632 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    (No 7)


    Boston June 16th, 1768.

    My Lord,

    I come now to give your Lordship an Accot: of the meeting at Liberty Tree in pursuance of the printed notice, a Copy of which I inserted in my last.1 Your Lordship must know that Liberty Tree is a large Old Elm in the high Street upon which the Effigies were hung in the time of the stamp Act, & from whence the Mobs at that time made their Parades. It has since been adorned with an Inscription and has obtained the Name of Liberty Tree, as the Ground under it has that of Liberty Hall.2 In Augt: last just before the Commencement of the present troubles they erected a Flag-Staff, which went thro’ the Tree and a good deal above the top of the Tree. Upon this they hoist a Flag as a signal for the Sons of Liberty as they are called. I gave my Lord Shelburne an Accot: of this Erection at the time it was made.3 This Tree has often put me in mind of Jack Cade’s Oak of Reformation.4

    Upon this Staff the Flag was flying early on the Morning of Tuesday:5 at the time appointed there was assembled, they say at least 4,000 Men, many having come out of the Country for that purpose; some of the principal Gentlemen of the town attended, in order to engage the lower people to concur in Measures for peace and Quiet.6 One of the select Men was chosen Moderator or Chairman: when it was found that they could not do business there they adjourned to the Town-Hall.7 Here it was objected ^that^ they were not a legal Meeting; to obviate this they adjourned to the Afternoon, that in the mean time the Select Men might call a town Meeting to legalize8 the Assembl[y.]9

    In the afternoon they met in a large Meeting House,10 the Town Hall being not large enough for the Company; and Mr Otis was chosen Moderator. Many wild and Violent proposals were made, but were warded off.11 Among these were that every Capt: of a Man of War that came into this Harbour should be under the Command of the Genl: Court? another was that if any person should promote or assist the bringing Troops here he should be deemed a disturber of the peace and a Traitor to his Country? but nothing was done finally but to pass a petition to the Govr:12 and appoint a Committee of 21 Persons to resort to his Country House13 (where I then was) and present it to him and to appoint a Committee to prepare Instructions for their Representatives, and a Letter to Mr. Deberdt as their Agent, after which they adjourned to the next Day.14

    The same Evening the Committee which was in general very respectable attended me in a Train of 11 Chaises. I received them with all possible Civility, and having heard their Petition I talked very freely with them upon the Subject, but postponed giving a formal Answer till the next Day, as it should be in writing. I then had Wine handed round and they left me, highly pleased with their Reception, especially that part of them, which had not been used to an Interview with me.15 The next Day Mr. Otis having received my Answer in writing16 reported the whole, took notice of the Polite Treatment they had received from me, & concluded that he really believed I was a well-wisher to the Province.17 This from him was uncommon and extraordinary. The answer was universally approved so that just at this time I am popular: whenever my Duty obliges me to do any thing which they don’t like, theres an End to my popularity, and therefore I don’t expect to enjoy it a Week. I should here mention that I am not sure that the appointment of the Committee for preparing Instructions &ca: which I have mentioned to have been done on the first Day, was not on the Second18 but it is not material, they then adjourned to Friday next in the Afternoon.19

    There was but one thing mentioned in the Petition that I could do ^and that I had promised the Select Men, two days before, that I would do;^20 this was to settle with Capt: Corner Commander of the Romney a Regulation for impressing Men, so that might not hurt the Town. And this I had settled long before, only there happened to be one single breach of it by an inferior Officer against his Orders. And indeed the Mob of the Town had lately used him and his Officers so very ill that he was disengaged from any promise he had made, if he had desired it. I accordingly went on board the Romney attended by 3 of the Council21 and had a full conference with the Captain in which he acted with the utmost Candor and good Nature and after recapitulating the Injuries he and his Officers had received renewed the Engagement concerning pressing & professed a Desire of making that Service agreeable to the Town. In the Afternoon I went to the Council and having sent for the select Men I reported to them what had passed with the Captain, and after having shewn them how much it was the Interest of the Town to cultivate a good understanding with the Commanders of the King’s Ships I exhorted them to use their Influence over the Common people so as to dispose them to treat the Captain his Officers and Men in such a Manner, as might procure his favour, at least avert his resentment: and one of the Gentlemen, who accompanied me engaged to attend the Town Meeting, and repeat what had passed at this Interview as of his own accord, it being not thought proper that the Govr. and Council should appear to have any correspondence with a Meeting so originated & composed, as this was.

    June the 18th. 1768.

    I am now able to proceed in my Narrative of the Town Meeting. Yesterday in the Afternoon they met according to their adjournment. The Gentleman of the Council who had engaged to ^report^ Our Proceedings with Cap: Corner, did it in such a manner as gave great Satisfaction both in regard to me & the Captain.22 But no Message was voted either to me or Cap: Corner: to me indeed it was useless; but to him requisite, as they have in a manner interdicted him and his Officers of the Town.23 All they did was to instruct their Representatives; the only Instruction I hear of is to enquire if any Persons have been writing for the King’s Ships or Troops to come here and who? that they might be distinguished as Enemies to the Country. They broke up quietly and there is an End of the Meeting.

    The Commrs: and their families and Officers are still on board the Romney, where they proceed in their Business. The Town won’t hear of their return to Boston; and it is much better that they should not untill the Question is determined. I hear that they are to fix their Residence at the Castle next Monday.24 The Romney is fell down and now lies off the Castle towards the Town; there is also a Sloop of War of 16 Guns just come in, which being stationed on the other side the Castle will complete the Command of all the approaches to the Castle; there are also other Ships of War expected in. So that the retreat of the Commissioners has been very timely and well circumstanced & their security is now effectually provided for. Your Lordship may wonder at my dwelling upon this; but if there is not a Revolt the Leaders of the Sons of Liberty must falsify their Words & change their purposes.25 For my part when I consider the Defenceless State of this Town I cannot think they will be so mad as to attempt to defend it against the King’s Forces: but the Lengths they have gone already are scarce short of Madness. I send you Copies of Papers stuck upon the Town House; they may be the Work of very few Individuals.26

    I am &ca.

    Fra: Bernard.


    The Instructions of their Representatives which passed at the Town Meeting yesterday have this Morning produced a Vote in the House of Representatives to the purpose following.

    “Ordered that Mr. Speaker Mr. Otis &ca. with such as the honble Board shall join, be a Committee to enquire into the Grounds and Reasons of the present apprehension of the People that Measures have been taken, or are now taking for the Execution of the late Revenue Acts of Parliament by a Naval or Military Force:” in which the Council have joined;

    I will endeavour to get a Copy of the Instructions before I seal this.27

    L, RC     CO 5/757, ff 138-141.

    In handwriting of clerk no. 7. Endorsed: Copy of a Letter from Govr: Bernard to the Earl of Hillsborough Dated Boston June 16th: 1768.— (No. 7) R 19th July. A.21. Enclosures: copies of papers “stuck up” in Boston, Jun. 1768, CO 5/757, f 142;28 petition of the Boston town meeting, 14 Jun. 1768, CO 5/757, ff 143-145 (MS, Copy), for which see No. 629; and a copy of No. 631 (not found) Benjamin Hallowell carried the package to London. Variants of letter in: CO 5/766, ff 212-221 (L, RLbC) with enclosures at ff 221-227; BP, 6: 319-324 (L, LbC); Letters to the Ministry (1st ed.), 25-28; Letters to the Ministry (repr.), 33-37. Extracts of the original 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.