DescriptionExtremely Rare and Important 1774 Broadside, Signed in Print by John Hancock. Issued by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, of which Hancock was serving as president, on December 5, 1774. The Congress came into being in the aftermath of a May 20, 1774 act by the British Parliament which sought to reassert control over Massachusetts Colony by declaring that members of the Governor's Council would be appointed by the Crown, rather than elected by provincial assembly. In October the royal governor, Thomas Gage, dissolved the assembly. In October the royal governor, Thomas Gage, dissolved the assembly itself, after which the body reconstituted itself and continued to meet as a Provincial Congress. It became the defacto government of Massachusetts outside of Boston, which remained under tight British control. Among the Provincial Congress' assumed powers were those to tax and raise a militia. The Congress had to change its meeting place frequently, as its leaders, including John Hancock and Samuel Adams, were by then subject to arrest by the British authorities.
This broadside reports on the passage by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia of an "American Bill of Rights." This declaration, "founded on the immutable Laws of Nature and Reason, the Principles of the English Constitution...," was a major step toward Independence. The language was carefully crafted to suggest that the goal was not only the "Recovery and Establishment of American Rights and Liberties," but at the same time restoring Harmony between Great Britain and the Colonies." After all, the writers were still at risk of charges of sedition or worse. However, the tone is clearly one of poorly-concealed hostility.
The text declares it "...of the utmost Importance that the Salutory Association of the Continental Congress be effectually executed; and the Plans of Foes to America defeated...." The Continental Congress is quoted as encouraging the Provincial Conventions and Committees to establish closer working relations with that body to effect steps for the common good.
The specific action encouraged is a ban on the importation and sale of "Goods, Wares and Merchandize [sic], directly or indirectly imported from Great Britain" until such a time as the offensive acts of Parliament are repealed. Clearly the aggrieved colonies were approaching the point of no return, and less than five months later the events at Lexington and Concord ignited the open conflict.
This broadside, measuring 9.5" x 15.25", is not only historically important, but also prohibitively rare. Heritage researchers could identify only one offering, perhaps this very copy, by Goodspeed's in 1947. Apparently there have been no appearances at auction over the ensuing years. Overall condition is excellent. Minor bits of edge roughness have been expertly restored, as have several fine tears, with loss only of several words in the final paragraph. An offering worthy of the most sophisticated private or institutional collection.
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