The Road to Revolution: Worcester’s Resolve against the British Absentees and Refugees Acts
Crown Passes Law to Seize Estates and Property of Massachusetts Citizens
The following votes were passed by the citizens of Worcester, May 19, 1783, and contain the substance of their doings relative to the refugees:
Voted, — That in the opinion of this town, it would be extremely dangerous to the peace, happiness, liberty and safety of these states, to suffer those who, the moment the bloody banners were displayed, abandoned their native land, turned parricides, and conspired to involve their country in tumult, ruin and blood, to become subjects of and reside in this government; that it would be not only dangerous, but inconsistent with justice, policy, our past laws, the public faith, and the principles of a free and independent state, to admit them ourselves, or have them forced upon us without our consent.
Voted, — That in the opinion of this town, this commonwealth ought, with the utmost caution, to naturalize or in any other way admit as subjects a common enemy, a set of people who have been by the united voice of the continent, declared outlaws, exiles, aliens and enemies, dangerous to its political being and happiness.
Voted, — That while there are thousands of the innocent, peaceable and defenseless inhabitants of these states, whose property has been destroyed and taken from them in the course of the war, for whom no pro vision is made, to whom there is no restoration of estates, no compensation for losses; that it would be unreasonable, cruel and unjust, to suffer those who were the wicked occasion of those losses, to obtain a restitution of the estates they refused to protect, and which they abandoned and forfeited to their country.
Voted, — That it is the expectation of this town, and the earnest re quest of their committees of correspondence, inspection and safety, that they, with care and diligence, will observe the movements of our only remaining enemies; that until the further order of government, they will, with decision, spirit and firmness, endeavor to enforce and carry into execution the several laws of this commonwealth, respecting these enemies to our rights, and the rights of mankind; give information should they know of any obtruding themselves into any part of this state, suffer none to remain in this town, but cause to be confined immediately, for the purpose of transportation according to law, any that may presume to enter it.
British Pass Law to Seize the Land and Property of Rebellious Citizens
An Act to confiscate the estates of certain notorious conspirators against the government and liberties of the inhabitants of the late province, now state, of Massachusetts Bay.
Whereas the several persons hereinafter mentioned, have wickedly conspired to overthrow and destroy the constitution and government of the late province of Massachusetts Bay, as established by the charter agreed upon by and between their late majesties William and Mary, late King and Queen of England, etc., and the inhabitants of said province, now state, of Massachusetts Bay; and also to reduce the said inhabitants under the absolute power and domination of the present king, and of the parliament of Great Britain, and, as far as in them lay, have aided and assisted the same king and parliament in their endeavors to establish a despotic government over the said inhabitants:
Sect. i. Be it enacted by the Council and House of Representatives, in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, that Francis Bernard, baronet, Thomas Hutchinson, Esq., late governor of the late province, now state, of Massachusetts Bay, Thomas Oliver, Esq., rate lieutenant governor, Harrison Grey, Esq., late treasurer, Thomas Flucker, Esq., late secretary, Peter Oliver, Esq., late chief justice, Foster Hutchinson, John Erving, jr., George Erving, William Pepperell, baronet, James Boutineau, Joshua Loring, Nathaniel Hatch, William Browne, Richard Lechmere, Josiah Edson, Nathaniel Rae Thomas, Timothy Ruggles, John Murray, Abijah Willard, and Daniel Leonard, Esqs., late mandamus counselors of said late province, William Burch, Henry Hulton, Charles Paxon, and Benjamin Halloweli, Esqs., late commissioners of the customs, Robert Auchmuty, Esq., late judge of the vice-admiralty court, Jonathan Sewall, Esq., late attorney general, Samuel Quincy, Esq., late solicitor general, Samuel Fitch, Esq., solicitor or counselor at law to the board of commissioners, have justly incurred the forfeiture of all their property, rights and liberties, holden under and de rived from the government and laws of this state; and that each and every of the persons aforenamed and described, shall be held, taken, deemed and adjudged to have renounced and lost all civil and political relation to this and the other United States of America, and be considered as aliens.
Sect. 2. Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that all the goods and chattels, rights and credits, lands, tenements, and hereditaments of every kind, of which any of the persons herein before named and described, were seized or possessed, or were entitled to possess, hold, enjoy, or demand, in their own right, or which any other person stood or doth stand seized or possessed of, or are or were entitled to have or demand to and for their use, benefit and behoove, shall escheat, ensure and accrue to the sole use and benefit of the government and people of this state, and are accordingly hereby declared so to escheat, entire and accrue, and the said government and people shall be taken, deemed and adjudged, and are accordingly hereby declared to be in the real and actual possession of all such goods, chattels, rights and credits, lands, tenements and here claimants, without further inquiry, adjudication or determination hereafter to be had: anything in the act, entitled, “An act for confiscating the effects of certain persons commonly called absentees,” or any other law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding; provided always, that the escheat shall not be construed to extend to or operate upon, any goods, chattels, rights, credits, lands, tenements or hereditaments, of which the persons afore named and described, or some other, in their right and to their use, have not been seized or possessed, or entitled to be seized or possessed, or to have or demand as aforesaid, since the nineteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five.—[Passed April 30, 1779. Not revised.]
British Law to Seize Property of Supporters of the American Revolution
An Act for confiscating the estates of certain persons commonly called absentees.
Whereas every government hath a right to command the personal service of all its members, whenever the exigencies of the state shall require it, especially in times of an impending or actual invasion, no member thereof can then withdraw himself from the jurisdiction of the government, and thereby deprive it of the benefit of his personal services, without justly incurring the forfeiture of all his property, rights and liberties, holden under and derived from that constitution of government, to the support of which he hath refused to afford his aid and assistance: and whereas the king of Great Britain did cause the parliament thereof to pass divers acts in direct violation of the fundamental rights of the people of this and of the other United States of America; particularly one certain act to vacate and annul the charter of this government, the great compact made and agreed upon between his royal predecessors and our ancestors; and one other act, declaring the people of said states to be out of his protection; and did also levy war against them, for the purpose of erecting and establishing an arbitrary and despotic government over them; whereupon it became the indispensable duty of all the people of said states forthwith to unite in defense of their common freedom, and by arms to oppose the fleets and armies of the said king; yet nevertheless, divers of the members of this and of the other United States of America, evilly disposed, or regardless of their duty towards their country, did withdraw themselves from this, and other of the said United States, into parts and places under the acknowledged authority and dominion of the said king of Great Britain, or into parts and places within the limits of the said states, but in the actual possession and under the power of the fleets or armies of the said king; thereby abandoning the liberties of their country, seeking the protection of the said king, and of his fleets or armies, and aiding or giving encouragement and countenance to their operations against the United States aforesaid:
Sect. i. Be it enacted by the Council and House of Representatives, in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, that every inhabitant and member of the late province, now state, of Massachusetts Bay, or of any other of the late provinces or colonies, now United States of America, who, since the nineteenth day of April, Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, hath levied war or conspired to levy war against the government and people of any of the said provinces or colonies, or United States; or who hath adhered to the said king of Great Britain, his fleets or armies, enemies of the said provinces or colonies or United States, or hath given to them aid or comfort; or who, since the said nineteenth day of April, Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, hath withdrawn, without the permission of the legislative or executive authority of this or some other of the said United States, from any of the said provinces or colonies, or United States, into parts and places under the acknowledged authority and dominion of the said king of Great Britain, or into any parts or places within the limits of any of the said provinces, colonies, or United States, being in the actual possession and under the power of the fleets or armies of the said king; or who, before the said nineteenth day of April, Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, and after the arrival of Thomas Gage, Esq., (late commander-in-chief of all his Britain flic Majesty’s forces in North America,) at Boston, the metropolis of this state, did withdraw from their usual places of habitation within this state, into the said town of Boston, with an intention to seek and obtain the protection of the said Thomas Gage and of the said forces, then and there being under his command: and who hath died in any of the said parts or places, or hath not returned into some one of the said United States, and been received as a subject thereof, and (if required) taken an oath of allegiance to such states, shall beheld, taken, deemed and adjudged to have freely renounced all civil and political relation to each and every of the said United States, and be considered as an alien.
Sect. 2. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that all the goods and chattels, rights and credits, lands, tenements, hereditaments of every kind, of which any of the persons herein before described were seized or possessed, or were entitled to possess, hold, enjoy or demand, in their own right, or which any other person stood or doth stand seized or possessed of, or are or were entitled to have or demand to an4 for their use, benefit and behoove, shall escheat, ensure and accrue to the sole use and benefit of the government and people of this state, are accordingly hereby declared so to escheat, ensure and accrue.— [Passed April 30, 1779. Not revised.]