719 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    No 36

    Boston Dec 12 1768

    My Lord

    I have wrote to your Lordship many letters upon the sevral subjects contained in your letter No 16;1 and yet I have not finished all I have to say. Of all the orders & injunctions contained therein there is none in which I am less able to answer expectation than in that which directs me “to set on foot an enquiry into the Causes of the riots which have disturbed the Peace of this Town & to take evry legal Method to bring to justice the most active & forward in the violences committed on the 10th of June.” Your Lordship must be satisfied before now that it would be to no purpose to institute such an enquiry at the Council board. The Conduct of that board upon some late occasions sufficiently shows how little dependence I can now have upon their assistance in the prosecution of Sons of liberty, And how unable the Governor of this province is to carry on such a prosecution, against the popular cry, by the ordinary civil Magistrate, will be the subject of this letter.

    I have before informed your Lordship that soon after the riot on the 10th of June, I did, with the advice of Council, order the Attorney-general to prosecute the persons concerned in that riot.2 The Attorney-general accordingly prepared indictments & laid them before the grand Jury.3 But when It was the business to examine Witnesses, No one person could be found who would give Evidence against any one of 3 or 400 people who committed those Outrages in the face of day. This may seem strange: but the Wonder will cease, when it is observed that 1, there is no officer within this Government whose business it is to prepare for prosecutions by procuring informations & Evidence, this seeming not to be the proper business of the Attorney general; 2, As the Attorney general has no pay from the Crown, it cannot be expected that he should go out of his Way in a Service which does not strictly belong to his Office & by being unpopular must prejudice him in his other business; 3, If he could reconcile himself to this Service he has not the means to perform it, there being no fund from which Money can be drawn to pay for private intelligence, without which prosecutions of this kind are generally defeated; 4, public offers of reward for information have so little effect, that upon the many occasions on which I have offered such rewards for the discovery of rioters &c there has not been a single instance of any intelligence being procured by these Means.

    But the great difficulty which attends Crown Prosecutions arises from the Kings having really no officers for that purpose. There is indeed an Officer called the Kings Attorney; but he is really the Attorney of the People. He receives nothing from the King; what little pittance of Salary or pay he gets is from the People;4 all the Occasional profits of his Office arise from among the people; & altho’ he is appointed in the Name of the King, yet the King can’t remove him, without the Council, who have been allways the political & are now the professed Creatures of the People. This is the Officer and all the Officers of the Crown, upon whom the Governor is to depend for the prosecution of offences arising from the people’s disputing the rights of the Crown. I dont mean by this to charge the present Attorney-general5 with Neglect of his Duty. He is by disposition inclined to the Service of the Crown, & if he was supported by an appointment which would counterballance his dependence upon the people, would I beleive, faithfully attach himself to its intrest. Hitherto He has been kept steady on the Side of the Crown partlly by the influence I have had on him by former services done to him, & partly by the expectation of an establishment of fixed Salaries for the Crown Officers, in which I, having seen the absolute Necessity of such a provision, & imagining that it was as well understood at Westminster as it is here, was some time ago Very sanguine. But this Expectation has of late been so dispreciated,6 that It will not pass current Any longer: It is allready become a subject of ridicule, with the Newspaper-writers. And when there is an End of all hopes of this kind, which there is allmost now, It cannot be expected of Men in Office, however well they may be disposed to support the rights of the Crown, that they ^should^ sacrifice their intrests to that service without a prospect of being repaid even what they shall have really lost by engaging on that Side.

    When An Establishment was to have been made, I should have recommended that there should have been 3 standing Council for the King in this Government namely, the Attorney general, the Sollicitor general & the Advocate general: £500 pr an would have paid these Officers scantily 800 amply. I much doubt whether the Damage done to the Intrest of the Crown by the Want of such officers may not be rated at as many thousands. Such an appointment would have had one effect, which would have added strength to the Government; this is, it would have made the principal Lawyers look towards the Crown; whereas now they generally turn to the people. When this Business was in agitation I have had private intimations from Gentlemen of the Law of their inclination to quit the Cause of the people for that of the Crown: but now the latter is thought the losing Game & the former the Winning one. The part which the Lawyers take in disputes concerning civil rights is of no little importance to Government.

    I write this, My Lord, that too much may not be expected from this distracted, debilitated Government: Evry thing that can be done, by such means as are in the hands of the Governor, will be done. At the same time I have the pleasure to inform your Lordship that the Honour of the Crown is like to be in some measure Vindicated by some prosecutions now carrying on in the Court of Admiralty by order of the Commissioners of the Customs, who wanting not money to go to work with have procured a full discovery of some of the late highhanded breaches of the Laws of trade & particularly that which occasioned the riot on the 10th of June.

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

    Fra. Bernard

    The right honble the Earl of Hillsborough

    ALS, RC     CO 5/758, ff 31-34.

    Endorsed: [_ _ _]7 Govr. Bernard (No. 36) R 10th Feby 1769. B.7. Variants: CO 5/893, ff 92-94 (dupLS, RC); CO 5/767, ff 194-199 (L, RLbC); BP, 7: 115-118 (L, LbC). Considered by the Board of Trade on 1 Dec. 1769. JBT, 13: 125.