Brookline Historical Publication Society
PUBLICATIONS, NO. 12.
MAJOR THOMPSON'S DEPOSITION
Being a Spirited Protest to the General Court by a Brookline Patriot of 1775, Against the Forcible Quartering of Soldiers in his Domicile.
Colony of Mass.
To the Honble
the Councill & House of Representatives in general Court assembled
The Petition of William Thompson humbly sheweth
That on Thursday, the 14th of December current, near Sunsett, your Petitioner, a Freeholder in the Town of Brookline, being then in the Peace of the community, and in the rightful Possession of his Dwelling House, a Company of Armed Men, to the number of forty and more, conducted by certain officers bearing the Titles of Capt. King, Lieut. Gilbert, Lieut. Coney, Sergeant Sampson, Sergeant Dexter and others, marched up the road leading from Roxbury to Watertown, and when they came opposite your petitioner's House, they halted in the Road, and afterwards entered thro‘ the gate into the court yard front of said House; that upon your Petitioner's approach to said company and declaring to said officers, that he was the owner and occupier of said House, the said Captain King presented to your Petitioner a Paper whereon the follow ing order was written viz.— "Capt. King —You are hereby ordered to take Possession of a House now occupied by a certain Major Thompson at Brookline, for the accommodation of your company, and in case of Resistance you are to enter into by Force, and this Order will justify you in the Peaceable Possession of the said House —John Parke
ast Q M g
Dec. 14, 1775"
From the Massachusetts archives, Revolutionary Petitions 180, p. 257.
That upon reading said insolent Order, your Petitioner told Captain King, that the order was not addressed to your Petitioner, therefore he should not submit to it, that had it been so addressed, he should utterly disregard it —that the Quarter Master had no right in said House nor to order anyone to take possession of it, or any part of it ; that your Petitioner would not admit said Capt. King and company into said House, the Doors and Windows thereof being then fastened and your Petr
then standing in the court yard with the said officers, who thereupon threatened your Petr
that if he did not open the Door, they must and would obey the aforesaid Order and break open the Door ; your Petr
having desired two Persons then present, to take particular Notice of what was said or done, then plainly and repeatedly told said Officers that he was the sole Proprietor of said House, that it was his Dwelling House, his Castle, that he was determined not to admit them and their Company into it, and cautioned them against so violent a proceeding as the breaking open said House, in defiance of known Laws and contrary to the Sacred Right of every Freeman to the enjoyment of his property and domestic Security ; moreover on their urging that they had no Shelter from the Weather, your Petr
offered them to pay at his own expence the whole charge of their accommodation if they would only march to the next public House, and tarry there for the night, or else, that of his own free accord (disregarding said Order) he would receive as many of said Company into the House, as he could accommodate with convenience to them, as well as his own Family, of which he said he was and would be the only judge, this offer he apparently made without effect: he even entreated it as a Favour of the Capt. to accept the Offer, but could not prevail — the officers then again demanded the Door to be opened, and your Petr
again refusing, they ordered some of their men to file off from the Right and advance to break the Door — upon which your Petr
re quested them to desist, till he went into the House, he then enter'd by the back Door, and went up Stairs and opened one of the Chamber Windows in Front, and again told the Officers and men, that he was then personally in Possession of his House that it was his own Property, that he would not admit them nor any of them into it, that if they broke it open, it should be at their utmost Peril, and then again called upon the two Persons he had before desired to observe attentively what was done ; immediately one or more of the officers ordered one Sergeant Sampson to break open the Door, which he did with a violent Blow with the But End of a musket, which broke the Lock and other Fastenings and burst open the Door and instantly the Company began to rush in Violently and your Petitioner ran down Stairs and opposed their entrance but was violently forced back into a middle Room and entirely surrounded by said Company with Guns and Bayonets pointed and rushed at him and commanded to keep his Distance, and was at the utmost Peril of his Life, and having escaped from their Rage, into another Room, was then threatened to be taken by a File of men, and carried to the camp and put under Guard, according to Orders they said they had received from the Quarter Master : that your Petr
was obliged to remove his Family and Furniture into one lower Room having that with one Chamber only for lodging his Family — that since that time part of his Family have been obliged to lodge out of the House the company aforesaid yet holding Possession of the same.
Your Petitioner humbly begs leave to assure your Honours, that he is zealously attached to the Cause of this his native Country, has perseveringly exerted his small abilitys to oppose the Encroachments of foreign and unconstitutional Power — that it is the most ardent wish of his Heart that his country may be able to form and establish the most perfect System of Freedom, and forever maintain and enjoy it ; to which End he feels himself unalterably determined to contribute the last mite of his Property — that should the Exigences of the army ever require it, he will cheerfully quit his House and other Possessions, for the Service and Benefit of the Public, whenever required to do it in a manner becoming a Freeman, and so as to leave him the humble merit and heartfelt Satisfaction that will arise from his poor but voluntary and utmost efforts in behalf of his Country.
Your Petitioner therefore prays your Honours attention to the most audacious Insult and enormous Outrage that has been offered him, and interpose your Authority to procure him such Reparation as in your Wisdom and Justice shall seem meet, and your Petr
as in Duty bound humbly prays.
Brookline, December 21, 1775
Read Dec. 28, 1775
Referr d to next Session
The fine elm at the west gate of the Public Library came up some eighty- five years ago in what was the front yard of the "Dana place." The house had belonged at the opening of the Revolution to Mr. Jackson, a tory, who sold it to Dana when the colonial troops took forcible possession during the siege of Boston. West of this house stood another, occupied for many years by Major William Thompson. Here the scene so vividly portrayed in Thompson's deposition very likely took place. The Major's family is mentioned frequently in Deacon Tudor's diary. This house was owned later by Zephion Thayer, whose son founded Chauncy Hall School.
The following advertisement in the New England Chronicle and Essex- Gazette
, Nov. 2-9, 1775, shows what might be in store for troops garrisoned in Thompson's house: —
TO BE SOLD
By William Thompson, at his Shop in Brookline, on the Road from Roxbury to Watertown, about a Quarter of a Mile from the Sign of the Punch Bowl. Bar Iron, Steel, fine and coarse Salt, Cocoa by the Cask or Bag, Chocolate by the Box or less, Coffee by the Bag or less, Rice, Flour, loaf and brown Sugar, West India and New England Rum, excellent Nantz Brandy, Molasses by the Cask or less, choice Teneriffe Wine by the Cask or Gallon, Malaga, Claret and Frontinae Wines, Saltpetre, Raisins, Alspice, Pepper, Nutmegs, Cloves, Cinnamon, Best Fine Post Paper, American Cake Ink, Ink Powder, Wafers, Best Spanish Indigo, Chalk, Alum, Logwood, Redwood, Tapers, White thread, knit Breeches Patterns, Cotton velvit, Jacket Shapes, Sewing Twine, Iron Wire, Files, Rasps, table and other knives, Pipes, Locks, Buckles, Buttons, Brads, Tacks, Gimblets, Awls, Brass, Beer Cocks, Bed Cords, Shingle nails, Window Glass.
For the billeting in private houses of both British and patriot troops, see the following references : —
- Sources of the Constitution, Stevens, 224, 226.
- Bryant's Popular History, III., 355, 357.
- Hildreth's United States History, II., 547, 550; III., 33.
- Bancroft's United States History, III., 309, 312-313, 370-375, 378, 481.
- Fiske's War of Independence, 74.
- Johnston's United States History, 174.
- Hart's Formation of the Union (Epochs of American History), 50, 60.
- Declaration of Independence, 1776, "For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us."
- Letter of Washington to Gen. Green, 22 Dec, 1779, Ford's Edition, Vol. 8, 147.
- Constitution of Massachusetts adopted 1780, Art. XXVII of Bill of Rights.
- Constitution of United States, Amendments, Art. III.
- Miss Woods' Historical Sketches of Brookline, pp.49, 142, 221, 303, 310
Printed in January, 1898.