Mandamus Councillors

1774

The Mandamus Councillors were 36 men appointed to replace the Governor’s Council in the Province of Massachusetts, as part of the Massachusetts Government Act and the Intolerable Acts.

Thomas Gage, Portrait, Copley

Governor Thomas Gage appointed 36 men as Mandamus Councillors in 1774. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Mandamus Councillors Facts

  • The Mandamus Councillors were appointed by Governor Thomas Gage, with approval from King George III.
  • They were part of the restructuring of the Massachusetts government, as detailed in the Massachusetts Government Act.
  • The appointments were effective as of August 1, 1774.
  • 36 men were appointed, only 25 accepted and 9 resigned afterward.
  • Thomas Oliver, Samuel Danforth, and Joseph Lee were forced to resign during the Massachusetts Powder Alarm (September 1, 1774).

Mandamus Councillors Significance

The Mandamus Councillors were important to American History because their appointments violated the rights of Americans to elect their representatives. The appointment of these councillors contributed to the establishment of the Solemn League and Covenant, which led to the organization of the First Continental Congress and the Continental Association.

Mandamus Councillors History

Massachusetts Government Act

The Massachusetts Government Act (May 20, 1774), part of the Intolerable Acts, revoked the Massachusetts Charter (1691) and stripped the General Assembly — the lower house of the legislature — of the right to elect the members of the upper house, which was known as the Governor’s Council.

Appointment of Mandamus Councillors

Governor Thomas Gage, who was also a General and Commander-in-Chief of British Forces in North America, was given the authority to appoint the members of the Governor’s Council through a “royal writ of mandamus.”

Prior to this, the members were elected by a vote of the members of the incoming House of Representatives and outgoing members of the Council. This process was set up by the Massachusetts Charter (1691).

The Mandamus Councillors of 1774

Governor Thomas Gage appointed 36 men as Mandamus Councillors. Only two of them had served on the council in the past, which concerned leaders of the radical Sons of Liberty and the Patriot Cause. Naturally, they assumed everyone who Gage appointed was a Loyalist and supported British policies that many Americans believed were infringing on their rights as British Subjects.

The 36 men appointed as Mandamus Councillors were:

  1. Thomas Oliver, Esquire, Lieutenant Governor
  2. Thomas Flucker, Esquire
  3. Peter Oliver, Esquire
  4. Foster Hutchinson, Esquire
  5. Thomas Hutchinson, Esquire
  6. Harrison Gray, Esquire
  7. Samuel Danforth, Esquire
  8. John Erving, Sr., Esquire
  9. James Russel, Esquire
  10. Timothy Ruggles, Esquire
  11. Joseph Lee, Esquire
  12. Isaac Winslow, Esquire
  13. Israel Williams, Esquire
  14. George Watson, Esquire
  15. Nathaniel Ray Thomas, Esquire
  16. Timothy Woodbridge, Esquire
  17. William Vassal, Esquire
  18. William Brown, Esquire
  19. Joseph Green, Esquire
  20. James Boutineau, Esquire
  21. Andrew Oliver, Esquire
  22. Josiah Edson, Esquire
  23. Richard Lechmere, Esquire
  24. Joshua Loring, Esquire
  25. John Worthington, Esquire
  26. Timothy Paine, Esquire
  27. William Pepperell, Esquire
  28. Jeremiah Powell, Esquire
  29. Jonathan Simpson, Esquire
  30. John Murray, Esquire
  31. Daniel Leonard, Esquire
  32. Thomas Palmer, Esquire
  33. Isaac Royall, Esquire
  34. Robert Hooper, Esquire
  35. Abijah Willard, Esquire
  36. John Erving, Jr., Esquire

Patriots Respond with the Solemn League and Covenant

The Massachusetts Government Act was the second Intolerable Act and followed the Boston Port Act (1774). Patriot leaders in Boston responded by organizing the “Solemn League and Covenant,” which was to establish and enforce a trade embargo — non-importation and non-exportation — against Great Britain. Although many towns joined this league, there was some resistance, which contributed to the organization of the First Continental Congress and the establishment of the Continental Association.

Harassment of Mandamus Councillors

The press published the names of these appointees, which led many of them to suffer harassment at the hands of the Sons of Liberty and Patriots. 

Many people did not believe the Mandamus Councillors were legitimate, since they were appointed and not elected. 

In the town of Rutland, John Murray was threatened and fled to Boston. Israel Williams of Hatfield hid from a mob in his chimney. The mob responded by shutting up his house and setting it on fire. Williams survived but was forced to withdraw from politics and did not take the oath of office. Timothy Paine of Worcester was also forced to withdraw after his home was visited by a mob of 3,000 people.

Eleven of the Mandamus Councillors took the oath of office on August 8, 1774.

  1. Thomas Oliver, Lieutenant Governor
  2. Thomas Flucker, Esquire
  3. Foster Hutchinson, Esquire
  4. Harrison Gray, Esquire
  5. Joseph Lee, Esquire
  6. Isaac Winslow, Esquire
  7. William Brown, Esquire
  8. James Boutineau, Esquire
  9. Joshua Loring, Esquire
  10. William Pepperell, Esquire
  11. John Erving, Jr., Esquire.

Despite the danger, 14 more men took the oath and accepted their positions between August 8 and the end of the month.

The Powder Alarm

On September 1, 1774, General Gage sent a small expedition to Cambridge to seize gunpowder and weapons from the storehouse in Charlestown, Massachusetts and move them to Castle William in Boston Harbor. 

The storehouse in Charlestown. Image Source: Wikipedia.

In the aftermath, rumors flew throughout New England that the British had attacked Boston. Within hours, nearly 4,000 Massachusetts Militiamen descended on Boston, intending to help defend the city.

Several Mandamus Councillors were threatened with violence, leading three of them to resign: Lieutenant Governor Thomas Oliver, Joseph Lee, and Samuel Danforth.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Mandamus Councillors
  • Date 1774
  • Author
  • Keywords Mandamus Councillors, Massachusetts Government Act, Governor's Council, Province of Massachusetts
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 30, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 24, 2024

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