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Boston, Massachusetts, History & Government (Hayward)

Gazetteer/Almanac

John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America... (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 287-300.

The first settlement of Boston was in 1630, when John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, and the company of immigrants with him, having arrived and tarried for a short time at Charlestown, removed their location to the peninsula. There was one solitary inhabitant there at an earlier date, the Rev. William Blackstone, of whom Mather speaks as " a godly Episcopalian," who in 1626 had built a cottage near what is now called Spring Street, in the western part of the city. In 1634, fifty acres of land were set off to Mr. Blackstone, which was about one twelfth part of the peninsula, he being " the first European inhabitant." Not long afterwards, when he wished to remove, the town purchased all his "right and title to the peninsula of Shawmut " for £30, each freeholder pacing six shillings, and some of them more. Mr. Blackstone afterwards settled in Rhode Island. In 1673, the first wharf was built. In 1677, the court appointed John Hayward postmaster, " to take in and convey letters according to direction," which was the first commencement of the post office system in America. In 1690, the first paper money was issued. In 1701, the representatives of Boston were instructed by the town to use their influence to obtain the abolition of slavery — one of the earliest movements in the world on this subject. April 17, 1704, the first number of the Boston News Letter, the earliest newspaper in America, was published by John Campbell. The year 1706 is rendered memorable in the annals of Boston by the birth of Benjamin Franklin. October 1, 1768, after the disaffection of the colonists with the British government had become serious, two regiments of British troops were landed at Boston, who took up their quarters in the old State House. March 5, 1770, the Boston massacre occurred, by the firing of the troops upon the citizens, and killing three persons and mortally wounding three others. March 31,1774, the Boston port bill was passed in the British Parliament, shutting the port of Boston and producing great distress among the citizens. May 14, the town voted to discontinue all commerce with Great Britain. On the 17th of June, 1775, the memorable battle of Bunker Hill was fought. March 17,1776, the British were compelled to evacuate Boston, and the American troops, under General Washington, entered it in triumph. Independence having been established, and peace declared in 1783, Boston, with other cities of the Union, entered upon a rapid career of commercial enterprise and prosperity.

Boston continued a town, and its affairs were administered by selectmen, like other towns in Massachusetts, until February 23, 1822. At this time the population was about 45,000. The intention to make Boston a city had occasionally been entertained since 1651; but the people had not hitherto felt the necessity of a more efficient municipality than that of the town. They had continued in a remarkable degree, notwithstanding the admixture of foreign elements, to justify the early encomium of Winthrop: “They wore generally of that understanding and moderation, as that they would be easily guided in their way by any rule from Scripture or sound reason."

The city is divided into 12 wards, and is governed by a mayor, 8 aldermen, and 48 common councilmen, 4 from each ward. The mayor and aldermen constitute one board, and the common councilmen another, who hold their sessions separately, excepting when they meet in joint ballot. Two persons besides from each ward are chosen to act with the mayor and president of the common council, as a school committee 5 and one from each ward to constitute a board of overseers of the poor. The term of all these offices is one year.

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