previous next

Guy C, Hawkins papers.—number 2,

[Sketches of some of the reasons Which may be adduced before a committee of the Legislature in favor of a separation of the town of Charlestown.]

This appeal of the petitioners to the Legislature for a seperation from the town of Charlestown is made to you tinder peculiar circumstances and from more than ordinary reasons. Not only do we contend that the territory is sufficient for two towns, and that as a matter of convenience it is highly expedient, but we do complain of a variety of oppressive grievances, of unjust and unequal burthens. I would have it distinctly understood, however, that, although we do insist on these considerations as our most important reasons for a division, yet we do not implicate the town or charge its officers with partiality. As individuals, as a municipal community, they have our most unlimited confidence and respect. This inequality is in the nature of things; it grows out of the unnatural connection of the two sections, nor can it he remedied but by a seperation. We shall endeavor, first, to convince the committee that the territory and population is sufficient for two towns, and that as a matter of convenience the measure is expedient, and shall then proceed to state some of the reasons connected with this subject, growing out of our peculiar situation, sand developing facts in which we, the petitioners, are deeply interested.

The town of Charlestown is an irregular figure nearly or quite nine miles long, with a very unequal breadth, containing in 1820 somewhat short of 7,000 inhabitants. Seven-eighths of this population is confined within the limits of the peninsula, a territory short of two miles in length, and this is connected with the country part of the town by an isthmus or narrow neck of land. There is the contemplated division of the two, sections. The publick buildings and offices are all located at the extremity of the peninsula, and the inconvenience of this to the western section must be apparent to every one. The number of inhabitants in this section will not vary much from 1,000, and although the [41] number is small in comparison with the territory, yet when we consider its vicinity to Boston, its other natural and local advantages, this I think cannot be considered as an objection. The extent and singular form of this town running seven miles into the country, land almost encircled by four other townships, whilst the principal part of the population are confined to the eastern extremity, cannot, we think, but impress every mind with the necessity of a division.

But these are considerations of but little importance in the eye of your petitioners, in comparison with others, the consequence of this; unnatural connection in which our interests are deeply involved. We contend and we expect to prove to the satisfaction of the committee that we pay into the town treasury a much larger amount than is expended upon us. This is not idle assertion grounded on loose conjecture the rantings of a heated imagination, but a truth which we conceive to be incontrovertible. By the assessors books of 1823, the amount of taxes in the westerly section amounted to a fraction over $3,500. The expenditures in the same section during the same year (according to the printed account and other authentic sources) amounted to somewhat short of $1,100. This, the committee will discover, is not one-third part of the amount paid in, but we are aware that there are some other expenditures, such as our proportional part of the salaries of town officers and support of poor, which ought to be taken into this account, but after everything is included which the most scrupulous could suggest, we are confident the result will be decidedly in our favor. So sure are we of this that we challenge our opponents to prove the contrary. Nor do we admit that we are contending for a trifle, for although we do not pretend that we can accurately ascertain the precise sum which we shall save by this change, yet we are sanguine it will not amount to less than from one-third to one-half of our present burthens. As this is an important point to sustain, I shall proceed to state some of the causes which produce this inequality. The two sections are altogether different in their occupations, views, and habits—the lone is a seaport, the other an agricultural community: the one by its contiguity with Boston imitates the [42] expenditures of the city, the bother, more frugal in their habits, disclaims all such rivalship; the one has sources of expenditure peculiar to itself, the other participates only in a few of their mutual wants; perhaps it would not be an exaggeration to say that one-fourth of our annual expenditures are devoted to objects in which we have no particular interest. Some items of these expenditures which occur yearly are night watch, lighting lamps, repair of pumps land fire engines, and those which occasionally occur, the purchase of such articles and a variety of expences to improve and orniment the peninsula. But this is not all. Apparent as it must be to every mind, from the causes just mentioned, that we are disadvantageously situated in reference to the peninsula, another view of the subject will show that on another point we are suffering by this connection. We of the westerly section do not pretend to compete with the eastern in point of wealth, yet even on this subject what says the tax book? We pay one-sixth part of the burthens and yet contain not one-eighth part of the population. How can this be, if the easterly section is the most wealthy, without impeaching the integrity of the assessors? It is simply this, our property is seen land tangible, theirs unseen and therefore difficult to be traced. We are taxed not only for what we own, but what we have in possession; they from the nature of their property frequently are not taxed to the extent of their wealth. Under these circumstances, I expect the committee will be surprised, will be astonished that the inhabitants of the westerly section have hot long since appeared at the bar of the Legislature to make known their grievances and to vindicate their rights. This is to be attributed to a variety of causes, some of which are the smallness of our numbers, scattered population, local attachments and prejudices. Some of these inequalities are so palpable and apparent that they have long been felt and acknowledged by all; others are of such a nature as to require investigation, but are equally oppressive. I will now draw the attention of the committee to the particular interests which are conflicting, and leave it to the candor of all to decide whether the suffering party has not the highest claims on the Legislature, not only for support and redress, but for [43] patronage and favor. Agriculture or the cultivation of the soil has ever been considered in all ages and in a countries as the grand support and pillar of all governments; it is the aliment on which all the other classes depend and without which the ligaments of civilized society would fall asunder and man revert back again to his original barbarism. In a government constituted like ours, where the rights of man are fully recognized, based on the principles of equality, it exhibits itself in another amiable point of view. Its gains being slow but sure if attended with industry and frugality, it keeps up that equality which the constitution recognizes, and which is the beau ideal of theorists. In this point of view it may be considered as the safeguard of America and the bulwark of liberty. The commercial and manufacturing interests which we contend (in reference to our little community) are preying upon the vitals of their common father, in a national point of view are doubtless deserving the patronage and protection of government, but no one, I presume, will contend that these interests are more important than that of agriculture. In fact, wherever there is a conflict of interests in a municipal community, it is idle to pretend that one part of the community should be taxed for the support of the establishments of the other. This is so inconsistent in itself, so palpably absurd and unjust that few are to be found who would not be ashamed to avow such a principle, yet to what other cause can we attribute the present opposition to this measure from within the peninsula? I know they would endeavor to have a pretense because we are not united to a man in our own section. But has this any weight? What right have they to interfere in a question of interest which relates to ourselves? We expect satisfactorily to prove to the committee that this opposition is more in sound than reality; that more than four-fifths of the landed property and three-fourths of the taxable property are on the side of the petitioners. But admitting it was not so, admitting that we were equally divided upon this subject amongst ourselves, is it for the town of Charlestown to decide which of the two parties are the most disinterested and which the most selfish? But what course has the town pursued on this subject? In the first instance, they [44] agreed to a seperation provided the line of demarkation and the terms and conditions could be settled between the parties. In accordance with this vote, a committee was chosen to confer with a committee of the petitioners to settle these points and to report to the town. After a laborious investigation, the parties agreed, and a report was made. The town then, without making any substantial objections to those terms, rejected the report and instructed their representatives to oppose a seperation on any terms whatever. I now ask, Where is the consistency, where the sincerity of the town in the course they have pursued? If they were determined to oppose us, why did they not take that stand at first, and not have added insincerity to opposition? For as the affair has terminated, can we believe otherwise than that they intended to play upon the credulity of the petitioners? That they intended that they should give them a pretense for opposition when they were already from pecuniary motives predisposed to oppose them? Since the town has shown no substantial reasons why they oppose a seperation, we cannot but attribute it to an admission of one of the committee who had thoroughly investigated the subject, namely, that the westerly section pays into the town treasury annually $2,000 more than is expended upon them, which goes to support the general municipal concerns of the town. Whether an argument of this kind ought to have any weight upon this question, I leave it to the good sense of the committee to decide. I shall now endeavor to develop some of the motives which actuate the remonstrants upon this subject. In our opinion, the opposition from this quarter can be traced to a particular point,—two individuals who have long enjoyed (we think from courtecy) certain privileges on a fishing stream are, we think, the backbone of the remonstrants. We do not pretend to say that all who are upon the remonstrance are influenced by these men, but we do contend, and we think truly, had it not been for this fishing stream, the remonstrance upon your table would not have been presented to the Legislature. These individuals, one of which, by the various offices he sustains in the town and his long being a member of the Legislature, has scattered his crude and one-sided opinions far and [45] wide. He has not seemed to hesitate at anything that would further his object. Not only has he roused local prejudices and presented bugbears to the weak, to influence their opinions, but he has made the grossest misrepresentations and descended to the meanest personalities. His course has been that of a factious demagogue engrossed by his own personal views of avarice and ambition. At his heels he has carried a train of kindred or dependants, who have yielded to his influence or dread his power. The question then reverts, Shall an insignificant faction thus organized, grounded on ambition and selfishness, defeat an object of general utility, defeat the declared will of a suffering community who have made known their grievances and ask relief?

‘If it be possible, live peaceably with all men.’ It is a peculiar characteristic of the Christian religion that it discourages a spirit of conquest in nations and in rulers, and in private life inculcates the milder virtues of humility and forbearance. This opposition to the darling inclinations of the human heart is the highest possible proof that it had not its origin in human wisdom or human power. Man is a restless, ambitious being, delighting in a succession of untried adventures, covetous of power, and eager in the pursuit of glory. Whatever has a tendency to raise him above his fellows stimulates his exertions and presses him forward in his ambitious career. In his course he is too apt to pass by the unobtrusive virtues and sacrifice all to the love of splendor and vain glory. It is the part of Christianity to chasten and allay these turbulent passions, to encourage a quiet spirit, and to place our happiness in temperance, cheerfulness, and humility. ‘If it be possible, live peaceably with all men.’ If it be possible. Here, even, our great exemplar did not inculcate as a duty an entire spirit of non-resistance; neither would I. As the world is, it is at times justifiable as a community and as individuals to resist oppression and to assert our rights.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Guy C. Hawkins (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1823 AD (1)
1820 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: