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Military Company of the Massachusetts
The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company
THE Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts had but a moderate degree of prosperity during the closing years of its first century and the opening years of its second century. Immigration had comparatively ceased, currency was inflated, commerce restricted, industries were crippled, natural rights and chartered privileges threatened. The first enumeration of the inhabitants of the town of Boston now known was in 1722, during the prevalence of the small-pox, when the selectmen ordered a “perlustration of the town.” It was then reported that the number of inhabitants was 10,567, “besides those who had died or removed out of town.” The same year Mr. Bonner estimated the population to be 12,000. This was probably nearly the correct number just prior to the appearance of the small-pox in 1722. In 1738, the population was estimated at 16,ooo. From the latter year until the Revolution the population of the town remained nearly stationary. In 1776, it numbered 2,719 white inhabitants only. During the period from 1738 to 1774 the people poured out their treasure and blood in various Indian and French wars, seeking to maintain the integrity of the British possessions, and to add to their area and value. The town and the Artillery Company lost many of its volunteer soldiery in these conflicts, and their places were not more than supplied, as to numbers, by the new-comers. There were heavy and discouraging burdens placed upon the people by the British government, and the small-pox, in 1738, again showed its fatal presence among the people. The province and the town of Boston labored “under the greatest hardships, difficulties, and distresses upon many accounts,” which appeared to be daily increasing, without any prospect of relief. Notwithstanding these discouraging conditions, the Artillery Company pursued the even tenor of its ways, held its meetings and drills regularly, and experienced a healthy growth. Its members continued to exercise their former influence in town affairs, and were prominent in all public matters. A majority of the overseers of the poor, assessors, constables, clerks of the market, and also many of those citizens who held minor offices in the town government, were members of the Company. Joseph Marion, nephew of John (1691), was untiring in his proposal to the town to reduce its annual expenses, and Capt. Nathaniel Cunningham (1720) presented a valuable paper to the town as instructions for its representatives in the General Court, which is given in full in the Boston Town Records, as printed by the Record Commissioners, 1729–1742, pp. 197–201. The history of the British Empire in America, by Mr. John Oldmixon, which was reprinted, with amendments and corrections by the author, in 1741, gives a vivid description of Boston as it was when the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company entered upon the second century of its existence. “The capital of New England,” says Mr. Oldmixon, “is Boston, and the biggest city in America, except two or three on the Spanish continent. . . . The bay of Boston is spacious enough to contain in a manner the navy royal of England.” Castle Island is well described, and the defences of Boston are clearly outlined. The Castle protected the town with one hundred cannon, and five hundred men were exempted from military duty in time of war, “to be ready to attend the service at the Castle at an hour's warning.” “There is a large pier at the bottom of the bay, eighteen hundred or two thousand feet long, with a row of warehouses on the north side. The chief street of the town comes down to the head of the pier; at the upper end of it is the Town-house, or Exchange, a fine building, containing besides the walk for the merchants, the Council Chamber, the House of Commons, and a spacious room for the courts of justice. The Exchange is surrounded with booksellers' shops. There are five printing-houses, between three and four thousand houses, eight military companies, and one troop of horse, twenty-four thousand population and ten churches in Boston. . . “The conversation in this town is as polite as in most of the cities and towns of England; many of their merchants having traded into Europe, and those that staid at home having the advantage of society with travellers; so that a gentleman from London would almost think himself at home at Boston, when he observes the number of people, their houses, their furniture, their tables, their dress and conversation, which perhaps is as splendid and showy as that of the most considerable tradesman in London. Upon the whole, Boston is the most flourishing town for trade and commerce in the English America. Near six hundred sail of ships have been laden here in a year for Europe and the British plantations. The streets are large and the buildings beautiful. The goodness of the pavement may compare with most in London; to gallop a horse on it is three shillings and fourpence forfeit. . . . “The neck of land between the town and the country is about forty yards broad, and so low that the spring tides sometimes wash the road. The town is near two miles in length, and in some places three quarters of a mile broad.” "
The officers elected were: Daniel Henchman (1712), captain; Ebenezer
I 73 . Bridge (1717), lieutenant; Jeremiah Belknap (1724), ensign. Joseph Gold
thwait (1732) was first sergeant; William Warner (1733), second sergeant;
John Wendell, Jr. (1735), third sergeant; Habijah Savage (1733), fourth sergeant, and Thomas Simpkins (1727), clerk.
The gentlemen selected to visit and examine the public schools, June 26, 1738,
besides Rev. Messrs. Sewall, Chauncy, Hooper, Mather, and Byles, were Hon. Thomas
* The British Empire in America, containing the history of the discovery, settlement, progress, and state of the British Colonies of America. By John Oldmixon. Vol. I., p. 193 et seq. London, 1741.