RARE FEBRUARY 1776 MASSACHUSETTS BROADSIDE ORDERING EACH TOWN TO ESTABLISH A COMMITTEE OF CORRESPONDENCE, INSPECTION AND SAFETY “AT A TIME OF COMMON DANGER… FOR THE ESPECIAL BUSINESS OF ATTENDING TO THE POLITICAL AND GENERAL INTEREST OF THE COLONIES….”
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL COURT. In the House of Representatives, February 13, 1776. Whereas it appears to this Court, that it will be greatly conducive to the Safety and Welfare of this and the other Colonies, at a Time of common Danger, that a Committee be chosen in each Town, and one only for the especial Business of attending to the political and general Interest of the Colonies…. [Watertown, Massachusetts: Printed by Benjamin Eden], 1776. Broadside, measuring 13.5 by 8.5 inches, handsomely framed, entire piece measures 21 by 15 inches.
A rare February 13, 1776 broadside resolution issued by the Massachusetts General Court during the British occupation of Boston, ordering each town to elect a Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety for “the Safety and Welfare of this and the other Colonies, at a Time of common Danger… for the especial Business of attending to the political and general Interest of the Colonies.”
During the early years of the American Revolution, Massachusetts was the center of opposition to British colonial rule and the focus of Britain’s most oppressive economic policies and military actions. The war began in April 1775 at Lexington and Concord, after which the British occupied Boston until March 1776. The Massachusetts General Court (which included the Council and the House of Representatives) acted as the government of Massachusetts, and in this resolution, issued during the British occupation of Boston, the towns of Massachusetts were directed “to choose by written Votes of such as are qualified by Law to vote for Representatives, or in Town Affairs… as they shall think proper, whose Principles are known to be friendly to the Rights and Liberties of America, to serve as a Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety, for the Year then next ensuing…. whose Business shall be to communicate with Dispatch any Matters of Importance to the Public, that may come to their Knowledge, to the Committees of the same Denomination of any other Town, County or Colony, which it may particularly concern, or to the General Assembly of this Colony, or in their Recess, to the Council; and also to inspect whether there are any Inhabitants of, or Residents in their respective Towns, who violate the Association of the Continental Congress, or any other the Resolves, Directions or Recommendations of said Congress, or Acts or Resolves of the General Court, and preceeding Congresses of this Colony, respecting the present Struggle with Great-Britain….” It also orders that this resolution “be printed in Hand-Bills immediately, and sent to the several Towns in this Colony.” Committees of Correspondence “were of crucial importance” to the American Revolution, particularly in Massachusetts. By 1772, Samuel Adams had created a network of them throughout Massachusetts, and by February 1774, all of the colonies except Pennsylvania and North Carolina had instituted them as well. “Like an intelligence gathering agency, the committees in the separate colonies collected and disseminated information on British designs and activities. They also acted as propaganda machines, tirelessly broadcasting the warning that the imperial government plotted to curtail liberty in America…. The committees, as was Adams’s original intent, helped overcome the formidable barriers to interaction, those provincial instincts and habits that prevented colonies from marching together against the common threat.” (Ferling, A Leap in the Dark, 89-93)
“In Massachusetts, as affairs drew toward a crisis, it became usual for towns to appoint three committees of correspondence, of inspection, and of safety. The first was to keep the community informed of dangers cither legislative or executive, and concert measures of public good; the second to watch for violations of non-importation agreements, or attempts of loyalists to evade them; the third to act as general executive while the legal authority was in abeyance. In February 1776 these were regularly legalized by the General Court; but consolidated into one, called the "Committee of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety,” to be elected annually by the towns. This possessed all the powers of the other three, but in addition was empowered to notify the proper authorities of all violation of any of the acts, resolves, or recommendations of the legislature; also to send for persons and papers, call out the militia, take charge of confiscated property and prisoners of war, and carry out the laws against Tories” (Encyclopedia Americana). American Revolutionary broadsides, especially those printed during the crucial year of 1776, are extremely rare and desirable. “Only a small percentage of the total number of broadsides from the era of the American Revolution has survived… The revolutionary broadsides… contain some of our most precious insights into popular culture, because they were designed to reach society quickly, dramatically, and effectively…. Not only did the broadside faithfully record the events of the revolutionary era and the resulting formation of the independent United States, but as a cultural medium it also contributed significantly to the development of revolutionary sentiment in the period immediately prior to the Declaration of Independence” (Lowance and Bumgardner, Massachusetts Broadsides of the American Revolution, ix-x). Ford, Massachusetts Broadsides 1979. Bristol, Supplement B4260. Shipton & Mooney 43085. NAIP w034158. Only one copy of this broadside has appeared at auction in the last 30 years. Ford located only two copies of the broadside (at the American Antiquarian Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society), and the North American Imprints Program notes a total of only five examples in institutional collections.
Old folds with some wrinkling and small separations, contemporary ink notations in the lower right margin.