Nathaniel Freeman papers  1773- [1818]
full text File Size: 19 K bytes

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Nathaniel Freeman papers (138 items) contain letters, depositions, and documents relating to the Committee of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety, of Sandwich, Massachusetts, during the Revolutionary War. The committee, of which Freeman was the chairman, investigated and prosecuted alleged Tory activities in the Cape Cod area. They heard the pleas of accused Loyalists and their friends and family, and administered the oath of allegiance to them. The committee also supervised the equipping and disciplining of the militia and maintained official communication with Boston and other nearby towns. Of particular interest are letters and petitions concerning suspected Loyalists who were imprisoned and banished to Rhode Island. The collection provides a picture of how small town governments in the rebelling colonies dealt with those loyal to the British Crown.

The Correspondence series (47 items) is comprised of official letters addressed to Nathaniel Freeman and the Committee of Correspondence. These letters, spanning 1773-1804, largely concern efforts to banish Loyalists from the area, and include responses of the accused parties. Of note are six letters pertaining to an alleged Loyalist sailor named Seth Perry. These consist of a personal letter to Freeman from jail asking for lenience; a letter informing Freeman of Perry's escape to Newport; a letter from Perry to Freeman requesting permission to reunite with his family and manage some recently inherited property in Sandwich; and a 1785 letter from Freeman to the governor of Massachusetts disputing Perry's claim to property because of his wartime disloyalty.

Other notable letters include:

  • March 8, 1774: Long patriotic letter from James Warren that uses the "house divided" quotation from scripture
  • November 9, 1774: Letter from John Winthrop, President of the Commercial Club of Boston, congratulating Freeman for his patriotism and heroism during an unspecified Tory attack

The Deposition series (65 items) documents depositions generated by the committee to investigate allegations of Loyalist activity near Barnstable, Massachusetts. Included are depositions taken in March and April 1778 relating to the case of Edward Davis, a "one-legged man" who met with many of the town's Tory sympathizers. The investigation exposed a number of Loyalists; their communications with fellow sympathizers from surrounding towns; their dealings with the British at Newport, Rhode Island; and their attempts to pass counterfeit money. Also notable are 10 depositions relating to Loyalist John Jennings and 8 items concerning Loyalist Seth Perry, including his claim against the state in 1785 for confiscated property. Much of the collection consists of deposition copies, forwarded by Freeman to the governor of Massachusetts.

The Documents series (26 items) covers official materials from the Committee of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety, of Sandwich, Massachusetts, including notes from meetings and petitions from the citizens of Sandwich. The series holds 5 items with commentary on the Boston Tea Party and the Coercive Acts (Intolerable Acts), including an official protest of the acts (September 30, October 5, and November 1, 1774), oaths from merchants not to sell tea until Parliament repeals the Boston Port Bill (1774), and and resolutions demanding the impeachment of Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson and Chief Justice Peter Oliver over the letter controversy (March 14, 1774). The series also includes a certificate indicated that Rev. A. Williams took an oath of allegiance to Massachusetts Bay (April 13, 1778).

Of particular interest are 5 petitions, including the petitions from accused Loyalists who were imprisoned and banished: Seth Perry, Melaiah Bourn, Isaac Knowles, Abel Ellis, Price Tupper, and John Jennings (March 20 and April 27, 1778); the petitions from their wives requesting permission to join their husbands (with their children and possessions) in Rhode Island (June 17 and December 14, 1778); and the petition of Loyalist Seth Perry concerning rights to inherited land in Sandwich.

Show all series level scope and content notes