736 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    No 4

    Boston Febry 4 1769

    My Lord

    It is generally expected here that among the measures to be taken for restoring peace & good Order to this Government, the putting the appointment of the Council in the Kings hands will be one. This is imagined not only from the necessity of the measure, which, to be sure, is very forcible, but from many advices received by private letters, that such a reform would Very soon take place. This Opinion is so sanguinely entertained, that Recommendations have been allready sent home for this purpose, and by some, if I am rightly informed, who have no pretension to recommend the appointment of the Doorkeeper of the Council chamber.

    I should have waited untill this business was more ripe before I troubled your Lordship with my sentiments upon this subject. But I am called ^upon^ by some of the best men in the province to lose no time in representing the Matter to your Lordship:1 least Importunity Misrepresentation & Want of a right knowledge of persons should lay a foundation for some appointments which had Much better be prevented than hereafter want to be corrected. When this Regulation shall be ordained, the Manner of carrying it into execution will be of the greatest importance; and unfortunately it is put under uncommon difficulty by the late conduct of some of the principal Councellors; the overlooking of which I fear it would be in vain for me to propose if I knew how to do it.

    Whenever this Reformation is made (& some time or other it must be done) it will be best to carry it into Execution in a way most reconcileable to the prejudices of the people. And for this purpose, I should ^some time ago^ have recommended that the standing Council should have been taken wholly into the Kings Council, tho at the same time I must have owned that there were some among them that were by no means deserving of that honor. But the Scene in the Council is so changed within these 8 months that it is now become incompatible with the honor of the King to admit the whole of the present Council into the royal Council. Some (but few) must be positively excluded others (not many) must be shut out at present with a door left open for them when they choose to enter as the Kings Councellors. This Distinction makes a great difficulty: for whilst one sees the necessity of resenting some late proceedings of the Council, one cannot but be desirous that sevral respectable Men concerned in these proceedings may not [be]2 alienated from the Service of the Crown. This is a delicate business & the most difficult that I have had for some time upon my mind.

    The Rules for appointing a new Council at present seem to stand thus: 1. To restore all those who have been turned out for their attachment to Government, as the Lt Gov, Secretary, Judges &c; these will amount to about 8 or 10. 2. To take out of the present Council such persons who have not joined in the late violent measures, & some of those who have joined, who appear rather to have acquiesced than acted in it; 3. To appoint others out of some of the officers of the Government, such as the Judge of the Admiralty, Attorney general &c ^& Gentlemen^ settled & estated in the province, avoiding those who are seen as strangers here, residing on account of their offices & not considered as settled here.3 And tho’ it may be thought proper and necessary that some (one at least) of the Commissioners of the Customs should be of the Council yet the Appointment should by all means be deferred untill things are settled & all is quiet. It will be absolutely necessary that the first constitution of this board should be directed as little as possible by partial sollicitations, of which your Lordship must expect to have a great many. For my own part I shall not suffer private considerations to influence the recommendations which I may have to make to your Lordship upon this occasion

    To avoid the difficulties which will attend the immediate Nomination of the entire Council, especially with relation to some of the present Council whom one can’t tell in or to leave out, It may be advisable at first to name only 12 living in or near Boston & to signify (if it shall be thought proper) his Majesty’s intention to fill up the whole Number of Councellors as intended by the Charter (which I call 30 reckoning the Lt Governor & Secretary as Councellors ex Officio) in time as He can inform himself of the Merit of the persons ^to be^ appointed. This would leave a door open for such ^of the present^ Councellors as cannot well be admitted now, untill they have taken some steps to reconcile themselves to Government. This method also would give time for taking due precaution to prevent improper appointments; which must happen more or less from an hasty Nomination of the whole at once.

    And now I am upon this Subject I will take the liberty to mention to your Lordship some thoughts of mine upon the Functions of the American Councils, which are of some standing, as seem to deserve consideration. The Kings Councils in America have two separate functions; that of the House of Lords or middle Legislative & that of the privy Council. From this duplicity of functions arises the Objection of the Councellors holding their places at the pleasure of the King; which is true only in respect to the legislative. There indeed, if the Members of the upper house hold their Seats at the pleasure of the king, they are not a separate body, but the Kings delegates; and He may be said to have two negatives in the Provincial Legislature. This may be said to be not constitutional that is not conformable to the Sovreign Legislature. But for the privy Councellors to hold their places at the pleasure of the King is constitutional & necessary to Government. And this Necessity of keeping the privy Council dependent upon the King must make the Legislative Council also dependent, whilst they are united in one body.

    But as the assimilating the American Governments to the Sovreign Government as nearly as can be consistent with their dependence must be the Means of improving them; I have often thought that when a Colony is grown to a certain degree of Maturity, The middle Legislative should be separated from the privy Council & the Members of the former appointed by the King to hold during good behavior, with a proviso that male conduct4 so as to forfeit a seat should be adjudged, either by the upper house with the consent of the Governor & the Confirmation of the King, or by the King in his privy Council. And the provincial privy Council might be composed cheifly of Members of the upper house with some few of the lower house, & upon some occasions of Gentlemen who have seats in neither.

    I am fully persuaded that a Constitution of this kind would go a great way to remedy the disorders to which the Governments of America are subject to. Evry one knows that the King being the Fountain of honor is one of the brightest jewells in his Crown, & becomes one of the principal Means of balancing the weight of the people. This power cannot be carried to great lengths in America: but it may be carried greatly farther than it is at present. If there was an Upper House, besides a privy Council, both deriving their appointments from the King, it would afford the King ^means^ to distinguish the friends of his Government & give greater Encouragement to people to desire to be reckoned in that Number. And this Method would multiply the honors conferred by his Majesty at least fivefold in evry province, without making them cheap. And to inhance the Value, it may be proper to allow a title to the Members of the Upper house such as Baron prefixed to their Name, which is no more than a Lord of a Maner in England has a right to, whose Court is now called Curia Baronis. If this should be thought advisable at least so far as to make a trial; a proper Opportunity will offer upon the change of this Government. And It will be further recommended by the consideration that the appointing many royal honours in the new form of Government, will assist the establishment of it, by engaging men who are ripe for honours to the reconciling the people to the System which introduces them.

    This will probably appear a mere Reverie: but I have ^long^ thought it serious & intresting; and have heretofore wrote upon it in a fuller manner than I do now. In regard to the appointment of persons, I shall inclose a List of the present Councellors & of the former Councellors which have been ^turned out^. To enter into distinctions of persons is a difficult & disagreable task: I must do in it as well as I can. After all, possibly by anticipating this business I may have given your Lordship & myself unnecessary trouble. If this should be the Case, your Lordship will excuse your share of it: for myself trouble ^without success^ is become familiar to me.

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

    Fra Bernard

    The right honble the Earl of Hillsborough.

    PS Feb 19 Supplement to No 4 private

    I have enclosed a List of the present Councellors & of the turned out Councellors who ought to be restored. I add a List of Persons fit for 12 Councellors to be appointed in the first instance, If it should be thought proper. I have taken them out of the List of Councellors former & present to avoid giving umbrage. This latter I have wrote on a separate paper that your Lordship may separate it from the public Letter if you please; tho the whole is in its nature Very confidential & should be viewed as such. I had prepared a short Account of the political Merit, which distinguishes the present Council; but having allready anticipated this business I shall reserve that for the next Ship, before which I hope to receive some advices from England which may afford some light to me.


    ALS, RC     CO 5/758, ff 58-62, 64-65.

    Endorsed: Boston Feby 4th. 1769. Governor Bernard. (No 4) R 29th March B.14. Variants: CO 5/893, ff 110-114 (dupLS, RC); CO 5/767, ff 215-224 (L, RLbC); BP, 7: 132-138 (L, LbC). Enclosed two lists of councilors: Nos. 737 and 738. The letter and enclosures were considered by the Board of Trade on 1 Dec. 1769. JBT, 13: 125.