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Connecticut governor Trumbull boldly rejected British General Gage’s request for help, and sides with the Americans instead. Here, the secretary of the Connecticut legislature orders payment to Jonathan Jeffrey, who made copies of Gage’s and Trumbull’s letters regarding requests for aid after the “shot heard ‘round the world.” GEORGE WYLLYS.
Document Signed. Order issued to pay Jonathan Jeffrey. Hartford, Conn., May 13, 1775. Manuscript copy signed by George Wyllys upon examining and verifying the true copy. Also signed on verso by Jeffrey. 1 p., 7½ x 12 in.
The Colony of Connecticut-----------To Messrs Adams and Jeffrey--------------Dm
1775/May 13th—To Copying his Honor the Governor Letters to General Gage with his answer,, and the account of the Fight at Lexington, containing in the whole about four sheets of paper, close Writ}£1:0:0
Hartford May 1775/ Mr William Adams/Jno Jeffrey
In the lower house, /the above acct. allowed and the Treasurer of the Colony ordered to pay the Same/Just Rich Law Clerk
Concurred in the upper House/Just George Wylly’s Secret.ry
A true Copy as on file/Examined/By George Wyllys Secrt.y
[Endorsement]: Recd of Treasurer Lawrence the Contents/Jn.o Jeffrey
[Docketed]: No 1589/order/John Jeffrey/Dated May 1775/1:0:0/Audited May 13, 1776/EC
In the wake of the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, British General Thomas Gage wrote to Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull requesting assistance for the fight. On April 28, Trumbull wrote back, instead making it known that his state was in sympathy with their Massachusetts brethren and alarmed over British uses of force. “Your first arrival at Boston, with a body of his Majesty’s troops...have given the good people of this colony a very just and general alarm” Trumbull wrote. Moreover, the residents of his state were in a state of fear
“not only for their friends, but for themselves, and their dearest interests and connections...by the best intelligence that we have yet been able to obtain, the late transaction was a most unprovoked attack upon the lives and property of his Majesty’s subjects; and it is represented to us, that such outrages have been committed, as would disgrace even barbarians, and much more Britons, so highly famed for humanity as well as bravery. It is feared, therefore, that we are devoted to destruction, and that you have it in command and intention to ravage and desolate the country...” Trumbull to Gage, April 28, 1775.
On April 23, Dr. Joseph Warren also wrote to Trumbull, keeping him advised of the actions of the Provincial Congress meeting in Watertown, Massachusetts.
“General Gage has suddenly commenced hostilities,” Warren informed Trumbull,” “by a large body of troops under his command secretly detached in the night of the 18th instant, which on the morning ensuing had actually begun the slaughter of the innocent inhabitants in the very heart of the country...”
Warren noted that representatives from surrounding colonies were meeting to address the threat, Boston was shuttered, and they expected more British reinforcements any day. After “solemn deliberation and application to Heaven for direction,” the Provincial Congress resolved unanimously to raise an army from the New England colonies for the defense of life, property, and the “maintenance of the most invaluable rights of human nature.” To that end, Warren and the Provincial Congress sent the dispatch by express to Connecticut with their resolution to raise an army, and “earnestly to request your speediest concurrence, and such assistance in this most important cause as the present urgent necessity requires.”
Trumbull was the only sitting Royal governor to join the movement for independence. Considering the timing of the letters, the nearly simultaneous requests for help from both sides, and the gravity of siding with the colonists over the imperial power, it’s no surprise that Trumbull ordered secretaries to make copies of his correspondence with Gage.
George Wyllys (1710-1796) was secretary of the Colony, then State, of Connecticut for sixty years (1735-1795), during which he attended every session of the legislature. He was also town clerk of Hartford from 1730 until his death, became a captain of militia in 1738, and held a commission of lieutenant-colonel in the French and Indian War.
For Reference: Trumbull’s letter to Gage, April 28, 1775.
Copy of a Letter to his Excellency Gen. GAGE from the Hon. JONATHAN TRUMBULL, Esq; governor of his Majesty’s Colony of Connecticut, in behalf of the General Assembly of said Colony.
Hartford, April 28, 1775.
THE alarming situation of public affairs in this country, and the late unfortunate transactions in the province of the Massachusetts-Bay, have induced the General Assembly of this colony, now sitting in this place, to appoint a committee of their body to wait upon your Excellency, and to desire me, in their name, to write to you relative to these very interesting matters.
The inhabitants of this colony are intimately connected with the people of your province, and esteem themselves bound, by the strongest ties of friendship, as well as of common interest, to regard with attention whatever concerns them. You will not, therefore, be surprised, that your first arrival at Boston, with a body of his Majesty’s troops, for the declared purpose of carrying into execution certain acts of parliament, which, in their apprehension were unconstitutional and oppressive, should have given the good people of this colony a very just and general alarm; your subsequent proceedings, in fortifying the town of Boston, and other military preparations, greatly encreased their apprehensions for the safety of their friends and brethren. They could not be unconcerned spectators of their sufferings in that which they esteemed the common cause of this country: but the late hostile and secret inroads of some of the troops under your command, into the heart of the country, and the violences they have committed, have driven them almost into a state of desperation.
They fear now, not only for their friends, but for themselves, and their dearest interests and connections. We wish not to exaggerate; we are not sure of every part of our information; but, by the best intelligence that we have yet been able to obtain, the late transaction was a most unprovoked attack upon the lives and property of his Majesty’s subjects; and it is represented to us, that such outrages have been committed, as would disgrace even barbarians, and much more Britons, so highly famed for humanity as well as bravery. It is feared, therefore, that we are devoted to destruction, and that you have it in command and intention to ravage and desolate the country. If this is not the case, permit us to ask, Why have these outrages been committed? Why is the town of Boston now shut up? and To what end are all the hostile preparations that are daily making? and Why do we continually hear of fresh destinations of troops for this country.
The people of this colony, you may rely upon it, abhor the idea of taking arms against the troops of their Sovereign, and dread nothing so much as the horrors of civil war; but, at the same time, we beg leave to assure your Excellency, that, as they apprehend themselves justified by the principle of self-defence, so they are most firmly resolved to defend their rights and privileges to the last extremeity; nor will they be restrained from giving aid to their brethren, if any unjustifiable attack is made upon them.
Be so good, therefore, as to explain yourself upon this most important subject, as far as is consistent with your duty to our common Sovereign. —Is there no way to prevent this unhappy dispute from coming to extremities? Is there no alternative but absolute submission, or the desolations of war? By that humanity, which constitutes so amiable a part of your character, for the honour of our Sovereign, and by the glory of the British empire, we entreat you to prevent it, if it be possible.
Surely, it is to be hoped that the temperate wisdom of the empire might, even yet, find expedients to restore peace, that so all parts of the empire may enjoy their particular rights, honours, and immunities. Certainly, this is an event most devoutly to be wished for; and will it not be consistent with your duty, to suspend operations of war on you part, and enable us on ours to quiet the minds of the people, at least till the result of some futher deliberations may be known?
The importance of the occasion will, we doubt not, sufficiently apologize for the earnestness with which we address you, and any seeming impropriety which may attend it, as well as induce you to give us the most explicit and favourable answer in your power.
I am, &c, &c, JONATH. TRUMBULL.