464 | To the Board of Trade

    Boston Ap 10. 1766

    My Lords

    By my Letter of Mar 101 I informed your Lordships of the transactions of the last Session; and that I had adjourned the general Court unto the 9th day of April instead of proroguing it, that I might, by keeping the Session open, have time to consider a Bill & some other Matters which lay before me for my consent, & of which I had doubts. But I did not propose that the Court should meet at the time adjourned to, unless I should receive orders from England which should require it.2 And therefore having waited to the last day I could, I by proclamation prorogued the Assembly or general Court then Continued under adjournment unto the 23d day of April.3 In the next Boston Gazette (a seditious paper conducted by the famous Mr Otis) came out an Argument to prove that the Governor had no power to prorogue the general Court pending an Adjournment; but that he must wait ‘till the day adjourned to came: and the Argument went further to show that the King had no right to prorogue or dissolve a parliament, but whilst it was sitting. For this Lord Coke was quoted, but whether truly, or from what obsolete page, I have not learned:4 for certainly the practice is to the contrary; & in this province It has been the constant Usage to prorogue & dissolve by proclamation in the Vacation of the Court. However Mr Otis recommended that the Members of the House should meet at the time adjourned to, my proclamation to the contrary notwithstanding.

    On Saturday Ap 5, 4 days before the time adjourned to, having received no advices which required the sitting of the Court, I issued a Proclamation for dissolving the general Court, which proclamation was published in all the Newspapers on Monday.5 I hoped that this Act would have entirely put an end to Otis’s intention of assembling the House in defiance of the Kings Authority: but no such thing; he was determined to pursue his intention to engage the Legislature in a dispute about forms, & by raising a present quarrel to work up ill blood against the meeting of the New Assembly & bring it together prejudiced against Government. For this purpose on the morning of Ap 9, the day to which the Assembly had been adjourned, Otis, with 2 other members of the Town his associates in all mischeif against the Government, went to the House of Representatives, where they got together 4 other Members, two whereof, being profest friends to Government, attended only as observers. Having waited all the Morning, & no other Members appearing but these 7, they agreed to meet in the afternoon. In the afternoon there assembled 6 of the forementioned 7 and 6 others, one whereof, as soon as he was informed of their business, left them; of the other 11, 2 were profest friends of Government, another (the fourth Member of Boston a Man of integrity & principle)6 publickly declared against their proceedings: so that there were, at most, but 8 abettors of Otis’s Scheme. The Quorum of the House is 40: If they could have got that number, they were to have chosen a Speaker pro tempore, the ordinary Speaker not attending, & have presented him to me. As they were so very short of a quorum, it was difficult to say what could be done. It was proposed that a Message should be sent to me, representing that they wanted of a quorum; that sevral Members were expected in; & to desire that I would adjourn them to the next day. But It was observed that according to the principles upon which they met, I could not adjourn them nor prorogue them, unless the House was sitting: However something must be done & nothing else offered. Mr Otis therefore put the question that such a Message be sent to me by three persons named; and afterwards declared that it was voted. When they called upon their Committee, the foreman, who before had offered his service for that purpose, could not be found, having slipped away, it being allmost dark. Whilst they were looking for him, some others were missing, ‘till at last Otis & his two Associates were left alone. Thus ended this Attempt to keep the Assembly sitting after it was dissolved by the Governor: an Attempt in itself so daring & dangerous, that, if it had succeeded so far as to have been adopted by a Quorum of the House, would probably have been deemed a Forfeiture of the Charter; & would have subjected the Persons of all the Members joining therein to the highest penalties of the Law.

    I have thought proper to give your Lordships a particular Detail of this transaction, to show the Spirit of the present opposition to Government, which has raised itself to this daring pitch by the improvement of the discontents of the people & the power of the mob industriously worked up by a Very few desperate & Wicked Men; and also to show the difficulty of my own Situation, where all possible advantage is to be taken of any mistake of mine tho’ ever so well intended. But hitherto They have not been able to charge me with any one wrongfull Act; or impeach me for any thing, but the doing of what it would have been a great Breach of Duty for me to have left undone.

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

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honble The Lords Commissioners for Trade &c.

    ALS, RC      CO 5/892, ff 8-10.