447 | To Henry Seymour Conway

    Boston, Febry 28, 1766.


    In my letter to your Honour dated Janry 25,1 I mentioned my Opinion, that whenever an Intermission of the present Troubles should allow of my Absence, for part of a Year, I could not be better employed than by being ordered home to make a report of the present State of this Country. As the Assembly is now broke up in tolerable good Humour, the Time seems favorable for me to pursue the same subject, & from showing the necessity of taking some extraordinary measures for the regulation of the Government of this Country, evince the expediency of his Majesty’s Ministers procuring the most precise information concerning the present State of it; that by tracing the Sources of its diseases they may be more able to apply the most proper remedies to them.

    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. And as the Relation between Great Britain & the Colonies has not only been never settled, but scarce ever formally canvassed, It is the less surprizing, that the Ideas of it on one Side of the Water & on the other are so widely different. To reconcile these, & to ascertain the nature of the Subjection of the Colonies to the Crown of Great Britain, will be a work of Time & difficulty; even tho’ the Stamp Act should be removed to pave the Way for It.

    This will be the Case of the royal Governments, even the best of them: but in the Charter Colonies ^this government^ the royal Authority will never recover itself again without the interposition of Great Britain. The People have felt their Strength, & perswade fatter themselves that it is much greater than it is; & will not of their own accord, submit readily to any thing they dont like: and there is no internal principle of policy which can by any Means restore the power of Government, & enforce a due Subordination. In this Province (which tho’ royal in the appointment of a Governor, is democratical in all its other parts, especially in, what is frequently regretted, the appointment of the Council) The Springs of Government are so relaxed, that they can never recover their Tone again by any Power of their own. This is the general opinion of the wisest & most respectable persons in the province with whom I have talked upon this Subject.2

    To confine myself to this Government, It is not so difficult to determine what should be done, as how to do it; the faults of the Constitution are obvious, but it is not so clear how they shall be should be remedied. For this Purpose It is highly proper, that as perfect an Idea of the Government, the defects of its form, & the abuses of it should be obtained, as well [as] can be had.3 This does not come within the reach of common Observers: it is to be acquired only by an attention on the Spot, with a power of examining it as well by known Rules of Policy, as by Comparison with other States. This will be the Business of but few, & of those only, whose Employment naturally leads them into it, & affords Opportunity for it.

    If his Majesty’s Ministers should think it necessary to have a representation of the present state & Exigencies of this Province from an Eye Witness of its disorders, I could recommend no one for that purpose so well as the Lt Govr or ^myself^. [I]4 we have both well Studied the Subject, he for the best part of his Life, I by ^with^ a close & intresting Attention, for near six Years. There is this material difference between us: He by being descended from a first Settler, & born & bred in this Country, & having obtained the chief popular Honour of it, must necessarily in some degree be prejudiced in favour of the form of its Government. I who As I came hither without any attachments to this form of Government, other than the obligations I am under to observe & maintain it whilst it is committed to me, I have been used to examine it speculatively with more freedom, & have not shut my Eyes to its faults & deficiencies. And yet notwithstanding this intresting distinction, I believe the Lt Govr & I differ very little in our Opinions of the Expediencies which are now become necessary to recover the power & Activity of this Government. It seems that we are like to meet at the same conclusion by different Ways: I by ^From^ arguing upon the Original unconstitutionality of the Government; he by ^I am now brought to the observing^ its extreme Weakness & great inability to answer its own purposes in a time of Tryal. In this we are ^I am^ not singular: The late Commotions have opened the Eyes of the most prudent and considerate, & have shown how much the preponderancy of the popular Scale tends to defeat the principal Ends of Government, the Peace of the Country, & the good order of the People.

    The Subject Matters of these Considerations are of a very delicate, as well as a very intresting nature. If there was no danger in treating them with freedom, which is far from being the case with us me, there would be ^no^ little difficulty, at this distance from his Majesty’s Councils to distinguish on what points or Questions Information may be wanted. If this difficulty should be removed, still the other might make a strong impression upon the mind of a prudent man. A Representation of the present State of this Country, & the disorders of this Government under the hand5 of a resident in the midst of it, would be a Task of so much danger, that it must necessarily be executed with ^too^ much caution & reserve. Whereas a Communication in Person would be free from these difficulties, & in all respects be more effectual & Conclusive.

    The Lt Govr had his Majesty’s leave to go to England at the time when these troubles first broke out; but thought proper upon that accot to defer his purpose. His functions of evry kind, as my second, as first Councellor, & as chief Justice, seemed all to demand his waiting the Event of these disturbances, to see what turn they would take. It was not improbable but that I should be drove from the Government; It was very possible yt I might be orderd home to give accot of the Proceedings here: In such Cases, He would be wanted here to take the Chair of Government.6 It was also expected that the Riots would have made business for the Chief Justice: for it was not but by degrees, & after sevral experiments certainly known that Justice could not be administered against the Offenders.7 For these Reasons He determined to stay here this winter, unless he should be obliged to remove; & he has accordingly remained here with difficulty & danger rather greater than my own. For his Office of chief Justice has been as obnoxious as mine of Governor; & there has been a personal Malignity in some of the Leaders of the Faction more inveterate against him than against me.8

    We both of us finding ourselves contrary to all expectation still in possession of our posts, & the Violence of the People being considerably abated, have concerted together, that as the Time will permit, we should desire orders from home for one of us to attend, without solliciting for the preference of either; about which I believe neither of us is very earnest. For my own part I have neither Business nor pleasure to call me to England: but I am desirous of being as serviceable as possible at this critical & dangerous Time & I perswade myself (perhaps not without self flattery) that I should be most so in the Quality of a Reporter of the present State of this Country. I have studied the Policy of America on the Spot for near 8 years; & have long ago foreseen, that a dispute concerning the Nature of its Subjection must necessarily happen, some time or other; if not prevented by particular Measures for that purpose. Indeed I did not expect that it would have been brought on so soon, by many years: but perhaps it is happy for Great Britain, that it has been thus accelerated.

    If it should be thought proper for me to receive his Majesty’s orders to attend at Westminster, It might be proper to add to it, an order for me to have a conference with the Governor of New York & New Jersey that we might make a comparison of the sevral different parts of the Country as well as of our sevral Ideas of the Exigencies of it. Or If Mr Hutchinson, the Lt Govr, should be thought most proper to go home, the same Commission seems as suitable to him: tho’ by reason of his being now at a distance from me, I have not at present an Opportunity of knowing his Sentiments upon this Proposal.9

    I shall be proud to receive your Honours Commands upon the forementioned subjects; and I will beg leave to observe, that, if they are to contain an order for the Lt Govr or me to resort to New York & afterwards to proceed to England, it would be convenient, that such order should arrive as soon as well may be: For in such case there will be no Time to spare for either of us ^me^ to get to London at the beginning of the next Winter.

    I am with Great Respect, Sr. &c.

    The Rt Honble H. S. Conway Esqr.


    I am to desire both in the account of the Lieut Govr & of my self that the orders sent upon this Occasion may be dispatched with as much secrecy as well may be. Our Situation & the Danger We are evry way surrounded with will excuse this Caution; as it will also apologise for the desire we express not only of being extricated from the difficulties we are under at present, but if possible, secured from all such for the future.

    ADft, LbC      BP, 4: 202-204.