466 | To the Board of Trade

    Boston Ap 28 1766

    My Lords

    In obedience to my general orders I inform your Lordships, that I have lately received advice that a Schooner from St Eustatia has put into Barnstable Bay in this province & there landed her whole cargo, consisting of many chests of Tea many bales of Duck & other foreign European goods from Holland; & having there disposed of her cargo put to Sea again, as is supposed to fetch another cargo of the same kind.1 Information of this came early enough to a Custom house officer, who has heretofore been remarkable for his diligence in discovering & seizing contraband goods: but he durst not make Any use of his intelligence; as in his attempting to make a seizure, he would be sure to hazard his life in a great degree, without any probability of securing the goods. Such is the present state of the people; & thus must the ^full^ Execution of the laws ^of trade^ remain suspended untill the Authority of Government shall be restored; which is not like to be done by its own internal powers.

    I cannot but observe upon this occasion, as I have done upon some others, the ill effects of a late clause in an Act of parliament,2 whereby all Seizures made by Captains of Men of war in Vessels on float, even tho lying alongside a wharf, are ordered to be distributed in a different Manner from that which all former Acts of trade had directed.3

    This has entirely destroyed & rendered impracticable a Connection between the ordinary custom house officers & the Captains of Men of War; a connection, which I have taken great pains to recommend & improve. From such Connection, by my mediation It has happened that a Discovery made by a Custom house officer has been carried into execution by a Captain of a Man of War upon an agreement to share the benefit. But this can’t be done now: for if a Custom house officer engages a Captain to make the seizure he loses all share in the prize. The same difficulty lies upon Governors, besides the general discouragement by taking from them that share of seizures which former Acts of parliament had given, without any express ^words^ repealing or altering the same. If a Governor receives an information of contraband goods & engages a Captain of a Man of War to seize them, He forfeits all his share of the seizure. And therefore It must be expected that Governors, unless they are supposed to be more indifferent to their intrest than the rest of mankind, will endeavour to secure such ^goods^ by such means as will sustain their right to a share of them, altho’ most difficult & precarious, rather than use means more certain & effectual but destructive of their intrests. So that It must frequently happen that Contraband Goods will escape by the Contrariety of intrests of the Governor & Customhouse officers on the one hand & the Captains of Men of War on the other, which must allways prevent their acting in concert; as the Kings Service requires they should do. The cheif or only View of this Clause was certainly to encourage the Navy officers: but besides, the hurt it will do the Kings Service, It will not have the effect proposed. For I am Convinced that whilst this insidious distinction remains, the Captains will make Very few seizures except at Sea, which were before out of the question. Besides if Encouragement is wanting to the Officers of the Navy over & above what the Laws of trade had before given, the Kings Shares will afford a fund for that purpose, without discouraging & embarrassing the execution of the Laws by the best & most effectual means; as a disjunction & disunion of the different Officers must certainly occasion.

    I have thought proper to give your Lordships, these thoughts just as they occur upon the present occasion; tho’ the subject deserves a more full & serious consideration: for I learn that this has created much uneasiness in some of the other Governments. At this, whilst there is no prospect of making any seizures at all, It is to little purpose to dispute about the distribution of them.

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

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honble The Lords Commrs for Trade &c

    ALS, RC      CO 5/892, ff 67-68.