797 | To the Earl of Hillsborough


    (No 13)

    Boston July 17 1769

    My Lord

    On Saturday last July 15 I dismissed the General Court by a long Prorogation to January the 10th, after a Session of 46 Days,1 the longest that has been known at this time of the Year. And yet there never was so little real Business done as at this Session: the cheif Part of the Time has been employed in denying the Power of the Parliament, arraigning and condemning its Acts, abusing the King’s Ministers at home and his principal Officers in America, reproaching the whole British Nation, & declaring in plain if not direct Terms their Right and Intention to separate themselves from its Government. Every thing bad was expected from them; But their Acts have exceeded all Expectation and have been carried to a greater Length than ever have been known before. Their last Message in Answer to my Requisition of Provisions for the Troops exceeds every thing: it was delivered to me on Saturday last a little time before I prorogued them;2 and I now send your Lordship the first Copy of it.

    As I am apprehensive that I may be censured for suffering the House to sit after they had published Assertions and Resolutions so derogatory to the Sovereignty of Great Britain, I think it proper to explain the Motives of my Conduct, and to show as well as I can, that what I have done is for the best.3 I had no special Instruction or Order to direct me upon the Occasion, nor any other Rule to go by, but Similarity of Circumstances; and they seldom happen so as not to leave a material Difference between the two Cases compared together. I had no other Way to direct my Judgement, but by considering what would be best for His Majesty’s Service: and I assure your Lordship that in my own Opinion, I never judged better in any Business than in this.

    It was plain to me from the Beginning that the Intention of the Faction was to provoke me to dissolve or prorogue the General Court before the public Business was done: and they did enough to justify such a Proceedure if I had not been guarded against it. If they had succeeded in this Scheme they would have made the following Uses of it: they would have raised a general Clamour throughout the Country founded upon the Distresses which would be brought upon the People for Want of the Supply Bill, which would have been real. In Case of a Dissolution immediately upon my Departure they would have obliged the Lieutenant Governor to have called a new Assembly, and it seldom happens but the dissolving an Assembly, in the Way of Censure, and calling another immediately after does more Harm than Good. In Case of a Prorogation, which must have been long to have had the Effect of a Censure, they would have obliged the Lieutt Governor to have called the Assembly anew in the Way of Convention, as it has been upon an extraordinary Occasion once practised pending a Prorogation.4 The Necessities of the Government for Want of Money in the Treasury, and the Distresses of the People upon raising the whole Provincial Debt within the Year according to Law, or, what would have been more probable, the Destruction of the public Credit, by the People refusing to submit to that Law, would have obliged the Lieutenant Governor to have acceded to one of the two Measures above mentioned; altho’ he must have foreseen that his Compliance therewith would have given the Faction great Advantages both against him and the Government. I therefore could see Nothing but evil Consequences like to follow the resenting the Proceedings of the House by breaking up the Assembly before the public Business was done. In this Opinion I was confirmed by the Lieutenant Governor who was very anxious that the Session should not be ended before the Supply Bill and Tax Bill should be passed.5

    On the other hand by my Patience and Perseverance in continuing the Session till the public Bills were passed I have gained this Advantage, that if a public Censure by Way of Dissolution should be thought proper, there is Nothing in the Way to hinder it: the public Business is provided for for a Year; and there are no Exigencies of State or Necessities of the People to prevent a long Intermission of the Assembly if it should be thought advisable. In this Proceeding I have lost Nothing but the inflicting the Censure myself, which, as it would have been known that it came from me only without any special Order from above would have had no great Efficacy. All Censures of this Kind should come from the Government at home to have their due Weight: tho’ at this time even that Authority has not the Weight it should have. I would not be understood to recommend such a Censure or any Censure: that should be considered by the Government at home; and as the Facts are plain and undoubted, should be adjudged there. I cannot judge for my Superiors; I can feel for myself in the Business committed to me by them: but perhaps my feelings may not produce the same Ideas as theirs.

    Another Advantage gained by this Conduct is, that it will give the Lieutenant Governor fair Play in the Opening of his Administration.6 If I had abruptly broke up the Session I should have greatly distressed him: The Faction was so sensible of this that they could not conceal their Exultations upon the Prospect. In particular it was said that they would proceed to a new Election of Councellors and make him accept those whom I had rejected; and at different times it has been frequently talked of how soon they would make him sick of his Seat. They have allready begun with him with Libells preparatory to his taking the Chair; some of which I shall lay before your Lordship; as they are by Universal Report, supposed to have come from those whose Duty ought to have employed them in another Way.7 But by my getting the public Business done and proroguing the Assembly to a long day I have put it in his Power to postpone the Days of his Trouble, till he can be strengthened with your Lordship’s Opinion and where there shall be Occasion, with his Majesty’s Instructions: and it will be in the Power of the King to put off the Day of his Trial to a still farther time. This Acquisition I consider to be of great Consequence to Government in its present State.

    I have thought it proper to give your Lordship this Explanation of my Proceedings, the Substance of which is contained in my Speech at the closing the Session;8 For I would not have my Conduct misunderstood even for a few Days: and I think it cannot be many between your receiving this and my waiting on you in Person. I hope to embark about the End of next Week.

    I have the Honor to be, with a most perfect Respect, My Lord, Your Lordships most obedient & most humble Servt

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honorable The Earl of Hillsborough

    dupLS, RC     CO 5/758, ff 175-178.

    Endorsed: Boston July 17. 1769 Sir Fras. Bernard (No. 13) R 5th Septr. (Dupce: origl: not reced) B.36. Enclosed a page extracted from the Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser, 17 Jul. 1769 containing the House of Representatives’ message to FB of 14 Jul. and FB’s reply of 15 Jul. These were marked “XIV” and “XV”, continuing the series from No. 792, and were probably extracts from the newspapers that he deemed “Libells” on TH. Variants of letter in: CO 5/893, ff 155-157 (dupALS, RC); CO 5/768, ff 13-19 (L, RLbC); BP, 7: 185-190 (L, LbC). The letter and enclosures were considered by the Board of Trade on 1 Dec. 1769. JBT, 13: 126-127.