"Town meetings are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they bring it within the people's reach, they teach men how to use and how to enjoy it."
--Alex de Tocqueville
The history of Town Meetings is the history of liberty in Massachusetts. Massachusetts’s residents began holding Town Meetings over 350 years ago, shortly after the Puritans arrived from England, seeking liberty.
One reason that Massachusetts’s colonists revolted against Great Britain was the British attempt to ban most Town Meetings except by permission. In 1774, British Soldiers tried to stop a Salem Town Meeting in progress, but the citizens barred the door of their town house and continued to meet.
On the American Revolution's first day of fighting, members of the Lexington militia gathered on the town common at around 2:00 in the morning on April 19, 1775. There they held an impromptu open-air Town Meeting to "consult what might be done" about the British soldiers marching from Boston, as the local minister later wrote.
Attending Town Meetings was once mandatory for freemen who owned land.