley. Hard-
powered for that special purpose : I say, wick, Nov. 24, 1786." Worcester Maga-
as this has got to be a matter of public zine, December, 1787.


attempt; and from your well known attachment to justice,
peace, and good order, I am persuaded you will exert yourself to
the utmost to prevent all such riotous proceedings. You have
herewith enclosed a copy of the instruction wliich was sent to
Mr. Sheriff Greenleaf. By his Excellency's command, with the
advice and consent of the Council. Major General Warner." ^

The response was prompt and loyal : —

" Ilardwick, September 3'\ 1786. May it please your Excel-
lency. I have this instant had the honor to receive your express,
by which I am required to give such aid and assistance to the
High Sheriff of the county of Worcester as shall be necessary to
suppress any riots, or tumultuous proceedings in the people at
the sitting of the -Courts to be holden at Worcester on the 5**^
instant. Your Excellency may rest assured that every effort in
my power shall on all occasions be exerted for the due regula-
tions and support of government ; — particularly on this occasion
I shall use all the influence in my power to prevent and suppress
any riotous and unwarrantable proceedings in the people ; and
I have accordingly issued orders to several of the Colonels within
my Division to hold themselves in readiness in case they should
be wanted, which is more than probable will be the case, as the
people in general are grown very clamorous, and have not pa-
tience to wait for a regular redress of their real or supposed griev-
ances. I am, sir, with all due respect, your Excellency's most
obedient and very humble servant. JONATHAN Waenee.

" His Excellency, J. Bowdoin, Esq." ^

This letter was soon followed by another : —

" May it please your Excellency. Agreeably to what I wrote
you in my last, I exerted myself to have the militia in as good a
state of readiness as was possible, for the support of government.
But notwithstanding the most pressing orders for them to turn
out and to appear at Woi'cester, equipped as the law directs,
there did appear universally that reluctance in the people to turn
out for the support of government as amounted in many instances
to a flat denial ; in others, in an evasion or delay ,^ which
amounted to the same thing ; — that finally the insurrections of
the people for the purpose of stopping the Court were not to be
resisted by all the efforts of government. This statement of the

1 Mass. Archwes, cxc. 228. regiment which incliuled Ilardwick,

2 Ibid., cxc. 229. promptly responded to this and suhse-
^ Colonel 'I'imothy Paige, Lieutenant qucnt similar calls ; hut probably with a

Colonel John Cutler, Major Joseph Jones, very small force of militia.
and Adjutant Jamea Lawton, of the


affair at Worcester, however painful and disagreeable to relate,
is the phiin truth ; and I can only leave it with the superior wis-
dom and discretion of your Excellency and the honorable Council
to determine what shall be most expedient to be done at this un-
happy crisis. I have the honor to be, with all due respects, your

Online LibraryLucius R. (Lucius Robinson) PaigeHistory of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register → online text (page 14 of 73)