708 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    No 31

    Boston Nov 5 1768.

    My Lord,

    When I received your Lordship’s letter No 161 I immediately communicated it to the Lieut Governor; and we both agreed in Opinion that it would not be advisable to lay before the Council any part of it, except what related to the providing for the troops, untill the troops were got into quarters: as we foresaw that the Business of quartering the troops would occasion a good deal of trouble & possibly some commotion; and it would not be advisable to bring on too much business at once; at least untill the town was a little settled. This Business of quartering, your Lordship will observe, kept me employed till Oct 26, on which day I had summoned a general Council.2 On this day I had 19 Councellors, ^that is^ all but 3: I therefore chose this time to communicate the other parts of your Lordship’s letter; except what relates to the calling the Assembly, which I had reserved untill I receive further orders about it. I made this communication by an extract, which ^after it was read^ I left in the Secretary’s hands, that the Gentlemen might peruse it at leisure.3 I cautioned the Secretary against suffering a Copy to be taken, but did not restrain him from permitting it being read. I also gave another copy of the same extract to the first Commissioner of the Customs,4 engaging him to keep it in his own hands & not let a Copy be taken.

    Immediately after, I had an occasion to move a matter that would show their disposition to pay a proper regard to his Majesty’s commands. The Commissioners had wrote to me5 desiring that I would take the advice of the Council whether they might return to Town and reassume their functions with safety to themselves & Officers. I communicated this Letter to the Council & put the question to them.6 This was very embarrasing: if they answered yea, they would be chargeable with advising the return of the Commissioners; if they said No, they would contradict all their assertions, that there was no occasion for troops to support the Civil Power. They therefore, for above 2 hours together used all kinds of evasions to avoid giving an Answer. I was told that they were not obliged to give opinions: I answered that they were obliged to give Advice; and the Question was7 whether they wd advise me to assure the Commissioners that they might return ^with safety^. At last I was obliged to tell them that if they would not give me an Answer, I would take their refusal for an Answer in the Negative; for if they could answer in the affirmative no reason could be supposed why they should not give an answer. And if they could not answer in the affirmative, they must reconcile it with their public declarations of the loyalty & peaceableness of the Town as well as they could. At length I got an Answer, 12 answering in the affirmative, 5 declining answering because they lived out of Town, and 2 giving written Answers8 condemning the Commissioners for going out of the town & therefore refusing advise about their return, but concluding that all persons would be safe. In this Council I sat from 11 to 9, 2 intermediate hours excepted: and all the business might have been Very well done in an hour or two by practicable Men.

    Before this Council met I had been informed that some of the board had been preparing an Address to the General to remove the troops from hence, that at this meeting they might get a great Number of hands to it.9 When the Council broke up, I heard some of them making an appointment to meet there the next Morning. I told them that I understood that they were going on with business as a Council separately from me; but I cautioned them against proceeding. It was answered that they should not act as a Council but as private Gentlemen. I then desired that they would not give their meetings the appearance of a Council by holding them in the Council Chamber. They met the next day and settled the address, which was Very much softened from the first draught, which I am told was much more Virulent against the Commissioners. It was signed by 15 of the Council, among whom were the 5 who knew not enough of the Town to Vote for the safety of the Commissioners returning, but knew enough to join in an invective against them:10 4 refused to sign.11 It was then presented to the General, who observed to them, that the resolves of the Town meeting were a sufficient cause for sending troops here, though there had been no riots: It was answered that they were the productions of a few imprudent wrong-headed men. The General replied that they were said to be unanimously resolved, in a full Town meeting.12 The next Monday It appeared in all the public papers, from whence I send your Lordship the enclosed copy.13

    I shall make but a few observations on this writing, the intent of it being plain enough, —1. It is well known to your Lordship that this kind of writing is designed for the people, and not for the persons to whom they are addressed. This is Notorious in the present Case: the Gentlemen who moved this business knew Very well that the General could not remove the troops from this Town, if ^he^ could have been disposed to do it; because they were sent hither by order of his Majesty, & not placed here by the discretion of the General. The General himself had told them ^so^,14 and I had repeated it to them again & again, to induce them to assist the quartering. As therefore they could not expect the troops would be withdrawn we must look for another purpose of this address; and that appears to be, as it is indeed the principal subject of it, the Abuse of the Commissioners. — 2. This was surely very ill timed: the Very day after they had been made acquainted with his Majesty’s command & expectation that the Commissioners should return to Boston & resume their function & would return without resistance & with safety, to publish a Manifesto against them, which as it had nothing new in it, could only serve to revive the popular prejudices against them & thereby encourage resistance & make their safety precarious, is unaccountable in Men of this rank & inconsistent with their public professions of their regard for the King’s Service. — 3. This is also Very unseasonable in being done the day after the Commissioners had signified their apprehensions of danger in returning to Boston & desired the Advice of the Council concerning it and the Council had given their opinion that they might return in safety. For these Councellors who had one day encouraged their coming to Town, the Very next day to issue a writing under their hands holding forth them forth to the people as “Men whose Avarice having smothered in their breasts every sentiment of humanity towards this province, has impelled them to oppress it to the utmost of their power,”15 is utterly irreconcilable with my Ideas of truth justice & humanity; & shocks me the more, as I know that the wives of two of the Commissioners, who have young children,16 did not want to have their fears increased by this publication.

    It would be unaccountable how so many persons of so respectable a station & many of them of a respectable character could join in signing such a paper if We did ^not^ consider that in public & popular proceedings the leaders are few & the followers many: and people called upon to sign papers frequently ^act^ without consideration & sometimes against their judgment. And the Virulence with which the Commissioners have been treated seems to be too Violent to be the effect of public Zeal only without the interference of private animosity, which at present I cannot take upon me to account for. I can only condemn & lament such proceedings in a body for which I have allways had & still retain a great regard.

    I am with great respect, my Lord, your Lordship’s most obedient & most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard.

    The right honble the Earl of Hillsborough.

    ALS, RC     CO 5/757, ff 513-516.

    Endorsed: Boston Novr. 3[d]. 1768. Govr. Bernard. (No 31) R 23d December A.65. Enclosures: minute of the Massachusetts Council of 31 Oct. 1768, CO5/757, ff 517-518; Massachusetts Council address to Thomas Gage, Boston, 27 Oct., printed in the Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser, 31 Oct. 1768, CO 5/757, f 519 (see Appendix 1); committee of the Boston town meeting to FB, 13 Sept. 1768 (not found, for which see Reports of the Record Commissioners of Boston, 16: 263). Variants of letter in: CO 5/767, ff 163-169 (L, RLbC); BP, 7: 93-99 (L, LbC); Bowdoin and Temple Papers, Loose MSS (L, Copy); Boston Gazette, 23 Jan. 1769;17 Copies of Letters from Governor Bernard to Hillsborough; Letters to Hillsborough (1st ed.), 7-10; Letters to Hillsborough (repr.), 30-33. The RC was finished and sealed ready for dispatch c.7 Nov.18 Copies of the letter together with the enclosures were presented to Parliament on 20 Jan. 1769.19