549 | To the Earl of Shelburne

    No 15

    Boston May 30 1767

    My Lord

    By my letter No 131 I informed your Lordship that I had little hopes that the opening the new Assembly would produce a new turn of Affairs: In which Case I should have but one part to act,2 to keep to my purpose of defending the Government by the only Means left, the use of my negative in the Election of Councellors. It has happened just as I expected: there has been but little alteration in the Election of representatives. And tho’ in some instances the Government has got the Accession of 2 or 3 Men of superior Ability3 & has suffered no loss of that kind, yet in point of Numbers the Same Spirit of carrying the popular powers to the greatest lengths still prevails; as the Same Acts to vilify & abuse ^all^ the persons, who from Duty or principle are, or are supposed to be, attached to the royal Authority, & to keep up among the people the invidious jealousy which has been raised against them, are exercised in their fullest Extent.

    However being desirous of contracting the use of my negative as much as possible & of laying a foundation for removing the Necessity of using it at all, & foreseeing that in dead Votes the Government would be outnumbered, I determined to attempt a compromise. For this purpose I engaged some principal Members of the House, to make ^(as from themselves)^ a proposal to the opposite party; that if they would agree to remove the indignity done to the King’s Commissions by electing the Lieut Governor & the Secretary into the Council, they, the proposers, would join with them in electing the two negatived councellors, (of whom Otis’s father was one)4 & bring in the four old Councellors5 with a full Vote: in which Case the Governor would ^(most probably)^ consent to all four.6 That this compromise should not extend to the rest of the Election, & if it did not immediately remove all dissatisfaction, it would lay a foundation for a perfect reconciliation, as it would remove the principal causes of the contention. To this The party answered that they should make the Election by themselves & did not want their, the proposers, assistance; & therefore they should enter into no compromise with them. That they were not affraid of the Governor’s negative, that they knew that the Governor had been reprimanded for what he had done before & durst not use his Negative again. This was asserted with great Confidence, & it was given out that the Govr had received instructions not to negative Any one that should be elected.7 Thus ended this conference with the Success I expected: as I had been before informed that the Otises8 had hinted that if the Governor would give up the Lieut Govr, things might be made easy in other respects; but upon No other Terms.9

    The Election accordingly proceeded: there were 22 Councellors & 115 Representatives in all 137. The Lieut Govr & Secy had each 50 Voices, probably all the same. Those negatived the last Year were all reelected, some by more, some by less Voices; one Old Councellor a constant supporter of Government & a known friend to the Lieut Govr was flung out.10 The next Morning, soon after the Election was certified to me for my approbation, four of the Representatives, Men of the first Character for ability integrity & rank & constant supporters of Government came to me & declaring to me that they spoke in the name of the generality of the friends of Government in their house, represented to me the necessity there was that I should keep steady in my purpose of defending the Government by means of my negative: without which they declared that the friends of Government would give up their Cause & I must put myself into the hands of the opponents. I professed my desire of contracting my Negative as much as could well be: but upon a scrutiny, it was found, to my conviction, necessary to negative five of the six, who were negatived last year, & I accordingly negatived them.11

    Your Lordship will observe that this whole Business has turned upon my endeavouring to retrieve the indignity offered to the King by excluding his Lt Govr & Secretary from the Council. I have had an high Sense of this, & was in the first instance led thereby into a resentment more just than cautious. I have been since confirmed in this by understanding (from a pamphlet lately published & reprinted here) that in the year 1765 the Lords of Trade thought proper to report against an attempt to exclude the Secretary from the Council,12 & therefore must conclude that the actual exclusion of both the Lieut Govr & Secretary must give great offence to his Majesty; and the more so, if, besides the exigencies of the public service, It should appear that it was the intention of the Charter that they should have a Seat in the Council in virtue of their Offices only without election; as it at present seems plain to me. But be that as it will, the Motives for my resentment of this affront to the Kings Government must arise from principles of Duty, as they are opposite to my intrests which, where it can be separated from Duty, would naturally lead me to consult my peace & ease: which I give up by pursuing this (as it appears to me) necessary Measure.

    I hereby inclose my Speech at the opening the Session: from whence your Lordship may observe that I have now for twelve months (within a week) persisted in making my Speeches to the Assemblies as inoffensive & insignificant as possible.13 In this Speech, I mean to consider the use of my negative as a common & ordinary Act of Government. And so It ought allways to be considered: for I don’t see how this Election can be said to be free, if the Governor, whose share in the Election consists in his negative only cant as freely exercise his power to exclude those he thinks unfit for Councellors, as the House does their power in not electing those whom they think fit to exclude.

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

    Fra Bernard

    The right honble The Earl of Shellburn14

    ALS, RC      CO 5/756, ff 73-75.