Ipswich Post Office mural: “The Birthplace of American Independence”


During the New Deal era, artists were commissioned to paint murals in public areas throughout the country. The large mural that covers the entire wall over the Ipswich postmaster’s office door is entitled “Ipswich Tax Resistance–1687″ and was painted in 1941 by Saul Levine. The painting depicts the men of Ipswich in 1687, gathered in opposition to a new tax imposed by the English crown. This act of resistance has been called ‘the foundation of American Democracy,’ and was the beginning of a series of events which eighty-eight years later culminated in the Revolutionary War. The act of opposition is commemorated in the seal of the town of Ipswich, which bears the motto, “The Birthplace of American Independence 1687″.

Ipswich MA post office mural

In the early 1680s, King Charles II of England had revoked the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in an attempt to bring the colonies more closely under crown control. In 1686 the former governor of New York, Sir Edmund Andros, was appointed as governor of a new “Dominion” which included the Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island colonies. In 1688 its jurisdiction was expanded to include New York, and East and West Jersey. Andros invalidated existing land titles in Massachusetts, restricted town meetings and actively promoted the Church of England in largely Puritan regions.

In 1687 John Andrews was chairman of the selectmen, the town clerk was John Appleton and  the minister at Chebacco Parish was the popular John Wise. They met with other town leaders to discuss the command of crown-appointed governor Sir Edmond Andros and his council that a new tax be assessed on the king’s subjects. A town meeting was hastily organized the next day which voted that “no taxes should be Levied upon the Subjects without consent of the Assembly chosen by the Freeholders.” For this act Rev. Wise, John Andrews, John Appleton, Samuel Appleton, William Goodhue, Robert Kinsman, and Thomas French were arrested and tried before the court in Boston. They were severely handled,  imprisoned for several weeks and fined. Sam Appleton refused to give the bond and was  kept a prisoner from November until  March under very harsh conditions.

A group of provincial militia and citizens gathered in Boston on April 18, 1869 and arrested several dominion officials as well as members of the Church of England who were suspected of sympathizing with the administration. Major Samuel Appleton was among the men who helped escort Andros to Castle Island in Boston Harbor as a prisoner. Leaders of the former Massachusetts Bay Colony then reclaimed control of the government, rescinded the tax order, and Andros was shipped back to England. Rhode Island and Connecticut resumed governance under their earlier charters as well.