557 | To the Earl of Shelburne

    No 19

    Boston Aug 24 1767

    My Lord

    I am sensible that in the Course of the letters I have occasion to trouble your Lordship with, I must be sometimes chargeable with impertinence. But It is unavoidable: whilst it is my Duty to inform your Lordship of all Matters of importance; & it is impossible to judge precisely what are really so, as it is often determined by the Event only, I must give your Lordship such informations as I think at the time to be of consequence, tho’ they may afterwards appear not to have been so. In this way I acted when at the beginning of July 17651 I transmitted to Mr Pownall Secy of the board of Trade the weekly incendiary papers which then began to be published by the Faction; & declared my Opinion that they were the preludes of some actual Mischeif tho’ I could not tell what or when. If no Mischeif had followed, these Advices would have been considered at best as too officious; but as, 7 weeks after, the Insurrections began, they were prophetical, tho’ not early enough for the purpose of prevention.

    In this Spirit I write now to inform your Lordship of what has passed in this Town within a fortnight, not making myself answerable for events, but discharging My Duty relative to Precaution. In my letter No 182 I informed your Lordship that the faction was sinking in the opinion of the people & had discontinued their weekly libells; but that some of them had expressed their disapprobation of the proceedings in parliament & had hinted that they would occasion fresh troubles.3 This passed only in private Conversation & was not much regarded. It is but within these few days that a publick declaration of such an Intention has been made; & probably it was reserved for the particular time, in which it was introduced.

    The 14th of August (the day on which the Effigy of the Stamp officer was hung & burnt & Mr Olivers Houses were pulled down and destroyed) has been made an Annual Festival on which the Sons of Liberty (as they call themselves) are paraded at Liberty-tree, the place where those Violences began. And as it is to those Violences, & not to the indulgence of the King & Parliament, that the Desperate part of the Faction have attributed the repeal of the Stamp Act, It is not to be Wondered that they celebrated the first Anniversary, within 3 months, after they had received those Acts which afford perhaps the greatest instance of tenderness & lenity towards complaining & offending subjects which history can give. It is therefore much less ^to be^ wondered, that at a time when there is a declared Design to make an opposition to other Acts of parliament calculated to retrieve the ill effects of an abuse of the former indulgence, that they should continue this anniversary Celebration

    Accordingly Notice was given in the public papers that the Sons of Liberty would meet at Liberty-Tree to celebrate the Anniversary of the 14th of August; and great pains were taken, as I have been informed, to procure a respectable Company, A Flagg Staff was erected, upon this occasion, with pullies and lines to hoist a flag upon this or any other occasion when a signal shall be required. But notwithstanding all management the Meeting was Very thin & insignificant; so much so, that I am told it will be an easy Matter to obtain a complete list of ev’ry person there who has any pretension to converse with a Gentleman. If this Parade had gone no further your Lordship would not have been troubled with an account of it: but it is the Declarations which have been since published & which are undoubtedly the result of this Assembly (at which, as I am informed, there was one Representative, one Justice & one Merchant assisting) which gives your Lordship this trouble.4

    On the Monday following came out in the factions paper, a Letter which I have marked A in the paper enclosed.5 I shall make no comments upon it; its own Text being sufficient. It is preceeded by another letter marked B6 which is no otherwise exceptionable than as it is professedly a preface to more factious papers. I must in justification of the generality of the Town inform your Lordship that the former letter has been treated with the greatest abhorrence by all people of Character & Reputation; and some supposed to be connected with the Faction have disavowed it. But It is a plain Evidence what the Faction would be at and the only Security for their not carrying it into Execution is their inability.

    If this had been an accidental Lusus Politicus,7 We should have heard no more of it & in such case people’s Apprehensions would have subsided. But Whilst I am writing this I have received the paper of today; which I have enclosed, Marking the letter with C.8 If I had any doubts of the designs of the Faction before, they are now over. For It is apparent to me, as the Day light, that these papers are the produce of consiliary deliberations, where it has been determined to make another Effort at inflaming the Province & also the Continent against the late resolutions of parliament.9 I have been long convinced that there are among this faction Desperados wicked enough to desire a breach between Great Britain & America. I do not rest this upon the Manners & Characters of the persons, tho’ they afford strong proofs of ^this^ suggestion, but upon their avowed political principles, which if adopted by the Americans cannot fail producing that Effect. Of this The paper before me is a pregnant Evidence: It is impossible for such a writer whilst He is urging Arguments to persuade the Americans to insist upon terms which he knows Great Britain cannot grant, not to see, that if he Succeeds in his perswasion a Civil War between the two Countries (if it may be allowed that Name) must be the consequence.

    I have talked with Many Gentlemen upon this subject: and it is universally agreed that the Faction does intend to raise another insurrection in this Town. But it is allmost as general an Opinion, some few doubting, that they will not be able to effect it. The proceedings in the News papers are precisely the same as those preceeding the former disturbances; and the daring Step of erecting a fixed flag staff at the tree of liberty, which was never done before,10 shows that they expect to have frequent occasion to make signals to their partisans. The Security which arises from their inability, after all, must be resolved into a dependence upon the prudence & discretion of the people; qualities, which were not to be found among them but 2 years ago; tho’ there is undoubtedly a greater Appearance of them now than there was then. But the Government remains as defenceless as ever: which greatly incourages the planning & ^assists the^ executing resistance to the Authority of Government

    It seems to me that the Event will greatly depend upon foreign Causes: If by their incendiary papers, which are spread all over the Continent, they can raise a similar Spirit in other Colonies, they will Venture to use in this, tho’ under disadvantages. It is known that they depend much upon New York not submitting to the parliament,11 they pronounce that it will not & add that it must be assisted from hence. If that Expectation should fail, I beleive they will be discouraged here. On the other [hand if]12 I find that the like principles prevail in New York I shall conclude that what is done here is in concert with the same party there.

    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 93-96.