109 | To the Board of Trade

    Boston May 3. 1762

    My Lords

    I now proceed to consider the Acts of the Session just now past.465

    An Act to explain &c an Act for raising a sum of Money by lottery for repairing Fanueil Hall.466 I take notice of this Act only to declare that I am not unmindful of your Lordships orders concerning Lottery Acts,467 from which, I hope, this Act will not be considered as a departure,468 altho’ it does make some addition to the Sum originally granted. Faneuil Hall (the noblest public Room in North America) was burnt down about a year & a half ago. It belonged to the Town & should have been rebuilt by a general Tax: but the great losses by fire which the Inhabitants have suffered made that method to raise the Money impracticable. The Assembly passed the Original Act to raise 2000 pounds. The Trustees immediately set about the Work, in assurance that they should have leave to raise such further sum as should be wanted to compleat the Work. It was evident that the Original sum would not do: if an addition should not be made to it, the former grant must be renderd useless by the incompletion of the purpose for which it was granted. This Act was therefore necessary for carrying the original into Execution.

    An Act to enable Mary Hunt to convey her Lands &c.

    The Occasion & Reasonableness of this Act appears in the preamble. I take notice of it only to inform your Lordships that this bill was tender’d to me in the former Session: but I refused to pass it because they had not given public notice of the intention to bring it in. But such Notice having been given by advertisements in the public papers for 3 weeks together, which advertisements were produced at the Council board & filed there I then passed the bill.

    I am, with great respect, My Lords Your Lordships most obedient & most humble Servant

    Fra. Bernard

    ALS, RC CO 5/891, ff 73-74.

    The most contentious piece of legislation was the act for enabling Mary Hunt of Boston to dispose of and convey her lands and interest in Holden. On 14 Feb. 1761, the Governor-in-Council, which body authorized divorces and marriage settlements, granted her a separation of “bed and board” from her husband, Richard, on the grounds of his “cruel usage,” along with alimony and the rents and profits deriving from that share of the estate that she had held before marriage. She petitioned the Governor-in-Council on 26 Nov. for leave to sell inherited property in Holden in order to support her three children, lest they become public charges, and was allowed to bring in a bill at the next sitting. The bill was engrossed on 22 Jan. 1762 and received FB’s consent on 24 Apr. Council in Assembly, Massachusetts, 1761-1762, CO 5/824, ff 72-73; JHRM, 38 pt.1: 152; pt.2: 187, 333.

    When the Board reviewed the act, Sir Matthew Lamb suggested that it appeared contrary to law, and on 31 Jan. the Board referred the act to His Majesty in Council. CO 5/891, ff 100-103; CO 5/920, pp. 149-151. The act was consequently disallowed on 16 Mar. in accordance with a report by the plantation affairs committee, on the grounds that it was “contrary to Law that a Femme Couverte should sell her real Estate for her own use” and did not contain a suspending clause. JBT, 11: 329-330; APC, 4: 558-559. Mary Hunt’s petition for separation is in itself unremarkable, for it was one several which came before the Governor’s Council in the early 1760s; what is significant is the intervention of the Board of Trade in this and a handful of other cases. By 1773 the Board succeeded in preventing royal governors consenting to provincial divorce laws. Nancy F. Cott, “Divorce and the Changing Status of Women in Eighteenth-Century Massachusetts,” WMQ 33 (1976): 586-614.