Oliver Partridge

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Oliver Partridge (1712-1792) was a military commander and politician in colonial America. He represented Massachusetts at the Albany Congress of 1754, and at the Stamp Act Congress of 1765.

Life[edit]

Family[edit]

Partridge was born in Hatfield, Massachusetts to a family of English colonial officers and magistrates. He was a member of the Dudley-Winthrop Family, known for their involvement in colonial politics. He was a great-grandson of Massachusetts Governor Simon Bradstreet and a great-great-grandson of Massachusetts Governor and Harvard founder Thomas Dudley. He was the only son of Colonel Edward Partridge, and grandson of Colonel Samuel Partridge. His grandson, Edward Partridge (1793 – 1840), was an early convert to the Latter Day Saints and the church's first Presiding Bishop. His great-grandson Edward Partridge Jr. was a member of the Utah Legislature and the Utah Constitutional Convention of 1895 which ratified Utah statehood.

Education and early offices[edit]

His commanding position among the "River Gods" or ruling families of Western New England is reflected in his ranking 2nd in his Yale class of 1730 at a time when Harvard and Yale graduates were ranked according to their family’s social standing, rather than academic merit. Oliver’s uncle, Rev. Elisha Williams, of the numerous and influential Williams clan that founded Williams College, was the president of Yale College during Partridge’s student years there, reading law and surveying. In 1734 Partridge married Anna, the daughter of the Reverend William Williams of Weston and was appointed joint Clerk of the Court of Hampshire County. He also served as a selectman of Hatfield almost every year from 1731 to 1774 and again in 1780–81; a representative in the Massachusetts General Court 1741, 1761, and 1765-1767; and High Sheriff of Hampshire County from 1741-1743.

Later offices and the Revolution[edit]

In June 1744, at the outbreak of King George's War, he was appointed to a committee of 3 by Massachusetts Governor William Shirley (along with John Leonard and his cousin John Stoddard) to oversee the construction of a line of military forts along the western frontier of the Colonies to defend against the French. In 1754 he represented Massachusetts in the first American Congress which was convened at Albany, New York. Congress ultimately passed Benjamin Franklin’s plan for colonial union. Upon his return to Massachusetts from New York he was commissioned a Colonel and succeeded his uncle Israel Williams in command of Britain’s provincial forces on the Western frontier. In 1765 he, alongside James Otis, Jr. and Timothy Ruggles, represented Massachusetts at the Stamp Act Congress in New York, the first major American opposition to British policy. Partridge signed the Declaration of Rights and Grievances to HM King George III and Parliament in which the American Congress respectfully declared their loyalty to the king while at the same time laying out the colonists rights as natural born subjects of Great Britain with all of the rights and liberties pertaining thereto including the right to trial by jury and representation in matters of taxation. The Stamp Act Congress and its Declaration of Rights helped lead to the Stamp Act's repeal in March 1766. It also led the colonists to focus on the idea of constitutional limitations on parliamentary authority, a concept that contributed to the American Revolution. While Partridge was in favor of colonial union and a defender of colonist's English rights, when he later received a letter from revolutionary leaders in Boston in1775 as to whether he would take up arms against the mother country he replied that he feared such action might bring the country more harm then good and remained a Loyalist and a Tory, as was common among the landed gentry. As matters progressed he reconciled himself to the inevitability of separation from the British Empire once it had become an accomplished fact, and resumed his legal duties as an American. Such was the respect in which he was held by his countrymen that his revolutionary neighbors did not molest his person or property during the American Revolutionary War, and in 1780 and 1781 he was again appointed selectman for Hatfield.

Epitaph[edit]

He died at Hadley. His epitaph states that "His usefulness in church and state was early known to men; Blest with an active life, till late, and happy in his end."

See also[edit]

  • Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College October, 1701 - May, 1745, New York Henry Holt & Co., 1885
  • Michael Coe, The Line of Forts, Historical Archaeology on the Colonial Frontier of Massachusetts University Press of New England, 2006
  • Richard Melvoin, New England Outpost: War & Society in Colonial Deerfield, 1988
  • Lucretia Lyman Ranney, My Children's American Ancestry, Published Privately 1959