Monday, April 18, 2016

The Revolution before the Revolutionary War or No Shot Was Heard in Worcester

Did you know that Worcester was involved in a revolution seven months before the American Revolution started?  The British had taken over the court system and government and the colonists were not happy.  During the late summer of 1774, each time the British conducted court business the colonists disrupted things so there were no court hearings.  On Sept. 6, 1774, more than 4,600 militia from Worcester and three dozen surrounding towns descended on the county courthouse, forcing the magistrates appointed by the British administration to resign. This action effectively declared Worcester County to be beyond the reach of Parliament in London.  It is described as “the real Revolution, the transfer of political authority to American patriots, when thousands upon thousands of farmers and artisans deposed every Crown-appointed official in Massachusetts outside of Boston.” It is sometimes referred to as the Worcester Rebellion. After the militiamen took over they made the British walk the gauntlet for a quarter of a mile reciting loud recantations so everyone could hear.
Other cities and towns also revolted. In Salem Governor Gage, the British Governor, was foiled when he arrested seven men responsible for holding a town meeting in Salem, which violated the Massachusetts Government Act. Then three thousand farmers marched on the jail and released the prisoners. Except for Boston there was rebellion in every shire town, any town with a court in it, including Great Barrington, Springfield, and Plymouth. The Massachusetts Government Act was passed in Great Britain on May 20, 1774. It revoked the colony's 1691 charter effectively ending the constitution of Massachusetts. It also restricted the number of town meeting that a community might hold and prohibited the election of town officials. It prevented the import and export of goods. It also meant that there was no representative government for the citizens of Massachusetts.

Gage was not going to fight back against the Worcester Rebellion unless Great Britain sent more troops. Great Britain sent troops in April and Gage dispatched spies to determine where to attack. Gage wanted to attack Worcester but the report was not favorable. "They reported that a march on Worcester, a patriot stronghold and the largest storehouse of weaponry and powder, would be disastrous." Gage attacked Concord instead thus starting the Revolutionary War, seven months after the Worcester Rebellion.

The revolution in Worcester was bloodless, had no famous leaders, mainly involved the middle-class and took place outside of Boston. The colonists attacking in Worcester did not take any guns with them in order to prevent bloodshed. Since there was no shooting, there was no shot heard in Worcester as opposed to the famous shot heard around the world in Concord seven months later.

Library sources covering the Worcester Revolution and events leading to it:

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian