517 | To John Pownall

    Boston, Decr 16, 1766

    Dear Sir,

    I find so much matter for my public letters upon my hands, that I scarce know where to begin. As it will be some time before I can get thro all the business that lies before me, I have thought it might be of some Service to give you in a friendly letter a short Capitulation of the business of the late adjourned Sessions, which in its last Stage lasted but six days.1

    I kept up the Resolution I had formed at the first opening the Session of not letting a word drop from me that could be made the Subject of Controversy: but that did not save me from abuse, as has been allready shewn in the answer to my Speech, where, as they could not find anything to quarrel with in the Speech then delivered, they went back to a speech made 5 months ago, which they had before fully answered.2

    Upon the meeting after the adjournment, I made no Speech to them, but left them to pursue their Business in their own Way. The bill for the Compensation passed without difficulty, tho’ not without opposition. The opposition arose chiefly from the Instructions of Towns who thought that the Town of Boston ought to have paid these Compensations, & that the Rioters ought not to be indemnified: but it went no further than in meer votes, when the Event was quite secure.

    Before the House sent up the Bill, they passed & sent up a vote for dismissing Mr Jackson from the Agency. Of this I have fully informed Mr Jackson,3 & should not have mentioned it here, but as it appears ^to be^ introductory of a great Innovation, which may hereafter require serious consideration: I mean the appointment of a distinct Agent for the House. This has been often attempted in times of distraction, but has allways been prevented by the Council as well as the Governor, except in a very few partial instances. Nor will it be warranted by the Example of the Assemblies in the royal governments for these two distinctions: 1 The House in the Royal Governments is the only representative of the People, & is separated by a Line from the Governor & Council who are both appointed by the King; but here the Council is a select Representative of the People, as the House is a general one, & the Governor, tho’ appointed by the King, is so obliged to have the advice of the Council in allmost evrything he does, that He is of a more popular cast than a meer royal Governor 2. The Govr, Council, & House, in the meer royal Governments make only a Legislature; but here they are both a Legislature & a Corporation, & in the last Quality their junction is absolutely necessary, as especially in all business in which their Charter is concerned. There is much to be said upon this Subject: at present I need only add that this Innovation, if it should take place, will give great trouble at home.

    As a specimen of the uses which this new Agency is to be put to, The House have sent two Letters to Mr Debert,4 without communicating the Contents of either of them to the Council or to me. In the one ^of them^ is a vindication of their Proceedings in the former Session, laying all the Blame Upon me, &c. It wont suit with the size of this Letter to enter upon this Subject now: but I shall justify myself fully hereafter by laying open the secret cabals of the faction which consists of a few desperate & wicked People, against whom only, what has the Appearance of severity in my Speech, was directed; altho‘ the House has been so weak as to suffer these People to apply it to the House.

    There is another Letter to the same, on the hardships of Trade; the chief part contains directions for him to apply for the abolishment of the Naval Office, upon the commonplace Suggestion, that it is become unnecessary by the Establishmt of the Custom house, where all the Business belonging to the Naval Office may be conveniently done. This cuts two ways, by lopping off a branch of Loyalty & by coming home to the Govr himself. It was said in the House, that this would be considered as a personality, as his majesty had lately appointed the Govrs. Son to the Office. Otis replied, If the Govr has so much merit with the ministry, he may easily procure another as good a place for his son.

    Tho’ I might safely trust this business with the ministry & the Parliament without interposing any Offence defence, yet the Office lies open to another Way of Attack, in which it is not quite so defencible: & this arises from an oversight in a late act of Parliament. In the act for establishing the present ^fees^ for the late Custom house Officers, untill orders shall be given therein, the Naval Office is omitted.5 Perhaps it was supposed to be included in the general Words: but you may be sure it will never be so understood by an American Jury. It is therefore in the power of the People here to demolish this Office by tendring the fees mentioned in an obsolete Act of Parliament Assembly, all which would not be sufficient to provide a Room, Fire, Paper & Penns. I dont know that just now this is intended, but evry mischief of this kind, may be expected, & ought to be provided for.

    I have wondered much, that, when the Naval Office has so good & natural friends in the American Offices at London, that no Care should be taken of it in the bill which was designed to quiet the Crown Officers in the perception of their Fees, & was surely not intended to leave the Naval Office exposed to those dangers, which the Custom house ^officers^ were to be protected from. If it should be said that this or that naval Office is in no danger, let it be considered that if one Naval Office is demolished, how catching may be the Spirit, & how soon may it run to others. Tunc tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet.6 I could wish therefore that those who have a patronage of or an intrest in the naval Offices would procure a clause to be inserted in some act of next Session to extend the late Act concerning the fees of the Customhouse Officers to those of the Naval Officers. It is much better to prevent mischief than to remedy it: And if the first of these is not done, I believe there will be occasion for the other.7

    In the Summer having recd 7 acts of Parliament relating to America, I laid them before the Council, & consulted them which would be proper to be reprinted here for the use of this Province, as has been usual with Acts of Parliament extending to America. The Council advised that 4 of them shd be printed here in such a manner that they may be bound up in the Law Books.8 The House sent up a Message to the Council to desire to know by what Authority they had ordered Acts of Parliament to be bound up in their Law Books, & askt them if they had any act of Assembly to warrant their so doing.9

    In the interval of the Adjournment of the genl Court,10A Ship was drove in here by stress of Weather, having two Companies of Artillery on board.11The Commanding Officer applied to me for Barracks, &c. I laid his request before the Council; the Act of Parliament was read; & they advised me to order the Commy12to provide fuel & candle being all they asked, at the Castle Barracks. The House sent a message to the Council to ask whether the Govr, or the Govr & Council had given any orders for providing for the Troops, & what.13

    The Council let both these messages lie untill I came into Council, & then laid them before me. I told them that it was not their business in their legislative Capacity to give an ansr to Questions concerning what the Governor had done in the privy Council: that if the House had any such enquiries to make, they should enquire of me. The Council made one answer to both messages to this Purpose: upon which the House being desirous14to rise postponed this business till next Session; when I & the Council are to be arraigned for first printing an Act of parliament & then paying obedience to it. Mr. Otis upon this occasion made a speech, wherein he said that he would as soon vote for the Devill as he would for such Councellors as were betraying the liberties of their Country by inserting Acts of parliament into the provincial law books. He also said that the Council had got the disease of Mary Magdalen, had 7 devils in it, which must be cast out before it could recover.15 But He wont have that trouble for some of the most respectable of them have declared that they will resign their Seats if this Government is not supported.

    Otis also took occasion to make a violent Speech against me filled with personal invectives & idle Stories taken out of his own newspapers, which never had credit enough to deserve a serious answer.16 However I had intended, with good advice, by a message to the House to call him to an account for it. But the House desiring to rise before I could sufficiently inform myself of it so as to form my message, I knew not how to continue the Session, only for a personal dispute of my own; & thereby appear to break thro’ the moderation & Temper which I had exercised thro’ this Session. But I shall find it necessary next Session to make this Complaint.17

    I have wrote a long letter: but it is the Epitome of a great deal of Business, which when extended, will take up much more paper. But I thought it necessary to advise you of these Matters, that if any of them should be brought upon the Carpet, you may make use of this short account untill I can prepare a longer & more particular one.

    I am &c.

    J. Pownall Esqr

    AL, LbC      BP, 5: 176-180, 146-147.18