703 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    No 29

    Boston Oct 14. 1768

    My Lord

    I find myself obliged to continue my informations of the Councils separation from and opposition to the Governor in the execution of his Majesty’s commands. I should have been glad to have been excused carrying the account any farther than where I have allready laid it: but my Duty & the Importance of the Subject will not admit of my not proceeding.

    In my letter No 241 I informed your Lordship that I had prevented the publication of the proceedings of the Council on July 27 & 29 last, by ordering the Secretary to deliver no Copies thereof; which I then thought was an effectual means of prevention. Also in my Letter No 282 I informed that I consented to the Councils taking time to consider of my proposal for their providing the Allowances for the troops, upon their assuring me that ^they^ would draw up no more papers for publication. And I might have added that I expressly stipulated that they should deliver into the Secretary’s hands all papers which they should use upon this occasion, without keeping Any Copies thereof. And this Stipulation was, as I understood, unanimously assented to before we parted.

    Nevertheless there appeared on Monday last Oct 10 in 3 of the News papers of that day a publication of all the proceedings on July 27 & 29 & also the entire Minutes of the Council on Oct 3 & 5,3 which were the Subject of the stipulation before mentioned. Upon my enquiring of the Secretary how these papers came to be published, He said he understood that it was done by order of the Council but how they came by the Copies he did not know. He was sure that no Copies came out of his office; for he had kept the Originals in his own Custody & never suffered them to be out of his sight when they were in use.4

    The next Council day Oct 125 I took an Opportunity to observe upon this publication & reminded them of the Assurances they had given that no Papers or copies of papers should be kept out of the custody of the Secretary; & I desired to know from whom the Copies used for these publications were procured as they did not come from the Secretary; and who committed them to the press. No Answer was given for the present: but when the Business of the Council was over & we had rose from the table, Mr Bowdoin, who upon this Separation of the Council has been the perpetual President, Chairman, Secretary & Speaker of this new Council, addressing himself to me, said that he was desired by the Council to inform me, that they had caused this publication judging it necessary to quiet the minds of the people. Upon my observing that they had promised to keep no Copies of the papers they had used upon the last occasion, He answered that the publication was not from copies but the Originals.6 I answered that they had promised to deliver to the Secretary all papers used in that business; but that I was obliged to him for being so explicit: For their declaring that the Original papers of these Minutes of Council were with them; and that those remaining with the Secretary were only copies was such an avowal of their being a board separate from and independant of the Governor as I did not expect. But they were in the right to speak out. I added that It might be doubted whether the Council by any separate Act of their own could create a Forfeiture ^of the Charter^: but If they could, I should have no doubt, but that their separating themselves from the Governor & acting as a compleat body by themselves would amount to such a forfeiture. And, I either added, or had it strongly in my mind (I cannot say which) that these their proceedings would probably be joined with other extraordinary proceedings on the part of the people, to infer a general departure from the constitution of the Government & an invasion of the royal rights contrary to the Tenor of the Charter.

    Mr Bowdoin in justification of himself and his associates say that the people in their present temper would not bear with the keeping the proceedings in Council secret; for this reason, to quiet the people, they found themselves obliged to make their doings public & could not submit to an injunction of Secrecy. I answered that if they would show me any civilised Government upon earth that did or could support itself under a continual & immediate publication of the resolute[ions]7 of its most intimate Councils, so that before any of its orders could be carried into execution they should be canvassed by Tavern Politicians & censured by News-paper libellers, I would submit to their prescriptions. But as I knew that Government could not be carryed on upon these terms, I should be obliged to desire his Majesty’s instructions how to conduct myself under these difficulties.

    I should have before observed that in opening this Council I ordered the Secretary to read the Oath of a Councillor, part of which is that they shall not reveal what shall be committed to them in Secrecy, and I added that what I was now going to commit to them was in Secrecy. I added that I was sorry to observe that some matters which I had heretofore committed to them in Secrecy, had not only transpired, but been published with particulars which could not have been known abroad if a due regard had been paid to the Oath. Upon this Mr Bowdoin said that the Council were of opinion that the Oath of Secrecy related only to such Matters as they should think & advise ought to be kept Secret; and that the Governor had no power to enjoin them [to] Secrecy without their own consent. I told them that this their Resolution, which I now heard the first of, was Very extraordinary: for 1. It argued That Matters committed to the Council in ^secrecy^ should be committed by themselves, which was a contradiction in terms; 2. That if Secrecy was not to be injoined till after the Matters had been considered of & debated upon they could not be committed in Secrecy; 3. That according to this the Governor could not commit any Matter in Secrecy to the Council, tho’ enjoined by the King himself.8

    Besides the merits of the subject matter, your Lordship will observe the extraordinary Circumstance of a Councellor denouncing to the Governor the resolution of the Council upon a Question, or a distinction of a Question, which tho’ relative to the conduct & Duty of the Council was never moved or argued in Council before the Governor, & concerning which he has neither had an opportunity to hear the Reasons which induced the Council to be of that Opinion or to offer his own reasons against it; & in consequence can make no report of the principles & arguments upon which such Opinion was founded.

    Before I finish this subject I must mention a fact of their Treatment of Mr Oliver the King’s Secretary. This New Council met in the Council chamber by themselves9 & by their own appointment & sent for the Secretary. When he came, they examined him concerning an entry in the Minutes of the Council, which to my knowledge was read & approved before they parted, but which upon recollection did not suit their purpose, & therefore they disavowed. During this examination they kept him standing at the end of the table, & at last asking him to set10 down at the bottom of the table, He said he knew of no Council where the Governor was not present & withdrew. Mr Oliver by his rank in the list of Councellors & the usage of the Country had a right to take place of much the greatest part of the Councellors present in all indifferent places. But being full of their own self assumed dignity they treated this Gentleman with a rudeness, which I should have been ashamed to have seen practised upon ^a Man of ^much less rank & merit, if I had been in the Chair.

    The difficulties I meet with in carrying his Majestys orders for quartering the Troops into execution will, I foresee, occasion my being behind hand in letters due to your Lordship. If therefore you should observe in me a want of punctuality, You must not impute it to Idleness: for I was never harder worked than I am at present.

    I am, with great respect, My Lord, your Lordships most obedient and most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    The right Honourable the Earl of Hillsborough

    ALS, RC     CO 5/757, ff 492-495.

    Endorsed: Boston. October 14th. 1768. Governor Bernard. (No 29) R 6th Decemr: A.63. Enclosed a copy of the Boston News-Letter, 13 Oct. 1768, CO 5/757, ff 496-497. Variants: CO 5/893, ff 86-90 (dupLS, RC); CO 5/767, ff 139-147 (L, RLbC); BP, 7: 76-83 (L, LbC); BL: Add 35912, f 151 (L extract, Copy); Letters to the Ministry (1st ed.), 72-75; Letters to the Ministry (repr.), 97-101. Hillsborough acknowledged receipt with No. 722. Copies of the letter together with the enclosure were laid before both houses of Parliament on 28 Nov. 1768. HLL: American Colonies Box 3.