Monday, February 11, 2013

Boston, February 12

   Under the dateline of Boston, February 12, 1778, Boston, Massachusetts newspaper The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser of that date reported, "In Consequence of a late Act passed this state, intitled, 'An act for prescribing and establishing an Oath of Fidelity and Allegiance,' the Committee of Correspondence for this Town, the Week past, have given information to proper Authority of sundry Persons who were suspected of being inimical to these United States, who, being summoned, took the said Oath, without hesitation, excepting three, who were committed to the Goal last Saturday [February 7]."
   Gaol, sometimes rendered "goal," was an English term for jail and remains so in Britain but not in the United States.
 "An Act for Prescribing and Establishing an Oath of Fidelity and Allegiance" (1778),  Massachusetts lawmakers empowered and obligated every justice of the peace in every county of the state to summon any suspects of being "inimical to the United States," if that person was reported as such by any member of the state's two legislative bodies, the Council and House of Representatives; by any civil or military officer of any town or county; by any selectman or member of a Committee of Correspondence, Safety or Inspection; or by "any two substantial Freeholders" of any town or plantation with Massachusetts.
   As documented by the State Library of Massachusetts, the language of the oath was, "I A. B. do swear (or affirm as the Case may be) that I will bear true Faith and Allegiance to the State of Massachusetts-Bay, and will faithfully support and maintain and defend the same against George the Third King of Great-Britain, his Abettors and all other Enemies and Opposers whatsoever, and will discover all Plots and Conspiracies that shall come to my Knowledge against said State, or any other of the United States of America. So help me GOD."
   The act required the that any suspect who refused to take the oath be confined to "Gaol" for forty days.  If after forty days, the suspect still refused to take the oath, the state was to order him deported to any port under the authority of Great Britain.  The cost of the gaoler's fee and the suspect's transport from Massachusetts would come from the estate of a suspect who could afford the costs or from the treasury of the state if the suspect could not afford either expense or both of them.
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