508 | To the Earl of Shelburne

    Boston Nov 14. 1766

    My Lord

    By1 my letter dated July 19th I informed your Lordship2 that if there should be any opening for me to expect that the House would act in the business of the compensation in a different manner from what they had done, I should not fail to avail myself of it. I am therefore now to inform your Lordship of the second trial I have made for getting this business done with the Event of it. And in order to explain these proceedings more fully, I must beg leave to delineate to your Lordship the real difficulties which have prevented this business being done: as they appear very little in the journal of the House, & pains have been taken that they should not appear; altho’ they are Notorious to evry person in the province who thinks upon the Subject.

    The Riotous proceedings at Boston were generally abhorred by the best Men in the province & by much the greater part of the common people. And therefore when a Compensation to the Sufferers was first talked of It was the general Opinion that it ought to be made, but that it was due from the Town of Boston only & not from the province in general. This Opinion was very prevalent when Mr Secretary Conways Letter dated Mar 31 arrived here on the last day of May: and this was the Reason why the Members for Boston, contrary to the real intrest of the Town, determined to oppose the making a compensation even out of the Treasury: in which way, If they had at that time with their party joined the friends of Government, it might have been done. But they were apprehensive that if the Money was ordered to be paid out of the Treasury It would be then moved that it should be charged upon the Town of Boston; which, as the Tax bill was to be past at that time, might have been done with the dash of a pen.3 They therefore resolving to oppose the granting the Compensation that Session, turned the whole business into Evasions & Subterfuges to give pretended reasons for their not Complying & to conceal the true One. The Reasons given were 1 that It was a Business of too much importance to transact without consulting their Constitutients;4 2 That the Sufferers had not applied to them in a parliamentary way, that is by petitioning the House.

    It was not long before they received repeated advices that the general Opinion ^in England^ was that the Honor of parliament was engaged to see this compensation made & ^they^ would certainly take it up, where the Provincial Assembly refused it. And It was very obvious that the parliament might enforce the payment of a Sum of Money from a Seaport Town or from a Maritime province, without infringing Any Rule of Rights laid down by the most sanguine Advocate for the Colonies or even claimed by themselves in form.5 The People of Boston therefore began to be uneasy that this Money was not paid; a Town Meeting was called & Instructions were given to their Members to use their utmost endeavours to get the Money paid out of the Treasury.6 This was a Signal for me to call the Assembly, which I had kept prorogued by short intervals, in order to take hold of the first fair opportunity that offered: and I accordingly gave notice that the Assembly would meet, at the time it was then prorogued to.7

    In the mean time One of the pretences, which had been made use of the last Session to excuse the granting the Compensation, had an effect contrary to what was expected or, at least was not foreseen. As the Necessity of Consulting their Constituents had been made the pretence for postponing the business, The Members in general found themselves obliged actually to consult their Constituents in form, which they would not have done otherwise. This produced a Number of instructions against paying the Money out of the Treasury;8 which prevailed Very much among the Representatives of Towns distinguished for their Attachment to govern[ment]9 many of which were so positive against paying the Money out of the Treasury,10that Many Members staid away to avoid appearing against Government, & others were obliged to come fettered with instructions to act against it. Among these people the general Reasoning was, that as it was Notorious that the disturbances arose entirely within the Town of Boston, It was not only unjust that the whole province should be charged with the damages done by them; but if they were to consent to the payment out of the Treasury they should thereby acknowledge themselves to be partakers of proceedings, of which they had allways expressed their detestation & abhorrence. This was urged particularly at the meeting at Salem, the second Town in the province, & allways noted for its attachment to Government, which however its Members were not allowed to support upon this occasion only.

    Upon the meeting of the Assembly I determined to say Nothing that could possibly ^be^ perverted, & in general to avoid interfering with the House in Any Manner. I accordingly Made the Speech which I herewith inclose,11in full confidence that it could not receive a rude Answer. I was soon informed that a Majority of the House had instructions against granting the Compensation out of the Treasury, the only Method that could be proposed with any prospect of Success. The Grant was strongly urged by the Members for Boston in which they were supported by some of the ablest friends of Government & Opposed by only one Man of Ability who in that instance seemed to be infatuated. The Argument was entirely on the side of the Compensation, & was much assisted by the examination of some Gentlemen from England12to show the assurances which had been given by the friends of the Colonies that this Compensation would be chearfully made, and the, allmost certain, probability that the Parliament would not acquiesce in the refusal of it. But the dead weight of the instructions could not be got over, altho’ there was a general Conviction throughout the House that the Compensation ought to be made. I must again repeat that the Boston Members exerted themselves for the Question in this Session as much as they did against it ^in the last^; but they were defeated by their former machinations: otherwise I beleive it would have been carried without a Division.

    After a litigation of a fourtnight in which the Question was put in different forms ^two or^ three sevral times & lost by no great Majority,13This Expedient was hit upon: that they should bring in a bill for compensating the sufferers in which the Sums should be ascertained (the misreport of which was supposed to have hurt the cause) and also for indemnifying the Rioters And that the Bill should be printed for the consideration of the constituents; and the Governor should be desired to grant a recess for that purpose. This past with little or no opposition, & a Bill was accordingly brought in & printed & a Message was sent to me accordingly.14Two hours after this I received your Lordship’s letter:15I immediately communicated it to both Houses, & gave the House of Representatives time to consider of it, which was only spent in fruitless altercations without any Attempt to resume the business.16I therefore adjourned the general Court for 3 weeks being the earliest day I could appoint.17I inclose Copies of the Message to me & my Speech upon the adjournment.

    After the Adjournment had passed & before I had left the Chair, It was observed in the Council that the House had not ordered your Lordships letter to be printed, as it is usual to do in cases where such publication is like to facilitate the business recommended. It was therefore moved that the Governor be desired to order the letter to be printed, as it would tend very much to conciliate the Minds of the people to the compensation, & to remove the ill humour prevailing among them. This having the unanimous Voice of the Council I assented to, being fully of the same opinion. I must beg your Lordship will let the Occasion apologise for my taking this liberty, if there should be an Impropriety in it which at present I dont see; as these kind of publications are not uncommon18in this Government.19

    I must beg your Lordships ^indulgence^ in adding a few words upon an incident in the forementioned transactions, I mean the reflexion cast upon me in the Message of the House. Nothing can show the Spirit of these factious Leaders better than this does: when not being able to find any cause for a contest with me in the present Session, and yet finding it necessary to keep up a contention so essential to their own importance they go back to a passage at the beginning of the former Session, which was then sufficiently animadverted upon & since ^has been^ hackneyed in the Newspapers, for a fresh cause of quarrel with the Governor.20At the same time I beleive there was not a Man in the house who really thought that Any thing I had done or said had contributed to influence a Single Vote against the question: whereas Many of them knew of the pains I had taken for it. The Town of Boston (I mean the political leaders of it, which are but a small part of the Gentry) have no pretence to my partial Services; and yet I have been a constant Advocate for granting the Money out of the Treasury & thereby indemnifying the Town. Indeed I must own that in so doing I have acted more upon principles of policy than rules of justice.

    However, My Lord, if I have in any instance let my Spirit get the better of my prudence, I beg that one Distinction, which your Lordship upon a precise enquiry will know to be founded in truth, ^may^ be admitted; that I have not exerted myself upon self considerations. I have borne a torrent of obloquy & abuse with the temper of a Stoick; and I have not done a[n]21Act of resentment upon account of personal injury in any one instance that I can recollect. But, My Lord, having been educated in the frequent contemplation of the British Constitution I have contracted such a Reverence for the imperial State, that I may perhaps ^have^ expressed a respect for it unsuitable to the present unhappy state of this Country. But I have at all times had in view to heal the distractions of the Country & compose its divisions; and I have never knowingly departed from that purpose.

    The Importance of the subject & some thing due to my own defence have extended this letter to a considerable length: but I hope my next on this subject will be shorter and that there will be no occasion to say any more than that the Compensation is made: As I have great expectation that the Method taken to reconcile the Country people to it will succeed.

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

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honble The Earl of Shelburne

    ALS, RC      CO 5/755, ff 841-850.