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Revolutionary War
1781. Printed Act of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, four pages, 7.5" x 12.5", front and verso. [Boston], June 22, 1781. Begins "Whereas the supplies of beef hitherto made by the several towns and plantations in this Commonwealth, for the purpose of [furnishing our army] with that [article], are found to be insufficient; and without a further punctual and adequate supply, our brethren who are now hazarding their lives for our defence, must soon be obliged to quit the field, and leave the country to the merciless ravages of our enemies. And whereas the Commander in Chief of the army hath represented, in the most pressing terms, the necessity of an immediate supply of provisions, to enable him to carry on the operations of the present campaign with vigour, and, by the blessing of Heaven, with success." The House of Representatives then resolved, and the Senate concurred "That the inhabitants of the several towns and plantations in this Commonwealth be, and are hereby required, to furnish the quantity of live beef, including hides and tallow, set to such towns and plantations respectively, as is in the schedule hereunto annexed, or such sums of money as in the judgement of the superintendent shall enable him to purchase the same..."

The listing of Massachusetts towns and plantations, arranged by counties, begins in the lower portion of the second page and fills the third and fourth pages where it is signed in type at the conclusion by the Speaker of the House, Nathaniel Gorham, the President of the Senate, Samuel Adams, and the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, John Hancock. The weight of the beef required is listed next to each town. Included is a timetable requiring one-sixth of the town's quota to be delivered monthly beginning on or before July 10th, ending on December 10th. "Willmington" (sic) is penned in the upper left margin of the first page of this document and, after the listing of "Wilmington" on the third page, the words "is Wtt 602½ pr month" have been added in ink. The quantity of beef listed next to "Wilmington" is 3614; six beef deliveries of 602½ each amounts to 3615. This copy was undoubtedly the one sent to Wilmington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, about 18 miles northwest of Boston.Six weeks earlier, in a "Circular to the New England States" sent to the Governors, dated from Head Quarters, New Windsor, New York, May 10, 1781, the Commander in Chief, George Washington, wrote, in part, "Major General Heath...is prevailed upon to proceed to the several Eastern States, to represent the present distresses of the Army for want of provision, and the consequences which must inevitably ensue, unless a more regular system, and more vigorous measures for affording supplies are speedily adopted. From the Post of Saratoga to that of Dobbs Ferry inclusive, I believe there is not (by the Returns and Reports I have received) at this moment, one day's supply of Meat on hand. Our whole dependence for this Article is on the Eastern States: their resources of it, I am persuaded are ample, to request and urge that they may be drawn forth regularly, and to be informed with precision and certainty what may absolutely be depended upon thro' the Campaign, are the object of this application. I have already made representations to the States of the want of Provisions, the distress of the Army, and the innumerable embarrassments we have suffered in consequence, not merely once or twice, but have reiterated them over and over again. I have struggled to the utmost of my ability, to keep the Army together; but all will be in vain, without the effectual assistance of the States. I have now only to repeat the alternative, which has been so often urged: that Supplies, particularly of Beef Cattle must be speedily and regularly provided, or our Posts cannot be maintained or the Army kept in the Field much longer." 

Four months after this act was passed, on October 19, 1781, British General Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington at Yorktown, Virginia, and, while the Treaty of Paris ending the war was not signed until 1783, the Revolutionary War was, in effect, over.Two old horizontal folds obliterate four of the words in the opening paragraph as noted above. There are other folds and the edges are chipped with small tears affecting five town names and five beef quotas. Paper and glassine are along the spine edge of the fourth page where this printing had undoubtedly been affixed to an album page. Paper a bit toned. Overall, in good condition. Evans 17221.

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Last Found On: 2017-11-22           Check availability:      Biblio    

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