DONNISON (1754-1834) was a Revolutionary War Continental Army Officer, serving at
various times as an Aid to Massachusetts Governor John Hancock. He served as Adjutant
General of the Massachusetts Militia, and a Judge of Common Pleas, appointed by
Gov. Samuel Adams. He also uncovered a major political scandal during the
Federalists and Anti-Federalists debates over the ratification of the United
There have been many militias in Massachusetts, dating back as early as the 1600s. Offering two Commonwealth of Massachusetts Broadside Military Orders by Donnison, the first dated April 20th, 1802, from Headquarters in Northampton, MA, and the second March 8, 1804, each approximately 8 x 12 and describing a militia in a state of refinement as the commonwealth was moving forward to assure the protection of its citizens.
The 1802 document reads, in part, “From official returns and reports, the Commander in Chief is happy to learn that the Officers an Soldiers of the Militia continue their exertions for the maintenance of a respectable and well regimented Military Force, and that by their present efforts and discipline, order and supportive native become more familiar and gain a more permanent establishment in the Militia of this Commonwealth…
“The suspension of war in Europe is already felt in America. The government of the Union have reduced their military establishment to the number necessary for the garrisons and frontier posts…
“The Commanding Officers…are particularly cautioned against indulgencies, whereby individuals may be suffered to evade the rules and orders of the Government…Many of the arms are yet unfit for service. The law requires that their calibers shall be capable of carrying balls of eighteen to the pound. While these and many other objects claim the observation of the Company Officers, it is expected that the…equipments…implements and badges…not be dispensed with…
“In the Militia Sergeant stands in the road of presentment. None ought,
therefore, to be appointed to that station, who are not distinguished by
merit. Men of immoral, vicious and
debauched habits ought to be carefully avoided…”
The 1804 document reads, in part “…Though all military institutions have an ultimate reference to a state of war yet it is the policy of every good government to aim at removing to the greatest possible distance that scourge of human happiness and no system appears more likely to avenge the evil than that of assuming the military position of an armed nation…
“The details of this important institution require constant inspection and vigilance; and the most minute parts often call for the adjustment and regulation of its directors to enable it to perform its resolutions with correctness and precision…
“The commander will suggest to the superior Officers the utility of always appointing a respectable officer to preside at elections, whose duty it shall be to regulate the same and report his proceedings to the officer from whom he received his appointment. In this way many irregularities will be avoided which might eitherwise occur in these transactions.
“The Muster-Roll of a Company of Men in the proper evidence of the active existence of the Company, and in order to identify and render valid this essential record by the Commanding Officer with his name and office…”
Each document has been sealed in plastic for preservation. The top sheet of plastic has been removed from the 1802 document, possibly lending to staining. Toning to both with bleed through. Still overall readable and fine early Massachusetts militaria.
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