623 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    No 5

    Boston June 11th. 1768.

    My Lord,

    I am sorry to inform your Lordship that a great Riot happened in this Town last Evening which had very bad consequences, tho’ happily there were no Lives lost.1 The Collector & Comptroller of this Port seized a Sloop for openly & forcibly Landing a Cargo of Wines without paying Duty, and by means of assistance from the Romney Man of War secured her. Upon their return home they were attacked by a Mob; with Clubs, Stones and Brick-bats. Mr Harrison the Collector was much bruised particularly in the Breast, but kept his Legs so as to escape through an Alley. Mr Hallowell the Comptroller2 was knocked down and left on the Ground covered with Blood: he has many Wounds & Bruses, but none dangerous to life. Mr Harrison’s Son, a young Gentleman not in any Office,3 who accompanied his Father, was knocked down and dragged by the hair of his head, and would have been killed if he had not been got into a House by some Standers by. In another part of the Town Mr Irwin4 an Officer under the Board of Commissioners was attacked by another Mob, very much beat and abused, and would probably have been killed if he had not been rescued by two of the Mob, and enabled to escape through an House. This Gentleman was no ways concerned in the Seizure.

    After this they went to Mr. Hallowell’s House5 and began to break the Windows and force an entry; but were diverted therefrom by assurances that Mr Hallowell was almost killed and was not at home. They then went to Mr Harrison’s and broke his Windows: but he not being at home, and the owner of the House entreating them to depart, they left it. Then they went to Mr Williams House6 (one of the Inspector Generals who was then at a distance from Boston) and broke near 100 panes and did other damage to the House; but on Mrs William’s appearing and assuring them he was absent, and only she was at home, they departed. Happily they did not break into any House, for if they had got at a Cellar the Mischiefs would have been greater and more extensive.

    After this they went to a Wharf where lay a pleasure Boat belonging to Mr Harrison, built by himself in a particular and elegant manner. This they took out of the water, and Carried it into the Common, & burnt it. By this time there were above 500 some say 1000 Men gathered together. Whilst the Boat was burning some Gentlemen who had an Influence over them, persuaded them to depart; this was debated and put to the Vote; Whereupon proclamation was made “each Man to his Tent:” Before this they were harangued by a Leader,7 who among others used these words as they have been reported to me, “We will support our liberties depending upon the Strength of our ^own^ Arms and God.”8 Whilst they were upon the Common they got some Rum & attempted to get more; if they had procured it in Quantity, God knows where this Fury would have ended.9 And now the Terror of this night is over it is said to be only a Prelude to greater Mischiefs the threats against the Commissioners & all the Officers of the Board being renewed with as great Malice as ever.

    This Morning I got the Council together as soon as I could, and laid the affair before them. After a long altercation about what should be done, in which appeared a disposition to meddle with it as little as possible, it was advised & ordered that such of the Council as were Justices of the Peace should assist me in ascertaining the Facts by the Examination of Witnesses;10 and Monday Morning at 9 oClock is appointed for proceeding upon this business.11 When this is done I shall be able to give your Lordship a more full and particular account of this affair. At present what I send is only the Heads of it; which I dare say will ^not^ vary materially from the most authentic Narrative.12 And I write this at present in Order to send it by the Post to New York to take the Chance of the Packet which it ^will^ probably just hit the time of.

    I am My Lord Your Lordship’s most obedient humble servt.

    (signd). Fras. Bernard

    Rt: Honble Earl of Hillsborough

    P.S. 13th June

    This Morning early I received a Letter from the Commissioners13 informing me of some particulars, from whence they concluded that they were immediately exposed to further Violences, and therefore they on Saturday evening took shelter onboard the Romney Man of War. That it being necessary to provide for their future security, they desire that they, their Families & Officers may be received accommodated and protected at the Castle. I immediately answer’d this by inclosing an Order to the Captain of the Castle to receive them accordingly.14

    This Morning a Paper was found stuck up on Liberty Tree, inviting all sons of Liberty to meet at 6 o’ clock to clear the Land of the Virmin which are come to devour them &ca &ca, I have been in Council all this Morning to consider of preventing an Insurrection tonight.15 No Resolution has been or will be taken before I send away this. Perhaps the Commissioners retiring may assist our purpose.16

    L, RC     CO 5/757, ff 115-117.

    In handwriting of clerk no. 7. Variants: BP, 6: 311-315 (L, LbC); CO 5/766, (L, RLbC), ff 191-195; Coll. Mass. Papers, 1768 (L, Copy); Letters to the Ministry (1st ed.), 20-22; Letters to the Ministry (repr.), 26-29. The autograph original (which has not survived) and copies were carried to London by Benjamin Hallowell. Extracts were laid before both houses of Parliament on 28 Nov. 1768. HLL: American Colonies Box 1. Hillsborough replied with No. 661.