A Tale of a Town Meeting

Oct 22, 2011

The Town of Wareham has many issues confronting it, some of which are topics relating to the upcoming Town Meeting. While the town has many shortages and needs, the one thing that is never in short supply is opinions and the willingness to express them. This is as true today as it has been in the past. One of the most important things we can do is to try to keep things in perspective, both in understanding the past and looking forward to the future. The following is a first-hand account of a previous Town Meeting issue, written by the chairman of the Board of Selectmen at the time. While we can find humor in it, primarily because we are not emotionally involved in the issue being decided, we can also find an appreciation of the perspective that time can provide on our present issues that stir our emotions. [Please note that this is an exact transcripton of the original hand-written account, and as such the spelling and grammar is exactly as it was written.] Can you guess when this happened?


"I have had a little fun at a town meeting lately – Last Spring the town sold about $600 worth of Oysters to be carried away and planted where it is said they will grow salt & large & be fit to eat. Having got the money so unexpectedly and a prospect of having more from year to year it became a question what the town would do with it – two parties soon formed – the one said let it go to pay the Poll taxes and the other, let it go for town expenses – seeing the parties waxed warm, I in sport came out with a speech against them both proposing to give the money to the Religious Societies in town in proportion to their numbers to aid them in the support of the Gospel and quite unexpectedly to myself and more so to the leaders of both parties, the town voted to sustain my move. A few weeks after my business called me from town and the Treasury party got up a town meeting of 20 persons and reconsidered my vote and put the money into the Treasury, freightening the people with law and other troubles so much that none dare vote against it. I came home and the people came running to me to know if they could alter it – I told them they could if they had a majority and so they got up another meeting to reconsider the doings of the last meeting and the town was well visited by the treasury party with both the Wareham lawyers well fed and every rich man in town except Joshua B. Tobey & myself, he being the former leader of the Poll party & came over to assist me out of spight to the other party – when assembled I came out with a short speech of moderate tone and the vote was taken without argument and I had a majority of 4 – this waked up their everlasting wrath."


"The question was to be tried again with arguments – I consented and at it we went and each did his best for 2 or 3 hours – Tobey speaking pointed & spicy – I more solid & arguing relative – the lawyers daring & threatening and the rich man wrathy & overbearing – On the 2d vote I had 20 majority – The battle was then renewed for a 3d heat – I consenting and now the speaches became so wrathy that I was induced to redicule & laugh at them, keeping myself cool & sportive and when we tried the vote again I had 30 majority – not satisfied they wished to try it again, but I found bad feelings began to grow in some of them & I moved an adjournment sine dia & thus put a stop to the quarrel, since which time they threatened me hard – first to have another meeting. I told them I was ready – they then backed out – next they said they would move the Bank out of town. I told them I would lend them my aid – they backed out – then they said they would turn away my minister – I told them I was in favour of his staying the more to preach to them than myself – here they backed out – nexed they said they would run down real estate & make my property worth nothing – I told them I had none to sell & would buy a little more when it got cheap – here they backed out & said they would leave the town & carry their property with them – I told them I would have a town meeting & rather guessed I could get a vote for them to go & receive the thanks of the town – next they would sue the town – I told them I could defend the town with the aid of their taxes as long as they could pay their costs & the greater part of mine too – finally I told them it would distress me some to see them all without noses but if they would bite off their own noses to spight me I would try to bear the spectacle as well as I could, seeing that they must bear the pain – finding themselves cornered on every side they bit their lips – cooled off and have been as clever as puppies for the last week -- & so ends the Oyster sport."