551 | To the Earl of Shelburne

    No 17

    Boston Jun. 22 1767

    My Lord

    By my Letter No111 I informed your Lordship of an Innovation in the Agency of this province which was introduced by the House by gradual Means & became then Very Apparent. I also showed to your Lordship that the House assuming to themselves the Sole Appointment of the provincial agent & excluding the Governor & Council from having a share in it, was an Usurpation unconstitutional & dangerous in its Consequences to the Government here & productive of much trouble to the American Administration at home. I also acquainted your Lordship that a Resolve of the House for granting to Mr Deberdt 200 pounds for one Years Salary as Agent for the House at the Court of Great Britain had been negatived by me.

    If this Design was in Any ways doubtful before, it is now become apparent & professed. The House this Session sent up another resolve for a grant of 300 pounds to Mr Deberdt for his services from Novr 1765 to Novr 1766, omitting the expression as Agent for the house; which however was sufficiently implied by their making it an annual Salary.2 The Council had in general declared that they would not again pass a Vote for granting pay to an Agent of the House, as it had plainly appeared that the House did not intend again to join in the Appointment of a provincial Agent. But when this Vote was considered in Council, a Distinction was made that this was not as a Salary to an Agent of the House but a payment to a Special Agent for a particular Service of the greatest Consequence.3 Upon this pretence, out of 18 present, 9 Voted for the grant, 6 against it & 3 avoided Voting at all. Soon after this was past the Names of the 6 Councellors dissenting wrote in large Characters was handed about the House of Representatives by Mr. Otis by way of proscribing them against the Next Election. Such is the freedom of Debate which the second Branch of Legislature enjoys under their present Constitution of being annually elective.

    However soon after this, Some of the Council, who had disapproved the concurrence, being desirous to retrieve it in some degree & to prevent the ill consequences of it, & also to bring the House to a positive Answer concerning the appointment of a provincial Agent, proposed that a Message should be sent to the House for this purpose. This Message, which was drawn by a Gentleman who did not Vote in the former question was framed with more Spirit than has been shown in the Council of late, & concluded with a proposal to join with the House in the choice of a Provincial Agent.

    When this Message was delivered to the House, & a Motion was made to assign a time to consider of it, Mr Otis proposed next May Session, meaning the next Election of Councellors;4 when He hoped it would have due weight; that He ^should^ take it into consideration at that time, whether it was assigned or not. He at the same time declared that if he could prevent it, there never should be another provincial Agent; that the House should have an Agent of their own, & the Governor & the Council might have ^separate^ Agents if they pleased & could tell how to pay them. Whereupon the House referred the Consideration of the Message to the next Session; that is probably for 7 months; & immediately proceeded to prepare instructions to their Agent concerning the provincial business remaining undetermined in England, as the fishery of Newfoundland &c: But the only provincial Business, for which he was to have a legal Authority to appear, that is the Dispute concerning the Newhampshire Line is postponed to the next Session. So that Mr Deberdt has not at present nor is like to have for 7 months to come, any Commission to act as Agent for this province in Any business whatsoever: his present Admittance as such being nothing but the continuation of the extraordinary indulgence which was produced by a particular occasion.

    And now this Business is, as it were, come to a Crisis, I cannot but with all due deference submit to your Lordship the Necessity that this appointment of a partial Agent for the general Business5 should be discountenanced in the public Offices; which may easily be done without giving any just cause of complaint either to Mr Deberdt or his constituents. For If, when He appears as Agent for the Province, He cannot produce the usual Authority, by which all former Agents have been constituted, He has no right to complain of his not being admitted as such.

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

    Fra Bernard

    The Right honble The Earl of Shelburne

    ALS, RC      CO 5/756, ff 81-83.