Lucius R. (Lucius Robinson) Paige.

History of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register online

. (page 9 of 73)
Online LibraryLucius R. (Lucius Robinson) PaigeHistory of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register → online text (page 9 of 73)
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the smiles of heaven) our natural rights as Christians and sub-
jects will be fixed on such a sure basis as that all future attempts
to invade or destroy them, will prove entirely fruitless and abor-
tive."

These instructions, probably drawn up by Ebenezer Washburn
the village school-master and poet (one of the committee), though
not very concise, nor wholly grammatical, with some circumlocu-
tion and repetitions, clearly enough express two ideas, which wei'e,
pi'obably, uppermost in the minds of the inhabitants : (1.) Loy-
alty to the King, notwithstanding their dissatisfaction with tlie
proceedings of the Parliament, — even as American citizens now
preserve sincere loyalty to the country, however much they may
disapprove the proceedings of the dominant majority in Congress
for the time being ; and hence they still desired a reconciliation,
and a permanent union with the mother countr^^ on just and hon-
orable terms; and (2.) a determination to unite Avith the other
towns in the Province in resisting the parliamentary encroach-
ments on their rights and privileges, in the most effectual manner.
Although no distinct refei'ence is made to resistance by force of
arms, it is clearly enough implied."



In August, 1774, Brigadier Ruggles took his final leave of this
town, for whose matei-ial prosperity he had labored so earnestl}^
and successfully during the last twenty years, and Avhose politi-
cal guide and leader he had been acknowledged until recently.



CIVIL HISTORY. 73

Altliough he had now forfeited the favoi- of the Sons of Liberty,
by opposing their revolutionary proceedings, he had secured and
retained the approbation of the King by his loyalty. He was
this year designated as one of the thirty-six members of the Coun-
cil, appointed by mandamus, for the government of the Province
(of whom twelve declined the office, and nine soon resigned), and
was one of the fifteen who did not shrink from the responsibility
of the difficult and hazardous position, and was sworn into office
August 16, 1774.

It was the current tradition among his contemporaries, that
when he left Hardwick to take his seat in the Mandamus Coun-
cil, a multitude assembled at the bridge, near the old Furnace,
to prevent him from crossing. His brother. Captain Benjamin
Ruggles, was a leader and the chief speaker. After using other
persuasions and expostulations in vain, Benjamin, with much
solemnity, assured liis brother, that if he persisted in proceeding
to Boston, he would never be permitted to return. The Briga-
dier's warlike spirit was roused. "Brother Benjamin," said he,
"I shall come back, — at the head of five hundred soldiers, if
necessary." " Brother Timothy," was the reply, " if you cross
that bridge, this morning, you will certainly never cross it again —
alive." The General waved his hand, and proceeded at a delib-
erate pace ; the crowd gave way, and he crossed the bridge, —
and crossed it for the last time. He never returned ; and the
two brothers saw each other no more in this world.

I anticipate the order of events a few months, to close my
account of Brigadier Ruggles' connection with the revolutionary
contest, so far as it had any immediate reference to Hardwick.
At the last session of the first Provincial Congress, in Cambridge,
December 10, 1774, " the committee appointed to take into con-
sideration the letter and papers enclosed, received from the com-
mittee of correspondence of the town of Hardwick, reported;
which was read and accepted, and ordered to be published in tlie
public papers, and also the papers on which the said report is
founded. The report is as followeth, viz: — Whereas it appears
to this Congress, that one or more members of the lately appointed
unconstitutional council in this province, now residing in Boston,
has sent to the town of Hardwick a paper, purporting [to be] an
association to be entered into by those persons who falsely assume
the name of friends to government, calculated to counteract the
salutary designs of the,Continental and Provincial Congresses, to



74 HISTORY OF HARDWICK.

deceive the people into agi-eements contrarj^ to the welfare of this
country, and tending in its consequences to hinder an amicable
accommodation with our mother country, the sole end of these
Congresses, and the ardent wish of every friend to America: ^ it
is therefore recommended by this Congress, to the several com-
mittees of correspondence in this colony, that they give notice to
the Provincial Congress, that shall meet in this province on the
first day of February next, and the earliest notice to the public,
of all such combinations, and of the persons signing the same, if
any should be enticed thereto, that their names may be published
to the world, their persons treated with that neglect, and their
memories transmitted to posterity with that ignominy, which
such unnatural conduct must deserve." ^

The order of Congress, for the publication of these proceedings,
not having been immediately carried into effect. Brigadier Rug-
gles caused the " Association " to be published in the " Boston
Evening Post," December 26, 1774, with a prefatory letter : —

" To the Printer of the Boston News-Paper : As Messrs. Edes
and Gill, in their paper of Monday the 12"^ instant, were pleased
to acquaint the public that ' the Association sent by Brigadier
Ruggles, &c., to the town of Hai'dwicke, &c., together with his
Son's certificate thereof, and tlie resolves of the Provincial Con-
gress thereon, must be referred till their next,' I was so credulous
as to expect then to have seen their next paper adorned with the
form of an Association which would have done honor to it, and if
attended to and complied with by the good people of the prov-
ince, might have put it in the power of any one very easily to have
distinguished such loyal subjects to the King, as dare to assert
their rights to freedom, in all respects consistent with the laws of
the land, from such rebellious ones as, under the pretext of being
friends to liberty, are frequenth^ committing the most enormous
outrages upon the persons and properties of such of his Majestj'^'s
peaceable subjects who, for want of knowing wlio to call upon
(in these distracted times) for assistance, fall into the hands of
a banditti, whose cruelties surpass those of savages : — But lind-

1 Tlie members of tlie Congress pro- gunpowder, and fireiirhis, and the pay-
fesscd a desire for a peaceful close of ment of all taxes to a treasurer appointed
the existing controversy, notwithstand- by tiiemselvcs. See their ./o'/cho/, jip. 45-
ing they had made pre))arations for forci- 64. The town of Hardwick expressed the
ble resistance by recoinmemiing a new same sentiments, and promptly adopted
organization of the militia under trust- the measures recommended by the Con-
worthy officers, the enlisting of minute- gress.

men, the procuring of arms and am- 2 Journals of each Provincial Congress,

munition, the manufacture of saltpetre, pp. 68, 69. *



CIVIL HISTORY. 75

ing my mistake, now take the liberty to send copies to your sev-
eral offices, to be published in your next papers, that so the public
may be made more acquainted therewith than at present, and be
induced to associate for the above purposes. And as many of the
people for some time past have been arming themselves, it may
not be amiss to let them know that their numbers will not appear
in the field so large as was imagined, before it was known that
independency was the object in contemplation ; since which, many
have associated in divers parts of the province, to preserve their
freedom and support Government; and as it may become neces-
sary in a very short time to give convincing proof of our attach-
ment to Government, we shall be much wanting to ourselves if
we longer trample upon that patience which has already endured
to long-suffering, and may, if this opportunity be neglected, have
a tendency to ripen many for destruction who have not yefc been
guilty of an overt act of rebellion, which would be an event dia-
metrically opposite to the humane and benevolent intention of
him, whose abused patience cannot endure forever, and who hath
already by his prudent conduct evidenced the most tender regard
for a deluded people. TiiMOTHY RuGGLES.

" Boston, 22^1 Dec. 1774."

" THE ASSOCIATION.

" We the subscribers being fully sensible of the blessings of
good Government on the one hand, and convinced on the other
hand of the evils and calamities attending on Tyranny in all
shapes, whether exercised by one or many, and having of late
seen with great grief and concern the distressing effects of a
dissolution of all Government, whereby our Lives, Liberties, and
Properties are rendered precarious, and no longer under the
Protection of the Law ; and apprehending it to be our indis-
pensable duty, to use all Lawful means in our power, for the
defence of our Persons and Propertj^ against all riotous, and
lawless violence, and to recover, and secure the advantages which
we are intituled to, from the good and wholsome Laws of the
Government ; Do hereby associate and mutually covenant, and
engage to and with each other as follows. Namely

" 1st. That we will upon all occasions, with our Lives, and
Fortunes, stand by and assist each other, in the defence of his
Life, Liberty, and Property, whenever the same shall be attacked,
or endangered by any Bodies of Men, riotously assembled, upon
any pretence, or under any authority, not warranted by the Laws
of the Land.



76 HISTORY OF HARDWICK.

" 2ndl3% That we will upon all occasions, mutually support
each other in the free exercise, and enjoyment of our undoubted
right to Liberty, in eating, drinking, buying, selling, commun-
ing, and acting, what, and with whom, and as we please, con-
sistent with the Laws of God, and the King.

" odly. That we will not acknowledge, or submit to the pre-
tended authority of any Congresses, Committees of Correspon-
dence, or other unconstitutional Assemblies of Men ; but will
at the risque of our Lives, if need be, oppose the forceable exercise
of all such authority.

" 4tlily. That we will to the utmost of our Power, promote,
encourage, and when called to it, enforce obedience to the right-
full Authority of our most Gracious Sovereign King George the
third, and of his Laws.

" 5thly. That when the Person or Property of any one of us
shall be invaded or thi'eatened by any Committees, mobs, or un-
lawful Assemblies, the others of us will upon notice received
forthwith repair, properly armed, to the Person on whom, or
place where such invasion or threatening shall be, and will to the
utmost of our Power, defend such Person and his Property, and
if need be, will oppose and repel force with force.

"6thly. That if any one of us shall unjustly and unlawfully
be injured in his Person or Property, by any such Assemblies as
before-mentioned, the others of us will unitedly demand, and if
in our Power compel the Offenders, if known, to make full repar-
ation and satisfaction for such injury ; and if all other Means of
Security fail, we will have recourse to the natural Law of Re-
taliation.

*' In witness of all which we hereto subscribe our Names this
day of

In a letter written by Lord Percy, at Boston, in October, 1774,
a copy of which is in possession of Rev. Edward G. Porter, of
Lexington, it is stated that a body of " Loyal American Asso-
ciates " had been organized for the defence of the Government,
of which " Brig. Hon. Timothy Ruggles " was " Commandant,"
and Abijali Willard, James Putnam, and Francis Green were
captains ; but it does not appear that they were ever called into
service. It has been said that after hostilities commenced, and
the British army evacuated Boston, Brigadier Ruggles went to
New York, and served in the army ; but I have not seen any
satisfactory proof that he ever bore arms against his country.



CIVIL HISTORY. 77

On the contrary, the uniform tradition among his relatives and
townsmen, while his contemporaries were still living, was, that
he utterly refused to take an active part in the conflict of arms,
on the one side or the other. He had eaten the King's bread,
and he would not lift up his heel against him ; he had repeatedly
sworn allegiance, and he would not violate his oath. And just as
firmly he refused to aid in the effort to crush his kindred and his
fellow countrymen by brute force. He retired to Nova Scotia,
and devoted himself to agriculture on a tract of land granted to
him in consideration of his services and his losses.

It may be added, that he was highly distinguished in an act,
passed in September 1778, forbidding the return of refugees,
providing that if any such should return they should be forth-
with sent out of the jurisdiction, and if they returned a second
time without permission, they should " suffer the pains of death
without benefit of clei'gy." The preamble of the act commences
thus : " Whereas, Thomas Hutchinson, Esq., late governor of
this state, Francis Bernard, Esq., formerly governor of this state;
Thomas Oliver, Esq., late lieutenant-governor of this state,
Timothy Ruggles, of Hardwick, in the county of Worcester,
Esq." Then follow the names of more than three hundi-ed
persons, arranged alphabetically in the several counties and
towns, including the late Secretary and Treasurer, the Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court and other Judges, members of the
Mandamus Council, and at least one Baronet, Sir Winiam Pep-
perell. Brigadier Ruggles alone was selected from the mass of
offenders, and associated with the former governors and lieu-
tenant-governor, as the most conspicuous group. He deserved
this distinction, for he was confessedly their most powerful sup-
porter for several years before their government was overturned
and terminated.^

1 Even the most stalwart Sons of sion on the members. Otis rose after
Libert}' sometimes quailed before him, him, and with the fullest tone and most
and shrunk from a contest in debate, impassioned manner, that seemed to ar-
Tudor mentions an instance of this kind, rest the very breathing of the House, be-
in his life of the younger Otis. At the gan : * Mr. Speaker, the liberty of tiiis
session of the House, in Cambridge, country is gone forever ! and I'll go after
May, 1769, by adjournment from Boston it ! ' He immediately turned around and
(where cannon had been placed in front walked out of the chamber." Life of
of the State House), " on some question James Otis, Jr., p. 356.
in dispute between the Legislature and In the same connection it may be added
the Governor, Brigadier IJuggles, the that the following paragraph in the
staunch friend of the latter, had delivered Boston Chronicle, October 10, 1768, prob-
a very powerful and ingenious argument, abl}' refers to Brigadier Ruggles. In
wliich seemed to make a strong impres- reference to the report that Governor



78



HISTORY OF IIARDWICK.



While he remained in Hardwick, General Ruggles contributed
more than any other person to the agricultural prosperity of the
town, by improved methods of tillage, the introduction of choice
breeds of cattle and horses, and the culture of engrafted fruits. ^
In the performance of his various public duties, he reflected honor
on his constituents. As colonel and as brigadier-general in the
French War, as representative and as speaker of the House, as
president of the Congress at New York, and as chief justice of
the Court of Common Pleas, he was equal to his position and
adorned it.^ He closed his long and eventful life at Wilmot,
near Annapolis, N. S., August 4, 1795, aged nearly 84 years,
leaving behind him the well-earned reputation of loyalty to his
king, love of his country, and strict honor, faithfulness, skill, and
energy in the performance of every duty incumbent on him.

To this estimate of his character I do not recollect to have
seen any objection until recently. But a respectable writer in



Bernard might be appointed Governor of
Virginia, tlie writer says: "If his Ex-
cellency accepts of the above offer, it is
said his Honor the Lieut. Governor will
be appointed to succeed him ; and that a
certain Honourable gentleman, a Briga-
dier of the Colony Troops in the late war,
during which he distinguished himself,
and who is equally esteemed for his pro-
bity and firmness, will succeed the Lieut.
Governor."

^ After his removal to Nova Scotia, he
seems to have abandoned politics and to
have devoted himself entirely to agricul-
ture. In an obituary notice, published in
a Halifax newspaper immediately after
his death, it is said that " At the conclu-
sion of the hue war, General Ruggles
came to this Province, and with a dtgree
of philosophy rarely to be met with at the
age of 74 [his age was 64 in 1775] sat
himself down in the wilderness, and began
to cultivate a new farm, which he carried
on with wonderful perseverance and suc-
cess. The idea that his advanced age
would not admit him to reap the fruit of
his labor never damped the spirit of im-
provement by which he was in a most em-
inent degree actuated ; and the district of
country in which he lived will long feel
the benefits resulting from the liberal ex-
ertions he made to advance the agricultu-
ral interests of the Province. It may not
be without its use to remark that for



much the greatest part of his life General
Ruggles ate no animal food, and drank
no spirituous or fermented liquors, small
beer excepted ; and that he enjoyed to
his advanced age almost uninterrupted
health."

2 In person, General Ruggles is said to
have been somewhat more tlian six feet in
height, and well proportioned. When ar-
rayed in the costume then fashionable,
surmounted by the formidable wig and
cocked hat, his aspect must have been im-
posing and majestic. And in manner he
was equally dignified. President Adams
(who was his kinsman), in contrasting
him with Gridley, the Attorney General,
in 1759, says, "Rugbies' grandeur con-
sists in the quickness of his apprehension,
the steadiness of his attention, the bold-
ness and strength of his thoughts and
expressions, his strict honor, conscious su-
periority, contempt of meanness, &c. Peo-
ple approach him with dread and terror.
Gridley's grandeur consists in his great
learning, his great parts, and his majestic
manner; but it is diminished by stiffness
and artl'ctation. Ruggles is as proud, as
lordly as Gridley, but he is more jmpular;
he conceals it more ; he times it better ;
and it is easy and natural in him, but is
stiff and afiected in Gridley. It is an ad-
vantage to Ruggles' character, but a dis-
advantage to Gridley's." Life and Works,
ii. 67.



CIVIL HISTORY. 79

the " History of Worcester County," publislied in 1879, while he
bears frank testimony that " though living in style, he was tem-
perate in his habits, prudent and sagacious in the management of
his affairs, and capable of filling any position to which he might
be raised," yet on the same page, speaking of the ill-fated daugh-
ter, Mrs. Spooner, he makes the astonishing statement, that " the
father, with all his talents and public spirit, was a man of low
moral principle, and it is believed that he set his children an ex-
ample of conjugal infidelity." ^ I doubt not that this writer " be-
lieved " his statement to be true ; but to me it is utterly incred-
ible. I was born, and resided for the first twenty-four years of
my life, within a few rods of Brigadier Ruggles' homestead ; and
during that period I often heard his character discussed by his
townsmen who had personally known him, and had opposed him
politically. I have also read much concerning him in contempo-
rary newspapers, and in authentic history. I have heard and I
have read most bitter denunciations of his political opinions and
conduct. But never, until now, have I known him to be charac-
terized as a " man of low moral principle." And as to his domes-
tic relations, although an unhappy incompatibility of temper was
notorious, and was the subject of free conversation among those
who personally knew the parties, I do not remember to have
heard the slightest suspicion of "conjugal infidelity " on the part
of either husband or wife. On the contrary, there are unmistak-
able indications that his townsmen had full confidence in his high
" moral principle," and in the general uprightness of his conduct.
Equally destitute of truth, I am confident, are the stories which
have been current concerning the outrageous conduct of his towns-
men. I have seen no evidence that they ever treated him with
personal disrespect, or maimed his cattle, or wantonly destroyed
his property. Mob law was never countenanced in Hardwick.

Before taking final leave of this eminent citizen, the insertion
of a few anecdotes, illustrative of his grim humor and plainness of
speech, may be pardoned.

It is related that while he was a young. lawyer an old woman
entered the court-house, at recess, and desired a seat. Ruggles
gravely pointed to the judges' bench, which she gladly accepted.
When the Court came in and sternly questioned him, he replied
that he considered the seat to be very convenient for old women.

Under the Provincial Charter, " the General Sessions of the
^ Uist, Worcester County, i. 56.



80 HISTORY OF HARD WICK.

Peace was composed of all the justices within the county, who
commonly attended and decided the matters presented for ad-
judication by vote. . . . General Ruggles, the Chief Justice, in
stern derision of the constitution of this Court, on one occasion,
reprimanded a dog who had taken his seat beside his master,
for appearing on the bench befoi'e he had been qualified as a Jus-
tice of the Peace, and directed him to go and be sworn before he
came to vote there." ^

The famous bull story rests on a slight foundation. That a
bull chased the Brigadier into his house, and was there shot
^fter having demolished a valuable looking-glass, is probably
true ; but the remainder of this oft-told tale is so utterly incon-
sistent with the Brigadier's high sense of honor, that it may
without hesitation be pronounced apocryphal and unworthy of
repetition.

Other anecdotes have been preserved by tradition, which I do
not recollect to have seen in print. Among these may be men-
tioned that which describes one of his boyish pranks while he
was a student in Harvard College. A sign had been removed
from some store or tavern, and conveyed to his room, by him or
by some of his associates. Search was made for it in the even-
ing, but the door was bolted, and the sign was placed on the fire.
When the footsteps of the tutors were heard approaching, Ruggles
began to pray, very audibl)', and in his prayer repeated the
lancjuase found in ]\Iatthew xvi. 4 : "A wicked and adulterous
generation seeketh after a sign ; and there shall no sign be given
unto it but the sign of the prophet Jonas." In due time the
sign was consumed, the praj^er ceased, and the door was opened
to admit those who had scrupulously abstained from interrupting
the devotions of the students.

The account of another youthful extravagance indicates that
some of the son's facetiousness was inherited from the father.
Having purchased a horse, and agreed to pay for it on the next
Election day, he wrote a promissory note, in which, instead of
Election day, he inserted the words Resurrection day. When
Election day arrived and payment was demanded, he insisted
that the note had not yet matured, and called for the reading of
it ; he would pay when it became due. The father, overhearing
the conversation, exclaimed, " Timothy, if you owe that man
anything, pay him. You will have enough else to attend to at
the Resurrection, besides paying for old horses."
1 Lincoln's Ilist. Worcester, p. 59.



CIVIL HISTORY. 81

There is yet finother horse story : The father, Rev. Timothy
Ruggles, had a favorite horse which became sick. The son was
requested to give his opinion in the case. After due examination,
he said, " The difficulty is plain enough, father ; the horse has
the same disease which troubles the larger portion of your parish ;
he has been very severely priest-ridden."

Two military anecdotes must close this list, already perhaps
too long.

Before the attack on Ticonderoga, in 1758, Brigadier Ruggles
earnestly objected to the order of battle proposed by General
Abercrombie, and suggested another, which involved much
greater personal hazard to himself. Abercrombie, however, with
true English obstinacy, persisted in his own plan, and was re-
pulsed with disastrous loss. When they met, on the next morn-



Online LibraryLucius R. (Lucius Robinson) PaigeHistory of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register → online text (page 9 of 73)