Just after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Rhode Island Speaker of the House Metcalf Bowler sent a letter to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress stating his colony was ‘firm and determined.’
How firm and determined Metcalf Bowler was is open to question.
Bowler, an emigre from London, England, became a very rich man as a merchant in Newport, R.I. He was an ardent horticulturist who maintained the most beautiful garden in Portsmouth, R.I., before the American Revolution. Though he was an accomplished politician and businessman, Bowler is remembered for cultivating the popular Rhode Island Greening apple.
Metcalf Bowler served as speaker of the House of Representatives in Rhode Island from 1767-1776 and as chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 1776. His Portsmouth estate was ruined by the British during the occupation of Newport in December 1776. 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 during the time he was hailed as a patriot. He was apparently trying 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 in the aftermath of the Battles of Lexington and Concord on behalf of the Rhode Island General Assembly. He wrote:
Providence, April 25, 1775.
SIR: our intelligence to the Governour and Company of this Colony, by Edward Rawson, Esquire, was received by the Assembly, who were sitting in Providence to consult and act upon the present distresses into which your Colony and all of New-England are involved. You will see by the enclosed papers what we have done. Notwithstanding an exception of a very few individuals, you may be assured that the Colony are firm and determined, and that a greater unanimity scarce ever prevailed in the Lower House than was found in the great questions before them.
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. I am, in behalf of the General Assembly, your and your Colony’ s sincere friend and humble servant,
METCALF BOWLER, Speaker.