This third volume in the Bernard Papers series brings to a conclusion the Stamp Act Crisis that bedeviled Governor Bernard’s administration in colonial Massachusetts. Francis Bernard (Jun. or Jul. 1712–16 Jun. 1779) had been governor of Massachusetts for nearly five years when Parliament introduced the hated Stamp Act in Mar. 1765. The act levied duties mainly on paper transactions—including legal instruments and commercial services—rather than on commodities, the first tax of this kind that Parliament imposed on the American colonists, who feared that it was the first of many revenue-raising measures.1 The promise of Bernard’s first few years in office counted for nothing with his colonial critics during the ensuing controversy; and while Americans protested about parliamentary taxation in their assemblies and in the streets, Bernard desired nothing more than to find another position far away from Boston. Where the second volume of the Bernard Papers explored the responses of both Governor Bernard and the colonists to British colonial policy, this third volume examines an aftermath shaped by major political shifts in Boston and London, and details Bernard’s attempts to negotiate them.
By the time news of the Stamp Act’s repeal arrived from London in early May 1766, a political realignment was already underway in Massachusetts that would ensure the dominance of the governor’s enemies in the Whig party. By mid-summer, the Whigs had captured the legislature and most of the towns and had begun to undermine the governor’s influence in the Council. Late in the summer of 1767, another raft of parliamentary taxes and other initiatives, the so-called Townshend Acts, re-kindled the colonial protest movement. Bernard had once accused his enemies of being determined on “raising a fame in the government,”2 and in his last three years as governor felt the full blast of the colonists’ resentment. What little political support he had was invariably slow in coming to his aid.
Bernard’s self-confidence was undermined by the painful realization that the loyalty of his friends in England was inevitably constrained by their own situations and interests. The vagaries of British politics during the 1760s rendered colonial governors vulnerable to the whims of incoming ministers; three of the king’s secretaries of state for the American Colonies to whom Bernard reported between 1766 and 1769 initially found reason to doubt his judgment. These ministers eventually accepted his appraisal of colonial politics, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm and some reluctance: Conway was gracious where Shelburne was unpleasant, and Hillsborough decisive where his predecessors dithered. Shelburne considered Bernard expendable but political inertia in London determined that Bernard was kept in Boston (despite requesting leave of absence) to continue the struggle to enforce imperial authority. By the end of 1767, Boston must have seemed a very lonely place indeed for any English governor who professed “Reverence for the imperial State” (No. 508).
Governor Bernard was responsible for the execution of unpopular colonial policies and upholding imperial law, but consistently professed to British ministers that he lacked the power to do either, properly. Bernard was one of the most experienced colonial governors, well versed in trying to influence policymakers’ deliberations via his extended correspondence with agents, friends, officials, and ministers. Understanding the arguments he delivered does not require a leap of the imagination. Bernard was a beleaguered imperial official, and for all he exaggerated threats to civil order and cried treason and sedition on many an occasion, he avoided rashly committing his administration to uprooting a spectral revolution. But he planted the idea of colonial rebellion in ministers’ minds, with care and deliberation. Ever the lawyer, Bernard furnished plenty of evidence, most of it circumstantial, little incriminating; he made deductions, offered interpretations, and considered logical propositions. As a Crown servant, he made recommendations and advocated solutions, and faithfully carried out instructions. Ever the politician, Bernard’s epistolary style could also be opaque (as eighteenth-century political letters often were), with motive shrouded, explanation coded in allusive metaphor, and purpose hidden—yet all knowingly understood by recipient as well as author. Bernard’s letters are also replete with candid revelations, artfully dropped into the epistolary dialogue, sometimes supported by evidence, and enticing English readers to enter what for them must have seemed a political netherworld. Bernard’s correspondence after the Stamp Act riots provide few unguarded moments, where the governor’s voice can be heard free of bitterness and recrimination. Ultimately, Bernard was protecting his own back. And he did so by trying to persuade the imperial government that he was countering a nascent revolutionary movement.
Bernard crafted a case for direct British intervention in colonial affairs. British ministers had once supposed that the Stamp Act would enforce itself—that people habituated to good government would pay stamp duties as a matter of course in their daily business. But Bernard’s reports illustrated how popular protests and organized campaigns effectively prevented officials from enforcing this particular law. And Bernard was not prepared to instruct Crown officers to ignore it. Thus, Bernard’s several correspondents concluded quickly that the consensus upholding imperial authority was disintegrating in Massachusetts. While the news carried across the Atlantic was at least one and often two to three months out of date upon arrival, it nevertheless would have been evident to Bernard’s correspondents that imperial laws were being enforced (whatever contrary impression they may have formed from the governor’s letters). In part, that was because colonial opposition was selective and modulated: colonists did not object to each and every act of Parliament. It was also because the British government introduced a new agency to enforce the Townshend duties—which needed collecting just like any other tax levied on imported commodities. The establishment of the American Board of Customs in Boston in Nov. 1767, certainly improved revenue collection, though the governor’s relationship with the commissioners proved to be problematic at times. But Bernard feared that the political cost of imposing new taxes on a disgruntled and brooding populace would be too high for Britain to bear unless ministers strengthened Crown authority. Having first championed the reform of colonial institutions and imperial administration, Bernard set out to persuade ministers to cow his opponents by sending a regiment or two of Regulars to Boston. That he succeeded in doing so by the summer of 1768 had enormous ramifications for British-colonial relations, convincing many Americans that British hard-liners were in charge and predisposed to ignore American aspirations and grievances. In Bernard’s correspondence of 1766 and 1767 historians will find explanation as to why British policymakers were prepared to take a firmer line with the Americans in 1768.
True fulfilment Francis Bernard found not in the service of his king but in the bosom of his family. His wife Amelia Offley (c.1719-26 May 1778) bore him eleven children in the space of sixteen years, of whom ten survived infancy. When Bernard crossed the Atlantic in 1758 to become governor of New Jersey (1758-60), he and his wife left behind two of their daughters: baby Frances Elizabeth (1757-1821), who may have been too frail to travel, and Jane (b.1746), the eldest daughter. The girls’ guardians were childless relatives, but the girls would not see their parents for another eleven years. Of the other children, William (1756-76) and Amelia (b.1754) were infants when they traveled with their parents, and Shute (1752-68)3 was just five years old; Scrope (1758-1830) and Julia (b.1759) were born at Perth Amboy, N.J. As far as can be ascertained, Bernard was a devoted husband and father, although there are few documentary traces of his family life in America. The warm reminiscences of his youngest daughter Julia, written long after the family returned to England in 1769, are testament to a happy home.4
Bernard took up the governorship of Massachusetts in 1760, living for the most part with his family in the Province House, his official residence. Located in the heart of Boston, the Province House sat in enclosed grounds that provided some escape from the hustle and bustle of street life. But in 1766, with five children aged ten years or younger, the Province House must have been a noisy place—yet surely a joyful home, as when the Bernard boys entertained guests with musical recitals.5 Visitors were frequent, though social calls probably dropped off as the governor’s popularity waned. Neither Bernard’s papers nor the diaries of others indicate that the family’s circle of friends extended beyond the governor’s intimate political acquaintances and their families. (However, FB mentions one dinner with other political acquaintances in No. 451.) The children’s American sojourn was disrupted to some degree and at various times by their father’s difficult public life; notably when Bernard took his family to the safety of Castle William during the Stamp Act riots, and again when protests flared up in 1768. Meanwhile, John Bernard (1745-1809) was making his way as a merchant in Boston (whilst also clerking for his father); and Thomas (1750-1818) was studying at Harvard, graduating in the summer of 1767. The eldest son, Francis Jr. or Frank (27 Sept. 1743-20 Nov. 1770), however, continued to give his parents no end of problems.
Frank Bernard seemed unwilling to commit to any career plans—at least that was how his father read his willful defiance of parental authority.6 The plain truth of the matter—as the father saw it—was that Frank could expect little patrimony beyond moveable property and deeds to frontier lands, and needed a career to sustain him. Bernard fretted often about his family’s unsatisfactory financial situation, yet fully expected to leave his children far more than he had ever received from his father. Bernard had been but an infant when his own parents died, and the attentive, intellectual step-father who raised and educated him (the Rev. Anthony Alsop) left him a wealth of books not money. It was the rich promise of Bernard’s early career that created his life opportunities (not least his marriage to a squire’s daughter who was also cousin to a peer). Bernard was an achiever and the patriarch in him wanted more or less the same for Frank and his other sons; this meant having to dictate to his eldest son as he came of age. But Frank’s natural “Curiosity” and “his passion for rambling” spurred him to travel in America during a fourteenth-month sojourn, and also to ignore his parents’ entreaties to settle on a career path.7 Bernard expended much effort trying to secure Frank the province Naval Office (a minor administrative position whose primary function was to record incoming and outgoing shipping); he also proposed finding him an officer’s commission in the British Army (although that was more a threat than a serious offer, Nos. 441 and 472).
To the father, the son was stubbornly independent; to the son, the father was unjustly domineering. Amelia (a shadowy figure in the governor’s narrative) was so upset by the dispute between father and son that her husband resorted (uncharacteristically) to emotional blackmail by appealing to Frank that his mother was “so tender in her make, & so sensible in her feelings that, your Conduct, if not altered, would destroy her” (No. 426). Upon Frank resuming his studies at Christ Church, his father enlisted several old friends to report on his son’s progress (Nos. 427, 428, and 463). Frank was no rake, yet Oxford was notorious for the profligacy of its wealthier, aristocratic students. When Frank “reproached” his father for his “partial kindness,” he was told to knuckle down at the risk of losing his meager annual allowance (No. 512); these were the father’s words, not the son’s, whose own account of their disagreements has not survived. In the end, however, his father relented after Frank completed his studies at Oxford. “I will not live in continual ^altercation^ with one I love.” With this heartfelt plea for reconciliation, Bernard repaired their relationship, and Frank returned to Boston to enter the Naval Office (No. 527). But the reunion was short-lived, for three years later Frank succumbed to illness, dying in Boston.
The energy Bernard expended in obtaining a government position for his son illustrates the blurring of lines between private and public spheres in eighteenth-century government. Bernard was far from being the epitome of a corrupt official who feathered his own nest regardless of the common weal. In 1766, governors were entitled to a one-third share of some Customs seizures (notwithstanding Bernard’s earlier claims to a third of all seizures). Fee income was paltry, and Bernard admitted to taking petty bribes of wine and fruit; he may have taken money too (for which, unsurprisingly, there is no evidence). Kickbacks or backhanders were routine and did not attract the automatic condemnation that they do today. Governors were expected to use their position to augment their annual income, which, in Bernard’s case, by 1766 was £1,075 sterling (No. 523). Nonetheless, the scale of Bernard’s exploitation of legal loopholes in the trade laws elicited the enduring antipathy of the energetic surveyor general of Customs, John Temple.8 Temple alleged that Bernard was engaged in systematic fraud, skimming off £2,500 in penalties from merchants threatened with prosecution; these he allegedly shared with a disgraced customs officer, James Cockle.9 While the British government dismissed Temple’s claims, Bernard remained vulnerable to the politics of accusation—from within and without the imperial establishment (No. 443), but from Temple especially. “However Sir! there is one thing that you may depend upon, I shall not forget.” (No. 477.) Temple’s temper might have gotten the better of him (as it did eighteen months earlier when he nearly provoked a duel with a subordinate).10 But, for the most part, Temple and Bernard kept out of each other’s way, sparing the imperial establishment further embarrassment.
Bernard’s interest in a scheme to obtain land grants in “St. Croix Bay” (present-day Passamaquoddy Bay) is a reminder of how far business operated on extended friendship networks (No. 440). His partners in England (including colonial agents Benjamin Franklin and Richard Jackson, and former Massachusetts governor Thomas Pownall)11 were able to broker deals with the Board of Trade (Nos. 453 and 456) whilst Bernard negotiated the issuance of the grants by the Nova Scotia government. Bernard was nonetheless suspicious that his partners would advance their own interests at his expense, and his motivation in maintaining an additional private correspondence with Richard Jackson about the St. Croix Bay scheme was to ensure that he accrued a full share of the grants. The partners aimed to establish several townships and turn a profit as rentiers; they hoped to entice prospective settlers (including Massachusetts Quakers) with what Bernard assumed was a modest quit rent of 2d. per acre, regardless of colonial concerns about the imposition of an English form of land rents (Nos. 439, 440, and 503). The scheme never cost Bernard anything like the £1,500 he had already expended on developing a township on Mount Desert Island, lying off the Maine coast. He had not abandoned hope of being able to settle immigrants on Mount Desert or make a go of cultivating hemp as a cash crop (No. 455). But by 1766, he probably supposed that the St. Croix Bay scheme was more promising because it required less investment (No. 439). Nothing came of the venture by the time Bernard returned to England three years later, and his title to the grants would have lapsed by the onset of the Revolutionary War (after which came the pioneers and in their wake families from Europe, Nova Scotia, and New England).
Bernard’s acquisitiveness was largely unrealized. But, on the whole, it was other aspects of his administration—his purported castigation of the province in official correspondence—that was to attract the most criticism in the colonies.
What soured relations between Bernard and the colonists were twelve disturbing days in Aug. 1765 when Bernard supposed he witnessed the first stirrings of revolution (as recounted in the second volume of the Bernard Papers). Boston crowds protesting the Stamp Tax targeted the property of government men responsible for its enforcement, notably Bernard’s trusted lieutenant governor, Thomas Hutchinson, whose house was ransacked and gutted by a violent mob on the night of 26 Aug.12 The mobs subsided quickly, though there were undercurrents of social tensions, and popular anger was palpable; for the next decade crowd action was carefully restrained by Whig leaders. Yet the riots unsettled Bernard, partly because they were his first personal encounter with civil unrest but mainly because they exposed the weakness of government power.13 When he later reported on crowd action in Connecticut and New York it was because he feared radicalized mobs would return to Massachusetts; for in these neighboring colonies seditious behavior seemed not just tolerated but encouraged (Nos. 430, 433, 434, 437).
Bernard’s commission was made all the more difficult by uncertainty as to who in London was directing British colonial policy. The governor’s initial responses to the upsurge in popular opposition to the Stamp Act rested on the mistaken assumption that the earl of Halifax was effectively in charge of American affairs. Halifax14 (a keen reformer) was secretary of state for the Southern Department in the 1763-65 administration of George Grenville15 (the Stamp Act’s architect), but Halifax and Grenville had left office by the time Bostonians rioted in Aug. 1765. However, Bernard’s official reports were still crafted with Halifax in mind, and in hope rather than expectation that the British would make sweeping changes to colonial government. The Stamp Act he condemned as inexpedient only in the aftermath of the riots. Bernard’s prescription moved far beyond addressing concerns about direct taxation to political questions about how to wrest power from the popular party in the assemblies and contain rioters. The kind of constitutional and administrative reforms that Bernard advocated ought to have strengthened imperial power in the long term but would certainly have incited further opposition, and they were never considered seriously either by Halifax or the incoming administration. Bernard and other governors were left to recover as best they might their own authority and reputations, both badly damaged in the welter of accusations and counter-accusations.
Meanwhile, in London, the marquess of Rockingham’s short administration (10 Jul. 1765-30 Jul. 1766) prepared to ride out an American storm not of its making.16 Faced with Bernard’s alarming reports on riots and disorder, Secretary of State Henry Seymour Conway reminded governors that they had the authority to request the assistance of British Regulars.17 (By 1766, there were around 6,400 Regulars in North America: nearest to Boston were over 500 soldiers in Nova Scotia and 300 at New York.) But at no point did the imperial government ever plan to use British soldiers to enforce the Stamp Act; ministers blithely expected that colonists would dutifully pay the tax when the act took effect on 1 Nov.18 In that, however, they were quickly disappointed, as Bernard’s continuing reports made clear. The law courts and the customhouses closed down on 1 Nov., because officials feared reprisals if they conducted business on stamped paper. Of particular concern to the governor was the winter campaign by the Massachusetts Whigs to open public offices by persuading officials to use unstamped papers: such transactions, however, would have been strictly illegal unless the province judges could justify them out of necessity (Nos. 430, 431, 433). Bernard warned also of loose talk about “grievances” and dangerous notions of “civil rights” circulating among New Englanders (No. 435).
The Stamp Act Crisis strained Bernard’s relationship with distant patrons. John Pownall, long-time secretary to the Board of Trade,19 was bemused by Bernard’s revelation that circumstances might oblige him to “quit” the province,20 yet also genuinely concerned for his safety (No. 472). Bernard was put out by Pownall’s imputation that he could think of abandoning his post—but that, as both men knew, was exactly what Bernard’s self-validating rationale would seem like to ministers. Bernard’s sarcastic retort in No. 449 witheringly exposed how out of touch Pownall’s masters were with his predicament in Boston.
I did not apprehend that mine was so much of a military post, as to require my maintaining it ‘till I was knocked on the head. And I can assure you that it was the Opinion of most People I talked with that it would be impossible for me to stay here ‘till Releif came from England. . . . I am willing to hope that Ways & Means will be found to reestablish the Kings Government in this Town: but I fear it will be found a Work of more difficulty than is apprehended; and if a Contest should arise in the Operations I hope some Care will be taken of the Kings Officers, who will be the first Objects of Resentment if any should arise.
Pownall was treated to a barrage of letters explaining the “critical Situation” in Massachusetts. While these alarming (and alarmist) reports provided some exculpation for Bernard’s ill-judged revelation, they also reinforced the argument that he ought to be allowed to report to London in person (No. 451).
While Bernard was writing, American affairs were dominating parliamentary business in the first few months of 1766. Rockingham—despite his political inexperience—both devised and delivered a campaign that won support for repealing the Stamp Act on the grounds that it would prevent a looming economic crisis in the American trade. His most valuable backers were the British merchants trading with America. On more than one occasion, the cabinet enlisted the evidence transmitted by Bernard (much to the governor’s discomfort) to convince parliamentary critics that Grenville had grossly miscalculated the colonists’ reactions (No. 458). By mid-January, the cabinet were committed to repealing the Stamp Act, although the administration would emerge much weaker from the process of introducing a repeal bill in Feb. and persuading Parliament to pass it.21
In Massachusetts, the disruption to government business occasioned by resistance to the Stamp Act was slowly resolved in the first few months of 1766. Bernard insisted that the majority of “magistrates”—by which he meant judges and justices of the peace—were opposed to breaking the law by not using stamped papers (No. 435). This may have been correct initially, for the historical record of Nov. and Dec. 1765 does not confirm that officials were refused permission to ignore the Stamp Act by the governor and their superiors. The governor was firmly against any action that might be construed as noncompliance with the letter of the law; thus, Bernard was openly and widely blamed for prolonging the closure of public offices. On the other hand, judges, sheriffs, and even Chief Justice Thomas Hutchinson came to the inescapable conclusion that noncompliance ex necessitate was the only way that the mountain of business pending would ever be shifted. Surveyor General Temple was the first to break ranks, and allowed the Boston Customhouse to open in mid-December without using stamped papers. While Bernard equivocated, he was content to let Hutchinson and Temple resolve the impasse for him. News arriving from London during the first few months of the New Year raised everyone’s expectations of a repeal, and judges and court officials made plans to proceed without stamped papers in the months ahead (Nos. 430 and 452).
The Stamp Act was repealed on 18 Mar. 1766. The king, his ministers, and Parliament all supposed they had gifted governors the means to assuage colonial opposition and put an end to the protests. They also bequeathed imperial administrators everywhere a potentially fearsome weapon: the American Declaratory Act, also signed into law on 18 Mar., which declaimed Parliament’s incontrovertible legislative supremacy in the colonies. The American Declaratory Act was modeled on the Irish Declaratory Act, 6 Geo. 1, c. 5 (1720), and brought the question of enforcement sharply into focus. The term “taxation” was intentionally elided from the Declaratory Act, to avoid offending the Americans. The government and its supporters (and a fair number of their critics) supposed that the combination of these “lenient & persuasive Methods” (as Conway informed Bernard), would draw a line under the disputes over taxation. They did not, because, having protested their being taxed without being directly represented in Parliament, Americans changed the terms of debate: the fundamental issue was not about Parliament’s authority to tax but its authority to legislate.22 Moreover, the bitter irony of Britain’s “persuasive Methods” was never lost on those Americans who contested parliamentary authority. There were many MPs and Lords who glibly opined that the Americans should be forced to toe the line, coercion being the bedrock of English rule in Ireland. Richard Jackson, on the other hand, proffered wise words of caution in a letter to Hutchinson: “I hope no ill Use will be made of this [proposed Declaratory Act] by alarming the People in America, believing as I do that our future Rule in America may be that we have used in Ireland.” Jackson echoed the sentiments of Rockingham’s Irish secretary, the MP Edmund Burke (1729-97), who had spoken in favor of the declaration of supremacy (and doubtless reminded Rockingham of the Irish precedent) whilst warning that Britain should never use it to justify colonial policy. Burke’s anti-authoritarianism arguably refined his position on American issues, whereas Bernard’s position had been and continued to be defined by American anti-authoritarianism.23
Bernard did not learn about the Rockingham ministry’s decision to move for the repeal of the Stamp Act until mid-April or early May. Official notification, which arrived on 31 May, was preceded by unconfirmed reports in the newspapers that a repeal bill had been presented to Parliament in Feb. (No. 465.) And until he received confirmation of the repeal, Bernard continued to urge ministers to take a hard look at the situation in the colonies.
Expect “the Worst,” Bernard cautioned the Rockingham administration (No. 431). To Secretary of State Henry Seymour Conway, he urged
The Stamp Act is become in itself a matter of Indifference; it is swallowed up in the Importance of the Effects of which it has been the Cause. The taxing the Americans by the Parliament has brought their very Subjection to the Crown of Great Britain in Question.
No American would ever have broached the prospect of independence in such a candid manner as Bernard did in No. 447. (His earlier letters to Conway had been equally firm if rather more patient, No. 436.) Benjamin Franklin offered a similarly forthright assessment of American affairs during his examination before the House of Commons on 13 Feb. 1766, when he insisted that only by force of arms could Britain get the colonists to submit to the Stamp Act. Bernard came to the same conclusion, albeit by a different route. Colonists who complained loudly about taxation and questioned Parliament’s authority would have recognized themselves in Franklin’s portrayal but not Bernard’s: loyalty to the Crown was uppermost in their public utterances, as Franklin stressed, and underpinned their entire case in defending colonial rights and liberties against Parliament’s claim to supremacy. But no American, including Franklin, was in a position to lecture any minister, as Bernard did. And therein lay the colonists predicament: how far could they push the governor? How much did they know of what Bernard was telling London? Nothing substantive, we may presume, but the governors’ critics had a pretty good idea that what he was telling ministers was far from flattering.
On some occasions, Bernard mocked the Whigs’ professions of loyalty (No. 437); their pretensions to emulate Parliament’s historic Bill of Rights (enacted after the Glorious Revolution that unseated James II and brought William and Mary to the throne) merely concealed their detestation of the King-in-Parliament. (Nos. 452 and 557.) Harsh words harshly spoken, Bernard supposed, might go down well with a military man such as Conway. One day, he mused, he would surely require “orders & forces from England” to subdue the colonists. “I should be glad that when they are taught that they have a superior, they may know it effectually.” (No 436.) In fact, Conway had shied away from using the military during the Stamp Act Crisis, and revealed to Bernard that the Rockingham ministry was relying upon governors “to restore . . . Peace and Tranquility.”24 Be that as it may, Bernard warned, “little is to be expected from the Kings Authority here ‘till some effectual measures shall be taken to support it more firmly than it can be by its own intrinsic Weight; which is found to be Very light in the Ballance” (No. 435).
Bernard was never so sanguine as to expect that his voice alone might arouse ministers to seek a constitutional settlement; but he remained convinced that only direct British intervention might subdue growing opposition. The kind of intervention he envisaged harked back to the root and branch reforms of colonial government he had drafted in 1764—and which had been ignored by London. These he dusted down and promoted once more as a reformist agenda for rebalancing the constitutional “weights” (No. 448). He was not advocating the status quo before the Stamp Act, but a re-drawing of boundaries—literally, when it came to political geography, and metaphorically, when it came to establishing clear parameters to the authority of Crown and Parliament. Self-interest was driving his agenda as much as political realities. His advocacy of a Crown civil list (Nos. 523 and 524) was partly to safeguard his salary were the province assembly ever to cut his grant in a fit of pique. His perseverance in making the case for a Crown civil list did not captivate ministers; but it probably got Charles Townshend’s attention.
“This Country is in a most terrible disorder: I scarce dare to be explicit upon it,” Bernard wrote Jackson in Mar. 1766 (No. 448). He was genuinely concerned that his transatlantic correspondence was vulnerable to espionage, whether sent by the mail packet or merchant ships. The historical record does not yet confirm the governor’s suspicions that his correspondence was being tampered with during 1766 and 1767. It might seem surprising that, given his apprehensions, Bernard deluged correspondents with evidence about his opponents’ indiscretions. But in doing so, he was also sending a discrete warning signal to enemies who dared to browse the enclosures: his messages and speeches to the assembly, and the members’ replies and addresses; legislative proceedings including journals, votes, protests, and petitions; legal papers including affidavits and depositions about smuggling. Bernard often delayed sealing his packages so that he could add cuttings of the latest installment of the “flagitious” Boston Gazette (No. 461).
Regardless what his critics might think, the torrents of documents were selected with one aim in mind: to convince ministers of the hopelessness of the governor’s situation. Or, as Bernard put it, to “furnish . . . sufficient proof of the Overthrow of this Government” (No. 461). He was serving notice that he was patently unable to cure either the “Madness of the people” (No. 431) or the insane “Virulence” of James Otis Jr., Boston’s senior representative and Whig leader (Nos. 452, 460);25 he probably supposed that Otis’s brand of radicalism drew succor from Britons sympathetic to the Americans, notably Isaac Barré and Henry Seymour Conway, who briefly corresponded with Otis (No. 470). (Probably in deference to Conway, Bernard discretely avoided commenting on the minister’s contact with Otis.)26
The brilliant but unpredictable Otis drew Bernard’s ire like no other enemy. The mutual antagonism went back to the merchants’ failed attempt to overturn the legality of the writs of assistance (general search warrants) in 1761. Bernard’s profile of his bête noir is occasionally enlightening as to Otis’s mood swings and “mad pranks” (No. 470), such as the theatrical “assembling” of the House of Representatives in defiance of the governor (No. 464). Bernard’s observations were inveterately hostile and resentful, as if Otis were personally to blame for the governor’s misfortunes. Whenever Otis appears in the historical record, Bernard’s voice is shrill and dripping with invective (Nos. 510, 531, 533). He relished the chance of one day exposing “the grand Incendiary” (No. 539) and “his Gang” and detaching his “deluded Partisans from him” (No. 560). That was because, in early 1766, Otis turned a full barrage of patriotic propaganda against the governor—enlisting the talented lawyer John Adams27 and others—while Bernard’s defense was undertaken by a lone voice, that of the office-seeking lawyer and friend of Adams, Jonathan Sewall (No. 430).28 Sewall’s creation “Philanthrop” was the governor’s literary champion (and about whose appearance Bernard professed ignorance). For this, Bernard promoted Sewall to the first of several Crown offices (Nos. 530 and 544). Sewall remained Bernard’s loyal servant thereafter, while Sewall’s long-time friend John Adams embraced Otis’s Whigs. (Adams would later recall these early squabbles when he penned his revolutionary masterpiece, Novanglus, in 1775, in reply to Massachusettensis which he wrongly supposed by Sewall, in fact by another Loyalist and erstwhile fellow-Whig, Daniel Leonard.)29
Of other Whigs, Bernard had far less to say, his observations probably stilted by an obsession with Otis. While Bernard supposed Otis was behind most of the critical newspaper commentaries (ignoring, for example, John Adams’s first appearance in print). He nonetheless used newspaper evidence to construct a discourse of sedition that he developed through 1767 and 1768. Samuel Adams,30 a local tax collector and full-time politician, Bernard depicted as the “Drawer”: this was in recognition of Adams’s talents as clerk of the House (an epithet more fitting of Adams’s leadership role than the snobbish slur about “Sam the Publican” later popularized by Tory printer John Mein).31 But the Whigs, Bernard sniffed, were “all of them rather under the middle rank of Life.” Bernard, the status conscious parvenu, was aghast at the rise in popular participation and unwilling to accept that—in the terminology of time—some of the “best men” of the province (men of high rank and status) were on the opposite side and seemingly oblivious to what every eighteenth-century authority-figure supposed was an obligation to declare on the side of government, whenever the mobs took to the street or democracy reared its head (No. 531). Impeachment—by press or party—he could safely ignore, but like Roman senators of old, Bernard’s deepest fear was “the power of the mob industriously worked up by a Very few desperate & Wicked Men” (No. 464).
Bernard was too much of a political realist to regard the repeal of the Stamp Act as a panacea. But he was delighted, nonetheless, to see the back of a measure that had been the cause of such personal anxiety (No. 467). One particular concern was that his enemies might get hold of his official correspondence about the Stamp Act riots that had been presented to Parliament on 14 Jan. 1766 (Nos. 458 and 459). While Lord Barrington,32 Bernard’s long-time patron, reported unstinting praise for the governor among parliamentarians making the case for and against repeal (Nos. 441, 541)—Barrington opposed repeal—Bernard feared that disclosure would expose him to public contempt and further ridicule in Boston. Fortunately, for him, John Pownall’s office somehow managed to prevent any of the letters falling into the hands of the colonists’ friends (No. 459). And letters from London published in the newspapers took no notice of Bernard’s correspondence, preferring to comment at length on the magisterial, statesmanlike speech of William Pitt33 urging a repeal of the Stamp Act (which he delivered on the same day that the colonial governors’ letters were laid before the House of Commons).34 Even so, within three years Bernard’s enemies would acquire damning evidence of the governor having misrepresented the province, and campaigned for his impeachment and removal.
Conway’s official letter announcing the repeal of the Stamp Act arrived on 31 May (though the original is not extant), but it would not have made altogether pleasant reading for Bernard. While the secretary proffered the king’s “fullest Approbation” of his administration and praised “both . . . the Firmness, & . . . Temperance” of his “Conduct,” he also instructed the governors to persevere in obtaining public compensation for those who had suffered during the Stamp Act riots. Bernard did not delude himself that Conway’s endorsement of his administration would make any difference to the political situation—not even were he to present Conway’s admonition to the Massachusetts assembly (as he did) that the British Parliament had acted with “Moderation, . . . Forbearance, . . . unexampled Lenity, and Tenderness” in repealing the Stamp Act (No. 462). Bernard dutifully returned the stamped papers to England (No. 483). But any palliative impact Conway’s missive might have had was washed away by Bernard’s subsequent attempt to reassert his political authority (No. 471). The political wounds festered.
In the early years of his governorship, Bernard aspired to remain above partisan politics, but he had abandoned that approach during the Stamp Act Crisis by appealing to friends of government to rein in the emergent Whig party who were leading opposition to the act and to his administration. The Whigs’ resounding triumph in the assembly elections of May 1766 was entirely predictable. But the margin of victory was not; a newspaper campaign orchestrated by Boston representatives James Otis Jr. and Samuel Adams succeeded in persuading voters to turn out a Black List of thirty-two “Tory” incumbents and return good Whigs to the House of Representatives (No. 480). The triumph was capped when the new House met on 28 May. The Whig representatives defeated the combined votes of the remaining friends of government and the outgoing Council to deny several of the governor’s leading supporters places on the new Council. Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson, Province Secretary Andrew Oliver, Judge Peter Oliver, and Attorney General Edmund Trowbridge were all defeated, regardless of proven ability and many years of public service.35
Bernard lashed out using the one constitutional power that his enemies could not assail: his right of veto. Predictably, he refused to accept James Otis Jr.’s election as Speaker but he also took the highly controversial—though perfectly legal—step of refusing to accept the election of six radicals to the Council. This “bold stroke” (No. 469) he found cathartic: it momentarily restored Bernard’s self-confidence, leading him to imagine that the veto had a much wider political appeal than the friends of government for whom it was intended. Had Conway’s letter arrived before 31 May—it came three days after the vote for the Council—Bernard might have acted differently; Conway’s lukewarm endorsement and talk of leniency might have prompted him to withhold the veto. As it was, Bernard was now obliged to defend his use of the tactical veto in letter after letter. The veto left Bernard with a rump Council of moderate Whigs and friends of government with whom he supposed he could operate normally (Nos. 474, 480). But his relationship with the Council deteriorated as the Whig members jostled for power within the group. Perhaps Bernard might have managed to establish a working relationship with the Council, had the business coming before the Board been less controversial. Bernard, in short, found himself unable to work effectively with the Council within a couple of years, and felt obliged to persevere with the veto. He had already lost the lower chamber.
The 1766 elections were both an indication of the Whigs’ popularity and a vindication of their pursuit of Bernard. The Whigs comprised one-third of the previous House of Representatives, and from May that year numbered some two-thirds. Many were radicals, though it may be inferred from Bernard’s observations that the moderates comprised between one-third and one-half of the total number of members at any one time between 1764 and 1768. These members brought new energy to debates in imperial affairs and drove the case articulating colonial rights and liberties in the years ahead. Even on issues seemingly peripheral to colonial policymaking—the garrisoning of provincial forts (No. 471), the depredations of whalers in Labrador (No. 489), or emergency relief for stranded British soldiers (No. 517)—the House deftly linked them to the imperial crisis, on each occasion berating the governor for overstepping his authority. Grandstanding it may have been, but it was effective nonetheless—judging by Bernard’s reactions—in rallying opposition to his administration.
The governor’s supporters in the House comprised between one-fifth and one-quarter of the representatives during 1766 and 1767, and cumulatively and collectively exerted little sustained influence on imperial issues. Timothy Ruggles, a war veteran and “a very valuable man” (No. 458), cut a forlorn figure in the House when he was censured for having denounced the proceedings of the Stamp Act Congress, at which body he had presided and represented the province. Legislators from the western counties were once the kind of men on whom a governor could rely: power-brokers in their local communities, respected by all, feared by many.36 But they had grown weary of the bickering, the lack of deference, and in-fighting at Boston, and tended to stay away from the General Court whenever they could. The friends of government were not only too few to win controversial votes; they lacked the requisite organization and leadership to mount an effective challenge to the Whigs, ably led by the Boston Seat (as the town’s four representatives were known). The Whigs, on the other hand, were able to establish majority coalitions on controversial votes and defeat the friends of government on most every issue.
Bernard did what he could to advance the friends of government, though governors had few offices at their disposal. Most important provincial positions required the “advice and consent” of the Council; the king’s approval (taking six months to arrive) was required for the governor’s recommendations for appointments to Crown office, including the judiciary. Moreover, few confirmed friends of government could expect to win Whig backing for any position other than justice of the peace (for the responsibilities of magistrates, save specially commissioned justices, did not extend beyond their county). Hitherto, Bernard had affected to dispense patronage in a nonpartisan fashion (notwithstanding the outcry from the Otises following Hutchinson’s appointment as chief justice in 1761).
Now, he began in earnest to promote the careers of loyalists, who had provided aid and assistance in troubled times. Sewall has been mentioned, but Bernard also championed the advance of Robert Auchmuty, another able lawyer (No. 507). Judge Chambers Russell too might have benefited had he not died upon arrival in England after a rough crossing, bringing with him several of Bernard’s official letters (No. 506). Bernard provided friends traveling to England with letters of introduction to high-placed patrons, in the expectation that the friends’ “advices” might raise his stock with ministers and officials. British army officer Francis Miller (who had recruited a company of loyalists to garrison Castle William after the riots) Bernard assisted by helping him to dispose of his army commission (No. 429); when Capt. Thomas Bishop’s tour of duty in the North Atlantic Station ended he returned to England with a new bride and a ringing endorsement for his services to the governor (No. 479); Col. Leonard Jarvis (whose men had defended the Customhouse treasury) Bernard dispatched as a private envoy to Secretary of State Shelburne37 (No. 559); and for Charles Paxton (Boston’s most effective and hated customs officer), Bernard provided recommendations that would open doors in Whitehall and secure his appointment as a commissioner to the American Board of Customs (No. 486). On a personal level, there was an unfulfilled promise to James Cockle of a land grant in Nova Scotia (No. 432).
Unquestionably, Thomas Hutchinson remained Bernard’s most important adviser, despite being turned out of the Council. Hutchinson served Bernard loyally, but not blindly, as his political manager for the duration of his administration. Bernard trusted him implicitly, and the disagreements that appear intermittently in the Bernard Papers testify to the candor typifying their discussions on imperial affairs. There are hints that Bernard disliked the haughtiness Hutchinson displayed in the public eye, once commenting—and with remarkable insensitivity—that “Confidence proved his ruin” during the Stamp Act riots.38 One matter of friction between governor and deputy was the question of who should return to London to brief ministers. Hutchinson, who had no stomach for transatlantic travel, was nevertheless keen to ensure that he obtained some compensation for his loss of property during the Stamp Act riots; that imperative evaporated when the General Court passed an indemnity act in Dec. 1766. But Bernard always preferred that he himself should return; jealousy of Hutchinson, his intellectual superior, probably had a lot to do with this, but so also did the governor’s conviction to correct ministers’ misapprehensions and desire to relocate to a less troublesome province (No. 451). In one draft letter to Conway, Bernard claimed that he had been an “Eye Witness of its disorders,” though in truth that description was probably meant for Hutchinson; the governor probably forgot to excise the phrase from the draft after scoring out references to Hutchinson (No. 447). For he continued to urge that either he or Hutchinson should go, and that Barrington, Jackson, and Pownall should smooth the path to the ministry (No. 458).
Attempts to restore Hutchinson to the Council came to naught, despite lengthy researches to prove the legitimacy of the governor’s claim that his deputy should have a permanent seat on the Governor’s Council. History, in this instance, did not come to the governor’s rescue, but illuminated the deep-rooted constitutional nature of governors’ problems (No. 550). Hutchinson was Bernard’s principal source of information, and the second volume of his History of Massachusetts was published in 1767. Hutchinson continued to attend Council meetings for a while, publicly demonstrating his loyalty to the governor, until the furor became too much for either man to bear. Bernard twice proposed a compromise with the Otises that would have seen James Otis Sr. brought back into the Council along with Hutchinson and the Olivers, but James Otis Jr. refused to countenance any such deal (Nos. 480 and 560). Increasingly, the governor came to rely on his private cabinet or “select council” of Hutchinson, Andrew Oliver, and one or two others, and avoid, whenever possible, the irksome task of competing with Whig councilors James Bowdoin and William Brattle for the allegiance of the other members of the Council (Nos. 437, 452).
Bernard convinced himself that he was more cautious than Hutchinson, when in fact the opposite was the case. Bernard professed to admire Hutchinson’s “Firmness of Mind”39 when both men discussed the unwelcome possibility of one day having to ask British Regulars to maintain law and order. But they strenuously avoided making any hasty and ill-judged requests for military assistance during the Stamp Act Crisis (No. 486). On this issue, the distance between them widened during 1767 and 1768 because of Bernard’s preference for having the Regulars quartered in Boston and his insistence that the Province Charter ought to be revised. But a rift did not open between them, for in other respects Hutchinson generally shared Bernard’s standpoint (No. 447). Careful and patient, Hutchinson probably never doubted that he could turn things around were he to succeed Bernard; and there was never any doubt in Bernard’s mind that Hutchinson was the man for the job.
The matter of securing compensation for Hutchinson and the other “sufferers” in the Stamp Act riots was a major test of Bernard’s political skills. Bernard would have preferred the imperial government to recompense the victims for the losses they incurred during the riots, or for the Massachusetts General Court to shoulder the burden without demur. Thus, when Conway alerted Bernard to the likely passage of a parliamentary act instructing governors to procure indemnity (compensation) from the assemblies, Bernard proceeded on the basis that Conway’s recommendation would become a “Requisition” (Nos. 462, 478): “he did not think he ought to confine himself to the terms of indulgence used by the Secretary of State, especially when he knew that that Indulgence was ^like^ to ^be^ abused” (Appendix 1.2). In a speech of 3 Jun., FB delivered the request with an imperiousness that seemed to exhibit the coercive authority implied by the Declaratory Act (a copy of which he had received three days earlier). “The Justice and Humanity of this Requisition is so forceable that it cannot be controverted; the Authority with which it is introduced should preclude all Disputation about complying with it.” (Appendix 1.1.) Meanwhile, also on 3 Jun., Parliament passed its Indemnity Act (6 Geo 3, c. 51), about which Bernard received official notification c.1 Sept. Bernard’s haste to pre-empt the act, proved to be a serious political misjudgment. The House’s refusal to make an appropriation prompted a premature plea to Conway that he was “at the End of my Line” (No. 484).
But Bernard’s instructions and Parliament’s act obliged him to continue to press the House. In the six months following, the question of compensation was unavoidably linked to wider conflicts concerning the punishment of the rioters, royal authority to make “requisitions,” corporate liability, the mode of payment, and the solidarity of the Whig movement. These complications enhanced the governor’s opportunities to exploit the debate to his advantage, a recurring theme in his epistolary narrative. He continued the assembly by short prorogations waiting to exploit any opportunity to muster support. For the Massachusetts Whigs were greatly divided on these issues: Bostonians tended to suppose that, in the last resort, the province should pay, rather than the town. Representatives from the country preferred saddling Boston with the expense: the capital had a moral responsibility for restoring the province’s reputation damaged by the recklessness of the few rioters who had looted and damaged property on the night of 26 Aug. 1765 (Nos. 484, 508). Finally, in early Dec. 1766, the province passed an act of compensation, the Massachusetts Indemnity Act.
The final scene might have become a minor cause célèbre since the act of compensation also promised the rioters immunity from prosecution. Bernard assented to the bill: he knew that his authority to offer immunity to the rioters was highly questionable, but was anxious to do his duty (he told the new colonial secretary, the earl of Shelburne) in accordance with the “gratious intention” of Conway’s instruction. Shelburne, it can be surmised, was less than impressed with the result. For the Privy Council disallowed the Massachusetts Indemnity Act in May 1767, supposing that it breached royal authority to issue pardons, and Parliament recommended new provincial legislation. But Hutchinson and the other victims (Andrew Oliver, Benjamin Hallowell, and William Story) got their money. And Bernard allowed the proposal to sleep when more troubling issues occupied his and ministers’ attention (Nos. 513, 517).
If Bernard was affronted by Pownall’s firmness, Jackson’s dithering, and Conway’s casual optimism, he was probably angered by Lord Barrington’s dismissive rebuke that his lordship had already done enough to advance his interests. Barrington insisted that Bernard stay in Boston (No. 541). Barrington had been an unstinting advocate for the governor. Now he thought there was little point in Bernard coming over to England to secure another position or to offer ministers words of wisdom: “I see no disposition . . . . to settle any thing permanently, either at home or abroad,” he offered in No. 472. Bernard was impatient to learn how his combative approach was being received in London (No. 485). But if the Stamp Act’s repeal removed the urgency of Bernard making a personal report, Rockingham’s resignation on 30 Jul. 1766 rendered any such visit problematic. The bottom line was that Pownall and Barrington were anxious about their own futures as the Rockingham administration lurched to its denouement.
While he was in office, Bernard could only hope to influence colonial policymakers from distance. It was one reason, of course, why he continued to insist that he be given a “discretionary power” to (No. 497). His correspondents, John Pownall in particular, probably would have welcomed the opportunity to ask Bernard to clarify some of the things he had said. Pownall had begun to suspect that Bernard was not only projecting his own interpretations (as might be expected) but manufacturing a sense of crisis; Shelburne and Hillsborough would initially entertain similar doubts in trying to fathom why the province did not settle down after the repeal of the Stamp Act. Barrington’s coolness may have been because he worried that Bernard was trying to create a reason for his own recall. The supposition was also to trouble the governor’s Whig critics too, who feared that Bernard’s vindictiveness knew no bounds. In short, when Bernard held forth on sedition, he was playing a clumsy diplomacy: he was uncertain how his views would be received yet still persisted in scourging the Whigs, as if he was over-compensating for lacking up-to-date knowledge of British politics.
Bernard did not learn of Rockingham’s departure, until mid-September, when it was fully reported in the Massachusetts press. Rockingham’s skills as a political leader were ultimately found wanting and he was probably pleased to resign office at the end of Jul. 1766.40 The incoming administration was led by William Pitt whom George III elevated to the peerage as the earl of Chatham. Pitt took office on 30 Jul. as Lord Privy Seal, leaving his secretaries of state to formulate policy. An American policy, however, was never carefully enunciated, though many commentators in Britain and America assumed that the Chatham administration would settle the taxation issue. But Pitt’s reputation as the architect of Britain’s imperial triumph in the Seven Years’ War was complicated by his recent embrace of colonial rights. Pitt’s celebrated oratory was often mired in inconsistency but his attack on the Stamp Act was genuinely principled: his speech in the House of Commons on 14 Jan. 1766, delivered from the backbenches, enunciated the very principle on which American opposition to his own administration’s colonial policy was to be based: taxation was a gift of the people to the king, that could never be imposed by Parliament’s authority alone.41 In the same speech, Pitt declaimed Parliament’s legislative supremacy, later encapsulated in the Declaratory Act. Once in government, Chatham broadly followed Rockingham’s practice of compromising with the colonists, and, when pressed, justifying measures with reference to parliamentary supremacy. Colonists ought not to have been surprised by the Chatham administration’s failure to address their concerns about parliamentary authority: Chatham’s ministers assumed that the Declaratory Act had done that for them.
Chatham probably confounded Bernard; Conway did not. But the hard-working Conway relinquished responsibility for American affairs when he left the Southern secretariat for the Northern on 23 May 1766; he kept that office under Chatham and remained also the administration’s leader of the House of the Commons. (He left both positions on 20 Jan. 1768, staying in the cabinet without portfolio until 1770.) Conway’s immediate replacement at the Southern Department was his stepson, the duke of Richmond; Richmond left with Rockingham, while Chatham brought in William Petty, the earl of Shelburne. Shelburne was in charge of American affairs only briefly from 30 Jul. 1766 to 21 Jan. 1768, but his keen energy Bernard found testing and irksome.
An Irish peer with some limited military experience and few political friends (save Lord Bute and Henry Fox, both widely unpopular), Shelburne’s “spectacular progress” in British politics had “aroused envy” and resentment (according to his modern biographer). Brilliant, ambitious, and reputedly a rather “slippery fellow,” he often used the threat of resignation to get his own way. Shelburne’s affected nonpartisanship and monarchical devotion was (according to G. O. Trevelyan) a master-class in cant even amidst the corruption of eighteenth-century politics.42 Shelburne and Bernard approached the imperial crisis from different perspectives. Bernard’s was hardened by the experiences of his eight years as a colonial governor, and Shelburne’s by the desire to keep the colonies quiet; the governor supposed the secretary naïve and inexperienced, the secretary thought the governor unnecessarily combative and arrogant. Shelburne’s policy was to “conciliate” the colonists, having assumed that the repeal of the Stamp Act and the passage of the Declaratory Act provided a foundation to settle future disagreements. But Shelburne, for all that Bernard might suppose he lacked toughness, actually possessed the “Firmness of mind” that Bernard saw in Hutchinson: Shelburne did not flinch when the New York Assembly refused to obey Parliament’s Mutiny Act (often called the Quartering Act) and pushed forward legislation to suspend the assembly. And yet, Shelburne’s natural inclination was to empathize with the Americans: not because he accepted their grievances or wished to concede American self-government, but because he feared the consequences of not listening. Raised a scion of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, Shelburne’s early political education was rooted in an elitist understanding of the process of colonization that appreciated the predicaments of both the colonizer and the colonized: his credo of colonial rule was to be steadfast when pressed, compromise when required, but always remain attentive to popular grievances. In consequence, Shelburne’s attitude toward governors was directorial and high-handed: he tended to see governors—and Bernard in particular—as meddlesome and troublesome, overly quick to take offence and give offence (just the kind of flaws that contemporaries and historians espied in Shelburne’s own character).
Shelburne’s first letter to Bernard (No. 501) recommended
A Temperate Conduct founded on the true Basis of Publick Good, avoiding all unnecessary Reserve, where nothing arbitrary is thought of, & nothing unreasonable is required, must carry Conviction to the Hearts of the deluded, conciliate the Minds of all, & insure the Confidence, of His Majesty’s loyal & loving Subjects of America.
Upon these Considerations I am persuaded, that the Assembly will, immediately upon their meeting, fall upon Measures to terminate all local Difficulties, which appear by your Accounts to have hitherto prevented that Compliance.
Shelburne’s letter, which Bernard received about 4 Oct. 1766, was not just condescending in purporting to know how to resolve local difficulties; it was an admonition of Bernard’s confrontational style.
Bernard’s immediate response was to furnish detailed accounts and appraisals of the political situation in Massachusetts, as if the weight of evidence could bury the minister’s concerns. His first business to letter to Shelburne, written on 10 Oct., regarded one of the most intriguing episodes of the imperial crisis (No. 504). When Boston’s law officers were denied entry to search the premises of a notorious smuggler, Daniel Malcom, they reported the matter directly to Bernard, who promptly examined witnesses and took depositions before the Council. Bernard’s letter to Shelburne did not actually discuss the law and order issues arising from Malcom’s defance; inter alia, Malcom’s armed resistance to law officers, the townsfolk who barred entry to his house, and their reasons for doing so; and the fact that Malcom escaped arrest and avoided prosecution. None of this he reported; for sure, the depositions provided details about these matters, but Bernard chose to present facts without a forensic assessment: “let them Speak for themselves; as I have nothing else in view but to do my Duty with a proper regard to truth.” Bernard was demonstrably fulfilling Shelburne’s request that he give his “utmost Attention” to the enforcement of the trade laws. He was also presenting the secretary with the evidence that he supposed justified the concerns he had voiced earlier about popular opposition. But he explicitly avoided drawing obvious conclusions. Bernard focused instead on the Council’s opposition to the proposal that he should forward the depositions to London (as he subsequently did), lest disclosure smear the province’s reputation. Bernard’s reporting of this incident illustrates a distinguishing, emergent feature of his epistolary style. His studied evasiveness and affected candor were beguiling: Bernard was effectively inviting the minister to ask his law officers to conduct a forensic investigation of the evidence that Bernard had collected—which the governor assumed would exonerate him. He would do much the same thing later when justifying the deployment of troops.
If Bernard’s selective reporting amounted to exculpation, his subsequent correspondence —though also self-validating—sought patterns in the patchwork of popular opposition. “I have borne a torrent of obloquy & abuse with the temper of a Stoick,” he reminded Shelburne. Bernard had to explain his early failure to secure compensation for those who suffered during Boston’s “Riotous proceedings.” He did so with care and attention to the complex political maneuvers that explained the ebb and flow of support for the government (No. 508). These concerns he relayed also to Jackson and Pownall as a matter of course—though doubtless not without thinking that these friends would be able to correct the minister should he entertain any mistaken notion that the governor was unnecessarily complicating the political picture (Nos. 510, 511, 516, 5 17).
Toward the end of 1766, Bernard weighed up Shelburne’s advice (in No. 501) and came to the conclusion that he must do more to save the minister from egregious errors of judgment as well as protect his own reputation. Shelburne insisted that the governors number the sequence of dispatches (a practice followed by subsequent ministers), and Bernard used the first letter in his numbered series of out-letters to introduce Shelburne to the ins and outs of colonial politics (No. 520). Several more installments were to follow, each longer than its predecessor, contextualizing the imperial crisis with reference to constitutional history and recent political history. Though he affected to disdain his planned “Series” as “disagreeable & tedious Work” (No. 529), Bernard relished the opportunity to establish his own credentials as a commentator/analyst and correct Shelburne’s misconceptions. And—for all the cautious language and prolixity—Bernard was demanding to be heard. James Otis Jr. he placed at the center of most every colonial protest (Nos. 521) and he tried to interest Shelburne in his proposal for an American civil list and other opportune reforms (Nos. 523 and 524). Yet for all the hubris that marked this outpouring, conviction was driving him on. What was “unavoidable,” he revealed to Richard Jackson, “is that the principles of great Britain & America are so widely different that it must produce a Dispute some Time or other” (No. 526).
By the fourth letter, Bernard was lecturing Shelburne on the history of colonial governors, in which he was guided by Thomas Hutchinson. He repaid Hutchinson’s favor by reminding Shelburne of the Otises’ long-standing enmity toward his lieutenant governor and chief justice and exposing the Whigs’ “cruel” newspaper campaign to destroy Hutchinson’s reputation. “These People are grown barefaced & quite impudent in their defiance of truth & justice.” (No. 531.) Lest Shelburne dismiss these personal attacks as mere diatribe, Bernard highlighted their purpose and method, stressing that his “bold” response had been properly commensurate (No. 531).
When I am tedious, I endeavour to be perspicuous; Where I seem trifling, I consider that the Characters & Designs of Men are best discovered by little Circumstances. In evry thing I endeavour to observe the truth; & evry Relation of sayings or Conversations has been confirmed to me in such a manner, as to leave no room to doubt the truth of it. My general Observations upon the State of the Government are the Sentiments of some of the Wisest & best men in the Government.
The “little Circumstances” Bernard had in mind were the antics of Otis, but he never expected that a secretary of state could be harder on governors than on the radicals.
Bernard’s British friends were never quite able to keep him abreast of what the Chatham administration intended—or not— with regard to America. Pownall and Barrington both kept their positions in Chatham’s administration (and Grafton’s) yet Shelburne kept them at arm’s length. As secretary to the Board of Trade, Pownall was running an advisory agency whose influence in shaping colonial policy was waning. Barrington, though an experienced secretary at war, was not a member of the cabinet,43 and knew nothing of Bernard’s disappointment with Shelburne when he casually urged Bernard to approach the secretary about securing a move to another colony (No. 541). Bernard was still hopeful of returning to England or being posted to Barbados or South Carolina. (The plantation slavery of these colonies was evidently no disincentive to settling there, No. 529.)
Richard Jackson remained attentive to Bernard’s concerns and was receptive—though not uncritically—to his ruminations on colonial affairs (No. 510 etc.) A respected barrister, colonial agent, and MP, Jackson’s enthusiasm for the Massachusetts agency had been flagging before the assembly removed him on 6 Feb. 1767, in the face of token protest by the governor (No. 516). “I should like Dr: Franklin very well for an Agent: but I must not Appear in it,” Bernard informed Franklin’s friend, Jackson (No. 503). Benjamin Franklin’s experience as an agent counted for everything at this juncture (rather than the kindness that he had shown in offering to help Frank Bernard in 1764).44 Such speculation dried up when the House appointed its own agent, Dennys DeBerdt, on 17 Mar. 1767, having excluded the Council and governor from the selection process. Bernard predictably condemned DeBerdt’s election as a triumph for factionalism, explaining to correspondents that the anomaly of a House agent was simply to circumvent the governor’s authority and establish an independent voice in London (Nos. 504 and 511). Equally predictable was the reaction of the British government to DeBerdt’s appointment. The House agent was never ignored by the secretaries of state but neither was his authority formally recognized; and the effectiveness of such an appointment was highly questionable when the British government was free to choose whether or not to receive any of the province’s memorials channeled through DeBerdt. DeBerdt’s successor from Oct. 1770 was Benjamin Franklin (already agent for Pennsylvania), an altogether sharper politician, and whom Shelburne’s successor Hillsborough was determined to ignore from the outset.
By the summer of 1767, Bernard was daring to suppose that provincial politics might settle down. The merchants, he observed, “appear to be satisfied” with British trade policy following the repeal of the Sugar Act, while the friends of government in the assembly—among them “allmost evry person of fortune & fashion”—were recovering their confidence (No. 555). Writing Richard Jackson, Bernard thanked him for news received via his son Frank that the ministry was considering making some “provision” for him out of the Townshend duties (No. 556). Such was his renewed vigor that he ruled out entirely taking up an appointment in England; thinking of his several land grants, he reiterated that America offered the best prospects of providing for his large family.
The tranquility proved illusory. Yet no-one in America could have anticipated that the fragility of Chatham’s ministry would have such an adverse impact upon colonial politics. Chatham had been an inspirational statesmen and wartime leader, but his grandeur quickly faded with the onset of illness. Crippled by gout and beset by depression, in Mar. 1767 Chatham retired from London. His incapacity was privately confirmed to Bernard by a letter from Barrington dated 8 Jul., which did not arrive until October of that year (No. 533). Chatham was not wholly detached from government but deferred to the duke of Grafton, the first lord of the Treasury, as the de facto leader of the administration. Grafton was not an effective leader: the ministry seemed to lurch from one crisis to another, its parliamentary majority dwindling on every vote, prompting Conway to threaten his resignation. (As one historian remarked: the “two most important offices in the administration . . . were filled by men with little aptitude for them” because Chatham had no reliable alternatives.) Opposition coalesced around the factions led by the duke of Bedford, George Grenville, and the marquess of Rockingham; sympathy for the Americans was in short supply among all three groups, and it is possible that American affairs might have been the issue to bring down the government.45 As it was, however, the factions were to unite momentarily behind an American revenue bill framed by Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend.
The origins of the Townshend duties are hazy. History remembers Charles Townshend46 primarily as an opportunist when, on 26 Jan. 1767, he promised the House of Commons he would raise an American revenue; it was generally understood that the tax would offset the cost of maintaining a British military presence in North America. Townshend did not put colonial taxation on the cabinet’s agenda, for by the end of 1766 ministers were already considering ways and means of raising an American revenue; but he kept it there, and pushed a tea tax to the top of the list. Townshend owed both his cabinet office and influence to the duke of Grafton, but Grafton did nothing to rein him in. American taxation was one of several issues where Townshend tried to carve out power in Chatham’s absence (or in the case of the reform of East India Company, by joining Conway to frustrate Chatham’s plans). Townshend presumed that if the current re-export duties on tea were reduced, the East India Company would use its monopoly on supply to increase sales in America, in the process undercutting demand for contraband tea (which comprised nearly 80 per cent of the 1.2 million pounds imported annually). The first part of the plan (that Townshend negotiated with the Company directors on 28 Apr.) was to allow the Company a drawback on import duties (which were paid upon bringing tea into Britain); when tea was then re-exported to America, the Company would receive a full repayment of the import duties. The second part was to find a means of compensating the Treasury for loss of revenue. While the Company gave guarantees to meet any shortfall over the next five years, on 13 May Townshend proposed a new single import tax on tea, payable in America; this would shift the burden of payment onto colonial merchants and consumers and bring into the Treasury some £20,000 per annum. Further duties on glass, paper, lead, and painter’s colors would raise another £20,000.
There was very little opposition in Britain to Townshend’s proposals. This might seem surprising in view of the fact that American affairs had been an issue on which the three main opposition factions had consistently attacked the government. The Rockingham Whigs, the Grenvillites, and the Bedfordites were not of one mind on American affairs. But they were in a position to mount a serious challenge to Chatham’s weak ministry; for in late May, the administration had a Commons majority of just three. Had the government been defeated in a Commons’ vote Townshend, Conway, and Grafton probably would have resigned. Historians tend to attribute the lack of a united opposition not to the factions’ differences but to the probability that the Townshend duties were giving the factions more or less what they wanted with respect to colonial policy. It was not that the Townshend duties would do much to relieve the expense of maintaining the military in North America (they would cover no more than 10 per cent of the annual costs). Instead, as Townshend asserted in his speech of 13 May, he proposed using the revenue to pay the salaries of senior Crown servants—governors and their deputies, and judges. (The tea duty alone could have paid the salaries of twenty governors and judges.) But the tea duty gave MPs so much more, for it reasserted the principle of parliamentary taxation. Townshend justified the proposal by making an artificial distinction between “external” taxes (import duties) and “internal” taxes (levied on inland commerce and transactions): the Townshend duties, as “external” taxes, parliamentarians supposed would be deemed acceptable by the American colonists. But they assumed—wrongly—that Americans were primarily concerned by the prospect of Parliament levying revenue-raising “internal” taxes; in fact, the tenor and direction of colonial opposition over the previous three years had brought into question Parliament’s authority to legislate any tax on the colonists. That was Otis’s position, FB reported: “ ‘the distinction between inland taxes & port duties was without foundation; for whoever had a right to impose one had a right to impose the other’ ”(No. 520). In Britain, however, there was no compelling reason why the parliamentary factions should combine to defeat a measure that Townshend had crafted to answer their demands for an American revenue. The Revenue Act (7 Geo. 3, c. 46), was enacted on 26 Jun. with the Townshend duties taking effect on 20 Nov. As Peter D. G. Thomas wrote, “cool and deliberate policy is not a sufficient explanation for Townshend’s American taxation. It must also be seen as a response to the popular desire for a colonial revenue. . . . Never could a fateful measure have had a more quiet passage.”47
Townshend’s ideas on American taxation were not original. They did not have to be to win approval. But Townshend also had a pedigree in American affairs (as president of the Board of Trade between 1763 and 1765) that his cabinet colleagues lacked, Shelburne included. His decision to link the revenue from the tea duty to the payment of Crown salaries is an indication of his interest in a broader reform agenda. Townshend worked more or less alone over a five-month period, with occasional input from John Husk MP,48 to devise his schedule of duties. But there is evidence to suggest that Townshend was also interested in Francis Bernard’s reform plans.
Bernard had proposed the establishment of a civil list for Crown servants in America in his 1764 essay “Principles of Law and Polity,” but first recommended the idea to the Chatham administration in a letter to Shelburne of 4 Jan. 1767.
I am told that the Duties within this province amount to £7000 a year at this time. Half that Money would do all that is wanted to the Civil list of this Government; & would in time repay itself by the encrease of the revenue. It seems to me that all the Duties in N America are of little consideration in comparison to the strengthening & quieting the Governments there; and if they could be applied with effect to that purpose it would be Money well laid out. (No. 523.)
Bernard’s letter was written shortly before Townshend first proposed an American tax in the Commons; it was received by the secretary of state’s office on 21 Mar., over three weeks after Townshend’s meeting with the East India Company directors and six weeks before he presented the tea duty to Parliament. It is thus possible that Bernard’s letter triggered Townshend’s interest in linking the tea duty to a Crown civil list. Townshend’s personal papers in the William L. Clements Library contain an enormous amount of material on American commerce and politics, including Massachusetts, that are testimony to an abiding interest in American affairs: extracts of Bernard’s correspondence with the Board of Trade and the earl of Halifax that were presented to Parliament in Jan. 1766; copies of Bernard’s correspondence with Conway and Shelburne; copies of Bernard’s speeches and messages exchanged with the House from early 1767; copies of the Massachusetts Indemnity Act and Bernard’s observations thereon.49 None of this points to cause and effect, of course, and merely establishes an association: Townshend did read the material, we may presume, for in one annotation he described the governor as “poor spirited” (a copy of No. 484).50 Ministers never pushed through Crown salaries for governors; Townshend’s successor as chancellor, Lord North, tested the water in Jun. 1768 by announcing that Hutchinson was to receive an annual Crown grant—not a salary—from the tea duty.51 Bernard and Hutchinson continued to be paid by annual grants voted by the province assembly; from their point of view, it was distinctly uncomfortable to be dependent upon the goodwill of their political opponents and enemies. When Crown salaries were introduced for provincial judges and the attorney general in 1772, it enraged the Whigs who saw it as an attack on the independence of the judiciary (the irony of which was not lost on Gov. Hutchinson).
Shelburne, however, privately opposed Townshend’s plans. But his intercession with Chatham probably had as much to do with personal rivalry as his anxieties over the tea duty. When it was clear that he could not stop the bill, Shelburne’s “ineffective retort,” his biographer observes, “was to stop attending cabinet meetings.”52 Townshend died in Sept., aged just forty-two. Other measures are also remembered as Townshend Acts, largely because in American eyes they appeared to reinforce the assertion of parliamentary authority. The New York Suspending Act (7 Geo. 3, c. 59), enacted 2 Jul. 1767, originated with Shelburne’s attempts to punish the New York assembly for its refusal to abide by the Mutiny or Quartering Act (5 Geo. 3, c. 33), though the act was not applied. To parliamentarians, the act to establish an American-based Customs Board (7 Geo. 3, c. 41), would have seemed eminently sensible to improve the collection of revenues. The Customs Board of five commissioners, ten inspectors, and nine clerks assumed responsibility for over ninety Customhouse officials throughout the colonies. With legal advice factored in, the total cost of the Customs establishment was around £3,500 per annum, which the Treasury deducted from the revenues raised and collected in America.53
If Bernard was imagining a calmer future before the Townshend duties, he was rudely started by news from Richard Jackson. Jackson revealed that Shelburne was planning to recall him without any plan to repost him. Bernard did not wonder that the ministry might consider his “removal,” but he presumed it would be “design’d for my benefit.” A peremptory recall without a posting somewhere else would be a personal affront, Bernard protested; moreover, it would be of “infinite disservice” to British interests by giving the impression that the imperial government was prepared give in to Bernard’s enemies. His immediate reaction was to commit himself to the job in hand, and deal as best he might with the brouhaha over the Townshend duties; Bernard simply could not afford to lose office (No. 556).
Bernard took a month to compose himself, before apologizing to Shelburne for any “impertinence” in his recent correspondence (No. 557). Carefully crafted, the letter began with exculpation for providing “informations” that in retrospect were not of much “consequence.” He singled out the cuttings of “incendiary” newspaper articles that he dispatched in Jul. 1765 (which have not survived): while no-one at the time could have foreseen the Stamp Act riots that occurred seven weeks later, such radical writings “were prophetical, tho’ not early enough for the purpose of prevention.” The apology he then transformed into a challenge. Without even mentioning the Townshend duties—the reason why there was an upsurge in colonial opposition—Bernard rationalized resurgent radicalism as a precursor to the kind of insurrectionism that, he claimed then and later, had plagued Boston in 1765. Popular celebrations on the anniversary of the first (and less violent) Stamp Act riot (14 Aug. 1765) triggered a host of seditious writings which Bernard collected and catalogued for the secretary. He now upped the stakes, claiming “pregnant Evidence” of radicals aiming at “Civil War” and that the Boston “Faction does intend to raise another insurrection in this Town” (No. 557):
The proceedings in the News papers are precisely the same as those preceeding the former disturbances; and the daring Step of erecting a fixed flag staff at the tree of liberty, which was never done before; shows that they expect to have frequent occasion to make signals to their partisans.
The task of persuading Shelburne to keep him in office was a dangerous diplomatic game. Success, Bernard concluded, depended upon being able to convince the secretary of the Americans’ seditious practices and rebellious tendencies. And the consequences reverberated in Whitehall and Boston for years to come.
The new-found sense of urgency with which Bernard approached business in the latter half of 1767 was manifest in his eagerness to pre-empt developments at the “earliest Opportunity” (No. 563). In one letter, he lectured Shelburne on the disadvantages of paper currency. In this, he was advised by knowledgeable hard-money councilors, unsettled by rumors that the ministry was considering relaxing Britain’s colonial monetary policy (No. 558). Jackson and Shelburne he alerted to the possibility of the Boston merchants pursuing nonimportation in protest at the Townshend Acts, though it was eight months before such an agreement was adopted (Nos. 561, 563). A subsequent letter apologized for the presumptuous expectation, and assumed that there was little support for such a scheme among the merchants or populace at large (No. 565). Evidence of co-operation between the Sons of Liberty at Boston and New York Bernard presented as seditious, and the radicalism of the Boston Gazette he condemned as “Virulent” and “dangerous.” Newspapers containing the offensive articles were duly annotated A to W (beginning with the enclosures to No. 542, then Nos. 557, 562, 565, and 569); he called a halt when the disturbances he anticipated failed to materialize. He interrupted the flow of information to Shelburne at a point where Boston adopted an agreement not to consume British imports, instead of instituting a nonimportation boycott—which he had presumed would be the trigger for the violent intimidation of dissenters (No. 571). Even so, the agreement signaled the re-emergence of the colonial protest movement that had driven opposition to the Stamp Act. Once again, its members were intent on getting parliamentary taxes (the Townshend duties) lifted and, once again, drew upon a wide base of support: it was a coalition of merchants, shopkeepers, farmers, artisans, and townsfolk led by what FB misleadingly termed a dozen “desperadoes.”
At all Events it is a melancholic Consideration that this Rich and populous Town should be thus distracted and disgraced by a few desperadoes (perhaps not a dozen) whose own ruined or insignificant Fortunes make the Destruction of their Country a Matter of in difference to them; who having themselves little to lose, are unconcerned at the Consequences of a Contest which they are so desirous of bring[ing] about, and must be so fatal to Persons of real Worth and Property. (No. 567.)
Bernard’s subsequent letters on the nonimportation controversy during 1768 and 1769 provide clearer evidence of both popular participation and growing dissent among the merchants and shopkeepers.
Shelburne started to listen. His initial response to the mountain of evidence and talk of sedition was sincere but cautious. “The universal Detestation with which, You say, they have been received from the first Moment of their Appearance, marks the Impotence of the Attempt as well as the Inability of the Execution.” While the disputes in New York had encouraged Shelburne to consider prosecuting newspaper publishers for libel, he veered away from such a confrontation in Boston; his suggestion that the assembly might be able to arraign the publishers of sedition betrayed his ignorance of the close connections between the radical printers Benjamin Edes and John Gill and the House clerk, Samuel Adams, a prolific contributor to the Gazette.54 Yet, there was much merit in Shelburne’s advice that Bernard should let the rumpus blow itself out; better to ignore seditious publications than by making them “the Subject of a Prosecution” that could only exacerbate British-American relations (No. 574). (For Shelburne, the Wilkes controversy was an example of how not to deal with scurrilous publications; he disapproved of the ministry’s moves to arrest John Wilkes in Apr. 1768, after Wilkes’s election as MP for Middlesex, which decision had some bearing on Shelburne’s resignation.)55 Bernard and other officials feared that the establishment of the new American Board of Customs at Boston would not just elicit an outcry, but provoke violence. Yet when the commissioners stepped ashore on 5 Nov., noisy demonstrations did not descend into a ruckus (No. 573). The arrival of the commissioners passed without major incident. Whig leaders had reined in the exuberant mobs, as Bernard acknowledged, although their power to summon popular protests remained their most potent weapon (No. 575).
It was not until 2 Feb. 1768, that Bernard received from Shelburne the endorsement that he long supposed he deserved but never expected to get (No. 566).
I have the Pleasure to signify to you His Majesty’s Approbation of your Conduct, and to acquaint you that he is graciously pleased to approve of your having exerted the Power; lodged in you by the Constitution of the ^Province of the Massachusets Bay, of^ negativing Councillors in the late Elections, which appears from your several Letters to have been done with due Deliberation and Judgment.
As he read on, each sentence granted most everything he had been asking of the imperial government: Hutchinson’s nonelection to the Council may have been constitutional but his exclusion from meetings was unwarranted; DeBerdt’s appointment as House agent was being referred to the Privy Council; and the king extended “His Countenance and Protection in every Constitutional Measure that shall be found necessary for the Support of His Government in the Massachusets Bay” (No. 566).
But to keep ministers’ confidence, Barrington warned, Bernard would need to avoid confrontation with the assembly; his reward would be a less troublesome government. Barrington made it crystal clear that the ministry’s “strongest desire” was that “America should become quiet. . . . I venture to give you this hint for your information and guidance” (No. 568). How on earth might he keep the Americans quiet? Answering that question pre-occupied Bernard for the remainder of his time in America.
Imperial affairs dominated Bernard’s administration, and influenced most of the major issues pertaining to colonial government that are also covered by the correspondence in this volume. The relocation of Boston’s Acadian refugees to Quebec was completed in the course of 1766, much to Bernard’s personal satisfaction and credit (Nos. 445, 446). Elsewhere, we are afforded a glimpse of the pirate and murderer Joseph Andrews, captured in Boston and sent to hang at New York after a failed suicide attempt (No. 518). For Andrews, mercy was out of the question; but for one deserter from the British Army, however, Bernard displayed remarkable magnanimity in trying to negotiate a pardon, only for the soldier to abscond in the certain knowledge that clemency for deserters was even rarer than being able to call a royal governor a personal advocate (No. 519).
The accounts from the Massachusetts-New York border about the harassment of the settlers of Nobletown by New York landowners may disturb modern readers as much they did Bernard (Nos. 481, 482, 487, 492, 496). The settlers had purchased lands from the Stockbridge Indians in territory reputedly within the boundaries of New York, and dared to defy the eviction notices served on them by New York grandees who claimed title to the lands. The suffering they endured at the hands of ruffians and British Regulars acting for the Van Rensselaer family made painful reading for the Massachusetts Governor and Council. They could not ignore incursions into Massachusetts by Van Rensselaers’ men, but Bernard was desperate to avoid a border conflict at all costs. He quickly alerted the British government to the raids and riots whilst trying not to alienate his counterpart in Albany (No. 490, 495). He was not an indefatigable advocate for the settlers, but he delivered a firm case to London containing humane explanation for the settlers’ violent resistance: their sufferings were “enough to provoke ignorant people, who are persuaded that they cannot combat the power & influence of their Antagonist at law” (No. 536). (His conservative nature had denied such grace to the Stamp Act rioters, but the Nobletown rioters were victims whereas the Bostonians were antagonists.) The governor of New York—after some prompting from London—eventually joined Bernard in seeking a solution to the boundary dispute, though the negotiations were undertaken not by the governors but commissioners appointed by the respective legislatures. The Nobletown settlers were by no means forgotten, but their interests and pretensions ultimately counted for nothing in the wider scheme of things: the evictions were not reversed and New York’s claim of jurisdiction was upheld (Nos. 500 and 554).
Gov. Francis Bernard’s Massachusetts administration, 1760-69, bore the brunt of the American colonists’ discontent with British colonial policies. Bernard’s confrontational gubernatorial style—the “argumentative” speeches, the vetoing of councilors, calculated reporting —made him enemies, both in Boston and London. But the fact was that the consensual basis of imperial government was gradually unraveling. The documentary record of the middle years (1766 and 1767) of Bernard’s troubled administration reveals a governor at odds with his charges and discomfited by the knowledge that his masters did not appreciate his predicament. Confirmation from Shelburne that Bernard’s tactics were appropriate to the situation in Massachusetts was very late in coming; the endorsement (which he received in Feb. 1768) was in some respects a measure of his success in persuading ministers that colonial radicalism was more prevalent than it probably was. Bernard knew little if anything about political intrigue in London, and tried to be consistent in representing his case, regardless of who was in power. Shelburne’s last letter to Bernard was dated 14 Nov. 1767 (No. 574). Responsibility for the American Colonies was taken away from the Southern Department, and passed to a new American department. Shelburne remained as Southern secretary but having lost the confidence of both the king and Grafton resigned on 21 Oct. 1768. Chatham resigned a few days shortly after Shelburne’s departure, with Grafton becoming prime minister of his own administration (14 Oct. 1768-30 Jan. 1770).56
On 21 Jan. 1768, Wills Hill, the earl of Hillsborough,57 took office as secretary of state for the American Colonies, junior to the Northern and Southern secretaries. Hillsborough’s appointment almost immediately changed the dynamics of colonial relations. Notwithstanding Hillsborough’s historical reputation as a hard-liner, he listened to what the American colonists were saying just as much as Shelburne did. Also like his predecessor, Hillsborough was fully prepared to question Bernard’s judgment; but unlike Shelburne, Hillsborough found what the governors and imperial officials told him altogether more credible than what emanated from the colonial assemblies. Within three months of Hillsborough taking office, British Regulars were on their way to Boston. It was a fateful decision.
The fourth volume of the Bernard Papers will examine Bernard’s last years as governor, 1768-69, when the arrival of the Regulars contributed to an escalation in the imperial crisis. We have also decided to add a fifth volume covering Bernard’s retirement and sporadic influence on British colonial policymaking, 1770-74. The sixth and final volume will be a calendar of the entire collection of the governor’s papers.