718 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    No 35

    Boston Dec. 5, 1768.

    My Lord

    The Council have been for a week past preparing petitions to the two Houses of parliament against the American Acts of Revenue, that is as I understand, against all the Acts imposing port duties.1 They signified their intention to me & desired that I would either join with them, or authorise their sitting for that purpose. I reminded them that I had refused to be concerned in this business in July last, & the impropriety of this Measure was much stronger now than then. I added, that if they would be advised by me, they would not pursue this intention; which could do no good, and might turn to evil; that if the Parliament was disposed to indulge the Americans in another repeal, there were petitions enough before them to ground it upon; and their petition at best would be but a makeweight; on the other hand it might contain something that might give offence & add to the ill humour, which I feared allready prevailed against this province. But All this & more had no effect: The movers of this Business called the Council together separately from the Governor in the Council chamber,2 according to the New Method, for which they apologise in the petition. After sevral days meeting the Petition was settled & approved: upon which there was a dispute how it should be signed, whether by evry one as private persons, as in their address to General Gage, or by the president in the name of the body; in which latter case they must be understood to act as the Legislative Council, there being no President of the Privy Council but the Governor. However It was resolved that it should be signed in the latter way.

    As soon as I learned it was finished I sent for Mr Danforth the President & desired to see it: he went & procured it for me. I found it was signed “in the name and by the order of a Majority of the Council S. Danforth.”3 Mr Danforth said that he was not present when this manner of signing was resolved upon; & when he set his Name to it, He did not set the word “president” after his name: this was a poor excuse, but serves to show how little free-agency there is in a business of this kind. He also added that if he could get the Council to meet again, he was in hopes they would undo this business; for sevral of them had signified their disapprobation of it. But I had no such expectation: for the Council is brought under such an Awe of their constituents by the frequent removals of the friends of Government; that there is Very little Exercise of private Judgement in popular Questions.4

    If by the Majority of the Council, in whose name the president is to sign, they mean a Majority of the whole board, I cannot conceive that all the persons who met at the sevral meetings upon this occasion put together could amount to the Number 12 which is the majority of the whole. But if they mean a Majority of those present when the resolution was formed, it may fall Very short of a majority of the body: 4 persons will make a majority of a quorum of the Council. In the present case I doubt whether the Number of those who really approved of this measure was much more: for it seemed to be rather submitted to than joined in. As for the petition itself, it is Very lengthy, being 6 folio pages, but has nothing new in it, nothing I beleive, but what is to be found among the writings of the House of Representatives. It differs from the petition to the King in this:5 the latter carefully avoids all claim of right against the parliament; this is not so clear of it: it has indeed no positive assertions of right but sevral intimations of it too plain to be unnoticed. This account is taken from only once reading it & therefore may not be free from mistakes, tho’ I beleive it is right as to the general Idea.

    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 5/758, ff 25-26.

    Endorsed: Boston Decr. 5th. 1768 Govr. Bernard (No 35) R 16 Janry 1769. B.5. Enld. No enclosure has been found. Variants in CO 5/767, ff 189-192 (L, RLbC); BL: Add 35912, ff 148-150 (L, Copy); Bowdoin and Temple Papers, Loose MSS (L, Copy); BP, 7: 111-114 (L, LbC); Boston Gazette, 23 Jan. 1769;6 Copies of Letters from Governor Bernard to Hillsborough; Letters to Hillsborough (1st ed.), 16-17; Letters to Hillsborough (repr.), 30-33. Enclosures not found. Copies of the letter were presented to Parliament on 20 Jan. 1769.7 FB’s letterbook copy contains the following postscript on p. 114 (the original of which is missing from the RC file).