Jeremiah Powell

Date of Birth

June 3, 1720

Date of Death

Sept. 1, 1784

Letters Authored


Letters Received


Jeremiah Powell was born 303 years ago.
239 years ago, Jeremiah Powell passed away at the age of 64.


The Letter was written by Jeremiah Powell, a member and often president of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts. It is written to John Cushing, Esq. and expresses Mr. Powell's anger at Mr. Cushing for not having paid a debt that he is owed. The letter details the financial distress Mr. Powell has endured due to Mr. Cushing's failure.

Jeremiah Dummer Powell was one of the original patriots who, as a member and sometimes president of the Provincial Congress, was significantly involved in the prosecution of the American Revolution. Letters were often sent back and forth between Jeremiah Powell and Founding Fathers such as Samuel Adams, John Adams, George Washington, and John Jay. Many of these can be seen at the “Electronic Text Center”, University of Virginia Library.

The following excerpt was taken from the “Collections of the Maine Historical Society”:
“Jeremiah Dummer Powell, who owned lands at North Yarmouth, Maine, in the last century, which he inherited from his father, John Powell was born 3 June 1720. His mother, Ann Dummer Powell, was sister to Lieutenant Governor Dummer, and the celebrated Jeremiah Dummer, agent for Massachusetts at the Court of Queen Anne.”[1]

In 1769, Jeremiah Powell wrote a memorandum which was in effect a brief autobiography of his life as of that date:

“I received a commission for Justice of Peace for the County of York, from Governor Shirley, dated August, 1744.

1745–I went Representative from North Yarmouth, and served the town as Representative about 16 or 17 years between 1745 and 1766. I was then chosen into the Council.

1762–I was appointed Lieutenant Colonel under Colonel Waldo.

1763–I was appointed First Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Cumberland County.

1767–I was appointed Justice through the Province. The three last commissions were under Governor Barnard.

My father, John Powell, died October 1, 1742. I lived with him at North Yarmouth, and after his death I took his eastern lands, and lived at North Yarmouth.

I married Sarah Bromfield September 15, 1768, and now live with her at North Yarmouth.

October 11, 1769” [1]

Subsequent to his brief autobiographical note of 1767, Jeremiah Powell was a member of the Massachusetts Provincial Council, and by virtue of his tenure as a member of the Council, he served as its President ten times from 4 July 1775 to 25 October 1780.

“Honorable Jeremiah Powell, a member of the Honorable Council died on a visit to his estate in North Yarmouth, Maine, September, 1784, aged 64 years.” [1]

The following excerpts are from the “Massachusetts Archive Collection”, ( ) and provide a brief history of the Provincial Congress from 1774 to 1780. A list of presidents can be found at the end of the last passage.

“Historical Sketch — Provincial Congresses (1774-1775)
Spurred by the 1774 "Intolerable Acts," which significantly altered the 1692 charter, closed the Port of Boston, and allowed the quartering of British troops in the town of Boston, the General Court resolved itself into the first Provincial Congress on October 7, 1774, in Concord. Among its early actions were resolves appointing Henry Gardner as receiver-general for the province and establishing a plan for the defense and safety of the province.
It also organized a Committee of Safety, which functioned primarily as an executive for the Congress. Despite its provisional nature, the Provincial Congress came to be seen as the legitimate government for all of Massachusetts except the area around Boston that was still under British control. The first Congress dissolved on December 10, 1774.
After new elections, the next Provincial Congress met at Cambridge on February 1, 1775, and later at Concord and Watertown. It was dissolved on May 29, 1775. A third newly elected Congress met at Watertown on May 31, 1775, and dissolved on July 19, 1775, on the same day that the new state government was inaugurated.
On May 12, 1775, after the battles of Concord and Lexington and the subsequent gathering of the Continental Army around Boston, the Provincial Congress applied to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia to clarify the situation regarding a permanent government. Acting on that request, the Continental Congress resolved that Massachusetts was correct in recognizing that the positions of governor, lieutenant governor, and the Council were vacant. They recommended that the Massachusetts towns elect a new Assembly that would choose a Council from among its members. On July 19, 1775, this newly elected General Court "resumed" government under the old 1691 charter.

1.Gen. Thomas Gage: 1774-1775 (royal governor, but disqualified by the Provincial Congress in May 1775) “ [2]

“Historical Sketch — Revolutionary Period (1775-1780)
From July 19, 1775, until a new constitution was adopted in 1780, state government was based on a modified version of the 1691 charter. Massachusetts followed the advice of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and created a temporary government. Lacking a governor or lieutenant governor, the Council or a standing committee sat continuously as the executive. When the General Court was in session the Council continued to meet as the upper house of the legislature. Although cumbersome, this form of government worked well enough to provide the necessary time for the development of a constitutional government.
Calls to change the provisional government began in 1776, with arguments that the Revolutionary War had ended any validity of a government based on a charter issued by the King of Great Britain. Questions about the process of constitution making revolved around the composition of the constitutional convention and the need for popular ratification.
On June 17, 1777, the General Court resolved itself into a constitutional convention and early the next year the constitution establishing the State of the Massachusetts Bay was submitted for popular ratification. It failed by a five to one margin. Although votes in town meeting provided a variety of explanations for dissatisfaction with the proposed constitution, chief among them were the absence of a bill of rights, a constitutional convention composed of the legislature instead of specially elected delegates, lack of complete separation of governmental powers, and a restriction on the religious background of office holders.
On February 19, 1779, the General Court again asked the towns to vote on the expediency of drafting a new constitution and the need to elect a special constitutional convention. The resulting constitutional convention convened on September 1, 1779, and met through June 1780. The government under the new Commonwealth of Massachusetts began on October 25, 1780.

There were no elected governors during the Revolutionary period.

Council Presidents during the Revolutionary period:
According to the rules of the Council, the "eldest" councilor present always acted as the president. Seniority was determined by the length of service in the Council - not the age of the individual. The Council was elected from the members of the House of Representatives at the beginning of the legislative year in May, and the order of seniority was determined at that point.
James Otis July 27 - September 12, 1775
William Sever September 21 - October 6, 1775
James Otis October 7 - October 16, 1775
James Bowdoin October 17 - October 19, 1775
James Otis October 20 - October 23, 1775
James Bowdoin October 24 - October 25, 1775
James Otis October 26 - November 16, 1775
Walter Spooner November 29 - December 5, 1775
William Sever December 6 - December 29, 1775
Walter Spooner December 30, 1775 - January 15, 1776
William Sever January 16 - February 12, 1776
Benjamin Greenleaf February 13 - February 23, 1776
William Sever March 14 - March 29, 1776
James Otis March 30 - April 30, 1776
James Bowdoin May 1 - May 3, 1776
James Otis May 4 - May 7, 1776
James Bowdoin May 8, 1776
James Otis May 9 - May 13, 1776
James Bowdoin May 30 - June 22, 1776
Jeremiah Powell June 24 - July 4, 1776
James Bowdoin July 5 - July 16, 1776
Various individuals
James Bowdoin August 16 - September 25, 1776
Walter Spooner September 26 - October 4, 1776
James Bowdoin October 9 - November 16, 1776
Jeremiah Powell November 18 - December 2, 1776
James Bowdoin December 3, 1776 - February 11, 1777
Jeremiah Powell February 12 - July 10, 1777
Artemas Ward July 11 - July 21, 1777
William Sever July 22 - August 1, 1777
Artemas Ward August 2 - August 13, 1777
Jeremiah Powell August 14, 1777 - June 1, 1778
Artemas Ward June 2 - June 8, 1778
Jeremiah Powell June 9, 1778 - June 7, 1779
Artemas Ward June 8 - June 10, 1779
Jeremiah Powell June 11 - October 16, 1779
Artemas Ward October 18 - October 23, 1779
William Sever October 25 - November 9, 1779
Artemas Ward November 10 - December 1, 1779
Jeremiah Powell December 2, 1779 - June 7, 1780
James Bowdoin June 8 - August 25, 1780
Jeremiah Powell August 28 - September 5, 1780
James Bowdoin September 6 - September 16, 1780
Jeremiah Powell September 18 - October 13, 1780
James Bowdoin October 14 - October 18, 1780
Jeremiah Powell October 19 - October 25, 1780” [2]

[1] “Collections of the Maine Historical Society”, Volume 7, p 233.,M1

[2] Massachusetts Archive Collection.