VOLUME II, now completed, contains the extant Royal Commissions issued to certain of the Crown officials of the Massachusetts Bay from 1681 to 1774, both included.

    At the meeting of this Society held in March, 1893, our associate Mr. Abner Cheney Goodell generously presented to the Society copies of the Royal Commissions and of the Royal Instructions issued to certain of the Crown officials of the Massachusetts Bay, 1681–1774.1 At that time it was supposed that the Commissions and the Instructions together would fill a volume of about five hundred pages, and printing at once began. But as this progressed, an occasional new Commission and many new Instructions were found, and soon it was obvious that the material would far outrun the limits of a single volume. In addition, the resources of the Society were adequate only to the task of paying for its Transactions. When, therefore, the Table of Regnal Years, the Charter, the Explanatory Charter, the Commissions of the Governors as Governor, and the Instructions from 1686 to 1702, had been set, printing was brought to a stop for lack of funds. In 1910, however, one of our resident members, ever alive to the needs of the Society, offered to provide for the expense of issuing the Commissions, which (as it was now clear) would fill an entire volume of our Collections. Printing was resumed as soon as possible, and the present volume is the result. In 1912 the same member placed the Society under additional obligations by offering to pay for the printing of the Royal Instructions, and work on these has been resumed.

    The Committee gratefully acknowledges the Society’s indebtedness for many courtesies extended to the Editor by the officials of the Public Record Office, London; by Miss Lucy Drucker of London; by Mr. James Joseph Tracy, Chief of the Archives Division of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the clerks under him; and by the officials of many libraries, historical societies and institutions, and by individuals, in this country.

    Of the fifty-eight Commissions that are known to have been issued — one to the Collector, Surveyor, and Searcher of Customs in the Colonies of New England; two to the President of the Council for New England; four to the Governor, one to the Lieutenant-Governor, and two to the Secretary and Register of the Territory and Dominion of New England; twenty-seven to the Governors, twelve to the Lieutenant-Governors, and seven to the Secretaries of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay; and two to the Bishop of London — fifty-three are printed in this volume. The five Commissions of which no copies have been found, though diligent search has been made for them in London, Boston, and elsewhere, are the following, with their actual or approximate dates:


    Isaac Addington



    William Stoughton



    William Tailer


    1715 April 285

    William Tailer



    William Dummer


    The present volume actually contains fifty-four Commissions, but the Commission of Lord Willoughby as Vice-Admiral of Barbados is inserted merely because Dudley’s Commission of November 13, 1685, was not recorded in full. Of the fifty-three Commissions relating to Massachusetts, twenty-eight are printed from copies obtained in London, there being no copies at the State House; nine are printed from copies at the State House, there being no copies in London; fifteen are printed from copies obtained in London collated with copies also at the State House; and one7 is printed from a copy obtained in London collated with an exemplification in the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society. It thus appears that of the fifty-three Commissions, copies of twenty-four only are now to be found at the State House. Two of these — that of Randolph (1685) and that of Andros (1686) — are in the volume labelled Massachusetts Archives, CXXVI. 95–96, 7–16. The remaining twenty-two are in one or the other of two volumes respectively labelled “Crown Commissions, 1628–1663” and “Crown Commissions, 1677–1774.”8 Yet neither of these volumes contains a Commission of earlier date than 1717, and no Governor’s Commission of earlier date than 1741.9 That so few Commissions are now extant is matter for surprise, for it is reasonable to suppose that such important documents would have been recorded in Boston on their arrival. Indeed, there is evidence that they were so recorded. Thus on June 11, 1702, after Dudley had taken the oaths as Governor, “His Excellency further proposed, that Her Majesty’s Letters Patent to himselfe as Governour, and his Comissn for vice Admiral and the Honble the Lieutt Govrs Commission might be made of Record. Which the Council advised accordingly.”10 Again, on August 12, 1728, Burnet’s Commission as Vice-Admiral was read in Council and “the Secretary directed to record it.”11 Yet none of these Commissions is now extant. It may also be observed that at one time there was apparently still another volume of Crown Commissions, which has likewise disappeared.12 No doubt the melancholy explanation of the fact that so many documents that ought to be in the State House are not there, is that they were destroyed when the original Boston Town House was burned in 1711 or when the new Town House (the present old State House) was seriously injured by fire in 1747.13

    Of the Commissions found in the Public Record Office there are, generally speaking, two copies of each — one in the Colonial Office Records and one in the Patent Rolls. The copies in the Colonial Office Records were drafts merely, blank spaces being frequently left for the insertion of dates, and changes were sometimes later made. On the other hand, the final stage through which a Commission passed was enrolment in the Patent Rolls; and hence, wherever possible, Commissions should be printed from that source. Of the seventeen Commissions issued to the Governors (or President) as Governor (or President), one — that of Shute (1716) — is in the Colonial Office Records but not in the Patent Rolls; while the remaining sixteen are in the Patent Rolls. Of the thirteen Commissions issued to the Lieutenant-Governors, four — those of Stoughton (1691), Tailer (1711, 1715), and Dummer (1716) — are not extant; two — those of Andrew Oliver (1770) and Thomas Oliver (1774) — are neither in the Patent Rolls nor in the Colonial Office Records; while seven — those of Nicholson (1688), Povey (1702), Dummer (1727), Tailer (1730), Phips (1732), and Hutchinson (1758, 1761) — are in the Colonial Office Records but not in the Patent Rolls. Of the ten Commissions issued to the Secretaries, one — that of Addington (1691) — is not extant; one — that of Randolph (1685) — is neither in the Patent Rolls nor in the Colonial Office Records; while the remaining seven are in the Patent Rolls. Of the two Commissions issued to the Bishop of London, both are in the Patent Rolls. The Commissions issued to the Governors as Vice-Admiral are not in the Patent Rolls; but four — those of Willoughby (1667), Dudley (1685) and Andros (1686, 1688) — are in the Colonial Office Records; while the remaining thirteen are in the Royal Courts of Justice.14 It thus appears that of the fifty-four Commissions in this volume, thirty-two are printed from copies obtained from the Patent Rolls. In the present volume, a statement of the source or sources of the text is appended in every instance.

    The following extracts, explaining the “Offices and Documents connected with the Working of the Great Seal,” taken from a report dated May 15, 1841, by Sir Francis Palgrave, at that time Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, give an authoritative account of the processes, and are here reprinted for convenience, the report not being generally accessible in this country:

    General Course of affixing the Great Seal. . . . The whole process of passing Letters Patent under the Great Seal is, however, very complicated, and differing according to the nature of the documents. The subject, therefore, will be rendered more intelligible, by first submitting to your Majesty a general view of the course or cycle of these documents; which course, in the numerical majority of cases, that is to say, in the cases of Patents for Inventions, Charters of Incorporation, and other Instruments of the like nature, issued as of grace and favour, upon the application of your Majesty’s subjects, is the following: —

    1. 1 Petition addressed to the Crown, upon which is grounded the
    1. 2 Reference to the Law Officer or Officers by the
    1. Privy Council, or
    2. Secretary of State.
    1. 3 Report
    1. of attorney Solicitor General, or one of them,
    2. and of Privy Council, if required, as explained below.
    1. 4 Warrant under your Majesty’s Sign Manual, which is the authority for the
    2. 5 Bill (called the Queen’s Bill) under your Majesty’s Sign Manual; which is the authority for the
    3. 6 Bill of Privy Signet; which is the authority for the
    4. 7 Writ of Privy Seal; which, having the recepi of the Lord Chancellor, is the authority for the
    5. 8 Patent under the Great Seal.
    6. 9 The Writ of Privy Seal is transmitted by the officer who makes out the patents to the
    7. 10 Six Clerks, who enrol the same, and who transmit the enrolment and writ to the
    8. 11 Clerks of the Petty Bag, who transmit the same to the
    9. 12 Chapel of the Rolls.

    In some cases, as after mentioned, when the Great Seal is affixed by the commands of your Majesty, or of your Ministers of State, the stages (1, 2, 3)15 are entirely dispensed with, and in others (if it be your Majesty’s pleasure) the stages (6, 7) are also dispensed with, except as to the fees.

    But if the Great Seal be affixed by your Lord High Chancellor, in exercise of the authority annexed by law or custom to his office, then the stages (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) are dispensed with, except that in certain cases a Bill (5) is signed by your Majesty.

    Royal Warrants, and Classes which they include. — The warrant (4) is a mandate under your Majesty’s sign manual, and countersigned, as before mentioned, directing the party to whom it is addressed to prepare a Bill for your Majesty’s signature, technically called “the King’s Bill,” or now “the Queen’s Bill” (5). The directions and commands so given, are addressed to your Majesty’s Attorney-General alone, or to your Majesty’s Attorney or Solicitor General in the disjunctive, or to your Majesty’s Attorney and Solicitor General jointly, as after mentioned, or to the Judge Advocate, or to the Clerk of your Majesty’s Signet, as the nature of the instrument may require. . . . If your Majesty’s Attorney-General be of opinion that the patent ought to be granted, he reports his opinion to your Majesty accordingly: if he should be of a contrary opinion, he does not make a report in the negative, but refrains from making any report at all, and the application drops. . . .

    The report (3) thus given is lodged by the party obtaining the same with your Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Home Department, who prepares the Warrant (4) for your Majesty’s signature. This warrant is addressed to the Attorney or Solicitor General in the disjunctive, and delivered to the applicant or his agent, and is taken to the Patent Bill Office, and the Queen’s Bill (5), the Bill of Privy Signet (6), the writ of Privy Seal (7), are successively made out. The Patent (8), under the Great Seal, follows. The writ of Privy Seal transmitted (9) by the officer who issued the patent is entered upon the Patent Roll (10) by the Six Clerks; and the writ and enrolment, after having been lodged for a time by the Six Clerks with the clerks of the Petty Bag (11), at last reach their final place of deposit (12) in the Chapel of the Rolls. . . .

    Patent Bill Office. — The functions of your Majesty’s Attorney and Solicitor General in relation to the documents passing the Great Seal have been in part detailed, but some further particulars remain to be added. A portion of the business, including that which may be termed confidential, is transacted at the chambers of these functionaries for the time being, and is under their control as individuals, and conducted by their private or chamber clerks, also for the time being. But the business of preparing the Queen’s Bill (5) for your Majesty’s signature is conducted in a permanent office entitled the “Patent Bill Office,” or more commonly the “Patent Office,” . . . To this office, all the warrants (4) directed to the Attorney and Solicitor General, or either of them, are brought by the agents of the parties interested in the same (if relating to private applications), or are transmitted by the Government Departments if relating to public business. . . . These Queen’s Bills are prepared by the Clerk of the Patents according to the precedents preserved in the office, if the instrument be one for which there is now a settled and accustomed form, or from the drafts which, in new or special cases (e.g. Charters of Incorporation), are transmitted with the warrants. . . . The Queen’s Bill for your Majesty’s signature is engrossed upon parchment, and two other copies are made, also upon parchment, exactly of the same form and size, which copies become the original Bills of Privy Signet (6) and writs of Privy Seal (7) when afterwards perfected by the respective officers. The signatures or signature of the law officers or law officer to the docket are or is procured by the Clerk of the Patents; and the Queen’s Bill and the transcripts are delivered to the party or functionary by whom the same is to be passed, and he takes the first to the office of your Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Home Department, where your Majesty’s signature is obtained to the Queen’s Bill. The transcripts, in the same manner, reach the Privy Signet and Privy Seal Offices, and, excepting in the addition of the formal parts, and the adding of the needful signatures, no alteration is ever made in these transcripts. As they are received from the Patent Bill Office, so are they (with such additions) issued as the Bill of Privy Signet and Writ of Privy Seal. . . .

    Privy Signet OfficeBills of Privy Signet, how passed. — Pursuant to the statute made in the 27th year of the reign of King Henry VIII., entitled “An Act concerning the Clerks of the Privy Signet and Privy Seal,” all signs manual (except in certain cases therein specified) upon which instruments passing the Great Seal are to be grounded, must first be brought to this department for the purpose of issuing the Bill under your Majesty’s Signet, and the signature of one of the clerks, which Bill of Privy Signet is the foundation or authority for the Writ of Privy Seal. According to the present practice, these signs manual are of two classes: the signs manual or warrants (4) relating to ecclesiastical preferments, which proceed at once from your Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Home Department, and the Signs Manual, or “Queen’s Bills” (5), from the Patent Bill Office of the Attorney and Solicitor General.

    In the first case, the Clerk of the Privy Signet upon receipt of the warrant (4) prepares and completes the Bill of Privy Signet, which is addressed to the Lord Privy Seal, and is the authority for issuing the Writ of Privy Seal. In the other cases, the party by whom the Patent is passed (and whether it be public or private the process is the same) lodges in this office the Queen’s Bill (5), with your Majesty’s signature: and the transcript of the instrument upon parchment being received from the Patent Bill Office of your Majesty’s Attorney and Solicitor General, it is collated, completed, and rendered a bill of Privy Signet by the Clerk, who subscribes and affixes your Majesty’s signet to the same, addresses it as above stated to the Lord Privy Seal, and forwards it to his office. . . .

    Privy Seal OfficePassing of the Writs. — When the Privy Signet comes into this office, the Keeper of the Records prepares the Bill or Writ of Privy Seal, by adding the formal parts to the transcript of the Queen’s Bill, which he has received from the Attorney-General’s Patent Office; and he presents the same to the Lord Privy Seal, in order that the Seal may be affixed thereto. The Seal itself is in the custody of the Lord Privy Seal, and kept at his house. . . . The Writ of Privy Seal is then taken, by the agent or messenger of the private party or public department on whose behalf it is issued, to the Officers of the Chancery, by some one of whom the Patent is to be made out, that is to say, the Clerk of the Patents, or the Clerk of the Crown Office, or the Clerk of the Custodies. When the Writ of Privy Seal reaches the Lord Chancellor, he signs a memorandum called the Recepi at the foot of the same, and this signature of his Lordship is the authority to his Officers for preparing the Letters Patent, and affixing the Great Seal to the same. . . .

    Constitution of the [Six Clerks’] Office. — The Six Clerks of your Majesty’s High Court of Chancery were re-incorporated by King Charles I., by charter bearing date the 17th day of June, in the 11th year of his reign. . . .

    Patent Rolls. — The making up of the Patent Rolls belongs to the Six Clerks collectively, but, in consequence of the statute of the 3 and 4 Will. IV. c. 94, the duty is executed in the name of each of the five surviving Six Clerks in rotation: the clerk who thus receives the profit is termed the “Riding-clerk,” and he also exercises the office of “Comptroller and Supervisor of the Hamper,” as a responsible and accountable duty. The offices of “Riding-clerk” and of Comptroller of the Hanaper are distinct. . . .

    The business of the enrolment, constituting what has been pointed out as the tenth stage of Letters Patent (10), is performed by an individual who is a law-stationer; he is not upon the establishment of the Six Clerks’ Office, but he is allowed to sit in the Office in order that he may do his work under the inspection of the Six Clerks. The materials from which he makes the entries upon the Roll are furnished by the Privy Seal Writs, the Warrants and Bills under your Majesty’s Sign manual, and the Proclamations, which are transmitted annually, generally within a month after the 10th of October in each year, from the Patent Bill Office, the Crown Office, and the Clerk of the Presentations. Commissions of the Peace, Patents containing Exemplifications of pleadings, and some other Patents under the Great Seal, principally those issuing upon the Chancellor’s Fiat, are no longer, as anciently, entered upon the Patent Roll, and no Record, properly speaking, is preserved of them. The writing clerk obtains the Privy Seal Writs and Bills and Warrants from the different offices. He then arranges the whole mass in chronological order, and engrosses the instruments which they contain upon the membranes or skins which, when tacked together, compose the Patent Roll.16 . . .

    Palgrave then goes on to explain how documents are transmitted from the Six Clerks’ Office to the Petty Bag Office, and from the Petty Bag Office to the Chapel of the Rolls.17

    It will be observed that the Commissions of the Governors as Vice-Admiral are, from 1685 to 1730, in Latin, while those from 1741 to 1774 are in English. It is perhaps worth while to show exactly when English was substituted for Latin in such documents. In 1731 there was passed (4 George II, Chapter 26) “An Act that all Proceedings in Courts of Justice within that Part of Great Britain called England, and in the Court of Exchequer in Scotland, shall be in the English Language.” This Act is in part as follows:

    WHEREAS many and great Mischiefs do frequently happen to the Subjects of this Kingdom, from the Proceedings in Courts of Justice being in an unknown Language, . . . To remedy these great Mischiefs, . . . be it enacted . . . That from and after the Twenty fifth Day of March, One thousand seven hundred and thirty-three, all Writs, Process, and Returns thereof, . . . and all Patents, Charters, Pardons, Commissions, Records, . . . shall be in the English Tongue and Language only, and not in Latin or French, or any other Tongue or Language whatsoever, . . .

    III. Provided always, that nothing in this Act, nor any thing herein contained, shall extend to certifying beyond the Seas any Case or Proceedings in the Court of Admiralty; but that in such Cases the Commissions and Proceedings may be certified in Latin, as formerly they have been.18

    Not to extend to Proceedings in Court of Admiralty.

    The third section apparently makes the Act permissive, not mandatory, as regards Admiralty commissions and proceedings, leaving the authorities free to use either Latin or English. As a matter of fact, the authorities immediately chose English. The Commission of Richard Fitzwilliam as Vice-Admiral of the Bahamas, dated March 3, 1733, was in Latin; while that of William Mathew as Vice-Admiral of the Leeward Isles, dated April 27, 1733, was in English, as were all subsequent such Commissions.19 For the English translations of the Latin Commissions in this volume, the Society is indebted to one of the members of the Committee of Publication, — Mr. George Lyman Kittredge.

    Within the past few years the Colonial Office Records, preserved at the Public Record Office, have been re-arranged and are now catalogued under a new system of references. These new references are employed in the present volume.20

    For the Committee of Publication,

    Albert Matthews,


    Boston, February 1, 1913.