Chapter 8

    Heads of the Faction at Boston on the Establishment of the Board of Customs 1767

    There had always been a faction in Boston which had given disturbance to Government: and from the Nature of the Constitution, the People were always under the influence of some artful Demagogues. It was said that Governor [left blank] during his Administration from 17[ ]to 17[ ] gave countenance to many low factious People, and by his conduct cherished that Spirit which [119] disturbed the administration of his Successors.55

    When the Stamp Act took place, Mr. Otis, whose father had been disap[p]ointed in succeeding the Office of Chief Justice, vehemently opposed the execution of it, and became a declared enemy to Governor Bernard and Government.

    Mr. Samuel Adams was then his Coadjutor in the house of Assembly. This latter person insinuated himself into the confidence of the Members by his Speeches in the house, and by writing in the news papers, in opposition to Government. [120]

    He watched every opportunity to put the conduct of the Governor in an unfavorable light, and to allarm the People with the danger that threatened their rights, and liberties. Ever zealous and active, he adapted his addresses to the individuals according as he discovered their prevailing temper, and dispositions. With some he prevailed by his affectation of Patriotism, by his cant and hypocrisy. With others by cunning, and plausibility, and where he found his insidious arts ineffectual, he had recourse to allarming [121] their fears, and intimidated them with the dread of popular displeasure: for though he had justly forfeited the good opinion of his fellow Citizens by his peculation and abuse of a publick trust, yet such was his Art, that he now was their Political Dictator, and gave the tone to their opinions and practises.56

    When the Board arrived at Boston in November 1767 Mr Otis’s popularity and influence were on the decline, and Mr. Adams, together with Dr. Cooper, a smooth, artful, civil [122] Jesuitical Priest, with Mr. James Bowdoin, one of the Council, were the Leaders of this Faction.57

    Mr. Bowdoin was a Man of large property, and had great influence with the People, though he was rather of a severe and gloomy disposition, than possessed of the arts of Popularity.

    He had been upon friendly terms with Governor Bernard, but having lately married his Daughter to Mr. John Temple, one of the Commissioners of the Customs, who bore a mortal enmity to the Governor, he from that time [123] became adverse to his Administration, joined the Faction, and supported every measure that tended to distress Government.

    Governor Bernard having received some instructions which he communicated in confidence to the Council, they desired he would leave them with the Board to be shewn to the other Members, which he consented to, upon a charge that no Copy should be taken of them. In the next newspapers the whole appeared in print, and when the Governor, with some warmth charged the Board with a [124] breach of the injunctions he had laid them under, Mr. B[owdoin] answered with a smile that no Copies had been taken, for that they had been printed from the original.

    There were several Subordinate Characters in the Faction. The most ostensible was Mr. John Hancock, who became possessed of large property from an Uncle. He was a Man without parts, or education, and though ignorant, uncultured, and weak, yet of that benevolence of disposition, that under proper [125] influence, from the weight of his fortune, he might have passed through life with reputation; but falling into the hands of designing bad men, he was made a prey of and became a dupe to the party, who drew him in to give a Sanction to all their wicked measures; made use of his purse to further their Schemes and consumed his Substance upon the adherents of faction and in supporting Sedition, and Treason.58

    This Mr. Hancock is the same Gentleman who in the Year 1768[,] to brave the [126] Commissioners of the Customs and shew that the Revenue Laws should not be executed, caused a Cargoe of Wines to be boldly run on shore one night. And though the Commissioners failed of evidence on the prosecution, yet the fact was undoubted.

    Many persons besides the Master of the Vessel were involved in the guilt of perjury from this violation of the Law. And another Master lost his life, by overstraining himself in unloading the Vessel and died before the next Morning. [127]

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    Mr. Otis[,] though declining in his popularity, yet was very violent in his invectives against the Commissioners of the Customs, and published some very scurrilous reflections on them; more particularly pointing at Mr. Robinson. Mr. Robinson and he met at the Coffee House where they had a severe combat with Sticks. Mr. Otis was much beaten and afterwards brought an action against Mr. Robinson. The Action was tried, and Mr. Robinson was cast in £2000 damages, but before the trial he went to England. [131]

    In a similar Action the Grand Jury would not find a bill when Mr. Temple was the Aggressor, but now when an odious person was in their power, the Jury loaded their verdict with the most enormous damages. A like Action was tried at the same time between two Townsmen, when the Jury gave about twenty pounds damages.

    Mr. Robinson did not return to Boston for several years, and in the mean time his friends by publishing a concession on his part, obtained from Mr. Otis a [132] relinquishment of the Verdict of damages given against Mr. Robinson.

    Mr. Otis soon after by his intemperance became disordered in his mind, was repeatedly confined and lived neglected. It was said when he first entered into opposition to Government, that he declared he would set the Continent in a flame, though he perished in it. He soon saw his declaration fulfilled, and lived a monument of his own depravity.

    He is said to have died in 1783. Suddenly by a flash of Lightning.59 [133]

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    During these times, the publick news papers groaned with abuses on the Governors, and Servants of Government; and no one dared to write or print any thing in opposition to the ruling faction; ‘till at length one Mayne, a Scotchman, who was printer of a news paper, and a Stationer, and had a talent for humour, began to expose the Characters of the tyrant Patriots. This they could not bear. Profuse in their invectives upon others, whenever they felt the lash themselves, they swore destruction to the Author [135] and they actually assaulted and wounded Maine in the publick Street, and would have murthered him, had he not kept them off with a pistol, which he drew from his pocket.

    This Person towards the close of the non-importation agreement in 1770 took the pains to publish an account of the Goods imported into Boston during the time the Colonies were under engagement not to import such Goods, which account was distributed through the other Colonies, whereby the double [136] dealing of the Bostonians was exposed, and the other Colonies were led to break up that agreement. However, all this ended in the ruin of Maine. The faction wrote to his Creditors in London, and represented him in such a light, that they were induced to send out to Mr. Hancock, a power of Attorney against him. Mr. Hancock immediately seized on his effects, which being chiefly books, were sold to a great loss.

    After the assault on his person Meine fled to [137] England, where he thrown into Goal by his Creditors, though at the same time his Stock at Boston was in the hands of their Attorneys.60 [138]