593 | To the Earl of Shelburne

    No 6

    Boston Mar 5. 1768

    My Lord

    Yesterday I prorogued the general Assembly after a Session of above 9 weeks, greatest part of which was spent in animadverting upon & counterworking the late Acts of parliament concerning the Revenue: so that there was ^not^ time enough to do the provincial business, nor even all of that which I recommended to them at the opening [of]1 the Session.2 Some of the productions of these Animadversions will come to your Lordship directly from the Speaker of the House;3 their Letter to their Agent I could have procured a Copy of,4 but have declined it, as there is no occasion, nor is it my desire, to make their case worse than it need be by the Communication of a confidential Correspondence. The Circular Letter to the rest of the Colonies I have allready sent to your Lordship.5 There is a Letter, I am told, from the House to the Lords of the Treasury; but there is no occasion for my communicating that.6 I now send a Copy of the Resolves of the House upon importations & Manufactures;7 It is so decently & ^cautiously^ worded that at another time It would scarce have given offence: But the Faction boast of it, as it was meant to be, as a confirmation of the Boston Resolves.8

    In my letter No 5 & the postscript therein, I informed your Lordship of the proceedings upon your Lordships letter of Septr 17th, as far as Feb 22.9 On Feb 28 appeared in the Boston Gazette a Virulent Libell10 against me founded upon the insinuations flung out by the faction that your Lordship’s Censure of the proceedings of the general Court in turning the Lieut Governor Secretary &c out of the Council was founded on misrepresentations made by me. There is no occasion for such supposition as the Causes of such censure were sufficiently assigned in the letter itself.11 They durst not attack the letter directly & therefore were obliged to do it thro’ me: And having founded the Message of the House upon groundless suppositions; these suppositions are used as undoubted truths to ground their libell upon. For your Lordship must know that two of the cheif leaders of the Faction in the House (Otis & Adams) are the principal Managers of the Boston Gazette. Hence it is that the drawers of the Messages & Remonstrances of the House & ^the writers of^ the Libellous & Seditious Letters in the Newspaper are generally written by the same. Thus in the present Case the Libell is nothing but a Corollary drawn from the Message.12

    I had never before taken any notice of the libells published in the Boston Gazette: But this was attended with so many circumstances of flagitiousness; founded upon a letter of the Secretary of state wrote by order of his Majesty & communicated by his Governor to the general Court; &, besides the general falsity & Malice of it, concluded with a blasphemous abuse of Kingly Government itself;13 that I did not think I could with safety to the Government, pass it by unnoticed. I therefore next morning laid it before the Council at a very full board there being 20 present which is the whole number but 3.14 It was received with general detestation; most of the gentlemen spoke to testify their Abhorrence of it; and it was remarkable that some of those who heretofore had been inclined to the popular side were most loud in their resentments of this Outrage. In the end they ^unanimously^ advised me to lay before the two Houses of the general Court,15 that is, themselves in their legislative capacity & the House of Representatives. This I did by a Message to each,16 in the terms inclosed,17 which are the same except in the proper distinctions.

    The Board appointed a Committee to prepare an answer to my Message,18 which was reported & agreed upon unanimously by the same number as before mentioned. In the House, which was grown thin & evacuated by the friends of Government in greater proportion than the opponents, It had not the same Success: the faction laboured with all their might to prevent the paper being censured. It was debated a whole afternoon & adjourned to the next morning, during which interval all the usual practices of tampering with the members were employed, & ^the next Day^ upon a Vote the Consideration of the libell was dismissed.19 The cheif Argument used for this purpose was that as there was no Name used, it was not a libell in law & would not be considered So in a court of justice. It was finally agreed that the Message, as inclosed,20 should be sent to me. The Faction carried their points by small Majorities: upon the last question The Numbers were 39 to 30; the greater of which is about one third part of the whole House.21 Otis upon this Occasion behaved in the House like a Madman; he abused evry one in Authority & especially the Council in the grossest terms. The next morning22 He came into the Council chamber before the board met, & having read the Councils Address, he with Oaths & imprecations Vowed Vengeance upon the whole Council at the next Election, & told one Councellor, who happened to be there, that He should never sit at that board after his year was out. This is the Man, who makes such a disturbance about my using My Negative in the appointment of Councellors; the annual Election ^of whom^ is the Cankerworm23 of the Constitution of this Government.

    It may be expected that after such strong declarations against this libell the Council would have joined with me in the prosecution of the printers. But that could not be brought about: it was known that I intended to move that business; & therefore One of the board in the Name of some of my friends was sent to me to advise the contrary.24 It was suggested that It would be better to leave the Matter where it stood with a continued unanimity of the (allmost) whole Council, than by proceeding farther to divide them, especially as it was thought probable that a Vote for a prosecution might not be obtained.25 I was satisfied with these reasons, & declined making any further Motion. This is one of the Consequences of that fatal ingredient in this Constitution[,] the election of ye Council; which will allways weaken this Government, so that the best Management will never make its weight capable of being put in the Scales against that of the people, tho’ the late Act of parliament will ^do^ much towards it. However I ordered the Attorney general26 to procure informations so that if a prosecution may be hereafter thought advisable, it may be practicable. But after all, these printers are answerable to the Government of Great Britain an hundred times more than they are to this; & whilst that Debt remains unsatisfied we ought not to complain, that it is not paid here.

    I had intended, when I prorogued the general Court to have made a short Speech to ye House in answer to their last Message on your Lordship’s Letter. But their publishing that Message in one of their papers, & that Virulent libell in the next, showed such a determined Design to misrepresent me to the people, that I was obliged to enter more fully into my justification than I intended to have done at first; & accordingly I delivered the Speech inclosed.27 I flatter myself it will have Very good Effects, from the general approbation it has received from all parties in this Town. It is intended to open the Eyes of the people to the Wickedness of this factious junto; tho’ perhaps they will not see it clearly till they feel some of the Effects of its Machinations; which cannot fail of coming upon them in some shape or other as they are now going on.

    I shall not trouble your Lordship with a Vindication of myself against the complaint which the House has sent against me; but shall trust to my Speech for that. I hope however that their request of Copies of my Letters will receive such a reprehension as it deserves; and that it will be done otherwise than by the honor of a Letter from your Lordship to the House: in which, besides the general objection to such a correspondence, there is this further impropriety, that before such letter can arrive there will be a new House, which possibly may differ considerably from this both in Men & Manners. I shall proceed to inform your Lordship of other things which it may be proper for me to report, as fast as I can get time & Materials.

    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 38-41.

    Endorsed: Boston March 5th: 1768 Govr. Bernard. (No6) R 18 April A.9 Enclosures: a copy of the House of Representatives’ message to FB, 13 Feb. 1768, CO 5/757, ff 42-46; [Francis Bernard], [Proceedings of the Massachusetts Council, 1-4 Mar. 1768], [4 Mar. 1768] ibid., ff 47-51; Boston Gazette, 29 Feb. 1768, ibid., 52-54; resolve of the House of Representatives, 28 Feb. 1768 (for which see JHRM, 44: 198-199). Variants of letter in: CO 5/766, ff 121-127 (L, RLbC); BP, 6: 272-277 (L, LbC); Letters to the Ministry (1st ed.), 8-10; Letters to the Ministry (repr.), 10-13. The RC may have been sent to John Pownall under cover of No. 595 and the duplicate (not found) with another letter to Pownall of 14 Mar.28 FB finished writing this RC before receiving confirmation on 6 or 7 Mar. (No. 595) that the earl of Hillsborough had superseded Shelburne. He does not appear to have made any changes to the letter subsequent to receiving this news. An extract and the enclosures were laid before both houses of Parliament on 28 Nov. 1768. HLL: American Colonies Box 1.