Just after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Rhode Island Speaker of the House Metcalf Bowler sent a letter to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. The letter stated the position of his colony toward the rebellion. “Firm and determined,” he wrote.
How firm and determined Metcalf Bowler was is open to question.
Bowler, an immigrant from London, England, grew very rich man as a merchant in Newport, R.I. An ardent horticulturist, he maintained the most beautiful garden in Portsmouth, R.I., before the American Revolution. Though he accomplished much as a politician and businessman, people remember Bowler for cultivating the popular Rhode Island Greening apple.
Metcalf Bowler served as speaker of the House of Representatives in Rhode Island from 1767-1776. Then in 1776 he served as chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 1776. During the occupation of Newport, the British ruined his Portsmouth estate. Bowler fled to Providence, where he operated a dry goods store and then a boarding house.
In the late 1920s, research into the papers of Sir Henry Clinton found letters revealing that Metcalf Bowler was a paid informant for the British. He apparently did it to protect his Portsmouth estate. It still isn’t clear if he gave the British any useful information.
On April 25, 1775, Metcalf Bowler wrote a letter to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Writing on behalf of the Rhode Island General Assembly, he assured Massachusetts of his colony’s support for the American Revolution.
He wrote that the Assembly was sitting in Providence ” to consult and act upon the present distresses into which your Colony and all of New-England are involved.”
With a few exceptions, he wrote, the colony was “firm and determined.” “A greater unanimity scarce ever prevailed in the Lower House than was found in the great questions before them,” he wrote.
“We pray God that he would be graciously pleased to bring to nothing the counsels and designs of wicked men against our lives and liberties, and grant his blessing upon our righteous contest.”
This story last updated in 2022.
[…] Metcalf Bowler, born in 1726 in London, England, emigrated to Newport, R.I. He then got rich and owned ships and several large houses. His real love was his garden in his country house in Portsmouth. He also spied during the Revolutionary War, but it isn’t clear for which side. […]
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