67 | To Thomas Pownall

    Castle William Aug 28. 1761

    Dr Sr.

    I intended you a long letter by this Conveyance, but must confine my self to one subject which has employed so much of my writing, that I am obliged to postpone all letters that will bear it.

    You may learn from your Brother the proceedings of Mr. Barrons & his confederates against the Government & all the Royal Offices. Mr. Otis Junr. is at the head of the Confederacy: If you are acquainted with the natural Violence of his temper, suppose it to be augmented beyond all bounds of Common decency inflamed by & inflaming the general Clamour of Ilicit traders, who think they now have the Custom house at their Mercy, & seem determined to show none. Under such a conductor you may imagine the law is like to thrive & accordingly there are now 5 Actions depending against Customhouse officers, not one of which could be advised by a Lawyer that had any regard for his credit. I shall refer you to the Secretary for the particulars of these,318 but as you have a considerable intrest in one of them I shall give you a short account of that

    It is an Action of trespass brought by Cap Erwing against Mr. Cradock (at the instagation of Mr. Barrons as appears from two depositions) for seizing a brig of his in April 1760. This you may remember was compounded in the Court of Admiralty, at the desire of Mr. Erwing for £500 sterling Mr. Cradock remitted the King[’s] share to the Custom house, paid yours to Mr. Hancock, & out of his own gave ⅓ or ¼ to Mr. Sheafe his Clerk;319 so that he had to him self not above £100. the pretence for this action is, that the Seizure was illegal & a trespass, & that the payment of Mr. Erwing was not Voluntary but extorted by Violence & duress. Upon this shadow of reason, two of the Judges of the inferior Court, Mr. Watts & Mr. Wells320 directed the jury to find a Verdict for the Plaintiff & give him for damages every farthing he was out of pocket; & Mr. Wells said they, must put a stop to these proceedings of the Custom house officers; if they did not there would be tumults & bloodshed; for the people would bear with them no longer, The Jury accordingly gave the Pltf. near £600 sterling damages. This being appealed from came to a hearing before the superior Court; where the Judges were unanimously of opinion that there were no grounds for the Action; for without entering into the merits of the seizure, if there was any tresspass in it, it was cured by the composition, which was a deliberate Act done by advice of Council & confirmed by the Court of Admiralty, whose Decrees were equal to the Judgements of the common law Courts. In fine they all directed the Jury to find for the Defendant nevertheless they found for the Plaintiff & gave him upwards of 550 sterling.

    If this Verdict can be maintained It is plain there is an End of the Custom house & the Court of Admiralty too. I therefore recommend in the strongest terms that these Actions may be publickly defended by the Kings sollicitor, which will soon put a stop to them. When the Cause I have mentioned comes before the Privy Council The Defence of the Verdict wont bear the Shadow of an argument. But this appeal must be Carried on at the Expence of the King, as should all the others. The Treasury will never suffer their Officers to be ruined for doing their duty. If this Judgement shou[ld] be carried into execution Mr. Hancock must refuse the third that he received for you; but I think there is [no] danger of that.

    I have heard that some of Mr. Paxton’s Enemies have given out that he has treated your name disrespectfully. I have never been able to learn any foundation for this Charge that they have & believe, it only a scheme to prevent your favouring his cause. I know of one thing that may possibly be made use of against him tho’ Unjustly. Mr. Barrons was informed (not by Mr. Paxton) that, upon his last going home to England, you wrote to advise that his friends should provide for him there & not send him back again, for he was so very silly, that he would certainly disgrace his recommenders if he returned here. This Mr. Barrons charged Mr. Paxton with knowing & not acquainting him with it which he urged to be very unfriendly. And now possibly Mr. Barrons may turn the tables & charge Mr. Paxton with discovering this. But if it was true that Mr. Paxton did first acquaint him with it (which I dont believe) It only gives an instance of your penatation321 & shows that a knowledge of mankind may sometimes take the appearance of prophecy, at least Mr. Barrons has been indefatigable in making your words good.

    I am Dr. Sr. &

    Thos. Pownall Esqr

    L, LbC BP, 2: 9-11.