735 | To the Earl of Hillsborough



    Boston Jan 26 1769

    My Lord

    I have the highest Sense of the honor your Lordship has done me by your private Letter of Nov 19th1 and the kind Assurances of your kind ^favorable^ Disposition towards me. The Regret of the Disappointment of your former Intention, was little more than momentary, & soon gave Way to the Calls of my Duty at that critical Time.

    I am extremely obliged to your Lordship for your Offer of freeing me from the Expence of a Baronets Patent, if his Majesty should confer it upon me. This was not a principal Objection with me tho’ it had some Weight: for since I have been in America, now in the 11th Year, I have made very little Advancement in my Estate, and for near 4 Years past I have gone backward. This your Lordship will easily beleive when I assure you that my Income for some Years past has not exceeded a thousand guineas a year, and I am the first Man in a great Capital.

    I have no Appetite of Honours, but as they are public testimonials of the Kings Approbation of the Conduct of his Servants. In this Sense they are allways desirable, and at some times may be of considerable Utility. At a critical time & in a peculiar Situation when an Officer has a difficult Task or arduous Undertaking upon his Hands, so high a declaration of his Majesty’s Approbation and Confidence, as the conferring an Honor amounts to, may add to his importance and enlarge his authority, & thereby render his Services more effectual. I will not say that this will be the Case with myself: but if your Lordship shall see the Occasion when my receiving this Honor will probably strengthen my hands in the Service of the Government, I will not hesitate in accepting it most thankfully. At the same Time I will sincerely own to your Lordship that your intended favor of freeing me from the Expence of the Patent will at this Time be a Benefaction convenient to me. As for the Objections arising from the Number of my Children & my Inability in my present Station to add to the Family Stock, I shall ballance them with the Expectations I may justly entertain of being better provided for, when time and Opportunity shall serve.

    I never expected that my Letters would not be communicated to Parliament;2 all my hopes were that they would be put under a Restriction which would prevent Copies being taken to afford Materials for Pamphlet-Writers & News-paper-essayists. It is in the Power of each House of Parliament, and I am sure it is their Intrest to prevent Official Letters addressed to the Kings Ministers transpiring out of their house. If they will not take this Care all Confidence, which is the Spirit of Correspondence, will be destroyed; and all official Letters will be dictated with this Consideration, how they will bear printing if the Parliament should call for them. This is a Matter of no little Importance in an Empire so widely extended as Great Britain.

    For my own Part I should have no Objection to my Letters being made public, if Truth was as much respected as it is respectable. I write as I speak from my own heart, & with a Strict Regard to Truth, so far as it is discernible by Means in my Power. Your Lordship has generally the original Draught of my Letters in my own hand; and indeed the inaccuracies which occur in them are Proofs that they are wrote freely. Freedom of writing like Freedom of Speech is more conducive to Truth, than Accuracy attentive more to Forms than to Matter. In my Situation a Suppression or a Perversion of Truth would have been highly criminal; and the endeavouring to avoid being a Party in these Disputes and to keep upon good Terms with the Sons of Liberty might have led me into Misprision of Treason.

    I quite agree with Lord B,3 that when I have Nothing to manage with the Faction nor any Thing to fear from them I may be indifferent about my Letters. But I know not that this is my Case at present nor how soon it will be. For whilst I continue in this Government, I shall have Business to manage, which may be rendered difficult by making my Letters public. For instance, I would not have it known that I have been an Advocate for altering the Constitution of the Government in that fundamental Error, the Appointment of the Council. and yet I have for some time past avowed my Opinion that it must be done some Time or other; and I can with the greatest Truth aver that I am convinced that it is become a necessary Measure not only to the Stability of Government but to the Peace and good Order of the Province & consequently to the general Wellfare of the People. But the Propriety of this Measure will not be judged among them by Reason but by Prejudice; and whoever shall appear to have an hand in it, will be liable to be made obnoxious to the People. So in Respect to Representations of particular Persons, which I have avoided as much as possible, but could not keep entirely clear of, I would not have those exposed, tho’ I have not knowingly injured any one in any Instance. But as I do not suffer my official Conduct to be influenced by personal Animosity so it ought not to be an Object of personal Resentment. Upon the whole, my Lord, I am quite easy about my Letters, fully trusting that your Lordship will be able to prevent their being put to any Use detrimental to Government, which is all I mean by my Apprehensions for myself.

    I am much favoured by your Lordship’s giving me Leave to acquaint you with any Inclinations in regard to myself, and especially the very kind and polite Terms with which you assure me of your friendly Concern for my Intrest. But at a Time when the public Business requires so much Attention, I should be loth to interfere with private Concerns of my own. Nevertheless if any thing occurs to me, which will not bear Delay, I shall take the Liberty to trouble your Lordship with it. As for Governments my Lord B is well apprized of my Sentiments,4 and can inform your Lordship that the Value I set upon an healthy Climate or the Fear I have of an unhealthy one will preclude me from the best Governments, I mean those of the Islands except Barbadoes; & that being so lately disposed of can afford no Expectation:5 and indeed it is the same Case with the two other principal Island Governments. The Continent also seems to afford no Prospect at this Time. So that if it should be thought necessary & proper to continue me here, I have no other Prospect but from my Appointments being augmented by some Means or other. It must be done with this Government whether I keep it or leave it.

    I am with the utmost Respect and Gratitude, My Lord, your Lordships most obedt & most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honourable The Earl of Hillsborough

    AC, dupLS     BP 12: 41-48.

    Variants: the RC has not been found, but there is no reason to doubt that FB sent an original of this fair copy to Hillsborough. There is a corrected draft among the file of “state letters” in BP, 7: 128-132 (L, LbC) and an extract in BP, 7: 216. Hillsborough did not reply directly to this letter.

    James Bowdoin II. By Robert S. Feke, 1748. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine. Bequest of Mrs. Sarah Bowdoin Dearborn.