Regulators of Springfield (1774)
Parson's Tavern, Springfield, as it appeared in 1902.
Springfield, Aug. 30th, 1774.
We arrived in town about noon this day and found all the people gathered before us. A committee from the body of the county had just waited upon the court to demand a satisfactory answer. That is, whether they meant to hold their commissions and exercise their authority according to the new act of parliament for altering the constitution of the province. Which being answered in the negative, it was put to vote after the said message and answer were read to the people assembled before the meeting house, whether they were willing the Court should sit. It passed in the negative.
Then the people paraded before Mr. Parsons’ [tavern], from thence marched back again to the meetinghouse and demanded the appearance of the judges. The judges came according to desire and amidst the crowd in a sandy, sultry place. Exposed to the sun as far as they were able in such circumstances, [they] gave a reasonable, to the major part a satisfactory answer to such questions as were asked. It was also demanded of them that they should make a declaration in writing, signed by all the justices and lawyers in the County, renouncing in the most express terms any commission which should be given out to them or either of them under the new arrangement; which was immediately compiled with and executed accordingly.
The People then reassembled before Mr. Parsons' house. Your uncle Catlin [Major Catlin of Deerfield, a noted loyalist] falling into a personal quarrel, at length gained the attention of the people. They considered him as an object worthy of their malice, as he was an officer of the court. He was treated with candor and too mildly to make any complaint. His boasted heroism failed him in the day of trial and vanished like a puff of smoke. He and O. Warner, who came to his assistance in the quarrel, made such declarations as were requested of them and then were dismissed unhurt and in peace. Your uncle may say what he pleases with regard to their abuse of him but I was an eyewitness to the whole and you, I believe, will be satisfied that no abuse was intended when I tell you what easy terms they requested and were satisfied with. Namely, only a declaration that he would not hold any office under the new act of parliament.
Col. Worthington was next brought upon the board. The sight of him flashed lightning from their eyes. Their spirits were already raised and the sight of this object gave them additional force. He had not refused his new office of counsellor. For that reason especially he was very obnoxious. But the people kept their tempers. He attempted to harangue them in mitigation of his conduct but he was soon obliged to desist. The people were not to be dallied with. Nothing would satisfy them but a renunciation in writing of his office as Counsellor and a recantation of his address Governor Gage, which last was likewise signed by Jonathan Bliss & Caleb Strong Junior.
Jonathan Bliss next came upon the floor. He was very humble and the people were very credulous. He asked their pardon for all he had said or done which was contrary to their opinions, and as he depended for his support upon the people, he begged to stand well in their favor. Mr. Moses Bliss was brought into the ring, but the accusation against him was not well supported and he passed off in silence. The Sheriff was the next who was demanded; he accordingly appeared. He was charged with saying some imprudent things but none of them were proved and he departed. But he was humbled. Col. Williams [Israel Williams of Hatfield, also a known loyalist] took the next turn. He went round the ring and vindicated himself from some accusations thrown upon him and denied some things that were laid to his charge. He declared in my hearing that although he had heretofore differed from the people in opinion with regard to the mode of obtaining redress, he would hereafter heartily acquiesce in any measures that they should take for that purpose and join with them in the common cause. He considered his interest as embarked in the same bottom [ship] with theirs and hoped to leave it in peace to his children.
Captain Merrick of Munson was next treated with for uttering imprudent expressions. I thought they would have tarred and feathered him and I thought he almost deserved it. He was very stubborn as long as he dare be, but at length he made some concessions. But not till after they had carted him. No man received the least injury, but the strictest order of justice were observed. The people to their honor behaved with the greatest order and regularity, a few individuals excepted, and avoided, as much as possible, confusion.
The people of each town being drawn into separate companies marched with staves and music. The trumpets sounding, drums beating, fifes playing, and colors flying struck the passions of the soul into a proper tone and inspired martial courage into each. I kept all the time amongst the people and observed their temper and dispositions, which I shall be better able to inform by word of mouth than otherwise.
Another incident I will relate and then I have done. Mr. Stearns by imprudent expressions raised their indignation. They marched in a body to Col. Worthington's and demanded him. Mrs. Worthington assured them he was not in the house but they were by no means satisfied. They entered the house. She was fright, delivered up all her keys, begged of them to accept of their property but spare their lives, and took her two youngest daughters in her arms and fled out into the fields. The people searched the house but not finding Stearns they returned peaceably.
The people will probably be condemned for preventing the sitting of the court but their conduct yet is commendable. I wait till morning, hope nothing will be transacted rashly tonight, for it is given out by the fearful that there is a number looking.
Source: Letter from Joseph Clarke, a Northampton lawyer, in James Russell Trumbull, History of Northampton. 346-8. https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_MBj-QYMKGXQC/page/345/mode/2up