591 | To the Earl of Shelburne


    No 5.

    Boston Feb. 20. 1768.

    My Lord

    I informed your Lordship that I had received your Lordships Letter No 81 & added that I should make such a prudent & proper use of it as I hoped would perfectly restore the peace & tranquillity of this Province. I thought it best to advise the Council concerning the Manner of communicating it to those whom it concerned. I therefore read it to the Council & observed that I could not send a Copy of it to the House,2 upon Account of the Abuse which all such communications were subject to, that of being publish’d in the News Papers, which if the House dont expressly order they notoriously permit.3 Upon which it was proposed by a Councellor that I should let the Secretary carry the Letter into the House & read it there; & it was afterwards thought proper that I should give the Speaker a copy, to be communicated to such Members as desired it without suffering a Copy to be taken. When this was done I took some pains to make it understood, that the Caution I used that this Letter should not be made public arose from a Desire that there should be no Triumph on my Part; but that it should be used for the purpose for which it was designed, Conciliation; as It was rather intended as a Directory for future Proceedings than a Censure of the Past.

    But all this Caution signified nothing: the Heads of the factious Party for many Days seemed to acquiesce: and I expected no other than good effects from this Communication. But after the Party had carried their Point in ordering a Circular Letter4 to the several Assemblies on the Continent; they became elate, & resolved to make a Dispute concerning your Lordships’ Letter. The Occasion they took to move this matter was my applying to the Speaker for a copy of the circular Letter to transmitt to your Lordship, which the Speaker proposed to the House, not by my Direction but of his own Motion. Upon this Occasion Otis said it was as reasonable5 that they should have Copies of my Letters which were referred to by your Lordship: & accordingly the Message No. 1 of the enclosed was dressed up & sent to me.6

    There certainly never was such a request made by an Assembly to a royal Governor since America was colonised, as is contained in the last words of this Message.7 It was attempted by Otis once before; but then it failed.8 However I determin’d to give it as soft an answer as possible; & therefore when I had formed it,9 I showed it to the Lieutt. Governor, the Secretary &c, & struck out every word that the most cautious Man could apprehend liable to be taken hold of to give Offence.10 But it signified nothing: they had prepared the House (which had been before evacuated of some of the most able Men on the Side of the Government, tired out with the Length of the Session) by private Cabals & determined to go to the greatest Lengths. They accordingly prepared a Message,11 in the words as inclosed, & after a long Debate carried a vote for it & it was delivered to me this Morning.12

    I shall not make any Observations on it at present; but only inform your Lordship that I cannot wholly pass it by unnoticed. For as it is professedly designed to be publish’d I must give some answer to it, but it shall be as short cautious & soft as the Case will admit. For your Lordship may depend upon it that it is not in the Power of these People to move my Temper or to make me depart from that Steady Conduct which his Majesty’s Service & the present state of this Province so absolutely require. All I am concerned at is that, I shall, I fear, be obliged to consent to your Lordship’s letter being enter’d in the Journals of the House; from whence it will probably find its way to the Press. This is in plain Terms required by the last Message; & if I should find myself obliged to concede to it, my best apology for it must be that I cannot see that the Publication can do any Harm, & it probably will have very good Effects. Upon the whole, tho this Fracas has seemingly interrupted the good humor of the Session, yet I am persuaded it will do the Cause of the Faction no real Service; & they will still find it necessary to lower their sails. Nor do I think this Dispute merely accidental: It has been the constant way of the Faction since it first raised its head, to create a Dispute at the end of the last Session, in order to find matter for influencing the ensuing Elections in favor of the popular Cause. If this had not come in their way they would have found some other Subject of a Dispute. Perhaps this may be as ineffectual as some other would have been. I am

    With great Respect My Lord, Your Lordship’s Most obedient & most humble Servant

    Fra. Bernard

    The right honble The Earl of Shelburne

    PS. Feb. 22.

    This morning I found the message deliverd to me last Saturday published in the Boston Gazette,13 as indeed I expected it would. I thereupon orderd the Secretary to deliver a verbal Message from me in the Terms as enclosed.14 I am informed that this Afternoon the Faction has been passing a Letter to your Lordship complaining of misrepresentations from which your Lordship’s Letter was formed.15 I will not say any thing of it, as it will come to your Lordship as soon as my Report of it could. I have only to desire that your Lordship would suspend your Judgement of it, till you hear further from me which will be as soon as I have prorogued them, which I hope will be in a few days.

    dupLS, RC     CO 5/757 ff 34-35.

    In handwriting of clerk no. 3. Endorsed: Boston Febry 20th: 1768. Govr Bernard (No. 5). R 15 April Dupl original not recd. The endorsement indicates that the autograph original was not received. However, on 4 Apr., Hillsborough acknowledged having received and read a letter from FB, which was likely a copy of the original.16 The duplicate printed here may have been sent under cover of No. 595. Variants: CO 5/766, ff 115-121 (L, RLbC); BP, 6: 269-273 (L, LbC); a copy may have been sent to Gen. Gage under cover of Appendix 4. Enclosures: FB’s messages to the House of Representatives, 16 and 22 Feb. 1768; messages of the House to FB, 13 and 18 Feb.; a copy of the House of Representatives to the earl of Shelburne, 22 Feb. 1768 (not found, for which see JHRM, 44: 239-240.) The only extant enclosure from this particular set is FB’s message of 22 Feb. in CO 5/757, f 36. FB added the postscript after receiving news of Hillsborough’s appointment,17 but that information does not appear to have had any substantive bearing on the postscript’s brief report of the House’s proceedings.