581 | To the Earl of Shelburne

    No 1

    Boston Jan 21. 1768

    My Lord

    I found it necessary to call the Assembly sooner than I intended & they accordingly met on Dec 30. I deferred giving your Lordship any account of their proceedings till they should become intresting enough to deserve your Lordship’s notice. The first 18 days were Spent in preparing remonstrances against the Act for imposing new Duties & directing the application of them for the support of the Administration of justice & the Government. A few days before the meeting of the Assembly The Speaker of the House was with me & in the course of Conversation informed ^me^ that it was intended to remonstrate against the late Acts & asked my Opinion upon it. I told him that if they were determined upon that step, I would advise them to do it in such a manner that the Terms of their Remonstrance might not necessarily come before Parliament. For I knew that however cautiously it might be worded, it could not be free from a claim of a right to an Exemption from Acts of this kind. And I was well assured that however favorable the Parliament had been to them heretofore, It was at present by no means disposed to bear with a farther Dispute of their Authority so soon after it had been so solemnly declared to be inherent in them;1 & especially in the present cause, which was of port duties, which had heretofore been admitted to belong to parliament, & now were to be taken away by a refinement, which, however it might read in American news papers,2 would never be heard in the two Houses;3 which allowed of no distinctions in what they should think fit to enact for America. I added, that if they should think proper to address his Majesty’s Secretary of State upon this occasion, it was my Official Business to take the charge of it & I should faithfully remitt it whatever the contents were. And if they put it into other hands, I should remonstrate against it as being irregular & unconstitutional for any addresses to pass from an Assembly (where the King has a representative presiding) to his Majesty either directly or indirectly, except thro’ the mediation of his Representative.4

    As soon as the Assembly met the House ordered the Commission of the Commissioners of the Customs, which was registred in the Secretary’s office, to be brought in & read & then appointed a Committee to consider the state of the Province & report.5 This Committee reported a Letter to Mr Deberdt their Agent6 & another to your Lordship. These being Very lengthy took many days’ consideration, in which many Offencive passages were struck out; tho’ I am told there still remain, at least, in the letter to Mr Deberdt, sevral bold & imprudent expressions.7 These two Letters took up 18 days; after which the Committee reported an Address to the King, which was concluded & agreed upon in 4 or 5 days more.8 When the two first Letters were finished I directed the Secretary to ask the Speaker to let me have a sight of them, as I had been allways used to do in like cases, without ever being refused. The Speaker said that he must advise about it, & afterwards told the Secretary that there was an order of the House that no Copies should be taken;9 & therefore He could not let me have them. The Secretary replied that that was no objection to my seeing them; for that I did not want any Copy & would give him any assurance that no Copy should be taken, whilst in my hands; & advised him to see me. The Speaker came to me & repeating his difficulties offered to take the Opinion of the House. I told him He should not move the House in my name, for I would not put in their Power to refuse me this: that I had allready Waited five days for a sight of these papers; and if he would not let me have it now, I should take it as a refusal, & should acquaint the Secretary of State with it. He still said that He would endeavour to get leave to show them to me; but nothing has been done. I must add that I by no means apprehend this to be an Affront to my person but my Office: for at this time the Speaker himself seemed uncommonly desirous by some other means to persuade me of his respect; And the House from the time of the opening the Session to this day has shown their disposition to avoid all disputes with me, ev’ry thing having passed with as much good humour as I could desire; except only their continuing to act in addressing the King remonstrating to the Secretary of State & employing a separate Agent; as if they were the States general of the Province, without a Governor or a Kings Council.10

    It is the Importance of this Innovation, without any Wilfulness of my own, which induces me to make this remonstrance to your Lordship, at a time when I have a fair prospect of having in all other business nothing but good to say of the proceedings of this House; I mean so far as their disposition has hitherto appeared. It is of great Consequence that the Assemblies of America should be prevented making an Usage of addressing the King or his Ministers of State upon general affairs of the Government without the intervention of the Governor, which is ^the^ official Medium of all Representations from the general Assemblies to the Crown. I know not that it has ever been attempted in Any other province but this; and in this It has been ^allways^ a Symptom of a disorder in the State & has ever been discountenanced by the Government at home. In my Letter to your Lordship No 11 dated March 28 176711 I quote a Letter from the Lords of Trade to the Govr of Massts Bay dated May 26 1704 wherein mentioning an Address to have been sent over without the concurrence of the Governor they add “We can by no means approve their proceding in this manner; it is very unfit that Assemblies should make representations to his Majesty by particular Agents of their own, without the consent & knowledge of his Majesty’s Governor &c”. When I wrote that Letter I had not been refused the inspection of any papers which I desired to see. In the present case I am not allowed to see papers addressed to the King or his Minister, which have been publickly read for 18 days together in an Assembly of 100 members with a Gallery in it Constantly filled with people more or less, have been communicated without doors to whomever the Clerk of the House has pleased, in public as well as in private Companies & ^are^ made a Secret to no one but to the Governor & Council.

    I would not presume to dictate to your Lordship what is the proper time to correct this irregularity; nor have I any doubt but that the impropriety of it appears to your Lordship in the same light that it does to me. I would avoid repeating what I have urged in my foremention’d letter; but would rather trouble your Lordship to review that when you take this into Consideration. I will only mention two reasons against admitting this practice; one of which has been urged before, but in the present case has received fresh force.

    1. The King in all matters relating to America has great reliance on the Reports of his Governors, who being appointed by him & accountable to him are under the greatest obligations not to deceive him. But if the Assemblies are allowed to represent matters to the King, without the privity of the Governors, the King must either lose the Advantage of having the opinion of his Governors upon the Subject matter, or must delay his judgement untill he can order his Governor to report his Opinion. In the latter Case the Worst is Delay & Trouble, but in the former the King will be liable to be & frequently will be deceived. And where the Assembly shall take particular Care to keep their Representations Secret from the Governor, they must (if they do not intend to deceive the King) intend to prevent his having the Opinion of his Governor; that is to deprive him of full information. 2. When an Assembly is sitting, The Governor, as the King’s Representative has the Officiality of reporting to his Majesty all the proceedings of such Assembly. But if either of the Houses address the Secretary of State upon provincial business separately & privately from the Governor, the Secretary of State in that instance becomes the Governor, & there are at the same time two royal Presidents to one Assembly. I would not be understood to mean to limit the extent of the Power of your Lordship’s Office: but I am perswaded that it must be disagreeable as well as inconvenient for your Lordship to be obliged to take upon you the business of a subordinate Office, the passing by of which mediation must often occasion Deception & Confusion.

    But after all I am sensible that great Allowance should be made for the late unsettled state of the Country, which it has not yet recovered itself from. And I do not mean to precipitate your Lordship’s determination of these or any other Matters which have been represented by me. It is my Duty to report proceedings which appear to me to require Animadversion, at the time that they happen: it is your Lordships province to fix the time when they shall be taken into consideration; for which I shall allways wait with due deference.

    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/ 757, ff 18-21.

    Endorsed: Boston Janry 21st: 1768. Govr Bernard’s (No. 1) R. 7. March A.4. Variants: CO 5/893, ff 33-36 (dupLS, RC); CO 5/766, ff 98-14 (L, RLbC); BP, 6: 256-262 (L, LbC); three extracts in Coll. Mass. Papers, 1768; Letters to the Ministry (1st ed.), 3-5; Letters to the Ministry (repr.), 2-6. The duplicate was considered by the Board of Trade on 6 May 1768. JBT, 13: 26. Extracts were laid before both houses of Parliament on 28 Nov. 1768. HLL: American Colonies Box 1. Hillsborough formally replied to FB’s letter with No. 603.