656 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    Boston 18th. & 19th. July 1768.

    No. 12.

    My Lord,

    The dangerous State which this Government is in, makes it necessary for me to inform your Lordship of every little disturbance which happens here, as one cannot foresee the Tendency of any of the Movements of the Sons of Liberty & must expect the worst Consequences from each of them.

    I sent your Lordship a Copy of a Paper stuck up on the Town House1 inviting the Sons of Liberty upon Mr. Williams (one of the Inspectors of the Customs) [on] his Return to Town to make him resign his Office or quit the Town. Mr. Williams returned from his Circuit about the middle of last week. On friday last an Attack upon his House was planned; & to effect it, according to a preconcerted Signal, they rung the fire bells & cried out fire; & then directed the People to Mr. Williams’s House. A Mob soon assembled there & began to break into the Courtyard there; Mr. Williams appeared at the House upon the Defensive with fire Arms, afterwards went into the Court & there parlyed with them. The Mob demanded that he should meet them at Liberty Tree the next day at Noon & there resign his Commission: He refused to do either, but said He would be upon the Change2 the next day at Noon, & would there be ready to give an answer to any thing which should be objected to him. By this time some of the Magistrates & other Gentlemen of the Town had got to the place, & they persuaded the Mob to accept of this offer & disperse.

    The next day Saturday3 Mr. Williams attended by several Gentlemen, among whom were some of the Council, went about Noon into the Council Chamber. There were about 1500 People assembled about the Town House. Mr. Williams went into the Balcony of the Council Chamber & told that People that he was come according to his promise to answer them any objections which were urged against him. Nothing was offered after a Quarter of an Hour’s Interval, He repeated his proposal; again nothing was said except by an ignorant fellow, whose Absurdity created Laughter. After a little stay they all departed in seeming good Humour; & Mr. Williams returned to his House accompanied by the Gentleman who had attended him, in Peace & Quiet.

    This Transaction has flung great disgrace upon & given great Chagrin to the Faction; & I am told they are determined to retrieve it. The truth is, the Directors of the Mob durst not shew their faces at this Place & upon this Occasion, lest they should thereby acknowledge that they had spirited them up to the last Night’s Work. They now gloss it over, by giving it out that the Mob of that Night were not the true Sons of Liberty, & acted without Authority; & an Advertisement is published in the Boston Gazette signed by a pretended Secretary of the Sons of Liberty disclaiming the requiring Mr. Williams to appear upon Change, & threatning the Printer who shall make use of the Name of the Sons of Liberty without an authentic order. Something is to be done, & soon to recover the Spirit of the Sons of Liberty. I am told that some of the Chiefs of them are this day to go to Mr. Williams & advise him as a friend, if he will not resign his Commission to retire to the Castle; if he does not, his House will be destroyed & himself killed, what will be the end of this, We must wait to know.

    July 19

    Since I wrote the foregoing I have seen Mr. Williams; He confirms this Account & adds that the Mob expressed great satisfaction that those who set them on did not appear to talk for them. Several of the Mob & particularly the Captain a noted Mob Leader, have declared their Approbation of Mr. Williams’s Conduct, & that they will defend him against any other Attack. On the other Hand great pains are taken to drive him out by Intimidation. Private Letters have been sent to him without a Name; & one of the Chiefs of the Faction declared publicly against his Fool-hardiness in staying in this Town. But Mr. Williams declares he will not go out of the Town unless he is drove out by Force. He tells me he fears no danger & I am inclined to think he will succeed in his defiance of the Faction & their Tools. If he does, he may do good Service in lessening the Terror which the Troops of the Faction have occasioned here.

    I am, My Lord, Your Lordship’s, most obedient humble Servant

    signed Fras Bernard.

    Earl of Hillsborough

    P.S. Observing that there was no Account in any of the Newspapers of the Riot on Friday night, or the Meeting at the Town House on Saturday, I asked the Reason of it, & was told that the Sons of Liberty have forbid all the Printers publishing any thing of it. If the King’s Government should assume such a Power, what would they say?

    L, RC     CO 5/757, ff 326-327.

    In handwriting of clerk no. 9. Endorsed: Boston 18th. & 19th July 1768.4 Govr. Bernard (No. 12) R 26. Aug: A. 36. Enclosed a transcript of a handbill accusing John Williams of being “an Actor in the Conspiracy formed against his ^native^ Country” and announcing a meeting with the “Friends of Liberty”5 at the Town House on 16 Jul. CO 5/757, f 328. Variants of letter: CO 5/767, ff 40-45 (L, RLbC), with enclosure at f 45; BP, 7: 8-10 (L, LbC); Letters to the Ministry (1st ed.), 44-46; Letters to the Ministry (repr.), 59-62. Copies of the letter and enclosure were laid before both houses of Parliament on 28 Nov. 1768. HLL: American Colonies Box 2. Hillsborough replied with No. 679.