The Bernard Papers is a comprehensive selection of the correspondence and other papers of Sir Francis Bernard (1712-79), governor of colonial Massachusetts between 1760 and 1769. This volume is the first of a projected three volumes of edited transcripts concerning his administration in Massachusetts and will be followed by a calendar of documents covering his life and career. The project aims to address a lacuna in published documentary resources pertaining to Massachusetts on the eve of the American Revolution.1 The erratic publication of colonial records may not have appreciably hindered scholarship on this period yet comparative studies of colonial government during the imperial crisis remain logistically awkward and very expensive for scholars conducting transatlantic research. Massachusetts is a case in point: the province’s legislative proceedings are available in series, but the vast majority of manuscripts generated by the provincial executive are not, including the governors’ official correspondence.
Bernard’s papers, which are held by repositories in both Great Britain and the United States, are a fecund resource, for his administration coincided with the onset of sustained opposition to British colonial policies. While much of Bernard’s time was taken up by routine governmental matters rarely is the historical record he bequeathed ever mundane. His correspondence discusses, inter alia, the dissipation of the good feelings in Massachusetts that heralded victory over the French in 1763, long-running disputes with the provincial legislature over Crown requisitions, and the emergence of colonial radicalism in 1765. Bernard’s letters home were a major source of information for British policymakers, particularly with regard to the decision to send regular soldiers to Boston in 1768 to quell riots and protests.2 While historians have rarely failed to read Bernard’s letters uncritically, often they have worked with a limited range of materials: his unpublished letterbooks mainly (these are described below), some contemporary editions of official letters,3 and a reliable edition of his private correspondence with Lord Barrington.4 These account for a fraction of the available sources.
The project has collected, catalogued, and imaged facsimiles of more than four thousand source texts. To date, items authored or authorized by Bernard include over five hundred holographs; over thirteen hundred scribal copies of letters; and over four hundred and fifty printed versions of letters, speeches, and other official documents bearing his signature; there are also references to over four hundred non-extant letters. The largest single archival collection is the Bernard Papers in Sparks MS 4 at Houghton Library, Harvard University. The thirteen bound volumes contain over 1,680 documents: there are eight letterbooks of copies of private and official correspondence (vols. 1-8) that were largely maintained by clerks; three volumes of original in-letters and occasional autograph drafts (vols. 9-12), and one volume of royal instructions (vol. 13).5
The legibility of Bernard’s letterbooks and their accessibility to New England-based scholars likely dissuaded anyone from editing the governor’s official correspondence. Bernard’s original letters to British ministers and officials are in the National Archives: Public Record Office, the main repository for British state papers. The Colonial Office Records (CO 5) and the War Office Records (WO 34) contain nearly six hundred unpublished letters and manuscripts, none of which are included in the only major serial of British state papers of the American Revolution.6 The documents in CO 5 and WO 34 are well-preserved; while some pieces, such as CO 5/755, are torn at the edges, all are largely intact and in the same order as they were in the eighteenth century. In contrast, the Massachusetts Archives Collection in the State Archives (SC1-45x) was reorganized by subject in the nineteenth century. This particular collection, spread over 328 volumes, contains hundreds of official documents generated by Bernard’s administration, including some correspondence; many are fragile and the microfilm copies are difficult to read.7 Bernard’s papers can also be found elsewhere—in the Massachusetts Historical Society and in English local archives, particularly the Centre for Buckingham Studies and the Lincolnshire Archives; and among the papers of correspondents like Thomas Hutchinson8 or third parties, including British ministers, who received copies of his letters.9
It is not practical or feasible to publish transcripts of all of Bernard’s correspondence, and in selecting items for publication priority has been given to his official letters dealing with colonial government and imperial administration. Most of Bernard’s 175 correspondents were acting in an official or semi-official capacity, but precedence has been accorded his communications with the Board of Trade, the secretary of state, and the commander-in-chief of British forces in North America. Throughout, I have tried to present Bernard’s correspondence as a dialogue. The volume of correspondence between Bernard and General Amherst, however, necessitated a further round of pruning; items that have not been transcribed, Amherst’s out-letters in the main, are occasionally quoted in the source notes and endnotes. The transcripts published here deal mainly with government affairs, but passages wherein Bernard discusses family or personal affairs have not been excised for they are integral to the dialogue. Some previously published material, and maps and enclosures to which Bernard refers in his letters, are included in this and later volumes, but legislative proceedings, warrants, certificates, accounts, proclamations, and record book entries have been omitted. All transcripts have been allocated a number in bold. The source notes and endnotes contain cross-references to transcripts together with references to and occasional extracts from unpublished letters. There is also a back-of-book list to this volume of all extant outgoing and incoming correspondence pertinent to the first three years of his administration in Massachusetts (Appendix 3).
Francis Bernard was born in the parish of Brightwell, Berkshire, in June or July 1712, the only child of the rector, the Rev. Francis Bernard, and his much younger wife, Margery Winlowe of Lewknor, the daughter of an Oxfordshire squire. Francis’s childhood was punctured by tragedy: his father died before he was three years old, and shortly thereafter his mother, Margery, married the incoming rector, the Rev. Anthony Alsop, a noted Latin scholar and Tory; tragically she succumbed to the smallpox just three years later. The trauma and the disruption young Francis indubitably endured were alleviated by Alsop’s attentiveness and the ministrations of Francis’s maternal aunt Sarah Terry and her husband, Moses, a lawyer, who raised him at their home in the ancient market town of Lincoln.
Bernard’s prospects were not impressive, however. The Rev. Bernard possessed modest estates, which he had acquired upon marriage, that were already mortgaged by his wife Margery; all he could leave his son, Francis, was an annuity of £30, £50 on his sixteenth birthday, and the small rents of Margery’s estates. Alsop did not add to his stepson’s income, though he certainly fostered his education and entry both to Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford.10 Francis Bernard duly sought a profession, as did many other sons of impecunious clerics. Instead of entering the church, however, he studied law at the Middle Temple and was admitted to the bar in 1737. He came to embody the nascent professionalism and acquisitiveness of England’s growing band of skilled lawyers. He obtained several middle-ranking offices in the Church of England and local government, where he exercised his talents as an accountant, a procurator, and a judge.11 While Bernard fully embraced the patronage of the local Whig elites, on which his advancement rested, his economic dependency likely strengthened feelings of insecurity.
A propitious marriage, however, brought domestic contentment and stability, and in due course opportunities for advancement beyond local administration. In December 1741, Bernard married Amelia Offley, the daughter of Stephen Offley, the squire of Norton Hall near Sheffield and the high sheriff of Derbyshire. Francis’s marriage to Amelia did not bring him any property,12 but instead ten healthy children and valuable political connections to the Shute Barringtons through Stephen Offely’s second wife, Ann Shute. As far as can be ascertained, Francis and Amelia had a loving and close relationship. They were rarely apart for more than two weeks at a time during their thirty-seven years of marriage, and consequently there is no surviving correspondence between them.13 Nor do the Bernard family papers and estate papers proffer much material of relevance to Bernard’s personal life: Bernard is rarely mentioned by his children in the Spencer Bernard Papers (D/SB) at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies. The family home, Nether Winchendon House, Bucks., has several portraits of family members, some of which have been reproduced.14
Francis Bernard, c.1741. This portrait was probably commissioned soon after his marriage to Amelia Offley. By permission of Robert Spencer Bernard. Photograph by Charles Crisp, A.B.I.P.P.
Amelia Bernard, c.1741. By permission of Robert Spencer Bernard. Photograph by Charles Crisp, A.B.I.P.P.
By the mid-1750s—when Bernard was in his mid-forties with a large and growing family to support—his career aspirations were contingent upon the patronage of his wife’s cousin William Wildman Barrington, the second viscount Barrington.15 The Barrington-Bernard Correspondence16 is a fount of information about family affairs and their patron-client relationship. Barrington provided Bernard with a conduit into the decision-making process in London, albeit one that the reality of British high politics determined would be opened and closed on a minister’s whim. Through his connection with Prime Minister Thomas Pelham Holles, the duke of Newcastle, Barrington was able to obtain for Bernard the governorship of New Jersey. Bernard was appointed governor on 27 Jan. 1758, and he, his wife, and four of their children arrived at Perth Amboy in April.17 For the most part, New Jersey was an enjoyable experience for the family, and Bernard’s administration was generally successful in as much as it was characterized by an absence of bitter disputes between himself and the colonists or their assembly.18 Bernard often mused that his prospects would be better in another colony, and news that he was to be offered Massachusetts after just eighteen months in post was a welcome surprise.
As Lord Barrington put it, the death of the governor of Jamaica occasioned a “general promotion” of the American governors (No. 4). Bernard was to replace his erstwhile Lincolnshire neighbor, Thomas Pownall, who was generally regarded as having had a very successful administration in the Bay colony.19 On 27 Nov. 1759, the Privy Council approved the Board of Trade’s draft commission for Bernard together with warrants requiring the king’s signature for issuing a patent with the royal seal.20 Two sets of instructions were normally issued to colonial governors: the first outlined his duties and responsibilities under the commission generally, while the other made detailed references to the trade laws. Bernard’s instructions were considered by the Privy Council on 16 Jan.1760, and signed and dated on 18 Mar. (Appendices 1 and 2).21
As might be expected, Bernard and his family’s readjustment to their new life figures prominently in his correspondence. Bernard regretted having to leave the tranquility and fine climate of Perth Amboy (No. 5), and supposed that one day he might retire there. After a first extremely cold winter in Boston, the Bernards enjoyed summers spent in the refurbished apartments at the newly-rebuilt Castle William out in the harbor, where the children had more freedom to roam, but where Bernard had a “narrow escape” in some unspecified incident (No. 89). When the General Court granted Bernard Mount Desert Island (No. 91) off the coast of Maine, in February 1762, he saw it as an opportunity to develop an American estate and permanent residence. Even so, he was careful not to lose touch with influential old friends such as Thomas Pownall (No. 67), Bishop William Warburton (No. 50), and the lawyer Randle Wilbraham (Nos. 30 and 106), whose assistance he might require if and when he returned to England. Bernard freely discussed his aspirations in his letters to Barrington (No. 9 etc), but also—surprisingly—in those to British acquaintances such as William Bollan (No. 22) and Richard Jackson (Nos. 167, 206, 220, and 228). For sure, Barrington, Bollan, Jackson, and the Pownalls were, to varying degrees, potential champions of Bernard’s interests, but the candor that typified his correspondence may have stemmed from anxiety: that the goodwill of others was dependent upon them receiving detailed and regular reports. In the fullness of time, however, Bollan and Thomas Pownall, with good reason, turned against Bernard, and John Pownall—perhaps his most loyal friend—lectured him on political realities; even Barrington’s letters, dispatched from his fashionable home in Cavendish Square, London, often proved disappointing.
Frequently, Bernard’s ruminations disclose a gloomy disposition, probably because Massachusetts was failing to yield what he had hoped. With an annual salary of £1,500, payable by provincial grant, and the governor’s entitlement to a one-third share of prosecutions and fees, Bernard had supposed that he might be able to recoup some of the expenses he had incurred in acquiring his two commissions under George II. Unfortunately, the king’s death on 25 Oct.1760 and the succession of George III entailed a further round of costs for a third commission that virtually wiped out his personal savings; a request for reimbursement was refused (Nos. 22, 24, and 34). Sources of income other than his provincial salary were hard to come by. The pursuit of smugglers, some of whom were well-to-do merchants, exposed the governor to accusations of avarice, while his share of seizures was jeopardized by the commissions to apprehend smugglers given Royal Navy officers on vessels cruising American waters (Nos. 255 and 257).
While Bernard fretted over the family finances he also worried about the three children who had remained in England (albeit in the capable hands of the Terrys and his cousin Jane Beresford). Bernard’s efforts to compensate for being an absent father were clumsy; attentive though he was to settling his sons’ career paths, the boys probably thought their father’s endeavors overbearing regardless how much they benefited. Bernard labored to reserve the Massachusetts Naval Office for his sons (Nos. 32, 34, 65, 82, and 166) and insisted that they join him in Boston. John was placed with a Boston merchant, where he learned the inner workings of the counting house, before opening his own business in the town (Nos. 34 and 89). Bernard also thought that Francis Jr. (or Frank) should be “settled in business” after Oxford University, but the “interview” they had in Boston opened a rift between them: Frank ignored his father’s pleas to settle on a profession and took off for Philadelphia, from whence he ventured to the back country of Pennsylvania and Virginia (see Nos. 168, 246, and 250).
As royal governor, Bernard was both the province’s chief executive and the king’s representative, for which the extant documentation is extensive and comprehensive in its coverage. As chief executive, the governor was part of the General Court, along with the House of Representatives and the Council. He addressed in person and sent messages to the assembly of the House and Council during legislative sessions, and presided over the executive meetings of the Governor’s Council; he approved legislation, issued warrants and certificates, received petitions, and generally functioned as the head of a limited executive.22 Province secretary Andrew Oliver23 routinely forwarded state papers, including accounts and legislative proceedings, to the secretary of the Board of Trade, John Pownall,24 upon which Bernard commented in his own letters (Nos. 98, 109, 114, and 123) and to which the Board responded (Nos. 43 and 87). The province secretary was also responsible for maintaining regular correspondence with the province agent, although Bernard frequently wrote to agents William Bollan25 and Richard Jackson,26 but rarely to Jasper Mauduit,27 whom he regarded as a tool of his critics in the assembly (Nos. 105 and 191).
The Massachusetts royal governor was the king’s captain general and vice admiral and exercised by proxy Crown prerogatives in imperial administration. He was accountable in the first instance to the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, known as the Board of Trade, from whom royal governors received an initial set of instructions supplemented by directives and occasional circulars from the secretary of state. The Board, established in 1696, had considerable influence on colonial policymaking, but never possessed full executive power and remained, strictly speaking, an advisory body to the secretary of state. It was the secretary of state for the Southern Department who was ultimately responsible for the execution of colonial policy, until the creation of the American Department in 1768.28 Bernard was obliged to communicate regularly with the Board of Trade, reserving to the secretary of state only those matters requiring his “immediate direction” (No. 214n2).29 (In 1766, however, in the wake of the Stamp Act crisis, the secretary of state assumed direct control of all channels of communication with the governors, who henceforth merely copied letters to the Board.30) In short, Bernard was expected to provide ministers and officials in London with regular and relevant reports on the state of the province and to ensure that all royal commissions were being obeyed.
There were three British administrations between 1759 and 1763: the Pitt-Newcastle ministry (29 Jun. 1757–26 May 1762),31 which led Britain to victory over France in the Seven Years War, the short-lived Bute ministry (27 May 1762–9 Apr. 1763),32 which negotiated the peace treaty; and the Grenville ministry (16 Apr. 1763–10 Jul. 1765),33 which instituted the reforms that would spark opposition in the American colonies. Bernard’s correspondence touches upon these and other major issues. His letters to secretaries of state William Pitt and the earl of Egremont,34 though formal in style, were never formulaic, and written with considerable confidence. Bernard was not shy to ask favors of Pitt for his sons (No. 66). His early declamation that Massachusetts merchants were not trading with the enemy proved an embarrassing mistake, however (No. 18); a desire to make amends could account for the zeal with which in subsequent letters to Pitt (No. 75) and Egremont (No. 240) he promised to enforce the trade laws. Bernard’s relationship with the earl of Halifax, one of the most influential British colonial policymakers,35 is not in itself of singular significance in this volume, but it laid the foundations for the transmission in 1764 of controversial ideas on the reform of colonial government and imperial administration.
More important at this juncture was Bernard’s correspondence with John Pownall, of which there are thirty-two letters in this volume. Bernard wrote candidly to a knowledgeable and respected friend, and trusted Pownall’s judgment implicitly. Pownall referred Bernard’s letters and enclosures to Board meetings, where occasionally the details were discussed, as when provincial legislation raised points of law requiring advice from Sir Matthew Lamb, K.C.36 Legally contentious items or letters raising policy issues were decided by the Privy Council,37 such as when Bernard requested confirmation of provincial land grants (Nos. 177 and 248, and below).
Bernard’s sanguine expectations for his new posting in part derived from his determination to make a name for himself as a conciliating governor above partisan politics (Nos. 118, 122, and 123). The roots of Bernard’s nonpartisanship lie in English politics, where the Pitt-Newcastle ministry had embarked on a “broad bottom” and the young George III embraced “Britons” without the distinction of party labels. Inevitably, however, Bernard’s emulatory agenda was compromised by the exigencies of wartime and the practicalities of provincial politics. While Bernard was often later criticized for lacking guile and acumen, he was no stranger to political management and intrigue.
In the coming years, Bernard benefited from the advice of Thomas Hutchinson, his long-serving deputy and eventual successor. Unfortunately, he never did explain why he promised Hutchinson the chief justice’s office (No. 19), thereby alienating the Otis family, but the appointment indubitably ensured Hutchinson’s loyalty. There is no surviving correspondence between Bernard and Hutchinson for the period covered by this volume, save one minor letter, but Bernard undoubtedly trusted Hutchinson’s advice on politics, public finance, and a host of other matters. He evidently read a draft of the first volume of Hutchinson’s History of Massachusetts, published in 1764 (see Nos. 216 and 234). The two men were probably wary of each other at first. They subsequently disagreed on many issues, not least of which were the reform of colonial government and the Anglicization of colonial law—both firmly advocated by Bernard. Understanding how their relationship developed is integral to understanding how their respective administrations fashioned responses to the imperial crisis.38
Thomas Hutchinson. Oil on canvas by Edward Truman, 1741.
Massachusetts Historical Society. Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
With Hutchinson behind him, Bernard thought his prospects for an “easy administration” augured well. It was not to be, of course. Bernard’s bête noire, James Otis Jr., appears often in the governor’s missives, in which he is portrayed as a resentful but highly effective and intelligent partisan dedicated to “the declared purpose of raising a flame in the government” (No. 192). (See also Nos. 85, 186, 191, and 220.) By the spring of 1762, Bernard convinced himself that it was rare for the assembly to engage in “free deliberation uninfluenced by any motives but a sense of their duty to his Majesty” (No. 102). Thereafter, Bernard’s letters are a vital source in following partisanship, for he began to enumerate internal divisions in both houses (No. 191), a practice he continued for the remainder of his administration.
When Bernard shed his naiveté he cast a perceptive eye on his surroundings. His observations on the differences in judicial procedure between the colonies and England are still informative (No. 175). One lengthy report for the Board of Trade, compiled after three years residence in Massachusetts, also contains valuable information on the law, meteorology, geography, and demography. Those sections wherein he mentions how few families there were left among the indigenous Abenaki tribes of the Penobscot region was as much a surprise to him as it is today enlightening of the destructive consequences of cultural encounters on the frontier (No. 234). The Abenakis’ predicament stands in marked contrast to the Mashpees’ successful struggle for autonomy and the remarkable exploits of Rueben Cognehew (No. 45). There are other nuggets too, such as the sympathy Bernard evinced for those lower-order Bostonians “least able to bear” the socio-economic consequences of the Great Fire of March 1760 (No. 26); another remark alludes to the rise in labor costs due to the labor shortage occasioned by the recruitment drive for the provincial and regular regiments (No. 68).
Bernard’s early successes owed much to the fact that his arrival in the colony coincided with a favorable turning point in the French and Indian War of 1754-63. A royal governor’s military responsibilities were restricted to the province in which he served, and in operational matters concerning the British Army he was subordinate to the commanders-in-chief of North American forces: Gen. Sir Jeffery Amherst, 1758-63, and Gen. Sir Thomas Gage, 1763-75. Bernard’s early letters describe the successful British campaign of 1760 to take Montréal (Nos. 10, 12-14). Transcript No. 20 is Pitt’s notable circular to the colonial governors requesting further resources to finish the job. Bernard was already fully aware of how much the province had contributed in terms of manpower and financial resources, and he was soon obliged to engage in often protracted, discomfiting negotiations with the assembly over Crown requisitions (Nos. 35, 36, 41, 103, etc.). While Amherst, as any general might, fretted over getting the provincials ready for battle, Bernard dwelt on the practical and political difficulties he encountered in trying to persuade the province to raise recruits for the provincial and regular regiments. Bounty jumping seems to have been a particular problem after the province was obliged to raise bounties in order to attract volunteers (Nos. 56 and 92). Bernard provides details of the mechanics of mustering the regiments (Nos. 42, 72, etc.) and notable cases of unsuitable recruits (Nos. 27 and 149). There is mention, too, of desertion and mutiny among the provincials stationed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, despondent as they were by Amherst’s decision to extend their service and alarmed by the prospect of being sent to the West Indies, where few would have expected to survive beyond the six-month “seasoning” (Nos. 15, 217, and 221). Bernard was not unconcerned by his soldiers’ welfare, as is indicated by his lack of enthusiasm for crushing the mutiny, his determination to prevent officers suttling to their own men at exorbitant prices (Nos. 70 and 71), and his enthusiasm for spruce beer as an alternative to contaminated water and strong rum (No. 69).
Bernard, however, was frustrated by Amherst’s lack of understanding of colonial politics and economics. While both strove to root out abuses in the flag of truce trade with the French colonies (Nos. 18, 47, 49, 112, and 115), the governor was irritated by the general’s initial inflexibility in enforcing an embargo on coastal trade that was damaging to the colonial merchants (Nos. 107, 110, 111, 113, and 121). Disagreements over seemingly peripheral matters—such as Amherst’s reluctance to supply the province with certificates attesting to how many Massachusetts men served in the campaigns of 1758-60 (No. 55)—betray underlying concerns about the province’s ability to service its war debts. While the American colonies had received parliamentary subsidies totaling £200,000 between 1758 and 1760, the subsidy for 1761 was reduced to £133,333. Eventually, Massachusetts was to incur the largest debt of all the colonies—nearly £500,000. The stabilization of the public finances probably would not have been achieved without the close cooperation of the assembly and the governor: both agreed on the necessity of sinking the debt by 1765, even though this required provincial taxes being raised to unprecedented levels and other special measures being adopted.39
As the war drew to a close, one worrisome episode was the French capture of St. John’s, Newfoundland, in the summer of 1762, a diversionary action to British maneuvers in the West Indies. Leaving Brest on 8 May, a French expeditionary force comprising two ships of the line and two frigates, with over five hundred fusiliers on board, arrived at the Bay of Bulls on 23 Jun.; Fort William at St. John’s was quickly captured, and on the 27th the French proceeded to burn British settlements and disable some 460 ships of the fishing fleet—inflicting damage purportedly worth £1 million. Bernard was able to alert Vice-Admiral Sir George Pocock (No. 135), in charge of the British campaign against Havana (which the British took on 13 Aug. after a two-month siege). He also provides a valuable glimpse of what ordinary British soldiers thought of the surrender of Fort William (No. 151). The capture of St. John’s sparked a short-lived “alarm” in Massachusetts: there may not have been any prospect of a French invasion—Bernard did not call the militia to arms—but the disruption to shipping, on top of the recent embargo, was deeply troubling (No. 153). In the event, Col. William Amherst, the general’s brother, landed his force at Torbay on 13 Sept.; he encountered fierce resistance from the French for several days, but after taking the high ground in the battle of Signal Hill and bombarding Fort William, the French capitulated on 18 Sept.40
Military issues aside, Bernard’s correspondence provides much documentation on the displacement of Nova Scotia’s French-speaking population. Perhaps as many as 13,000 Acadians, or French Neutrals as they were known by New Englanders, were forcibly evacuated from Nova Scotia from 1755 onwards, in which business the Massachusetts regiments were given a leading role. The majority of Acadian refugees were Catholics and were relocated to other British colonies in North America, but 1,105 were sent to Massachusetts. The General Court made substantial provision to alleviate the Acadians’ distress (£9,563 by 1763), with variable success, and distributed them throughout the province. The New Englanders’ initial hostility, which was fuelled by anti-Catholicism and suspicions as to the Acadians’ “neutrality,” was soon diluted by genuine compassion and daily contact. Bernard supposed they would integrate with little difficulty, largely because they proved, ironically, to embody the Protestant work ethic (No. 227). Even so, there was little enthusiasm to establish a permanent settlement for the refugees or extend a welcome to the six hundred deported from Nova Scotia by Lt. Gov. Jonathan Belcher in August 1762 (see Nos. 152, 155, 159, 160, 231, 233, and 235). Eventually, the Acadians set out for France, as Bernard mentions, as well as England and Louisiana, while others managed to return to Nova Scotia; the destitution of the remaining Acadians led the Board of Trade to relocate them to Quebec in 1766 at the invitation of Gov. James Murray.
Another material consequence of the warfare and imperial diplomacy that ordained the Acadians’ displacement was that Massachusetts and Nova Scotia were left to squabble over their boundary line, and the territory in between known as Sagadahoc. Massachusetts claimed the St. Croix River as the boundary whereas Nova Scotia set the boundary further west at the Penobscot River (No. 154). Bernard was an effective advocate of the province’s claim, largely because of rather than in spite of his own interests in the matter (Nos. 178, 201, and 216). A royal instruction to the Nova Scotia governor Montague Wilmot in October 1763 established the St. Croix rather than the Penobscot River as the western boundary of Nova Scotia, thus effectively quashing that province’s claims to Sagadahoc. However, the confusion surrounding the identification of the St. Croix was not resolved, and the Crown delayed confirming any provincial grant in Sagadahoc.41
Bernard’s lucid contribution to the boundary dispute was undoubtedly self-interested. The carrot dangled by the province was Mount Desert Island, for which Bernard was obliged to seek confirmation by the Crown. Bernard’s initial optimism that confirmation would be straightforward bordered on arrogance, and the realization that his enjoyment of the island depended on Britain’s recognition of Massachusetts’s title to Sagadahoc was probably more painful than he admits. Moreover, Bernard was also obliged to assist the province to obtain Crown approval for twelve townships to be established on the Penobscot River (Nos. 90, 172, 180, and 212). By way of encouragement, on 12 Jun. 1762 the General Court commended Gov. Bernard for his attentiveness but also resolved to establish a joint boundary commission with Nova Scotia.42 The township grants alarmed Lt. Gov. Belcher, who alerted the Board of Trade to the proposed commission, and in due course Bernard was censured for having consented to the grants and thereby inadvertently traducing Crown prerogatives to settle boundaries (No. 181). When the joint commission failed to meet, the General Court published in February 1763 the committee report setting forth Massachusetts’s claims.43
Bernard was not blinded by his disappointment, and he also began thinking of ways and means to develop Mount Desert Island. He made three voyages to Mount Desert and the Penobscot coast: the journal of the first voyage 28 Sept.-15 Oct. 1762 is printed in full (No. 161); his second visit took place between c.15 Sept. and c.7 Oct. 1763; and the third between 27 Aug. and c.28 Sept. 1764. After surveying the land, Bernard was confident that in time he could establish a viable community of settlers from New England and Europe; they could make their living from lumber, fishing, and the production of hemp and potash, in which matters he sought expert assistance (Nos. 176, 178, 179, and 232). However, Bernard was unable to persuade the British to break the linkage between the provincial boundary disputes and any of the contested provincial land grants, including his own. As the British procrastinated over the Nova Scotia and Quebec boundary lines, the grants were referred back and forth between the Board of Trade and the Privy Council, until 1771, when they were finally confirmed.44
As a chief executive, Bernard did not fare at all badly in defending the province’s interests, but his correspondence is also notable for what it reveals about growing opposition. Critics of the governor seemed to emerge from all quarters, even Harvard College, when Bernard toyed with the idea of chartering a new college in the west of the province. Bernard promptly withdrew his support for the scheme after protests by the Board of Overseers, though this likely cost him the goodwill and loyalty of its most powerful champion, Col. Israel Williams (Nos. 95, 97, and 98). Bernard himself championed the “little Seminary” at Cambridge in a condescending fashion (Nos. 130 and 133), but his inattentiveness to the interests of the province’s Congregationalists—as well as his sense of cultural superiority—did not augur well. New Englanders, troubled by talk of the establishment of an American episcopate, thought that the governor’s staunch Anglicanism belied his claims to be above sectarianism; early in 1762 they set about engineering the replacement of the province agent William Bollan, an Anglican, with Jasper Mauduit, a Dissenter. Bernard could ill afford to remain aloof from the contest and duly strove to obtain the appointment of Richard Jackson, an Anglican, as Mauduit’s solicitor, even though it meant alienating Bollan (Nos. 105, 106, 185, and 186). Equally troublesome was the dispute between the Customhouse and an unmanageable officer, Benjamin Barons, on which Bernard commented upon at length. The suits brought against customs officers by Barons, the merchant John Erving, and the province treasurer, if successful, would have undermined the Customhouse’s ability to enforce the trade laws. On these and other issues, Bernard called upon the Crown to exert itself far more in defense of its imperial servants (see Nos. 60, 62, 64, 67, 85, and 88). It was advice that mostly fell on deaf ears, even when ministers began to consider how to increase colonial revenues–whether by raising duties or improving their collection, or by a combination of the two methods.
Hitherto, Bernard had been loath to criticize British colonial policy (No. 75). After the Barons affair, he seemed less reticent, perhaps because he was more attuned to the grumblings of the merchants. Bernard was obliged to supply Britain with key information about imports and exports of molasses (No. 203) prior to the renewal of the 1733 Molasses Act. The prospect of a hefty tax was “Very alarming” (No. 229), and would do nothing to discourage smuggling, he warned: like the Boston merchants, Bernard argued for a duty of between 1d and 1 ½ d per gallon in any prospective revenue act. He pressed the merchants’ case upon Jackson (Nos. 229 and 245) and also raised it directly with the Board of Trade (No. 256). His louche observation that customs officers normally turned a blind eye to contraband lemons, oil, and Madeira wine (Nos. 240 and 241) probably did not go down too well with officials in London—and certainly not with Surveyor General John Temple, who in 1764 pursued Bernard for corruption.
By the end of the period covered by this volume, Gov. Francis Bernard had adjusted to the vicissitudes of governing a fractious province like Massachusetts. Many of the disputes briefly discussed here have been examined by historians trying to figure out why it was that Massachusetts’s politics experienced upheaval in the decade that followed the peace of 1763.45 Some answers may be found in Bernard’s correspondence. At the beginning of his administration, Bernard was able to embrace the ideal of rising above partisanship, only to find out that the governance of empire was rather more difficult than he expected. When key groups, such as the merchants and the House of Representatives, started criticising British colonial policies, Bernard’s abiding refrain was for them to be patient and wait for the peace. As he confided to Barrington, “the merchants here want redress in regard to several of the Laws of trade: but they don’t use proper means nor take the proper time. I tell ’em again & again that they must wait for the conclusion of peace before they can ask the Ministry to set about civil regulations: and Assure them that at such time I will Assist them to the Utmost of my power” (No. 89). The colonists’ response was no better than lukewarm, and might have been rather more hostile had they known that Bernard hoped to be involved in a British-led “general disquisition of the constitutions of the several Governments” (No. 74). Bernard himself began working on plans to reform colonial government, but reform of that nature was never attempted by subsequent British administrations; instead, ministers continued with their revenue-raising measures without ever properly addressing the colonists’ grievances with the trade laws. A modernizing, centralist agenda and unfulfilled expectations on a grand scale are the fuel of colonial rebellions, and evidence for these abounds in Bernard’s papers. In time, Bernard would lament a missed opportunity to avert a crisis in imperial relations, though whether such an opportunity ever really existed is quite another matter. Subsequent volumes will reveal much more about how Bernard’s administration in Massachusetts struggled to cope with the emergence of colonial radicalism and the upsurge in popular protests.