638 | To the Earl of Hillsborough


    No 9

    Boston June 25 1768

    My Lord

    By my Letter No 81 I informed your Lordship of the Reasons why I deferrd communicating his Majesty’s Requisition to the House unto Tuesday following being the 21th2 instt. On that Day in the forenoon I sent a Message to the House (a Copy of which I inclose)3 together with a Copy of the 2nd 3d & 4th Paragraphs of your Lordships Letter. I did not send a Copy of the 5th & 6th Paragraphs;4 because I knew that the Faction would make Use of them to insinuate that the House was treated with Threats in the first Instance, before their Minds were known, and were not allowed Freedom of Debate concerning what was required of them. If I had sent no Extracts at all but incorporated the Substance of your Lordships Letter into my Message, they then would have called for the Letter itself and not proceeded ’till I had given a Copy of it. As it was, I steered this Business in the right Way.

    In the afternoon when this Message was read a second Time, Otis made a Speech near two hours long of the most violent & virulent Nature. He abused all Persons in Authority both here and at home. He indeed excepted the Kings Person, but traduced his Government with all the Bitterness of Words. He said “that the King appointed none but Boys for his Ministers; that they had no Education but travelling thro’ France, from whence they returned full of the slavish Principles of that Country; that they knew Nothing of Business when they came into their Offices, and did not stay long enough to acquire that little Knowledge which is gained from Experience; that all Business was really done by the Clerks, & even they were too frequently changed to understand what they were about; that the People in England did not know what the Rights of Englishmen capable of composing so elegant so pure and so nervous a Writing as the Petition to the King which passed the last Session.” &c.5

    I give your Lordship a Specimen of this Rhapsody: and it was remarked that in this general Censure of the Kings Government No Exception was made of the Minister who favoured America by the Repeal of the Stamp-Act6 & by other Indulgences; by the Abuse whereof this very Faction has rose to this Head: All were involved in one common Obloquy. I quote these Sayings from the Mouths of those who heard them delivered in the House which was laid quite open, both Doors and Gallery, upon this Occasion. But neither they nor I can pretend to Exactness of Words; but the Substance I dare say does not vary Materially.7 In another Part of the Speech, he passed an Encomium upon Oliver Cromwell and extolled the Times preceeding his Advancement and particularily the Murther8 of the King. The Result was the appointing a Committee to take the Message &c into Consideration, which Committee consisted entirely of the most violent of the Heads of the Faction viz the Representatives of the Town of Boston & 3 of those whom I had refused to admit into the Council upon Account of their having been distinguished by their fomenting the Troubles of Government, with two others.9 Thus the House seemed to prejudge this Business in the Appointment of a Committee: and indeed the Appointment of a Committee at all shewed a Disposition to argue rather than submit.

    On Thursday Morning upon Application from the Committee a Message10 was sent to me desiring Copies of my Instructions upon this Occasion, of your Lordship’s Letter (of which I have given an Extract) and of a Letter of your Lordships (No 6) which I had communicated to the Council11 & Copies of my Letters to your Lordship upon the Subject.12 The next Morning (June 24) I returned an Answer with a Copy of the 5th and 6th Paragraphs of the Letters which concluded the whole.13 In my Answer I caution them to provide for the Tax Bill:14 I had a hint given me that they intended to omit that Business on Purpose to oblige me, in case I dissolved the Assembly, by popular Clamour and real Inconveniences to call another Assembly immediately after, which I by no Means think proper nor myself at Liberty so to do. I therefore thought proper to counter-work this Intention.

    June 28

    Since the former Date I have been obliged to keep Watch upon the Proceedings of the House, having been told that the very reverse of disavowing the Proceedings of the ^late^ House is preparing. They have been much elated within these 3 or 4 Days by some Letters they have received in Answer to the circular Letter. I shall enclose printed Copies of what have been published in the Papers here. I am told that there is also a circular Letter from the Assembly at Virginia arrived; I had it from a Gentleman who said he saw it at Rhode Island. If it is other than the Letter from Virginia now published they keep it a Secret here: but I shall soon have a Copy of it.15 I keep a look out in the House, that if upon the Report of the Committee16 they should move for another Congress (as Otis in his Speech said he hoped would soon take Place) or another circular Letter or any thing that contravenes his Majesty’s Requisition, I shall immediately put a Stop to their Proceedings without waiting for an Answer in Form. For which Purpose to bring this Matter to a Crisis as soon as may be, after having waited their Motions all this Morning. I put a Message17 in the Secretary’s hands to be delivered to them this Afternoon as in the inclosed Copy.

    July 1st:

    On the next Day June 29, The House sent me a Message18 desiring me to grant them a Recess that they might consult their Constituents respecting the Requisition. I knew that such an Indulgence would be liable to great Abuse; but if I had thought it could have produced any good Effect, which I had not any Reason to expect, I did not think myself at Liberty to postpone the Consideration of this important Question.19 I therefore returned an immediate Answer20 that I could not consistently with my Sense of my Duty prorogue or adjourn the Court untill I had received an Answer.

    The next Morning I went early to the Council to watch the Proceedings of the House, having been informed that they intended to originate an Invitation for another Congress: In which Case the Moment I got Intelligence of it I intended to dissolve them. The House kept themselves locked up all the Morning; the best Part of which was spent in preparing a Letter to your Lordship which I am told is very lengthy: but as I have not seen it and probably shall not be allowed a Sight of it ’till it is printed in the Newspapers,21 I will say no more of it than that I am told it is in the old Strain, complaining that they have been misrepresented; tho’ the present Censure arises from an Act of theirs which they have had circulated throughout his Majesty’s Dominions: They then put the Question “rescind or not rescind” which was determined in the Negative 91 to 17:22 among the Majority were many Members who were scarce ever known upon any other Occasion to vote against the Government Side of a Question; so greatly has infatuation and intimidation gained Ground.23 They then settled the Answer to be given to me and appointed a Committee to deliver it.24 After this a Motion was made to appoint a Committee to prepare an Address to his Majesty to desire him to remove the Governor and appoint another more agreeable to the People: this was carried by a Majority of 5, & with this ended the Business of the Morning.25

    I had some Doubts with myself whether I ought not to dismiss the Assembly immediately after I knew for certain that the House had passed a Vote against rescinding. But upon a little Recollection I thought it best to wait ’till I had received their Answer, as I was not obliged to take Notice of this Vote ’till it was notified to me in Form. In this I was influenced by a Consideration respecting myself: the House had appointed a Committee to prepare an Address to get me removed: if I had dismissed them in a hasty unformal Way, whilst this Business was on the Carpet; it would have been said that I was affraid of the Enquiry. Whereas this is the third Time the Faction has moved to impeach me; the two former Times they had been obliged to give it up for Want of Materials;26 and I was sure that they had acquired none since the last Attempt of this Kind. And this Motion ended in the same Manner as the two former: after having endeavoured for 2 hours together in the afternoon to cook up something to found this Application on, and finding that I would not interrupt them in it; as I believe they expected & desired that I should, they were obliged to give it up themselves. Upon this the Answer27 which had all the while been detained, was sent up to the Council Chamber where I received it. Immediately after which I sent up for the House and prorogued the general Court intending to dissolve it by proclamation.28

    Upon this Occasion there happened a Fracas in the Council sudden and unforeseen, but what probably will be improved by the Faction for their own Purposes. It seems that the Evening before the Council had appointed a Committee to consider the State of the Province: which Committee had prepared an Address to his Majesty concerning the late Duties, to be reported to the Board.29 I had all along declared that I should dismiss the General Court immediately upon receiving the Answer from the House; I knew nothing of any Business being undone, not being acquainted with this; I had ordered the Secretary to prepare for the Prorogation by laying the Acts which had passed that Session on the Table, their Titles being to be read in the Presence of the whole Court as has been my Usage; and the Acts were accordingly laid in Order.30 Whilst I was waiting to receive the Answer of the House The Committee of the Board introduced this Address: I testified my Surprize upon the Occasion and observed that they could not expect to go thro’ that Business at that Time. Presently after the Committee from the House attended; they were admitted and delivered their Answer. As soon as that was done, I ordered the Secretary to call up the House: As soon as the House entered one of the Committee of the Council expostulated with me upon my calling up the House while the Council was proceeding on the Address and was so indecent as to appeal to the House. I silenced him: another Gentleman interposed; I stopt him also, and proceeded to the Prorogation.

    When the House was gone out of the Council Chamber, I expostulated with these Gentlemen upon the Interruption they had given me in the Presence of the House in executing his Majesty’s positive Commands. I told them that I should have thought myself blameable, if I had suffered 5 Minutes to intervene between receiving the Answer and dismissing the House: for I should have made myself answerable for all they did in the Interval. This Proceeding could not be justified and was really condemned by some other of the Council and was in some Measure apologised for: but it will not be in the Power of the Apologisers to prevent an ill Use being made of it. I then informed the Council that I had no Desire to stop any Representation which they wanted to make to the King, if it was conceived in decent and respectful Terms, as it seemed to me from hearing it read this was; I therefore would let them introduce this into the privy Council; and if it appeared to be inoffensive, I would lay it before his Majesty, tho I should not agree with them in Opinion as to all their Assertions, as I pointed out some where I should not. But this was not enough: it seems that when the Address was past, there was a Petition to the House of Lords and another to the House of Commons to be brought in. I told them I could have nothing to do with them; I could not pretend to communicate with those great Bodies; my Correspondence went no higher than his Majesty’s Ministers. After some Altercation they submitted and were Content with this Address being brought into the privy Council, after it had received my Approbation. This Compromise was very expedient to obviate the Misrepresentations which this Business would otherwise be subject to.31

    Having carried my Narrative to this Length I must suspend my Reflexions upon these Events unto a further Opportunity. I will however here observe that it may be suggested that I have not conducted this Business with Spirit: but it must be observed to what a Weakness this Government is reduced which makes the most gentle Way of doing any Business most advisable. I never intended to depart from his Majesty’s Orders in the least: but upon many Accounts I thought I best to dissolve them by Proclamation. It was said it was well I dismissed them by Prorogation and not by Dissolution; why, I dont know: but if any Triumph arises from it, it will be but short lived; for the Dissolution will be published in the Papers at the same Time with the Prorogation.

    I am with great Respect, My Lord, your Lordships most obedt and most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    The Right honble The Earl of Hillsborough

    dupLS, RC     CO 5/757, ff 256-262.

    Endorsed: Governor Bernard Boston June 25. 1768. (No. 9.) R 19 August. A.28. There were several enclosures: copies of FB’s messages to the House of 21, 23, 24, 28 and 29 Jun. 1768, CO 5/757, ff 263-264; the answers of the House, 30 Jun., ibid., ff 266-268; an extract of Hillsborough’s letter to FB of 22 Apr. 1768 (No. 608) at ibid., f 263; copies of the Massachusetts Gazette, 7 Jul. 1766 and Boston Chronicle, 27 Jun.-4 Jul. 1768, ibid., ff 271-275. The original letter was sent by express to Gen. Thomas Gage, to be carried by the New York packet boat. The duplicates were carried by “Capt. Smith” whom FB noted sailed for Glasgow on 4 Jul.32 Variants of the letter are in: CO 5/766, ff 250-262 (L, RLbC); BP, 6: 326-335 (L, LbC); Letters to the Ministry (1st ed.), 29-35; Letters to the Ministry (repr.), 39-46. Extracts of the 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. 679.

    Engraved in script below the rim are the names of Sons of Liberty who commissioned silversmith Paul Revere to create this silver ornamental bowl commemorating the refusal of the House, on 30 Jun. 1768, to rescind the vote approving the Circular Letter. This side displays the Whig emblems of the Liberty Cap, Magna Carta, and the Bill of Rights. They adorn a badge labeled “No,, 45. Wilkes & Liberty,” and sporting a torn copy of a general search warrant. The inscription on the opposite side included the dedication “To the Memory of the glorious NINETY-TWO” members of the House of Representatives who voted against rescinding. Photograph © 2015 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.