480 | To the Board of Trade

    Boston July 7. 1766

    My Lords

    I now sit down to give your Lordships an account of the proceedings of the last Session,1 a Review of which is necessary to form an Idea of the present State of this Government which makes a very slow progress towards recovring itself from its late shock. Popular Violences indeed have ceased together with the apprehension of them: but the Spirit of weakning the power of Government, allready reduced to a great impotence, by all legal Methods & bringing it still nearer & nearer to the levell of the common people continues in as much force as ever. So that I am still more & more confirmed in my Opinion that this Government will not in any probability, which the present prospect affords, recover itself by it’s own internal powers; even tho’ such powers should be exerted by evry one, as they are & will be by me, in the fullest Manner.

    Previous to the Meeting for the new Elections of the Assembly for some weeks together All Artifices were used to influence the Towns to elect no One whose Appointments Abilities or Disposition were like to engage in the support of the Government. At this time the press was wholly employed in the Opposition of Government & no pen was used in its defence; the intimidation which had before silenced all Advocates for it having still prevailed. Upon this occasion the most absurd Notions of Civil power were propagated & the most improbable Lies received as truth. Among these practices was a publication of a List of Names of 32 representatives most distinguishable for their integrity Ability & general Repucharged in Vague terms with being Enemies to their Country, without Any specification that would admit of a refutation. And this was made the grounds of circulating by private report the most impudent falsities against these Gentlemen. By these Means 19 of these lost their Election:2 & in the room of many of them were substituted Men who were thought more suitable to the times. As for the low & ignorant Men who had crept into the house at the former Election, they chiefly kept their Seats. These Alterations of the Representatives to the disadvantage of Government so elevated the Faction, that Mr Otis their leader, about a month before the Election of the Council, declared that they should displace 15 of the Old Councellors: but as the time drew nearer, he said they should content themselves with turning out the Lieut Govr who is also Cheif Justice, two other judges being all that sat in the Council, the Secretary & the Attorney general: and in All this he succeeded, tho’ with some difficulty in regard to the Lieut Governor.

    At the meeting of the general Court according to the Charter on the last Wednesday in May, the first Business in the House was the choice of a speaker; when Mr Otis was chose by a small Majority & presented to me according to the explanatory Charter. The Right of the Governor to negative a Speaker was not admitted untill the explanatory Charter & was never exercised but in one instance:3 and I should not have chose to have exercised ^it^ in any Case where it could have well been avoided. But the Notoriety of Mr Otis’s treatment of all Persons acting under the King’s Authority both British & Provincial, whom he has thought proper at different times, to make the Objects of his political fury, made it impossible for me, without great disgrace to myself, to give my Consent ^to his appointment^ to Any office or honour whatsoever, in which I had a necessary Voice. I therefore disapproved of him & directed the House to proceed to another choice. They then choose4 Mr Cushing another Member of Boston & one of Mr Otis’s Cabinet: I consented to him, as He had not been a ^very^ Offensive Opposer of Government & I could not properly carry this new Exercise of a right further than in one notorious instance, which was capable of & has received a general justification.

    The same day they proceeded to the election of Councellors: the persons struck at were the principal Crown Officers, namely the Lieut Governor Cheif Justice, two puisne5 judges, Lynde6 & Oliver, the Secretary Oliver & the Attorney general Trowbridge. Judge Lynde resigned to avoid being turned out; the Lieut Governor in the Election for the first 18 had a considerable majority of the whole Number of the Electors but was short by 1 or 2 of 18 others.7 In the Election for Sagadehock of one Councellor the Lieut Governor was proposed & objected to as having no Estate in that Territory, which he admitted; One of the Council proposed to qualify him by an immediate conveyance of Lands; but he declined it. Nevertheless He had but 1 short in this poll. The Secretary, Judge Oliver & the Attorney general were turned out without much difficulty. Nothing really could be objected to these Gentlemen but their holding Offices under the King; on the other hand their qualifications & their offices made them allmost Necessary Members of the Council. And yet this is called the Kings Council, at the same time that, under the present System of popular politicks, an Official Relation to the King becomes a plausible pretence to exclude Men of the first-rate Abilities from a Seat in it.

    The Election of the Councellors having been presented to me for my consent, I found it quite necessary for me to resent what I conceived to be an affront put upon the Majesty of Great Britain by excluding from the Council the Kings Officers for no real reason but because they were such; and this immediately after Advice of the uncommon favor shown to the Americans by the King & parliament had arrived here. The only Way I could resent this was by negativing such elected Councellors as had cooperated in the exclusion of the Crown Officers. Happily there were chosen 4 New Councellors, who had no pretensions to a seat at the board, or at least Very little other pretensions, but a constant & uniform Opposition to the Administration of Government upon all occasions.8 There were besides about 5 or 6 of the old Councellors who were considered as supporters of the Opposition, some of which were openly active in the excluding the Kings Officers. Of these I marked two who were out of all doubt promoters of the Exclusion; and if I have done these two any injustice,9 it is by not adding to them 1 or 2 more.10 However as the Negativing elected Councellors is a Very uncommon thing, seldom practised but in extraordinary Cases, & never before once exercised by me, I confined myself to two of the Old Councellors only & the four new elected as before mentioned, which 6 I negatived, & consented to the Election of all the rest.

    Your Lordships may imagine that these proceedings were productive of much ill humour on both sides: for my own part I gave over all thoughts of cultivating a good understanding with the house & considered only how to Vindicate the Kings honor. This made it necessary from me not to pass over this indignity, but to take some notice of it in my speech. This I did in the manner your Lordships will observe in the Speech;11 which of Course was subject to some objections the two principal of which were these; l that I charge the general Assembly with ^making^ a formal attack of the Kings Government, a charge of dangerous import 2 That I arraign them for acting according to their own Discretion in the legal exercise of a constitutional right, for which they were answerable to none but themselves. If I had replied to the Answer of the House,12 which it was not worthwhile to do, I should have observed, 1, that the Words of attacking the Government were not intended or applicable to the general Assembly or the House of Representatives, (as indeed the drawers of the Answer well knew) but to a particular Junto consisting of a Very few Members of either House; some of whom had publickly declared that they intended to turn out 15 of the Council; and afterwards, finding it necessary to contract their plan, by Very undue means, did actually turn out all the principal Officers of the King: that the Intention, publickly declared, to turn out 15 Councellors distinguished for their Attachment to his Majesty’s Government, & the Actual turning out the cheif Officers of the Crown, can be accounted for no otherwise than ^as^ an Endeavour to weaken his Majesty’s Government by removing those from his Council who are most able & fit to serve him in it: and that an Endeavour to weaken his Majesty’s Government by public declarations & Acts in pursuance thereof, is certainly a formal Attack of the Government; altho’ by being ultimately pursued by legal Means it does not come within any penal Law. 2, I did not arraign them for a discretionary exercise of a legal right but an improper exercise of it in a very uncommon case, which would probably turn to their disadvantage; & upon the whole spoke to them upon the prudentiality rather than the legality of what they did. And they knew that my Censuring their conduct in so particular Manner, was with a View of persuading them to retrieve this business & prevent the disgrace of it, whilst it was in their power. And that nothing might be wanted for this purpose, after Secretary Conway’s Letter arrived,13 I took care that it should be understood that if they ^would^ proceed to a new Election & choose the 4 old Councellors which they had excluded & the two old Councellors which I had negatived, I would consent to the whole; by which means the Council would be restored to its former state. But this was rejected with disdain: the persons, who had the power of the people in their hands were not disposed to Compromise or do any thing but inflame & confound.14

    I have thought proper to give your Lordships a particular Detail of this transaction, not so much to justify my own conduct, which I am persuaded must appear to be, as it has been, directed by a zealous regard for the Kings Honor separated from what a Consideration of my own situation would have otherwise dictated. But I consider this as a business of the utmost importance, tending to make evident, more than Any thing else that has happened in my time, what a fatal Ingredient in the Composition of this Government has been the making the King’s Council annually elective. The Constitution of it is framed like an open pleasure-boat, fit only for calm Seas & favorable gales: Whenever the Winds of Faction arise & the popular Waves run high We find our Vessel without deck or ballast & unable to weather the Storm. The only Anchor of hope is in the Sovreign Power, which tho openly denied by some & much doubted of by others, is still so much revered in general as would, I beleive, secure an obedience to its decrees, if they were properly introduced & effectually Supported. When this Government will recover itself by its own powers or whether it ever will, is impossible to say. The People may discover the Wickedness of their leaders very soon or they may be directed by them for a long time. Reason & Argumentation has nothing to do with it. But However, My Lords, if this Government is to continue as it is, I cannot but think that this new Introduction of negatives may be improved into a very good use. And therefore I hope I shall be honoured with your Lordship’s approbation of it; and that it will be promoted by public Orders. There cannot be a more effectual Discouragement to the Opposition to Government than to convince the Opposers that they will not arrive at the honours of the State by those means; and such Conviction cannot be made effectual unless it has the Sanction of his Majesty’s Administration; without which No Governor can persist long in such a System. Besides, If the Faction once gets possession of the Council, which it would now have done, if I had gave Way to it; The Governor has nothing to do but to strike his colours.15

    The next Business to this, both in order of time & importance, was the indemnifying the Sufferers by the late riots. As I must account for this to the Secretary of State, & am preparing to set the whole Matter in a full & perspicuous light,16 I shall not at present enter upon this subject, but shall send Your Lordships Copies of the papers I shall transmitt to the Secretary of State which will contain a full & distinct Account of the transactions relating there to.

    The next stroke at the Government was the reducing the garrisons of the royall Fortresses Castle William & Fort Pownall, which was done not only without consulting me but under My protestation against it.17 Castle William, which was built under the Direction of the Kings Engineers & has been armed by the board of Ordinance, has been allways garrisoned by the Province. When I came to the Government The Garrison consisted of 50 or 52 men,18 I forget which; but upon Account of the Considerable enlargement of the Works, & the forming an Armoury of small arms of between 2 & 3000 arms, which I collected together at the end of the War, which Armoury employs 3 men. The Assembly at my instance some years ago encreased the Garrisoned to 60 men, upon a clear evidence of the Necessity of keeping up ^that number^ as the Castle with the additional Works then mounted near 120 guns. Your Lordships cannot have forgot that when I placed the Stamped Papers in the Castle for Security & it was publickly threatened to be forced in order to destroy the Stamped Papers, the Council were of opinion that that Number of Men were not sufficient to defend ^it against^ the irregular attack of an undisciplined rabble, & therefore advised that I should raise 60 men more for the Security of the place.19 And now, notwithstanding so fresh an instance of the weakness of the place, when Any deposit shall be lodged there against the Will of the people, The House reduced the Garrison first to 40 men, but afterwards made it to 50 men, 10 short of the former appointment. Although It was very obvious & was observed Among them, that as the excluding the Crown Officers from the Council would be considered as a Resentment against persons, this might be regarded as a Resentment against a place20

    Fort Pownall on the river Penobscot was built at the expence of the King by Genl Amherst upon the request of the Genl Court, & their engaging to maintain the Garrison. The Intent of it was to awe the Penobscot Indians & protect the infant Country thereabout. At first the Garrison was 70 men: but afterwards upon proof of the then Commanders employing the greatest part of them at a distance from the fort, The Garrison was reduced to 20 men. In this State it was, when I first visited it: when having considered the strength of the place I added 10 guns to it & prevailed with the House to encrease the Garrison to 40 men. In order for this I laid before them certain advice I had procured that It had been proposed in the Council of the Penobscot Indians to attempt the Fort by surprize; which, tho it was generally rejected at that time, might be suddenly resolved upon a fresh Cause of jealousy or Resentment.21 Thus has the Fort continued for 3 years past: and now, when evry thing is to be done to weaken & affront Government, They have reduced the Garrison to 20 men notwithstanding I offer to consent to 32 men & declared that I did not think the place would be safe with a less Number. When the Establishment came up to me I would not consent to it, as it would be a mark of Approbation, but I underwrote that I should reduce the garrison as proposed altho’ I disapproved of the reduction. Your Lordships will see My Message to the House on this subject in the Votes pa 111 & their Answer in pa 131; & the Opinion of the Council in the enclosed Copy.22

    Having extended this letter to so great a length, I shall beg leave to close it here, & reserve the Consideration of other matters which shall be found proper for your Lordships Notice to another opportunity.

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

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honble The Lords Commissioners for Trade & plantations.

    ALS, RC      CO 5/892, ff 69-75.