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reported accordingly. The committees of safety and correspondence in towns, were usually constituted of the most influential citizens, whose number and character were sure to carry respect. In 1777, this committee here, consisted of Col. Joseph Henshaw, John Fletcher, Benjamin Richardson, James Baldwin, Jr., Isaac Green, Phinehas Newhall, and William Henshaw, and in subsequent years was enlarged in numbers.
lo 1776, the inhabitants of this town opposed the attempt made by the legislature, to have the people form a constitution of government, because so many, whose voice should be heard in so important a question, were then absent in the service of their country. But when the proposal was made in 1779, they unanimously voted to iostruct their representative to vote for a convention to form such a constitution. Seth Washburn and William Henshaw were the delegates in that convention from Leicester. When the constitution was presented to the people for their acceptance, the inhabitants of this town, at a meeting, held Jupe 1, 1780, acted upon each of its articles separately, and adopted them almost unanimously, except the 3d article in the Bill of Rights, and some modification of one or two other articles, and voted, that if these corrections could not be effected, to accept of the same as it was presented to them, and directed their delegates to act accordingly. Col. Seth Washburn was chosen the first representative under the Constitution, and the votes for Governor, at the first election, were, 69 for John Hancock, 2 for James Bowdoin, and 1 for James Sullivan.
From the peace of 1783 till the commencement of the difficulties in 1786, nothing of particular interest occurred, deserving a place here. The town partook of the excitement of that period, and in the year 1786, chose their delegates to represent them in a county convention, to whom they detailed the grievances which they wisbed to have remedied. The convention sat in this town, and the delegates chosen were David Henshaw, Esq. and the late Col. Thomas Denny. They were both decided friends of the government, and possessed firmness of character together with great acuteness; and when, at length, the convention met, they so disconcerted the measures of those unfriendly to the government, that, after an ineffectual attempt to carry them through, the convention rose, and their meeting was dissolved without having effected any thing. The town also instructed their representative at the General Court, upon the subject of the real grievances under which
they were suffering, and which they wished to have redressed, but charged him by no means to agree to any change in the constitution of government. They had ever been opposed to the " tender act," as unconstitutional, and they now directed their representative to oppose its passing, when it should be acted upon by the legislature. This direct interference of the people with the State legislation, by means of instructions to their representatives, baving been long discontinued, it is rather a subject of curiosity, in reading them now, to see how many of the general topics that would be likely to come under the notice of the legislature, were embraced within their scope. If representatives held themselves bound by their instructions, there was hardly a subject of interest that could arise, upon which they were not ready to act at once.
This was literally the government of the people. The town were as prompt in acting upon subjects affecting the whole nation, as upon those of local interest alone. And when the subject of the confederacy of the colonies, in 1778, was proposed to them, they unanimously approved of the measure, and directed their representative "to aid it by all that lay in his power.” Indeed, there was a surprising unanimity in all their proceedings during this dark and portentous era of our history. They were, undoubtedly, influenced in their measures by a few patriotic, public spirited men, who had most ardently engaged in the cause of liberty, and who had, withal, judgment and sagacity enough to guide the whirlwind and direct the storm” of public feeling, so as to secure the independence of the country and the good of posterity. Some of these we have already named, but we are conscious that we cannot do them justice. The private histories of those men, and the anecdotes connected with them, illustrative of their characters and the character of the times in which they lived, have been forgotten, and but little can now be recalled. Those were days in which the individual character of every man was known and tčied. A man must be for or against the existing government. In 1778, a list of every man in town, of the age of 21 years, and upwards, was made out, and each one called upon to take the oath of allegiance to the State, and those who should refuse were to be reported to the town. But, we believe, few, if any, had the hardihood to refuse to take the oath at that stage of the war. They would hardly have risqued the danger of popular power, when the people was the only power to which they could have appealed for protection against the sanction of such a call.
* who were
In the year 1787, the troubles by which the State had been distracted, had, in a slight degree, subsided, and so many of their own population, as well as of the inhabitants of almost every town, bad been ipvolved in that disastrous train of events, known as the
Shays war,” that the town instructed their representative to vote for the pardon of the insurgents, and to endeavor to redress the grievances under which the people labored; among which they reckoned the unequal tax upon real and personal estate, the tax on polls, and the undue influence of Boston on the legislature, so long as it should continue to meet there.
Several persons were involved in that unhappy insurrection, whose names have either been forgotten, or we suppress them, from charity to their memories. Their efforts here, were always thwarted by the firmness of the “government men, unwearied in their efforts to quell the spirit of rebellion. Many anecdotes are told of the firmness of the friends of the government under circumstances the most trying and alarming. They showed no disposition to compromise the dignity and interests of the State. Early in the winter of 1786, which was a severe one, Day, one of the insurgent captains, having been towards Boston upon business connected with the rebellion, was returning through Leicester, on a very severe day, and immediately after a violent snow-storm that rendered the roads almost impassable. He was on horseback, and stopped at the dwelling house of Mr. Nathan Sargent, near the Worcester line, to warm him, and entered the house without ceremony. He laid his sword and hat upon a table, and taking a chair, observed that he was going to warm him. “ Not until I know who you are," said Mr. Sargent, who had silently witnessed his abrupt entrance and conduct, “for these are suspicious times, and I must know who I entertain.” Day, finding bim resolute, assumed as much dignity and importance as possible, and announced himself as “ Captain Day." Then get out of my house," said Mr. Sargent, and seizing bis hat and sword, threw them into a snow bank, and drove Day out after them, who swore that “ vengeance should light on him in less than a fortnight.”
A few persons, taking advantage of the popular excitement, during the time of the insurrection, were chosen to offices of profit and trust from the Insurgent party; but they almost invariably became satisfied of their error, as soon as, by intercourse with intelligent patriots, they saw the dangerous tendency of their measures. We cannot, at this day, realize the horrors of the civil war that then threatened, and, in many places, actually distracted the State. A house was literally divided agaiost itself. The sound of arms was heard in every village, and those who encountered each other in hostile array, were often of the same household, or the same social circle. Neither sex nor age were exempt from the angry passions that prompted these warlike preparations. The women were, if possible, more clamorous than the men, whenever they took part with the insurgents ; though we might record many honorable instances, where wives remained firm in their attachment to government, while their husbands were ready to go all lengths to shake off the wholesome restraints of that power.
It was customary, for the friends of government to wear a fillet of white paper in their hats, while the adherents of the opposite party adopted, as a badge of distinction, a sprig of evergreen. But, fortunately for the country, the evergreen, in the language of one in that day, soon withered; the arm of power scattered the insurgent forces, and the miserable and misguided adherents of Day, and Shays, and Wheeler, and Parsons were glad to sue for mercy to that power, which they had so lately risen up to crush. And their suit was not vain ; policy, as well as a predisposition to clemency, spared their lives, and they were suffered to return to their homes in peace, though very much to the chagrin and mortification of many, whose excited passions called for a sacrifice of expiation for the political sios of their adversaries.
The insurrection of 1786 is rather a matter of state history, than that of any particular town. Many are alive who took part with the forces sent out by the government to quell the rebellion, and though they encountered great bardships and fatigue, and, at times, no inconsiderable degree of danger, we doubt whether they would desire to be crowned with laurels, although they were conquerers, or wish us to publish their names to the world as soldiers, on account of their feats of arms in that contest with their misguided brethren. It is not so long since those events occurred, that they, or those engaged in them, are forgotten. Many remember the scenes of uproar and confusion, into which the hitherto peaceable dwellings of the citizens were then thrown, by being made the quarters for the soldiery; and they remember too, the anxiety they felt at the apprehended attacks from the exasperated insurgents. Those, however, whose reason returned as their passions subsided, became convinced of their follies and their criminality, and many of them became the firmest supporters of the government.
perhaps, have dwelt too long upon this subject, but our remarks, though general in their terms, apply so well to the state of this town for several years, that they may be considered as its history, unless we should go so mioutely into the investigation of the subject as to pame the actors in the scenes, which, for reasons we have offered, we forbear to do.
In 1787, the Federal Constitution was presented to the states for their approbation, and a convention of Delegates from the several towns in Massachusetts was called, to meet at Boston, on the secoad Wednesday of January, 1788, to act upon its adoption, and Colonel Samuel Denny was chosen the delegate from Leicester. The constitution having been accepted, an election of officers under it was had, and the votes in this town were, 38 for Hon. Mo. ses Gill for Representative in Congress, and 20 for Mr. Gill, and 19 for Gen. Artemas Ward, for elector of President.
We are now approaching, in chronological order, those events, that have too lately occurred, either to require, or justify, a detail of them. Indeed, no event connected with any important series, that we are aware of, has occurred, since the adoption of the Federal constitution, in this town. Events, however, to wbich no particular interest is attached now, may acquire importance at a future day, and their history be eagerly sought after. If we had foresight enough to distinguish these, we certainly would cheerfully record them here, if for no other reason than to save the future historian the many hour's labor of gathering them from the musty pages of a town record book. In 1794, minute men were raised, and a bounty paid them. But it was upon the ocean alone that our laurels were reaped in that war, and the “ Oxford Army" borrowed little lustre from the achievements of Truxton and his associates.
We happily live at a time when men can look back upon the days of party excitement and animosities, that disturbed the tranquillity of the country, with feelings, if not of regret, certainly of surprise, at their violence and long duration. It is not within the scope of our plan, even if our inclinations prompted it, to trace the rise of the two political parties, which, for nearly thirty years, divided the public opinion in the United States. This town had its share of this excitement, though the degree of acrimony fell far short of that in many.. They voted resolutions condemning the embargo, in 1808, and petitioning the President, (Jefferson) to take off the same. In 1812, they passed resolutions, condemning the then existing war with Great Britain, and chose a delegate to meet