Front Page Titles (by Subject) Revolutionary Committees of Safety - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1981, vol. 4, No. 3
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Revolutionary Committees of Safety - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1981, vol. 4, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Revolutionary Committees of Safety
“The New Hampshire Committee of Safety and Revolutionary Republicanism.” Historical New Hampshire 35(February 1980):241–283.
New Hampshire's Fourth Provisional Congress created a state Committee of Safety on May 26, 1775. The purpose was to provide the Revolutionary movement with the institutional continuity and effective leadership which it lacked.
The Committee represented the emergence of new social forces in the state. Usually new to politics, they came mostly from the inland region. The Committee operated broadly in a wide range of executive, legislative, and judicial functions to the extent it might be called the “real revolutionary government.” During these nine years there were nineteen separate Committees, which met over a range of from 66 to 345 days.
The turnover of members was high, and the bulk of the work was done by five men: John Dudley, Mashech Wesare, Josiah Bartlett, Josiah Moulton and John Calfe. The “new” men who had had a local, but not imperial, power base were drawn from the middle-aged, Congregational, economic elite of farmers and merchants. At first selected by counties, the Committee was later based proportionally on representation in the legislature.
Membership reflected the interests of three areas: the Connecticut River Valley, Portsmouth along with its satellite towns, and the towns in the Merrimack Valley. The first of these areas had been denied participation in colonial policies to such a degree that many of the residents had threatened secession. Portsmouth had dominated in the pre-revolutionary years, but it was from the Merrimack area that a large number of men, previously denied office, came to participate on the Committee.
While the Committee worked with what was often an inefficient Assembly, it was at times reluctant to share power. The Committee in so acting tended to violate the notion of mixed government which formed the core of eighteenth-century political theory.
Beyond the executive functions, or legislative activities, the Committee also acted in a judicial capacity especially in cases of counterfeiting, suspected treason or desertion. At the same time local committees had, by 1779, been set up in every town. The State Committee and the legislature served as ultimate checks on the activities of these numerous groups. While relations were on the whole harmonious, several times the various committees found themselves in jurisdictional conflicts.
The early and widespread committee system was a clear signal to older, conservative leaders of the revolutionary ferment in the state. The Committees kept the peace, and even became active in economic activities during the war.
The judicial activities then and now, however, drew the greatest comment. While not acting as Star Chambers, the committee used considerable power to punish suspected disloyalty. The Committee failed to survive the war and by 1781 attention was turning to the writing of the new state constitution. In addition to the legislature (led by Speaker John Langdon), the Portsmouth leaders began to challenge the work of the State Committee and call for a constitutional convention. The ratification of the new Constitution late in 1783 signalled the end of the committee system which had taken such an active part in the prosecution of the war.