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Woodbury, Connecticut Adopts First Continental Congress’ Articles of Association
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“being unanimosly agreed…if any of the good people of this town Shall go Counter…it shall be the duty of this Committee publickly to advertise them…all persons must break of all Connections with Such person”

In response to the “Intolerable Acts” that Britain had passed to suppress the patriot movement, in October of 1774, the First Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Association, signed by 53 delegates, including George Washington and John Adams. The Articles called for severing economic ties with Britain, banning the slave trade, and improving agriculture and industry within the colonies. During the boycott, the Articles discouraged “every species of extravagance and dissipation, especially all horse-racing, and all kinds of games, cock fighting, exhibitions of shews, plays, and other expensive diversions and entertainments.” It even frowned on expensive mourning clothes. While it lasted, the boycott was relatively successful in damaging Britain’s economy. In 1775, the Crown responded with harsher acts which, rather than having the intended effect, pushed the colonies towards war.

[REVOLUTIONARY WAR]. Manuscript Broadside, in the hand of Captain Benjamin Stiles, Sr., August 21, 1775. Woodbury, Connecticut. 1 p. 7⅜ x 11¾ in. Condition: Fine. Some wear along edge, including a few short tears, and 1¼ in. vertical tear at bottom edge clear of text.

Inventory #24223       Price: $4,000

Captain Benjamin Stiles, Sr. (1720-1797) graduated from Yale in 1740 and practiced law in Southbury, Connecticut. For three periods between 1754 and 1771, he served as a Deputy to the Connecticut General Assembly. In 1764, he was appointed a Captain of Militia. After the war, he represented Southbury at the Hartford convention that ratified the Constitution in 1788, and was later a State Auditor.

Notice to inhabitants of Woodbury that the Committee of Inspections has adopted the Articles of Association, following a unanimous community vote a week earlier. The notice also warns that anyone who does not support the Continental Congress and the revolutionary cause will be exposed and ostracized.

Complete Transcript
Att a Meeting of the Committee of Inspections for the town of Woodbury Convened on the 21th day of August 1775 said Committee proceeded to take into their Most Serious Consideration the important Matter and business for which they were appointed in relation to the Association Entered into and recommended by the Continental Congress holden att Philadelphia on the 5th day of September last and approved of by the Inhabitants of this town in a legal meeting holden in said Woodbury on the 17th day of November 1774 Nemine [?] by Contradicente Contradecende.  This Committee being unanimosly agreed to Exert our Selves with the utmost Care and diligence in Supporting and Carrying into Execution every part of Said Association according to our Abilities and it is the opinion of this Committee That if any of the good people of this town Shall go Counter (either by words or actions) (in a strict sense) to any on article of Said Association Construed in a Strict Sense it shall be the duty of this Committee publickly to advertise them according to the direction of said association let their publick or private carector be what it will and in Such Case all persons must break of all Connections with Such person or persons or Expect to be advertised by the Committee as violators of said Association and furthermore it is the opinion of this Committee that if any person or persons shall by words or actions prove themselves to be Enemical to the method taken by the Continental Congress for the maintaining and secureing of our just rights and priviledges or that shall endeauvour to influence others of the good people of these Colonies to disunite from them though it cannot be said to be a breach of any one particular Article of Said Association (Strictly Construed) that it may be our duty to Publish such persons that the world may know what sentiments they have.

The Above voted in the affirmative.

A copy of Woodbury Committee vote

Reference Excerpt from the Articles of Association, October 20, 1774

“We, his majesty's most loyal subjects…  find, that the present unhappy situation of our affairs is occasioned by a ruinous system of colony administration, adopted by the British ministry about the year 1763, evidently calculated for enslaving these colonies, and, with them, the British Empire. In prosecution of which system, various acts of parliament have been passed, for raising a revenue in America, for depriving the American subjects, in many instances, of the constitutional trial by jury, exposing their lives to danger, by directing a new and illegal trial beyond the seas, for crimes alleged to have been committed in America: And in prosecution of the same system, several late, cruel, and oppressive acts have been passed, respecting the town of Boston and the Massachusetts-Bay…

“To obtain redress of these grievances, which threaten destruction to the lives liberty, and property of his majesty's subjects, in North-America, we are of opinion, that a non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement, faithfully adhered to, will prove the most speedy, effectual, and peaceable measure…

13. That all manufactures of this country be sold at reasonable prices, so- that no undue advantage be taken of a future scarcity of goods.

14. And we do further agree and resolve that we will have no trade, commerce, dealings or intercourse whatsoever, with any colony or province, in North-America, which shall not accede to, or which shall hereafter violate this association, but will hold them as unworthy of the rights of freemen, and as inimical to the liberties of their country.”

Additional Background – Stiles Charged With Contempt For Insulting Roger Sherman

Although this is tangential, it is too interesting to resist mentioning. In October 1775, two months after he penned this document, the General Assembly of Connecticut cited Stiles for “Contempt of Government.” They charged that Stiles said the “Colony representatives in the Continental Congress were three good-for-nothing dogs, and no more fit for the place than his sick negro Jeff.” Among the three “good-for-nothings” was Roger Sherman, whom Stiles had known for decades. Stiles was ordered to appear at the next session, but by 1776, the war intervened. Stiles avoided prosecution, but was not reelected.

The “sick negro Jeff” Stiles allegedly referred to was likely his slave Jeffrey Brace (c. 1742-1827). Brace had been captured in Africa at age 16 and shipped to America. He had a few cruel masters and fought as an “enslaved sailor” in the French and Indian War, mostly in Cuba. In 1768, Stiles’ widowed mother Mary purchased Brace and taught him to read and write. She died in 1773, and Brace descended as property to her son Benjamin Stiles Sr. Brace fought in the Continental Army for more than five years and earned the Badge of Merit, rarely presented to African Americans. After the war, he was honorably discharged and freed from slavery. He returned to Woodbury, where he lived with his former master for a year before moving to Vermont, where he married and raised his own family. He changed his name back to the original African Boyrereau Brinch, and in 1810 published an autobiography, The Blind African Slave, or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace.

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