As the American Revolution engaged the citizens of Groton, Mass., in 1775, the Rev. Sanuel Dana made a bad choice.
He didn’t have Loyalist, otherwise the townspeople would have run him out of Groton. But he didn’t believe in resisting the British authorities. For that, the town banned him from the Groton Meetinghouse, where he preached.
Dana was born in Cambridge, Mass., on Jan. 14, 1739. He graduated from Harvard in 1755, a classmate of John Adams. He then studied theology. In 1761, the Town of Groton, Mass., invited him to serve as minister for a sum of 200 pounds, an annual salary of 80 pounds and as much as 30 cords of firewood per year.
He tried to persuade his parishioners that more evil than good would come of resistance to the British. That offended and agitated them. In the fraught spring of 1775, they prevented him from entering the meetinghouse. He had to write a letter begging forgiveness and pledging loyalty to the Continental Congress.
I, the subscriber, being deeply affected with the miseries brought on this Country by a horrid thirst for ill-got wealth and unconstitutional power; and lamenting my unhappiness in being left to adopt principles in politicks different from the generality of my countrymen, and thence to conduct in a manner that has but too justly excited the jealousy and resentment of the true sons of liberty against me, earnestly desirous at the same time to give them all the satisfaction in my power, do hereby sincerely ask forgiveness of all such for whatever I have said or done that had the least tendency to the injury of my Country, assuring them that it is my full purpose, in my proper sphere, to unite with them in all those laudable and fit measures that have been recommended by the Continental and Provincial Congresses, for the salvation of this Country, hoping my future conversation and conduct will fully prove the uprightness of my present professions.
Groton. May 23, 1775.
Dana satisfied Groton’s Committee of Correspondence that he had atoned for his sins. The committee published a notice that said:
The inhabitants of Groton in town-meeting assembled, the Reverend Samuel Dana offered that to the Town with regard to his political principles and conduct with which the Town voted themselves fully satisfied, and that he ought to enjoy the privileges of society in common with other members; and we hope this, with the following by him subscribed, will be fully satisfactory to the publick.
Committee of Correspondence for GROTON.
But that didn’t mollify the Groton parishioners. They soon had the Rev. Samuel Dana dismissed. He stayed on in Groton for a while, running a small farm. Then he became executor of the will of a lawyer named John Bulkeley. He moved Bulkeley’s law library to his own house and began to study his books. He was admitted to the bar and began to practice law in Amherst, N.H. In 1787 he was named a county judge of probate, and won election to the state Senate in 1793. Samuel Dana died in Amherst on April 1, 1798. His son, also Samuel Dana, won election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts.
This story last updated in 2022.
Image of Groton meetinghouse (landscape): By John Phelan – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11752422. Vertical image: By The original uploader was Decumanus at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Quadell using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7159684.