"FRUSTRATE THE DIREFUL MACHINATIONS OF THE ENEMIES OF OUR COUNTRY" (AMERICAN REVOLUTION--PRELUDE.) Pact to enforce New York's "Agreement of Non-Importation" during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty. Manuscript document, 2 pages, 10 1/2 x 8 inches; wear and dampstaining at edges with minimal loss of text, folds, trimmed at top edge. With an annotated transcript. New York, 12 November 1769
This agreement was made among Sons of Liberty leader Isaac Sears and other members of New York's mercantile community who resisted British taxation. After the Stamp Act was repealed, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts in 1767, hoping to recoup some of that lost income with a series of other taxes. This in turn inspired Non-Importation Associations among merchants in most of the major American ports, closely allied with the radical Sons of Liberty. Merchants found to be offering newly imported goods were identified and shamed, and coaxed into making public apologies.
This agreement recalls that a "certain agreement of non-importation" was unanimously agreed upon by the city's merchants in 1768, and lists 25 men by their initials who had been appointed in 1768 to enforce the agreement. This committee had fallen down on the job, "the majority of whom, by their sordid designs, ignorance, inattention & timidity have utterly perverted the laudable intention of the afores'd inhabitants, & will, if not timely prevented, accomplish a general importation." Thus a new committee was formed "frustrate the direful machinations of the enemies of our country & preserve its most manifest rights, do hereby solemnly promise & engage mutually to assist each other on all necessary & justifiable emergencies." The members are sworn to absolute secrecy.
24 signatories are listed, among them the undisputed local leader of the Sons of Liberty, Isaac Sears; and another active member, Edward Laight. Other prominent men on the list include Isaac Low, who later served in the first Continental Congress and later switched sides to the Loyalists; and Peter T. Curtenius, who later became a Commissary General for the Continental troops.
The enforcement of the non-importation agreement was a constant struggle in New York during this period, discussed in numerous broadsides and newspaper articles in 1769 and 1770. Offered here is the secret agreement of the men who made it happen.