Manuscript

Deerfield Town Warrant to Negotiate Peace with Britain, 1781

Date: January 16, 1781
Creator: Deerfield Town Meeting
About this artifact

This town meeting warrant from Deerfield, Massachusetts, reveals that town meetings sometimes dealt with contentious national and international issues as well as ordinary town business. The warrant, issued in January 1781, seeks to instruct Deerfield's representative to the Massachusetts General Court (Legislature) to support peace negotiations with the British. Following their defeat at Saratoga, New York, in 1777, the British had proposed a peace that accepted most American demands but did not grant full independence. The Deerfield warrant essentially supported the British proposal. Local "loyalists" (British sympathizers) promoted the warrant and pushed it through by a vote of 34 to 31. The same town meeting majority had resisted voting to support George Washington's Continental Army a few weeks earlier. The Massachusetts General Court rejected the Deerfield petition. Local loyalists were threatened with arrest and three were jailed.

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Courtesy Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield, MA