630 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    (No. 6.)

    Roxbury near Boston, 14th June 1768

    My Lord,

    By my Letter No. 51 I informed Your Lordship of a Riot which happened on the 10th. of June in the Evening & that upon my laying the matter before the Council, they had advised that such of the Board as were Justices of the Peace should assist me to ascertain the facts; afterwards the whole should be taken into consideration. I should have added that there was then no apprehension in the Council that there would be a repetition of these violences. Nor indeed did any such immediate danger appear to me whilst I staid in Boston, which was till Sun-set, when I went to my Country House about four Miles from Boston.

    The next Day being Sunday, I heard some loose Reports that there was to be another rising. Early in the Afternoon the Son of Mr. Harrison the Collector came to me & said that His father apprehended that his Life would be in danger if he staid in Boston, & advised that I would give an order that he should be received at the Castle: I accordingly gave him such an order. The next morning, being Monday the 13th, a little after 5 O Clock, I received a Letter from the Commissioners which is mentioned in the P. S. of my last;2 a Copy of which, together with my answer & my order to the Commander of the Castle, I herewith inclose. Immediately after I went to Town, & ordered the Council to be summoned to meet at 9 O’ Clock. Before I went to Council, the Sheriff came to inform me that there was a most violent and virulent paper stuck up upon Liberty Tree, containing an Invitation to the Sons of Liberty to rise that Night to clear the Country of the Commissioners & their Officers, to avenge themselves of the Officers of the Custom-house, one of which was by name devoted to death:3 There were also some indecent Threats against the Governor, if he did not procure the release of the Sloop which was seized. Afternoon as I came to the Town-house, where the Council Chamber is, I found several handbills, which have been circulated round the Town, stuck up there; an exact Copy of which follows.

    Boston, June 13th, 1768.

    “The Sons of Liberty.

    Request all those, who in this time of oppression & distraction, wish well to, & would promote the peace, good order & security of the Town & Province, to assemble at Liberty Hall, under Liberty Tree, on Tuesday the 14th. instant, at Ten O’Clock forenoon precisely.”

    When I got into the Council Chamber in the Morning, after waiting for a full Board,4 I told them that there was no time to enquire of the particulars of the former Riot which was accidental, when we were immediately threatned with new disturbances premeditated. I therefore laid before them the informations I had received,5 & desired that they would take into consideration the necessity of providing for the peace of the Town, & the proper means of doing it. But notwithstanding all, I could not bring them to any conclusion or even to state a question. All that was done in the Morning was to conjure an expression in the Commissioners Letter ^which obliged me to write the Letter the 2d of that date.6 About one O’ Clock they desired me to adjourn the Council till 4 O’ Clock in the Afternoon, that in the mean time they might inform themselves of the probability of new Disturbances arising.

    In the Afternoon, the printed paper7 was laid before the Council, but it was not considered as an implication of danger, neither was the impropriety of the Sons of Liberty appointing a meeting to secure the peace of the Town, when the Governor & Council were sitting upon that Business, & seemingly to little purpose taken much notice of.8 I laid before them the Letter of the Commissioners of that day; but a disposition to censure it rather than answering it appearing, I postponed the consideration of that Letter ’till after the determination of the main question. Fresh attempts were made to get rid of the Business, & it was again proposed, as it had been in the Morning, that I should lay the Business before the General Court by a Message to both Houses.9 I called for the Journal of the House and showed them that when I pursued this method, upon the Stampt-Act Riots, with the advice of the Council, I was told by the House that it was the Business of the Executive Government to quell Riots and the Legislature had no right to interpose, unless new laws were wanted.10 That there was as much reason for them to give the same answer now; & I did not care to receive it twice. But the Bias still running this way, I was obliged to give it up, & leave it to the Council to raise a Committee of both Houses to consider of this Business; although I had many objections to this measure, but I could not help myself.11

    In the course of these debates I told them that if this had been the first Business of the kind, I should have asked their advice whither I should not send to the General for Troops; but having tried it at a time when there was at least as much danger as now, & found them utterly averse to it, let the danger be ever so great & imminent, it would be in vain to repeat the question: however I was ready to do it, if any one Gentlemen would propose it. I was answered, that they did not desire to be knocked on the Head. I said that I did not desire that they or I should; but I was ready to take my share of the danger if they would join with me, tho’ I could not act alone in so unpopular a measure, for if I did, I must quit the Government, at least for the present. I added, that tho’ I was well-assured that if I put this question, every Gentleman would answer in the negative, yet I doubted not but every one would be glad to see the peace of the Town restored by this method, if it should appear to be the only one left. No answer was given.

    By the removing this Business into the General Court, it is taken out of my hands any further than the final Consent or Dissent to what shall be sent up to me. It is not with my approbation, nor entirely to my dissatisfaction, for as I cannot conduct the Business as it ought to be, it may be best for me to have little hand in it. I am,

    My Lord, Your Lordship’s most obedient humble servant

    (signed) Fras. Bernard

    Earl of Hillsborough.


    As I have not been able to proceed in the enquiry, I hereby inclose Depositions taken by the Commissioners.

    The Meeting of the Sons of Liberty in my next.

    ALS, RC     CO 5/757, ff 118-120.

    Endorsed: Boston June 14. 1768. Govr Bernard. (No. 6) R 19th July. A. 20. Enclosed copies (not found) of Nos. 624 and 625; FB to captain of Castle William, Jamaica Plain, 13 Jun. 1768 (entered in CO 5/766, f 207);12 copies of the depositions of Joseph Harrison, Richard A. Harrison, and Benjamin Hallowell that were enclosed with Appendix 6. This letter, together with Nos. 623, 630, and 633, were carried to London by customs officer Benjamin Hallowell, who, on 19 Jul., personally delivered to the Treasury the memorial of the American Board of Customs also dated 16 Jun. (Appendix 6). Variants of the letter in: CO 5/766, ff 196-23 (L, RLbC); BP, 6: 315-319 (L, LbC); Letters to the Ministry (1st ed.), 22-24; Letters to the Ministry (repr.), 29-32. Extracts of the original autograph letter together with the enclosures were laid before both houses of Parliament on 28 Nov. 1768. HLL: American Colonies Box 2. Hillsborough replied with No. 661.