Mandamus Councillors

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Mandamus Councillors

MANDAMUS COUNCILLORS. The Massachusetts Government Act of 20 May 1774 (also called the Massachusetts Regulating Act), one of the Intolerable Acts, prescribed that effective 1 August the Massachusetts Council, the upper house of the legislature, would no longer be elected by a joint vote of the incoming members of the House of Representatives and the outgoing members of the Council (as provided for in the Charter of 1692). Rather, it would be appointed by the governor on a "royal writ of mandamus." The thirty-six men appointed by Governor Thomas Gage, only two of whom had been among the twenty-eight councillors elected previously, became marked men, their names being published by the radical press along with the "Addressers" and "Protesters." Only twenty-five of the thirty-six accepted the position, and nine of them soon resigned. Six of the remaining councillors lived in Boston, where they were protected, up to a point, by the British army. Of the final ten who lived elsewhere, all were driven into exile in Boston. After John Murray, a long-time representative from Rutland, had fled to Boston, a group of neighbors, men who had voted for him since 1751, told his son that his house would be destroyed if he did not resign. A mob of four thousand armed men forced Thomas Oliver to resign. Old Israel Williams of Hatfield tried to hide in his chimney when a mob came calling, but he was smoked out when the doors were closed and a fire started indoors. These episodes of intimidation and violence demonstrate the power of the resistance movement to force a renunciation of those traditional leaders who tried to remain loyal to Britain.

SEE ALSO Addressers; Protesters.


Knollenberg, Bernard. Growth of the American Revolution, 1766–1775. Edited by Bernard W. Sheehan. Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Fund, 2002.

Matthews, Albert, ed. "Documents Relating to the Last Meetings of the Massachusetts Royal Council." Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts 32 (1933–1937): 461-504.

                           revised by Harold E. Selesky