59 | To The Board Of Trade

    Boston Aug 3 1761

    My Lords

    Your Lordships will observe among the Acts of Assembly passed here in April last one for erecting part of the County of Hampshire into a New County called Berkshire.; & another for erecting a Plantation called Pontoosuck into a Town by the name of Pitsfield.287 Together with the bill for the new County were sent up for my consent five other bills constituting New Townships, 4 whereof are within the County of Berkshire. As these bills were wholly silent about these Towns sending Members, I by a message informed the House of my instruction on that subject & desired they would alter the bills so that I might be able to pass them. (See Votes 354)288 This produced some popular harangues which ended in an Answer to my Message, as in the Votes 360.289 The Towns themselves were willing to waive their right of sending representatives; but some Gentlemen in the house opposed the allowing them to waive their priviledge: the result of which was I rejected four of the bills;290 but in regard to Pontoosuck The Circumstances were so distinguishing, that I could not so easily get rid of that. This Town was appointed immediately one of the two County towns, & from its situation & other advantages will probably be the only County Town. In favor of this Town’s sending a representative It was averred that it was not intended by that instruction to prevent New settled Counties being represented but only to put a stop to multiplying representatives in the Old Counties; And that this has been understood in regard to Pownalborough the cheif Town in the new County of Lincoln,291 which it was expected would soon be allowed to send a Member. I could not either admit or contradict this; & therefore I took a middle way: I passed the bill upon their adding a clause suspending the right of sending a representative untill the Election in 1763. By these Means If your Lordships should disapprove its sending a Representative there will be time enough for the condemning the Bill before the Right takes place. But I flatter myself that your Lordships will not disapprove of this Town’s sending a representative: With this one included The County will have but 3 representatives, And as It promises to fill Very fast, will probably soon have occasion to petition for more. I hope however, if I should be wrong, The Caution with which I have proceeded will in part excuse me

    It seems plain to me, that the prohibiting instruction,292 had its rise from a practice which had prevailed of dividing towns & thereby increasing the Members in the Old Counties & was cheifly intended against that. It is also Obvious that the New settled Counties have a right to be represented. But yet there is such danger to be apprehended from the house of Representatives continually increasing, that it is time to put a stop to it by some means: tho’ it were to be wished that It could be done without denying New settlers the natural & constitutional right of being represented. The encrease of the Number of Representatives seems to endanger the Constitution itself: By the Charter the Council & by usage many other officers are elected by the Council & Representatives voting promiscuously. In the year 1718 there were but 91 writs issued, in 1692 when the Charter was opened probably not above 84, Now there is near 170. And yet the Council keeps its old Number of 28. So that the Assembly were to the Council at the time of their first meeting as 3 to 1 now they are as 6 to 1; & consequently the Councils share in elections is diminished by half. It is also known by experience, that a large Number of People do not dispatch the public business so well as a more confined Number would do. And yet I fear It will be found Very difficult to persuade the Assembly to reduce their Number to purpose, altho’ it would be very agreable to many towns to be discharged from the expence of sending a Member; or, what would be more proper, sevral Towns might be united into one Borough, as in Scotland.293 Something of this kind should be done, before Any considerable Addition of Members should be made from the New Counties.

    The Assembly has since got over the difficulty of suspending the Right of sending Representatives in the bills for erecting Townships. In the bills of the last Session may be seen sevral instances of that Clause being inserted, but they are not in a New County, excepting one which is taken out of an Old Town.

    I am, with great respect, My Lords Your Lordship’s most obedient & most humble Servant

    Fra. Bernard

    The Rt Honble The Lords Commissioners for Trade & Plantations.

    ALS, RC CO 5/891, ff 53-55.

    On 19 Nov. 1761, the Board of Trade “spent some time” deliberating FB’s letter, the relevant parts of the Province Charter of 1691, and a clause in the provincial act of 1692 (4 Will. 3 & Mary, c. 38) concerning the election and apportionment of representatives, and replied to FB on 25 Nov. (No. 79). The Board’s reconsideration of the matter on 9 Jun. 1762 is discussed in a letter of 11 Jun. (No. 124). JBT, 11: 226, 286. FB later enclosed a triplicate of No. 59 in No. 205.