437 | To Henry Seymour Conway

    Boston Jan 25. 1766


    I take an opportunity to continue the subject of my last of Jan 231 which brought me down to sending an Extract of your honors letter to the two houses. This was read in the House ^of reps^ on the 21st [23rd] in the forenoon & referred for consideration to the next day.2 In the afternoon of the 21st [23rd] They proceeded in the business of Greivances, that is to oblige the Judges of the sevral Courts & especially of the Superior Court to act in their sevral offices without using stamps, in defiance of the Act of parliament.3 This is designed only as in insult: for as most of the Courts are now in their Winter Vacation & the Superior Court particularly, which is cheifly aimed at, stands adjourned to March next, It would have been of very little inconvenience to have let this matter have rested,4 till they could have been advised of the resolutions of the parliament. But the Dignity of the King & Parliament is to be insulted by all means, & the people are to be drove into a desperateness of measures from which they cannot recede. They therefore came to the following resolution

    “In the House of Representatives Jan 23 1766

    Resolved that the Shutting up the Courts of justice in general in this province, particularly the superior Court, has a manifest tendency to dissolve the bonds5 of civil society, is unjustifable on the principles of law & reason & dangerous to his Majesty’s crown & Dignity, a very great greivance on the Subject that requires immediate redress and that therefore the Judges & Justices & all other publick officers in this province ought to proceed in the discharge of their sevral functions as usual.”

    This was carried by 63 against 7 & the next morning, being again put by yeas & nays, by 66 against 4.6 And yet I am convinced that It was against the Sense of a considerable majority of the house: to so great a pitch has the power of intimidation been carried: Those Members who opposed the question were told that if they voted against it, they would not be able to return in safety to their homes; some of the first 7 were insulted in the street as they went from the house; Above 20 members kept away to avoid voting; the small minority of 7 was reduced to 4, by taking a second Vote by entring the Names upon the journal so as to mark the nays for resentment; these 4 were desired to quit the house that the Vote might be unanimous ^& refused^; whilst some of the most assured friends of Government were frightned into voting for the question. Such is the popular Despotism which at present governs the Councils of this province. This Resolve is sent up to the Council & is appointed for consideration on thursday next. It is the very same question that was answered in the negative unanimously in a Council of 15 being a majority of the whole body:7 and yet it is expected that such means of intimidation will be used, as will procure a Vote for it in the Council next thursday. If it passes there, it will be sent up to me; and if the House will insist upon ^my^ passing upon it, as I shall decline giving an Answer to it at first; it will be a Signal to me for quitting this place; as I must dissent to the resolve, & if I do, I must expect to be marked as an object of popular fury.

    The Extract of your Honor’s letter sent to the two Houses I introduced by a short Message of my own informing them that I had communicated to them all the parts of the Letter which I thought myself at liberty to make publick. And yet the Leader of the Faction Mr Otis moved the House that a Committee should wait upon me to desire leave to see the whole letter: but this was rejected with little debate. The parts of the letter which I reserved were, the Censure of the Council for not consenting to calling in the King’s Forces, the directions to me in what Manner I should procure Forces, if fair Means should fail, & the PS giving an account of the orders given to the Governor of Nova Scotia & Lord Colville.8 If these had been communicated, they would have been soon published for the wickedest purposes. The Extract which I sent is ordered to be printed in the Journal, from which I suppose it will get into the papers.9 But It must do more good than harm, notwithstanding all endeavours to prevent its purpose. The Faction observed largely upon the tenderness of the letter & concluded from thence, without any Warrant therefrom, that they might expect that the Act would be immediately repealed. In this they have been a good deal encouraged by letters from some Merchants in London; one of which, who claims an intimacy with a Minister of State, says in positive terms, that it is resolved to take off the stamp duty.10 These advices tho much contradicted by others, tend greatly to counterwork any attempts to procure a submission to the act, if there was, as there is not, the least probability of Success. They depend much upon the continuance of their opposition & will give great credit to it, if they Succeed. And I can’t help wishing they may be releived entirely from the Act, if the Honor of the imperial Crown can by Any means be preserved. For really, the enforcing the execution of the Act affords a Very frightful prospect.

    The Accounts out of the Country are full of the most shocking instances of the madness & desperation of the common people. They talk of revolting from Great Britain in the most familiar manner, & declare that tho’ the British Forces should possess themselves of the Coast & Maritime Towns, they never will subdue the inland. poor people who do not consider what miseries the inlanders must endure when deprived of a Communication with the Sea. This Spirit seems to be worse in New York & Connecticut than it is here; that is it is more ripe. I have heard of a Coll at pomfret in Connecticut who served in the late War (I dare not name his name), who has made it his business to go from Town to Town to see what number of Men may be depended upon: and he gives out, he can Command 10,000 men.11 In the district of New London they have appointed a certain Major to be their cheif & to correspond with other districts.12 At New York, as a Gentleman just arrived from thence, told me this day, The Sons of Liberty, who hold regular meetings are directed by much greater persons than Any which appear among them. From all which It may be expected that the Enforcing the Stamp Act will be attended with great Convulsions: and if it is not enforced The Springs of Government will remain so weakened that they will never be brought to their tone again without the interposition of parliament with ordinances well supported as well as conceived.

    I have thought proper to be very explicit in these letters, as they will come to your honor at a critical time. Indeed this Subject so engrosses my whole thoughts, that when I begin upon it I know not when to stop. I often wish that I had an oppertunity to represent, in person, my Sentiments of the present disorders of America & the proper remedies for them & how to apply them. Whenever an Intermission of the present troubles shall allow of my absence for part of a year, I cannot, in my own Opinion, be better employed, than by being order’d home to make a report of the present state of this Country.

    I am, with great respect, Sr, Your honors most obedient & most humble Servant

    Fra. Bernard

    The Right Honble H. S. Conway Esqr

    ALS, RC      CO 5/755, ff 491-496.