431 | To the Board of Trade

    Boston Jan 18 1766

    My Lords

    In some of my former letters to your Lordships I gave it as my Opinion, in regard to the disturbances of this place, that the Worst that could happen should be expected and provided against;1 I have frequently expressed my apprehension that bad would be followed by worse and that untill the Madness of the people should be stopt by Authority from home, it would know no bounds. I have been contented to be made a Cypher & should have been glad to have continued such: but that will not suffice; I am now to be required to be active against the Authority of the King & parliament which I am obliged to support by Oath.

    The present State of this Town is this: They find that they have gone such lengths as cannot be justified, & therefore they think to brave it out & by threatning Great Britain with a defection, to oblige her to submit to their own terms, both in repealing the Stamp Act, & letting the Government proceed according to such ideas of policy & civil rights2 as they in their present plenitude of power have formed to themselves. It is a common expression in the Town meetings, that they have gone too far to go back & must go forward whatever is the Consequence: this has come out of the mouths of Magistrates in their public harangues to the people. And now the plan is to make all the people of the province equally delinquent with themselves by obliging all public officers to transact business without stamps & thereby make the rejection of the stamp Act which otherwise would be very partial & local, general & universal.

    They first began with the Customhouse officers, who after an altercation of 3 weeks, submitted to do their business without stamps; but not ‘till it was known that the two Mob Captains had fixed upon a day for a rising.3 They next began with The Courts of justice & for that purpose presented a Memorial4 to the Governor & Council. This Memorial was considered in a full Council of 15: and the prayer of it, that the Governor & Council would give orders that the Courts should be opened, was unanimously rejected. This Resolution of the Council was reported at a town meeting the same day & unanimously voted unsatisfactory. Nevertheless Means were found that the Courts of this County5 should be opened; the judges as I suppose submitting to the despotism of the people.6 It was then hoped that all things would be quiet but no such thing: it was then insisted in this town that they should not be satisfied with their own Courts being opened, unless all the Courts of the province were also. It was well known that there were many Magistrates (as it appears, by much the greater part of them) throughout the province, who, tho’ very much dissatisfied with the Stamp Act,7 would not proceed in open defiance of an Act of parliament, & a great part of the people were quite satisfied with waiting untill the Success of the last applications to parliament could be known. But Boston must govern the whole province, & the Delinquency must be rendered universal.

    The first step towards this was a Vote of the Town that their Members should wait upon me to desire that I would not prorogue the Assembly beyond the 15 of Jany to which it stood. This I submitted to more from the advice of others than my own judgement. When this was obtained, Hints for intimidation were flung out in the infamous Newspaper, which is used for the Wickedest purposes of public mischeif. Among which was this “A Laconic Epistle ^to Wolsey^” “Great Sir Retreat or you are undone” “Cromwell.” This was understood, that if I did not alter my Conduct when the Assembly met, I must expect some great mischief.8 By this I understood that some new undertaking was to be attempted in the Assembly, tho’ it did not appear what.

    At the meeting of the Assembly The Boston Faction soon showed to have the command of the House: or scarce Any of the Members by whose influence the Government has been heretofore supported in despight of all faction, attended the house. The first thing done was to put an affront upon me, by the house adjourning themselves just before the time I had appointed to come & open the Session. This appears in the Votes & is not worth a further explanation. I passed this by & came again next Morning & opened the Session with a short Speech inclosed. They then proceeded to appoint a Committee to answer my Speech at the end of last Session which was accordingly done, altho acknowledged to be irregular & unparliamentary, in the manner as is inclosed. They also appointed a Committee of greivances:9 this is taken from the proceedings of the last parliament of Cha. 1 a precedent often quoted & approved;10 but is strangely applied to a Government which has been exercised with as much care for the rights of the people as any upon earth. We were at a loss to know what these greivances were[:]11 there was one only mentioned in the House, that the Governor & Council had ordered the Stamp Act to be reprinted (as they had been used to do all Acts of parliament extended to America) before they knew that the people would refuse to submit to it.12

    But the principal Intention of the Committee of greivances is to oblige the Governor & Council to order the Courts of justice to proceed in their business without using stamps, that is, in defiance of the Act of parliament. If this could be brought about & the Government itself made delinquent, all lesser delinquencies would be [covered.]13 That this is the present intention will appear from part of the Answer to my speech aforementioned, which I will hear quote, designing your Lordships to observe the insolence of the diction. “The Customhouses are now open, & the People are permitted to do their own business. The Courts of justice must be openopen immediately; and the Law the great rule of Right in evry County in the province executed. The stopping the Courts of Justice is a Greivance, which this House must enquire into. Justice must be fully administered thro’ the province.”__“ Nothing ^now^ remains but to support the Kings Executive Authority in the Province for which there is sufficient Provision in the Law”__ So — the King of Massachusets Bay must be14 opposed to the King of Great Britain; & his own Authority, as his Cannon may be when they are taken, is to be turned against himself. This is the System of Mr Otis the political leader of this faction; &, absurd as it may appear, it quadrates15 with the Notions of the independency of this Province, which are propagated at this time together with, I am sorry to say it, ^a persuasion^ that they may safely defy Great Britain in asserting their right to this independency.16 I mean this only as a popular Doctrine: I beleive the promoters of it will tremble, if they see it like to be brought to a test.

    As I have an opportunity of sending this by a careful hand, I have given your Lordships an explicit Account of the opening of this Session, in which I am to expect great difficulties to be put upon myself. But I have much Confidence in my own resolution; and I trust I shall be supported by the Council who have, of late, been Very steady. But I expect no support in the house; altho’ it is certain that if the real friends of Government would attend & exert themselves, they would turn the Scale. But the Violence of this Town & the Madness of the Country make good people affraid to speak their Sentiments; at least they don’t care to bring themselves under the Iron rod of the popular Despotism of this Town. If this Assembly had been called at Salem or Any other well affected Town, I am satisfied that the Assembly would have proceeded upon different principles from what they do now: but I could not take upon myself so great an innovation without order. But this may suffice to show your Lordships that no great Expectation is to be had of this Government being restored to its Authority whilst the General Courts are held in that place from whence All the present disorders may be truly said to have issued & which now triumphs over the ruins of the royal Power.

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

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honourable The Lords Commrs for Trade &c

    ALS, RC      CO 5/891, ff 363-366.