672 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    No 19.

    Boston Sep 9 1768

    My Lord

    The July Mail arrived here last Saturday Sep. 3 which brought me the Duplicate of your Lordships Letter No 101 & the Originals of No 11, 12, 13, 14, & 15.2 The June Mail which tomorrow will have left London 13 weeks3 is not yet come here: by it I expect to receive the original of No 10.4

    Your Lordship’s observation of the intention of the Faction to defeat all conciliating measures will be fully confirmed, if it is not allready. Their Influence over the Courts of Justice especially at Boston is carried to an enormous length, of which there has been lately a most extraordinary instance. On Monday Aug 22 being the day before the sitting of the Superior Court there came out in the Boston Gazette a most Virulent Libell against the Cheif Justice,5 in which He was threaten’d, that if he gave any more such charges as at the former Session, his private Life & Conversation should be exposed in that paper by which he is to be rendered odious to the people. The next day when the Court was opened the grand Jury was found to have among them sevral of the abettors of the Boston Mobs & particularly the famous Captain Malcolm, who having twice in a forcible manner set the Laws of trade at defiance with Success,6 has thereby raised himself to be a Mob Captain; & was actually the raiser of the Mob which abused the Custom house Officers on the 10th of June last. This Man was thought a fit person to be upon a grand Jury before whom his own Riots were to be enquired into. To account for this your Lordship must know that in this Government Juries both grand & petty are not returned by & at the Election of the Sheriff, but by the appointment of the sevral Towns & returned by the Constables.

    This being the Case, It was to no purpose for the cheif Justice to enter into particulars concerning the late riots: he therefore made his charge general, except only Vindicating himself from an infamous lie published in the Boston Gazette, asserting that he had received a Commission from England appointing him Cheif Justice. The Attorney general had been ordered by me with the advice of Council to prosecute the rioters on the 10th of June. But when He came to lay it before the grand Jury, no Evidence could be procured against any one man. There had been 2 or 300 people who paraded & did great part of the Mischeif in the public streets in the day time; and yet no Man ^could be found who^ dared to charge any of them. And it is no wonder, whilst the Head of the Mob sat upon the grand Jury ready to mark those who should testify against his Mob. And I suppose the Attorney-general was not Very earnest in endeavouring to procure Evidence; as he must see that before such a grand Jury there was no probability of getting a bill found.7

    I am sorry, My Lord, that I cannot continue to give the Council that Credit, which I have done in former letters. Immediately after the Vote in the House for not rescinding &c, The Council suffered so great a change that they don’t appear to be the same persons: and I can no longer depend upon them for that assistance, which I have been used to expect & often to receive from them in support of the rights of the Crown. They seem to have caught the general intimidation, to look upon the Cause of the present Government to be desperate, and to think that it is high time that they should take care of their intrests with the prevailing party of the people. And yet I am convinced that these Gentlemen or the greatest part of them are in their hearts friends to Government & would choose to be numbered among them, if they were independent of the people. But It is a melancholick Truth that this Government, after a three years War, is at length subdued, & in my Opinion, will never recover itself, untill some amendment is made in the constitution especially in the appointment & stability of the Council. I shall not produce instances in support of these assertions now: they will ^be^ fully explained hereafter.

    I am far from thinking my conduct perfect; and therefore I shall allways be pleased with your Lordship’s animadversions upon it. I have ever endeavoured to be as explicit as possible; but in some cases it is Very difficult to speak out: to explain this I will quote the Very instance which your Lordship refers to. I have kept up an acquaintance with some of the Sons of Liberty; by which means I sometimes get at useful intelligence: To procure this I am obliged to give the strongest assurances that their Names shall ^not^ be quoted nor any communication made of it which can make them Suspected. One of these persons informed me last Winter that his party had applied to the Sons of Liberty in other Colonies for support against Great Britain;8 and If they had good Assurances of such support they would oppose the British ^troops^ entring this province. I learned from the same quarter that Emissaries were sent throughout the province to engage the People to rise and come to the assistance of Boston if Any of the Kings troops arrived there; and I was told that if any troops came to Boston, I should get out of the way as fast as I could; for if I staid, my Life would be in danger. Now, my Lord, If I had sent an Account of all this intelligence as it came to me, if My letter had been intercepted here (which is easily done by corrupting a Master of a Ship) or if It was made publick at home, and I was called upon to Verify my information, I could not do it: for I could not call upon my informer’s without a breach of faith; & in such Case they would undoubtedly think themselves justified in denying that they ever told me so. The Case of using Names is attended with no less difficulty: where Names are used It is a kind of accusation which the Accuser is expected to support with proof. But in the present state of the Town Facts of the greatest Notoriety cannot be proved: One may have an exact account of Speeches & Declarations, in common conversation; but if it is offered to reduce it to evidence they immediately know nothing of the matter. Otis’s Speech upon the Question of rescinding was the most Violent insolent abusive treasonable Declamation that perhaps was ever delivered; It was spoke in the presence of an 100 or 200 people besides the Members of the House. And yet I could not get one person out of a dozen, which I had application made to, to give any minutes of it: so fearful were they of their being made use of as Evidence: However I have procured some memoranda of this celebrated Oration, some part of which may possibly be Authenticated, if needful.9 I could urge other things in justification of the deficiencies of my informations such as they are; but I hope they will all be supplied by my answers Upon a personal Enquiry.

    It is certainly best that the Orders for sending troops to Boston should originate in England; especially as no great Mischeif has been done in the interval. The Generals Orders are gone to Halifax for two Regiments, and I expect a Letter from the General requiring quarters for them before the End of next week.10 There will be a disturbance more or less upon this occasion: but upon a full Consideration I have thought that there was more danger from the troops coming suddenly than after expectation; and that an Opposition was more like to arise from inconsiderateness than deliberation. I have therefore purposely let it transpire that I expect to receive orders for providing quarters for 2 regiments. It has occasioned some alarm; and a Town Meeting is appointed for next Monday. I hope it will be for the best; but can’t be answerable for Events in the so precarious a business as a popular assembly. I shall inform your Lordship of the result.

    I have not considered my obligation to consult the Council upon intresting Matters so much upon the footing of my Commission & Instructions, as I have upon the traditional Notions of the Connection between the Governor & Council which have prevailed in this Government & are much warranted by Actual restraints laid upon the Governor by the Charter; upon the particular complexion ^of the time,^ which is favorable to all impeachments of the Conduct of the Governor & the rights of Government; & upon the danger of bad consequences following particular Measures, which it would be Very hard to lay upon the Governor’s shoulders alone acting without, that is contrary, to the Advice of Council. This was the Case in my not sending for troops, tho’ I was not blind to the Want of them: Of this I have allready explained the difficulties & Embarrasments it has occasioned. I admit that the Governor of Mass Bay is responsible for the due exercise of the royal Authority delegated to him, as much as the other royal Governors. But great Allowance must be made for the Constitutional Disability which he is put under; and to expect of him to support the royal Authority effectually with a Council who will not join with him & he cannot separate him^self^ from, would be to require him to make bricks without straw.

    I am much obliged to your Lordship for procuring his Majesty’s leave of absence for me. I shall avail myself of it immediately: for I am certain that in the present state of affairs, I can be of more service at Westminster than I can at Boston; especially as I shall leave the Government in the hands of a Gentleman who will not depart from my System, & will conduct himself with as much resolution as I have done & possibly with better Success. It has been unfortunate that the June Mail has been so delayed, as It has lost me 3 or 4 weeks & will fling my Voyage more into the Winter than I could have wished.

    I am, with great respect, My Lord Your Lordships most obedient & most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    The right honble The Earl of Hillsborough

    ALS, RC     CO 5/757, ff 388-391.

    Endorsed: Boston Sepr. 9th. 1768. Govr Bernard (No 19) R 2d Novr. A.45. Enclosures: a copy of the Boston Gazette, 29 Aug. 1768, CO 5/757, ff 392-393; [an account of James Otis Jr.’s speech of 21 Jun. 1768] (not found, but see the transcript below). Variants of letter in: CO 5/767, ff 77-84 (L, RLbC); BP, 7: 26-33 (L, LbC); Letters to the Ministry (1st ed.), 50-52; Letters to the Ministry (repr.), 68-70. Hillsborough acknowledged receipt with No. 712.11 Copies of the letter were laid before both houses of Parliament on 28 Nov. 1768. HLL: American Colonies Box 3.