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When all behaved well, it may be difficult, and it may be unjust to select a few for notice, and neglect others equally meritorious. The Hon. Samuel Dexter, however, deserves to be honourably mentioned among men of the revolutionary age. This gentlemen was the son of the former minister of Dedham, of that name, and the father of the late Samuel Dexter, the celebrated advocate and civilian. It was his father's wish that he should become a minister. He had while a youth, a taste for theology, but he acquired a dislike to the profession, principally it is said, by means of the calvinistic doctrines of his father. He was early in life established as a merchant in Boston; and while yet a young man, had acquired enough property to satisfy a wise man, he therefore abandoned his lucrative employment and retired to Dedham, his native town. From the time of his coming to Dedham, in 1763, to 1775, he seems to have directed and influenced all the public affairs in the town, in the church and parish to which he belonged; and did more in this important period, to promote the interests of the community, both by his services, his advice and his donations, than any other individual since the days of Lusher, and Fisher. He was many times a deputy to the general court. He sat five years in the provincial congress; he had the honour to be negatived as a councillor several times by the royal governors. He was appointed a commissioner to settle the affairs of the land bank, and was chosen treasurer of the state; this office he did not accept. He was one of that council, whose duty it was to assist and support the military operations at or near Boston, in the beginning of the On that occasion he maintained that it was impolitic and hazardous to bring a large body of undisciplined troops near to the British army, then in Boston. The majority decided otherwise. This advice exposed him to the imputation of being too timid, and even to the whispers of some that he had grown lukewarm in the cause of his country. But this was unjust, for he did much to support it; although he was less sanguine and zealous than some others. He retired from all public employments when his constituents were dissatisfied with his advice, and could not afterwards be persuaded, although much solicited, to accept any office. He soon after removed to Mendon, and there spent the remainder of his days in dignified retire
ment, having a disposition to be far away from the strife of the world.
By his last will he gave five thousand dollars to Harvard University, to promote biblical criticism. Mr. Dexter was at the commencement of his public life somewhat inclined to use severe sarcasm on his opponents, but this trait in his own character he acknowledged, and lamented as an error in his declining years. It may appear that a proud spirit influenced him in retiring from the councils of his country, at a critical period of the revolution. But in this transaction when fully understood, we must insist that he sat a good example. Instead of doing as ordinary men frequently do on such occasions, become querulous, factious, and more eager in their pursuit for office, he quietly retired satisfied with the conscious integrity of his own motives, and left his place for those who have the confidence of the public. His voluntary abandonment of wealth, which he was pretty sure of acquiring, and the good uses he made of what he did possess, and his economy and his liberality, go far to prove that he was a high minded and good man, and a real patriot. His taste for theological studies continued through life. He gave his attention to some questions now much discussed, and determined at one time to publish what he had written on them, but on further reflection, he resolved to burn the whole, which he did. It is understood that on several points of theology, he dissented from the majority of divines in New England, particularly on the doctrine of the trinity.
The revolution imposed on the people the necessity of making a new state government. In ordinary times, this duty would be arduous and attended with much debate. The frequent debates of those times, diffused the knowledge of the fundamental principles of government extensively, and the people acquired great self confidence in their ability to form new constitutions.
May, 1780. The town voted on the question of accepting the constitution of the state, reported by a previous convention. The town gave a unanimous vote of one hundred and thirty-two for the preamble and most of the articles in that instrument. Some articles were objected to, and a committee of fifteen persons were chosen to report amend
Monthly Anthology, for July, 1810.
ments of the objectionable parts. They recommended various alterations in the proposed constitution. They would have all religious denominations equally protected, and not all religious denominations of protestant christians only, as in the constitution. They would have the time during which the judges should hold their office, seven years instead of during good behaviour and life. They recommended an exclusion of clergymen from the house, although they had elected a clergyman, the reverend Jason Haven, to attend the convention, which made this constitution. They proposed that the governor's and judges' salary should not be increased for the first five years after their appointment. These and other proposed amendments, were adopted by the town, two persons only voting against them. The constitution asserted the principle, that representatives and rulers are the attornies and agents of the people. We shall see hereafter what construction was put on this article in the bill of rights, by the subsequent practice of the
Looking back on that period, when the ever memorable events of the revolution agitated the community, we may perceive considerable changes in the manners and habits of the people since that time, but these are subjects which belong to more general histories. I have no evidence to support the assertion that this town excelled the inhabitants of any other town by their exertions or sufferings in the common cause. They united, they did well, they caused all the non-consumption and non-importation agreements to be observed; they did all that seems to have been required of them, which was nearly all they could do. Excepting the case of Mr. Clark and his two friends, there was only one other individual who hesitated in the beginning of the war, and he being a respectable gentleman, was at first indulged and afterwards won by kindness into the service of the town.
An account of events from 1784 to 1826. Practice of giving instructions to representatives. A specimen. Votes in relation to the insurrection of 1786. Dedham becomes the shire town of Norfolk county. Political parties. Doings in relation to the war of 1812. The people approve the war, and oppose the measures designed to counteract it. State convention of November, 1820. Stability of character. The influence and spirit of husbandmen strongly predominates. Condition of professional men Changes taking place by the influence of villages. Recent events calculated to diffuse erroneous opinions of the character of the inhabitants. The small number of persons found on the criminal docket. The large number of freeholders proportioned to the whole population. Their comfortable situation. Increasing attention to education, to moral and religious instruction. The beginning of manufactures and trades. Some faults. Increase of paupers. Of intemperate men. Want of sufficient liberality towards men of active and independent minds. The Ames family.
JULY 7, 1784. DOVER district was incorporated, comprehending the fourth, or Springfield parish.
During the revolutionary period, and in several succeeding years, the town frequently voted instructions to their representatives, which were recorded at full length. These instructions were in some instances, minute, and do not afford the least hint that the representative may depart thercfrom, on account of his conscientious scruples, produced by a more full investigation. I insert an extract from instructions voted in May, 1786, as they afford a pretty good specimen of this town legislation, and show the opinions of the people in relation to important events of that time. "To Nathaniel Kingsbury, Esq., recently chosen representative :
"We," says the record, are apprehensive that many salutary measures of congress are defeated for want of sufficient power to carry them into effect. You are desired therefore to grant such additional powers as may be necessary. You are desired to attempt the reduction of taxes in the following manner. First, by reducing the wages and salaries of public officers. Secondly, by lopping off some unnecessary branches in some departments of government. Thirdly, by abolishing the court of quarter sessions. We are not inattentive to the universal complaints against the practice of lawyers, which many of us
too sensibly feel. If they cannot be effectually regulated, we then desire the order of lawyers to be totally abolished. You are desired to use your utmost efforts to procure a division of the county ;" and here are inserted many reasons to be urged in favor of that measure. "If a project be brought forward to relieve us from our present difficulties, by means of emitting a paper currency, treat it with the most decided abhorrence. Encourage manufactures, and do what you can to prevent the introduction of foreign luxuries."
Rebellion of 1786.-If the record above recited evinces an inclination to reiterate the complaints of the disaffected at that time, another recorded report, accepted by the town in October following, shows the wise course pursued by the town, in relation to that insurrection. In September, the town received a communication from Boston, promising strenuous exertions to support government. Dedham in reply, promised similar exertions, and thanked Boston for its resolutions. At the same time however, a committee was appointed to report a list of grievances. At a subsequent town meeting, the committee reported, that instead of renewing complaints at this time, it is more useful to explain the causes of many acknowledged evils, and suggest their appropriate remedy. The report protests against all the treasonable and riotous proceedings, then in operation, to overawe the government. It condemns the proposition of renewing complaints, as the rulers are well acquainted therewith, and disposed to remedy them. The scarcity of cash is an acknowledged evil, but the nicest arrangement of the civil list cannot be so effectual a remedy therefor, as private economy, industry and frugality, and above all, the substituting the manufactures and productions of this country, for the fripperies and luxuries of Europe. The town accepted this report, and resolved again to support the constitution. Fisher Ames, Esq. was not one of this committee, but I recognize his style herein, and the sound and useful advice which is given in the report, correspond with his writings on that subject.
March 26, 1793. The county of Norfolk was established, and Dedham became the shire town. This event had been desired by the inhabitants for many years, and had