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fathers, ever true to the great cause of education, have made suitable provision in all portions of their history to educate the rising generation.
As this chapter is designed to carry the general history of the town to the close of the French war in 1763, it seems proper to take a general view of the town from its incorporation to that period. The French and Indian wars fill an important page in the history of the town and of the Colony. The dangers to which the people were exposed, the repeated drafts made upon their men and their means, the sufferings of the soldiers, and the great loss of life, in the camp and in the field, give to this part of our history a thrilling interest; and were it not for the more recent struggles, which gave us a place among the nations of the earth, and which have shown to the world that we can support our Union, the "old French wars," as they have been denominated, would be regarded as the most important era in our annals. Viewed in the light of the philosophy of history, these wars may be regarded as among the primary causes of our free institutions. They were contests between Catholic France and Protestant England for supremacy in North America; and upon their result hung, in a great degree, the destiny of these Colonies and the cherished hopes of our Puritan ancestors. Not only the religious but the political fate of New England was in a manner involved in the contest. Great Britain had, at an early day, asserted her right to legislate for the Colonies, — a right which the Colonies had denied. But while they had asserted their right to raise their own money, call out their own troops, and make their own laws, the colonists had ever professed their readiness to sustain His Majesty's Colonies, protect His Majesty's possessions, and defend, with their lives and fortunes, His Majesty's right on this continent. These wars gave them an opportunity to redeem their pledges, and so to lay a broad foundation for the gratitude of the parent country.
The French wars not only gave our fathers a juster appreciation of their rights, but impressed them with a consciousness of their ability to maintain and defend them. Men who had taken Louisburg from the veteran troops of France, served under England's most experienced commanders, and contributed largely to the conquest of Canada, felt that they had rendered their sovereign essential service, and were justly entitled to the consideration of the Crown. They had also acquired that knowledge of military science and that experience in the art of war which enabled them to meet the shock of the Revolution unmoved, and to persevere to the end of that glorious contest.
But these wars, though they were a part of the stern discipline to prepare the people for the Revolutionary struggle, were a great drain upon the Colony; and the actual sufferings and hardships endured by the soldiers in the field and the people at home were as great as, if not greater than, those experienced during the War of Independence. The rolls of the service in these early wars are very imperfect, and in some cases are entirely lost; so that we are unable to give the number of soldiers furnished by Lexington. From a thorough examination, however, we are able to state that the number was large, considering that the population of the town at the close of the war, in 1763, could not have been over six hundred. In 174041, an expedition was fitted out against the Spanish West Indies settlements, Cuba being the principal object. Five hundred men were furnished by Massachusetts, and such were the accidents of the expedition and such the mortality among the troops that only fifty of the number returned. No regular rolls of that service have been found; but we have been able to find the names of six men from Lexington.
In 1745, the memorable expedition against Louisburg was fitted out; Massachusetts furnished thirty-two hundred and fifty of the four thousand and seventy men comprising that expedition. The rolls of the troops are not found in the archives of the State, it being generally supposed that they were sent to England as vouchers. It is not, therefore, possible to state the number of men from this town. But as every town, especially near the seaboard, furnished more or fewer men, it is safe to conclude that Lexington was represented in that brilliant expedition. In fact the obituary notices give the names of several who died at Cape Breton that year, and hence it follows with almost mathematical certainty that they were soldiers.
In 1748, there appear to have been three Lexington men in the service; in 1754, four; in 1755, there were twenty-three; in 1756, twenty-four; in 1757, thirty-three; in 1758, nine; in 1759, six; in 1760, forty; in 1761, five, and in 1762, twentyeight. The rolls of the service are imperfect at best. Some of them are lost, and others are so dilapidated that many of the names are illegible. Besides, many of the rolls do not give the name of the town where the soldier resided. Under these circumstances it is impossible to give a full list of those who were in the service. The true number must have been greater than stated above. Enough, however, is known to justify the statement that Lexington was not behind her sister towns in responding to the calls of the country. In fact few, if any, towns, numbering only about six hundred inhabitants, and remote from the scene of danger, sent forth a larger number of men.
The effects of these exhausting wars must have been great upon every town in the Province. Nothing retards the growth of population like war. Of the soldiers called into service, those who fall in battle make but a small part of those lost to their respective towns. Many fall a prey to disease, and many more to the vices of the camp and the habits of roving and idleness, and so never return to their respective towns. Besides, the soldiers in the field generally belong to the producing class, so far as population is concerned. Many young men return comparatively poor, and so are not in a condition to support a family; consequently, if they marry at all, they marry late in life. I mention these things to account for the fact that the population of Lexington was nearly stationary during the French and the Revolutionary wars.
There are many things in the manners and customs of those days which appear singular to us. The system of "Warning out of town" 1 is among them. The General Court had authorized towns to take this precaution, to prevent strangers from becoming a town charge as paupers. The practical working of this system was this: When any family or single person, even to a domestic in a family, came into town, the head of the family, or person owning the premises, was required to give notice to the selectmen of the names and numbers of the newcomers, the place whence they came, the date of their coming into town, and their pecuniary condition. If the selectmen thought there was danger of their becoming a public charge, they caused them to be warned to leave the town, and to have a "caution," as it was termed, entered with the Court of Sessions. This matter appears on our records as early as 1714, when "Capt: Joseph Estabrook
1 For an exhaustive and interesting discussion of this matter, see Warning Out in New England, by J. H. Benton. Boston, 1911. Ed.