778 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    No 7.

    Boston May 25 1769

    My Lord

    I have received your Lordships letter No 24,1 & observe his Majesty’s orders that I take the most effectual methods of procuring the fullest information touching all treasons and misprisions of Treasons committed here since the 30th of Decr 1767. I have since had a consultation with the Cheif Justice the Secretary & the Judge of the Admiralty, in which We have taken into consideration the sevral proceedings of the Faction which may be supposed to be treasonable; & cannot fix upon any that amount to actual treason, tho’ many of them approach very near to it.2

    The cheif Distinctions which our deliberations have turned upon have been these; 1. As to the public transactions of which there is no doubt, such as the Resolutions of the Town meeting in Septr, the circular Letter of the Select men, & the Convention,3 We cannot take these into consideration, because they having been fully certified & not noticed at Westminster for treason, We cannot enter into an enquiry about the nature of those offences, which have been allready before the whole legislature;4 2. Of the private transactions of the faction, some of which have been evidenced only by reports generally credited, there are these difficulties; where there have been consultations of a treasonable nature, they have wanted overt acts to make the crime compleat; and where there have been Overt acts apparently treasonable, they have wanted a connection with treasonable consultations. For instance, the Consultation to seize the Castle was treasonable; but it was not followed by an Overt act.5 Again, The putting up a Beacon to alarm the Country was an Overt Act apparently treasonable, but it cannot be traced to a consultation so as to evidence the intention.6 3. We have not entered into the consideration of the publications in the Boston Gazette & other papers because, as they have been transmitted & are well known at Westminster, the pointing out passages which amounted to treason, (as some of them come Very near to it) should come from thence, where the precise distinctions of Law are much better understood than they can be here.

    But the great Difficulty of procuring information is that the Faction is not so broke, as to make them Witness one against another, or to make voluntary informations safe. Some time ago, they were very much frightened; and if those fears had been realised, it might have been induced some of the lesser offenders to have consulted their safety at the expense of their leaders. But they have lately received such assurances from their correspondents that they have nothing more to fear from this Session of parliament, that they are got as high as ever; of which I shall have occasion very soon to give your Lordship most pregnant proofs.7

    I cannot suppose that it will answer his Majesty’s intention or be agreeable to your Lordships judgement, for me to institute a public enquiry without a great probability of success. The Reasons against it are Very forcible; & there is one which has great weight with me at present. All the friends and Correspondents of the party exhort them to behave very cautiously & inoffensively at the next Assembly. I do not expect that they will follow this advice; I have great reason to be assured that they will not. But I would have them have fair play; and therefore I would avoid doing any thing that should alarm or offend them at this time; as I am desirous that the ill humour which I foresee will be introduced in the General Court next Session may in no instance proceed from me. In the mean time I shall keep his Majesty’s commands in my Mind, that if any means should occur to execute them, I may avail myself of them.

    I have the honour to be wth great respect, My Lord, Your Lordships most obedient & most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    The right honble the Earl of Hillsborough

    ALS, RC     CO 5/758, ff 112-113.

    Minor emendations not shown. Endorsed: Boston 25th. May 1769. Govr. Bernard. (No 7) R 23d: June _ By Capt Bryan of the Wolf. B.25. Enld Enclosures not found. Variants of letter in CO 5/893, ff 124-125 (dupLS, RC); CO 5/767, ff 314-315 (L, RLbC); BP, 7: 157-159 (dupL, LbC). The letter and enclosures were considered by the Board of Trade on 1 Dec. 1769. JBT, 13: 125.