Francis Bernard (1712-79), governor of colonial Massachusetts between 1760 and 1769, has left posterity one of the largest collections of manuscripts concerning Britain’s North American empire. There are some four thousand source texts of one kind or another: holograph originals, letterbook copies, receiver’s copies, third party copies, and printed versions. Most of his original official out-letters (the letters that Bernard sent to the British government) are held at the National Archives of the UK: Public Record Office, London. There are also eight volumes of Bernard’s letterbooks and three volumes of in-letters (letters he received) in the Sparks Manuscripts at the Houghton Library, Harvard; and there are numerous private papers, including a variety of maps and deeds, in English local archives. The Bernard Papers project was established under the auspices of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts with a view to publishing a comprehensive selection of all this material. In doing so, preference has been given to Bernard’s gubernatorial correspondence and items pertaining, in the main, to government, politics, and policymaking; each transcript is accompanied by critical editorial commentaries and each volume is prefaced by an introductory essay providing historical context and explaining editorial policy and method.

    The project originally aimed to issue three volumes of transcripts and one calendar volume of the entire collection, but the schedule has been expanded in light of the quality and quantity of the documentation. The first volume, published in 2007, covered the early years of Bernard’s administration, 1760 to 1763, with letters ranging over the salient problems attendant to the governance of empire as the French and Indian War drew to a close. Volume two reveals in considerable detail how far imperial administration and colonial government in the post-war period were shaped by the onset of American opposition to British taxation, which climaxed in resistance to the Stamp Act during 1765. Volume three will address the revitalization of colonial opposition in 1766 and its escalation following the introduction of the Townshend Acts in 1767. Volume four will cover the waning years of Bernard’s administration, 1768-69, when the governor controversially persuaded the British government to intervene by sending regular troops to Boston to keep the peace. The last volume, as planned, will be a calendar of documents spanning Bernard’s life and career and will make a full report of all extant and nonextant texts.

    It is from and with this extensive documentary record that I hope subsequent generations can re-write the history of relations between Britain and the American Colonies on the eve of the American Revolution. From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, it might appear that the Stamp Act Crisis of 1764-66 presaged the end of British imperial rule in North America. In reality, that particular crisis was driven by an oppositional movement for whom independence was neither appealing nor relevant. The Stamp Act controversy was the beginning of a ten-year contest which radicalized the American colonists, leading them to question and then to challenge imperial authority. This is the process that we may label the Imperial Crisis, for at its zenith in 1775, it brought forth a revolutionary movement. An essential ingredient in that transformation, which has often been ignored, was the role of British imperial officials like Francis Bernard in alienating the colonists. Most other governors crumbled in the face of overwhelming resistance to the Stamp Act, but Bernard did not retreat gracefully, and fought and berated the colonial radicals most every step of the way. Bernard’s story is worth retelling, not only for its own sake but for it what it reveals about the lives and times of Britons and Americans caught up in one of History’s true turning points.

    Francis Bernard (Jun. or Jul. 1712-16 Jun. 1779) was the son of a clergyman and a squire’s daughter and had a steady career as a Church of England lawyer and local government official in Lincolnshire, Eng., before taking up the governorship of New Jersey in 1758. The office had been secured for him by powerful aristocratic patrons, among them Lord Barrington,1 a cousin to his wife Amelia Offley (c.1719-26 May, 1778). Bernard’s career change was prompted by the necessity of providing for a growing family, and thereafter he openly acknowledged how far his Crown service was motivated by the financial imperative of providing for his six sons and four daughters. For sure, Bernard owed his position more to patronage than merit but he was also a professional administrator: increasingly, it was skilled men of modest means like him who were being tasked with running the British Empire. Promoted to the governorship of Massachusetts, which he entered on 2 Aug. 1760 and left nine years later to the day, Bernard’s early years were not only eventful but largely successful: he got the job done without too much fuss, despite the emergence of a popular opposition party and growing discontent among the merchants over British policies and among the legislators over Crown requisitions for raising money to fight the French. As a politician, Bernard is best remembered for his mistakes: of being openly hostile to the colonists and conspiring against them; and, from a British perspective, of being inflexible and error-prone. The craft of History may be multi-faceted, but Gov. Bernard is not an enigmatic figure, for he has left a mountain of evidence from which his life and gubernatorial career can be reconstructed.2

    “The publication of orders for the strict execution of the Melasses Act has caused a greater alarm in this Country than the taking of Fort William Henry did in 1757.” Gov. Francis Bernard’s opening lines in this volume (No. 259) cite one of the most troubling episodes in New England history. The massacre of colonial prisoners at Fort William Henry, on the shores of Lake George deep in the New York backcountry, was etched in the shared memory of empire: it bespoke plainly, like no other recent event, of the sufferings and sacrifices endured by the king’s North American subjects in the wars against the French and their Indian allies. In the aftermath, the invasion alarm sounded in settlements far to the south, even in Massachusetts where the threat of enemy incursions was tenuous. But the specter of rampaging warriors was easily invoked by Britons and colonial leaders in summoning their American countrymen to arms in 1758—as it would again by beleaguered British imperialists, throughout the globe and across the oceans of time, and by Americans too in 1775 fearful as to what British regulars were capable of. But the alarm that was ringing at the turn of the year in 1764 was as much a bell in Bernard’s own mind as it was the reported topic of common conversation.

    Massachusetts merchants seethed in anger at news of British plans to enforce the trade laws with a rigor that had long been lacking. The Molasses Act of 1733, which required payment of duties in “ready money” (any kind of coinage) at the port of entry before goods were landed, had never been properly enforced; evasion was widespread, seizures were rare, and customs officers commonly colluded in scams that enabled merchants to avoid paying all or some of the duties. Responsibility for law enforcement rested mainly with the Customhouse, which was then under the direction of the irascible John Temple, the Boston-born surveyor general of Customs for the Northern District.3 It was Temple’s advertisement in the Boston newspapers that had sparked talk of Fort Henry William, and it was Temple, more than any other imperial official, who knew just how far Boston’s traders and their customers were habituated to contraband. Temple’s team of customs officers was tiny for the task: twelve collectors stationed at each of the major mainland ports in the district, from Maine down to New Jersey, together with a middle-ranking surveyor or deputy and a handful of tidewaiters at each Customhouse building.4 Temple was not an easy man to follow, as several officers found out to their cost, and might be described as an empire-builder who demanded near total loyalty from his subordinates (at least according to the accounts provided by Bernard in this volume, Nos. 325, 329, 360).

    Temple’s burden, it might be supposed, ought to have been eased by the deployment of the Royal Navy in the fight against smugglers. Under the Customs Act, 3 Geo. 3, c. 22 (1762), which took effect on 1 May 1763, and an order-in-council of 1 Jun., Royal Navy officers and crews were offered attractive incentives: naval ships were allocated one-half of the profits of seizures made at sea, hitherto a war-time privilege, with the other half being reserved to the king; squadron commanders were allowed one-quarter of the ship’s half with the remainder being divided up among the officers and crew; governors were to get nothing. Within twelve months, four Royal Navy ships were stalking smugglers along the northeastern seaboard, which came under Lord Colvill’s North Atlantic Station. Thomas Bishop, captain of the fourteen-gun HMS Fortune, and his fellow officers took six vessels between Nov. 1763 and the end of Jan. 1764. While the ships’ log books reveal surprisingly few actual seizures thereafter, there is little doubt that their presence was severely impeding smuggling5 (Nos. 269, 360).

    It might be supposed that there were more than enough smugglers to satisfy a litany of eager pursuers. But that was not how colonial-based officials reacted to the navy’s enhanced role. The problem for Temple was that the Customs Act stoked resentment within the services. The agencies already involved in suppressing and prosecuting smugglers—the Customhouse, the governors, the provincial law officers, and Temple himself—all stood to lose out if prosecutions were brought under the Customs Act. Prosecutions brought under the Navigation Acts, on the other hand, divided the profits of seizures three ways: one-third went to the prosecutor or plaintiff (usually a customs officer); one third to the king (for the province’s use, and to cover departmental expenses, court costs, and payments to informers); and one-third to the governor, as was his due. These sums did not only include the monies brought in from the sale of forfeited vessels and cargoes; defendants could be further subject to penalties three times the value of the goods seized plus fines. It was common practice, therefore, for merchants facing prosecution to enter into a composition with the Vice Admiralty Court for the part-payment of duties and fines and so avoid potentially very hefty costs; shares from any composition also would go to the governor and prosecutor, though the total sum realized would be far less than if the case were brought to court.6 The bottom line was that prosecutors and officials were wedded to a judicial system that fed avarice rather more than it rewarded public service.

    The parameters within which Temple and the Customhouse operated did not make for an easy relationship with the colonial governors. Temple’s deteriorating professional relationship with Gov. Bernard is a narrative that runs through the entire history of Bernard’s administration—and with damaging consequences for British colonial policy. Their mutual antipathy was certainly personal but was also rooted in their disagreements about the best way to tackle smuggling. The first years of Bernard’s governorship were marred by a long-drawn out dispute between the merchants and their lawyers on one side and the provincial government and Customhouse on the other: it largely concerned the infamous writs of assistance, that officers could obtain on application to the Superior Court and by which they acquired the protection of the sheriff and his deputies when entering premises to search for contraband. Bernard was duty-bound to provide all the assistance that he could to the Customhouse, yet Temple came to resent him deeply and probably with good reason. Part of the problem was operational: much to Temple’s chagrin, Bernard cultivated friendships within the Customhouse, in particular with Charles Paxton and James Cockle (Nos. 326 and 356), and encouraged the use of informers. Temple not only supposed Bernard arrogant; the surveyor general thought he had established a clear and present motive as to why the governor was interfering in the surveyor’s department.

    Temple’s principal criticism concerned the governor’s predilection for encouraging Customs officers to compound with merchants. This practice may have been legal, but it was counter-productive, Temple argued, because it denied the Crown full revenues and helped smugglers to evade the penalty of the law—and it was sustained only by the complicity of Crown officials. In the autumn of 1764, Temple made the first of several formal complaints about Bernard, alleging that the governor and the Salem collector James Cockle were engaged in fraud and extortion: that they were using their position and access to privileged information to bully merchants into compounding for the goods and vessels that Cockle had seized. To Temple, it seemed like the governor and the collector had devised a neat and effective way of augmenting their income without the added trouble and expense of going through the law courts.

    Temple’s accusation drained Bernard, and, though the complaint was dismissed, it was indubitably damaging to his reputation in the colonies if not also in British government circles (Nos. 302, 318, 325, 326, 330, 418, Appendix 3). Temple, though, was reluctant to let the matter rest, and raked it up whenever he could, later even comparing Bernard to the notorious London gangster Jonathan Wild (1683-1725).7 Bernard could count on his patron, Lord Barrington, and the secretary of the Board of Trade, John Pownall, to use their connections to protect his interests at home. And Barrington and Pownall were also conduits to more powerful men at the centre of British politics, the earl of Halifax in particular, whom Bernard supposed might be receptive to his ideas on reforming the colonial governments.

    Bernard often brooded on what the re-emergence of imperial reformers like Halifax might mean for the future of British-colonial relations. Bernard was a modernizer by design, anxious to put an end to seemingly interminable and debilitating controversies with the assembly over royal prerogatives and colonial privileges. Emotionally, however, he was a conservative, wary of any initiative that might tilt the equilibrium of power or jolt his own reasonably comfortable, if far from easy situation. His admonition about the renewal of the Molasses Act was delivered when Britain’s reform plans were yet half-formed and still open to influence. But it was the moment in time when Bernard himself tried to tip the scale in his favor, convinced that opportunity was upon him.

    Reforming the imperial system—regardless of how much colonial government or imperial administration might warrant an overhaul, Bernard warned—was to risk offending those people and those provinces who had contributed so much to the empire’s enrichment and whose kinfolk had died at Fort William Henry helping to create a British North America. And yet to restrain the reform impulse, Bernard reasoned, would only store up trouble. For during the early years of his administration, Bernard had witnessed and reported upon the emergence of local politicians grimly prepared, as he once put it, on “raising a flame in the government”—harassing him, near-incessantly, in the province legislature and newspapers, and all the while caviling about colonial liberties and rights. In the early summer of 1764, Bernard drafted a wide-ranging and thoughtful memorandum, “The Principles of Law and Polity” (Appendix 2), in which he advocated the extensive reform of colonial government, encompassing the extension of royal authority, the standardization of government structures, Crown salaries for officials, and—strikingly—the recognition colonial liberties. It was noted, filed, forgotten, and lost. But Bernard returned to this theme with more gusto in his correspondence with province agent Richard Jackson, suggesting that colonial boundaries should be entirely re-drawn, and new colonies created, including a New England Union and a separate province of Sagadahoc (Nos. 310, 311, 314, 419). Bernard’s epistolary discussion of colonial reform should be read in conjunction with Appendix 2 and the extended authorial commentaries to “The Principles of Law and Polity”: for his letters updated but did not substantially revise the ideas that he first mooted and formalized in the “Principles.” Notably, Bernard’s reform plans were fashioned largely before opposition to the Stamp Act changed the political landscape in the colonies, and pushed the governor in the direction of more coercive methods of sustaining imperial authority.

    Bernard’s determination in pressing the case for reform generally and boundary reform in particular was motivated partly by frustration. In 1762, the Massachusetts legislature, the General Court, had granted Bernard the island of Mount Desert (present-day Acadia National Park), situated off the coast of Maine. But though he invested much time and money in plotting a township on the island, he had been unable to obtain Crown recognition of the grant. The Privy Council tarried because, while the island lay in territory reputedly within Massachusetts’s jurisdiction, the boundary line with Nova Scotia had yet to be clearly defined (Nos. 306, 308, 330). When the British designated the “St. Croix River” as Nova Scotia’s western boundary in 1764, they did not establish or identify which river that was among the many rivers flowing into Passamaquoddy Bay. The pressure to do so was not only coming from the governor. Land speculation was rife throughout the region, for the royal proclamation of 7 Oct. 1763 restricted trans-Appalachian expansion and obliged prospective settlers to look northeastward toward Maine and Nova Scotia.8 The entire coastline, up to and beyond the Penobscot River, was opening up to settlement from Massachusetts: thirteen townships were established east of the river (for which Crown approval was also required) and the General Court was keen that in any negotiations with Nova Scotia or Britain Bernard should push the province boundary as far east as he could.9

    It is hardly surprising, then, to learn that Bernard’s discourse on such weighty matters as imperial reform is entangled with a log jam of correspondence on the Mount Desert grant and the Penobscot townships. Bernard did what he could to obtain confirmation of the province’s land grants, though he always looked to his own interests first. He was no different from other British officials and colonists who tried to make a quick profit. Such was his motivation for joining British-based partners in a scheme to secure a massive land grant in Nova Scotia, where land was both cheap and available. Montague Wilmot, the governor of Nova Scotia, granted between 2.5 and 3.5 million acres of Crown land in Nova Scotia to speculators and settlers,10 including Bernard (Nos. 271, 312, 406, and 412).

    But if land speculation was an avenue to riches, it seems that Bernard took a wrong turning. The Nova Scotia scheme never amounted to anything of substance. Mount Desert, though confirmation came in 1771, cost more to develop that it ever yielded in rent from its tenants. Even so, the governor’s plans for its development offer a glimpse of the island’s topography before colonization. Most of this material has already been published,11 to which the correspondence printed in this volume is essentially supplementary. Bernard undertook his third voyage to Mount Desert and the northeastern coast in the autumn of 1764, leaving c.28 Aug. and returning on 28 Sept. He took the province sloop Massachusetts up to Passamaquoddy Bay and likely would have extended his travels to St. John’s River had not public business been so pressing (No. 311). The exploration of Maine was undertaken by survey teams earlier that year on Bernard’s instructions (Nos. 275, 281, 338, 345). The whole venture, enthusiastically supported by the assembly, was a corollary to the establishment of the townships along the Penobscot River (Nos. 277, 361) and the pacification of dwindling numbers of the region’s Native Americans. Bernard was no stranger to Native Americans, and often wrote perceptively of their predicament: “English hunting tends to cut off the Subsistance & destroy the very being of the Indians” (No. 320). Plans for a fourth voyage were put on hold because of the Stamp Act Crisis (No. 390). The enduring riches of Bernard’s interest in land speculation were two maps that advanced geographical knowledge of the largely unchartered Maine interior, and are printed as illustrations after No. 345.

    More puzzling is the governor’s apparent indifference to losing the intellectual riches of Harvard College library in the fire of Jan. 1764 (described briefly in No. 265). Scholarly man though he was, Bernard seemed little troubled by the loss, though he manfully joined the throng that vainly tackled the blaze. Indeed, he sanguinely supposed there was now an opportunity of sorts for reworking a curriculum he thought “too much narrowed” by the “old prejudices” of the Congregationalists12 (No. 310). He donated about three hundred books from his personal library (Appendix 1), an act of philanthropy which is nonetheless suggestive of cultural imperialism. The Congregationalist Overseers might have taken just such a view if they had been aware of Bernard’s aspiration to rebuild the curriculum but they were nonetheless grateful for the governor’s assistance in rebuilding Harvard Hall. When the Overseers then invited Bernard, an amateur draughtsman, to produce an architectural plan they were making a politic gesture: it was probably a way of bringing the governor on board for the fund-raising campaign since his connections in England would help attract substantial contributions (Nos. 300, 362).

    “I wish well to this Country, but have not a single desire concerning it that I think is not for the advantage of Great Britain.” (No. 278.) Francis Bernard was never a willing servant of two masters. The governor was the chief executive of the provincial government and a constituent part of the provincial legislature—the General Court—along with the Council and the House of Representatives (together known informally as the assembly). A royal governor was also the king’s representative by proxy, and the primacy of Bernard’s imperial responsibilities was underlined by most every instruction and letter that he received from British ministers. Unsurprisingly, British interests were usually paramount whenever Bernard surveyed the political map or tried to assess the impact of any legislation, whether made in Boston or London.

    Bernard’s letters are an invaluable source of information about the rhythms of Massachusetts politics generally. The governor had much to say about the debates, votes, and shenanigans that enlivened the proceedings of the House of Representatives. The long list of contests defies enumeration here but notable issues on which the members divided included the election of the province agent (Nos. 331, 332, 333, 358, 410); issues on which the members tended to unite with the governor included the sinking of the public debt (No. 229) and appropriations to assist and resettle the Acadian refugees (whose story is continued from Bernard Papers, vol. 1, in Nos. 288 and 324).

    On these and other issues, Bernard thought he was being goaded by James Otis Jr., Boston’s leading representative (No. 295). Otis held most of his most vitriol in reserve until the Stamp Act Crisis had abated (as will be seen in the third volume of the Bernard Papers). But the governor’s list of avowed critics was certainly growing, and not only among Otis’s followers. That much is clear from most everything which the governor wrote about the popular party in the assembly; to the point where, by the summer of 1765, the opposition had achieved parity with the friends of government, an amorphous group of government supporters.

    Sugar and stamps changed everything. The Sugar Act was the centerpiece of the Grenville ministry’s colonial policy. The act, which received the royal assent on 5 Apr. and took effect on 29 Sept. 1764, was much broader in scope than any previous American trade law, including the Molasses Act of 1733 whose provisions it generally continued. In truth, the entire debate on the renewal of the molasses duties vexed Bernard as much as it did the colonial merchants. The Stamp Act, which entered the statute books on 22 Mar. 1765 and became law on 1 Nov., purported to change forever the mode of levying taxes in and on the American Colonies: payment was in sterling and in specie; stamp duties varied according to the nature of the transaction or business being conducted, and at rates set by the British Parliament, not the colonial assemblies; and defaulters could be pursued in the juryless Admiralty Court.

    When Grenville first proposed colonial stamp duties to Parliament in early 1764, Bernard seems to have been unperturbed by the prospect of parliamentary taxation. Bernard dutifully complied with the seemingly mundane request for information about royal and provincial instruments (warrants, writs, and legal documents of various kinds) operative in the province and on which stamp duties were imposed (Nos. 316 and 317). He soon realized the depth of feeling that direct taxation was arousing and personally supported the colonists’ suggestions that the provincial legislatures should levy any and all stamp duties, as a way of offsetting taxes being set by Parliament; he was convinced that Grenville would allow the assemblies to raise the duties, albeit at rates decided by Britain (No. 299, Appendix 2).

    Colonists who had seemed quiescent or indifferent toward their governor became openly hostile during 1765 and warm advocates of Otis. Changes in British colonial policy mainly accounted for the shifting allegiances. Irrespective of what transpired in London or Boston, Bernard concentrated his energies in trying to re-establish his political base in the assembly. The key moments in Bernard’s political career (had he ever been asked) were the “argumentative” speeches that he delivered to the assembly on 25 Sept. and 8 Nov. 1765 and on 29 May and 3 Jun. 1766 (not printed here).13 Together they constitute a strong and determined attempt to persuade the legislature to recommend that the province submit to parliamentary authority and condemn the resistance that in the course of twelve August days had seemed so violent and terrifying.

    Much of the extant documentation concerning Bernard’s views on the Stamp Act postdates the riots in Boston of Wednesday 14 and Monday 26 Aug. 1765. Thus, his criticism of that act was not only retrospective but highly emotional. The British, Bernard’s argument goes, ought never to have taxed the colonists in the first place without ensuring that they had the means to compel enforcement (No. 369). Following the second, more violent riot, Bernard momentarily supposed that only with British Regulars ensconced in the town might the tax be enforced. Whenever he thought about Britain coercing the colonists, uppermost in Bernard’s mind was the notion that the Bostonians had manifestly—and no matter if it was only temporarily—withdrawn their consent to be governed by imperial laws that they deemed to be obnoxious. To an imperialist like Bernard, this formulation was potentially revolutionary.

    Bernard’s accounts of the Stamp Act riots are major sources of information. He did not personally observe all the proceedings, we must presume, but recorded what transpired and the sequence of events with a precision that was clearly informed by others who had been witnesses to history in the making. After the first riot of 14 Aug., Bernard left Boston at sunset for the safety of Castle William, out in the harbor. He spent the evening writing a letter to Secretary of State Halifax, recounting the demonstrations and protests against the Stamp Act of the previous thirty-six hours (No. 368). Bernard was profoundly disturbed by the realization that the riot “was a preconcerted Business in which the greatest Part of the Town was engaged” He was alarmed by the manifest weakness of government when faced with determined crowds, and bemused by the studied ambivalence of the magistrates, the militia officers, and even the Council in doing nothing to restrain them. The intimidation of Stamp Distributor Andrew Oliver induced wild speculation that Oliver “would certainly have been murdered” had the mob which vandalized Oliver’s house and storehouse been able to apprehend him. Discomfited by the bonfires glimmering on distant Fort Hill, Bernard lay down his pen for the night, supposing that untamed mobs were abroad once more and that in consequence there would be more, much more to report.

    Bernard finished the letter the following day, and wrote out another copy for dispatch to the Board of Trade that, in terms of content, was more or less identical. Bernard reported that Oliver had resigned his distributor’s commission on the fifteenth and how, gathered round the bonfires that night, mobs had spoken of exacting unspecified promises from both the governor and the chief justice, Thomas Hutchinson (who also the lieutenant governor)14 to prevent the implementation of the Stamp Tax. “I am glad I was excused a Personal interview with them, as they were, as I am told, the lowest of the Mob. Thus Matters stand now; & I am told these troubles are like to subside for the present.” But the troubles did not subside.

    In the weeks and months that followed, Bernard supposed that he was witnessing the beginnings of two revolutionary processes. The first was the unraveling of imperial authority: the innovation of parliamentary taxation, he advised the Board of Trade, was a dead letter without “the Establishment of a Power sufficient to enforce Obedience” (No. 369). The second process was a cross-current of social conflict. The riot of 26 Aug., which culminated in the wrecking of Thomas Hutchinson’s mansion house, “raised the Devil of mob rule,” wherefrom beckoned a “War of Plunder” between “rich and poor” (No. 384). In talking of barricading the Castle and deploying invalids in the last resort (No. 373) and in labeling the riots “Insurrections” (No. 413) Bernard succumbed to the feverish anxieties of a beleaguered imperialist. “At present I keep up the form of Government: but the thing has been over some time; & will not be restored without Authority from home.” (No. 404.)

    These are outrageous remarks for any Crown official to have made in official correspondence, even if we make allowances for the stress that Bernard must have been experiencing. But while colonial crowd action functioned within strict parameters, the Stamp Act riots appeared all the more frightening because they were Bernard’s first encounter with serious popular protest—in either the American Colonies or Britain. From the treatment of his close colleagues Oliver and Hutchinson, Bernard quickly concluded that Crown office no longer conferred immunity from personal attack; he also struggled to comprehend how well-to-do citizens—the “abettors of Consequence” (No. 368) who organized the riots and demonstrations—could find common cause with the lower orders. And he was ultimately confounded by the emergence of a pluralist protest movement that brought about a major political realignment in the province and marginalized the governor’s supporters. In short, the rise of colonial radicalism contradicted Bernard’s elitist world view and seemed at odds with his conservative Whiggism and British heritage.

    That in itself is not of great historical significance. Bernard was neither the first nor the last imperial official reduced to a state of alarm and terror by the actions of an otherwise respectable, loyal, and law-abiding community. Yet Bernard’s reflections on the Stamp Act riots were as much a turning point in British-American relations as the riots themselves.

    The single most important letter in this volume of transcripts is that which Bernard wrote to the earl of Halifax from Castle William on 31 Aug. 1765 (No. 384). While the letter provides considerable detail about the violent riot of 26 Aug. that is not the main reason for according it pride of place. The single most important fact that should concern historians is that Bernard crafted the letter with Halifax in mind—as he did with all his missives during the troubles. But Halifax was no longer in office, having departed on 10 Jul. with the rest of George Grenville’s cabinet, and it was not until mid-September at the earliest that Bernard learned of the “changes in the Ministry” (No. 390). Bernard’s anxiety and stress were real, and while it is impossible to establish just how far he consciously projected emotion into his reports, it is reasonable to suppose that his dramatization of events was for Halifax’s benefit. In one sense, Bernard was clawing for the secretary’s attention: having seen his reform plans ignored, his letters served notice of Whitehall’s folly. But there was more to this than I-told-you-so. Bernard was angling for a British response that would exculpate himself for the failure of the Stamp Act, raise his stock in London, and assuage the uncomfortable realization that he was a sitting target for the mobs. His messages were most certainly mixed: reform, recall, troops, coercion, and conciliation. Was that deliberate? Perhaps, but it did establish a pattern in Bernard’s official correspondence: in reporting events and developments he invariably problematized issues, always pushing the idea that resolution could only be achieved by ministerial intervention; this tactic would ultimately prove to be successful when it came to persuading British ministers to send troops to Boston in 1768. But in 1765, it probably confounded ministers.

    The cabinet certainly thought about the pros and cons of sending in the troops.15 That might have been because ministers were so shocked by the turn of events in Boston. Bernard’s letter to Halifax (No. 384), in which he gave an account of the violent second Stamp Act riot, arrived in London on 5 Oct., two days before his report on the first riot set out in a letter to the Board of Trade (No. 368). It would be fair to assume that the order in which these letters arrived heightened ministers’ unease at the events unfolding in Boston, since they were denied the opportunity of considering how and why the protests had escalated. Confirmation was soon provided by Andrew Oliver’s letters to the Treasury dated 20 and 23 Aug. and 2 Sept. All of this correspondence was reported to the Privy Council on 8 Oct. with further reports being forwarded to that body by the Board of Trade as they arrived.16 When the Privy Council’s plantation affairs committee reported on 22 Oct., it was evident that despite ministers’ anxieties colonial governors would be left to resolve the situation as best they might, without London sending in the Regulars or pursuing any other rash endeavor to enforce submission to the Stamp Act.

    By 1 Nov., the day the Stamp Act came into effect, it was pretty clear to Bernard that his situation in Massachusetts was only going to get worse before it could get any better. The stamped papers were under lock and key at Castle William, and there would remain until Capt. Bishop took them back to England. Bernard was bemused, angry, and shocked at the way in which councilor William Brattle courted popularity, walking arm in arm with the leader of Boston’s South End gang, Ebenezer MacIntosh, during Boston Pope’s Day parade (Nov. 5) in a defiant, symbolic demonstration of social unity (Nos. 409, 414, and 415). We might expect a scholarly man like Bernard to have likened Brattle’s performance to a Roman senator cultivating the allegiance of the plebeian mob, but by this stage of the controversy his epistolary style was blunt, hard-hitting, and invariably stripped of historical and literary allusion. The last few weeks of 1765 were a miserable time for the governor. He resolutely refused to compromise on his insistence that the law courts and public offices, including the Customhouse, could not possibly disobey the law by using unstamped documents. The pressure for him to change his mind was enormous—it came from the House of Representatives, the Boston town meeting, political leaders, customs officials, and ordinary colonists. But Bernard declined directing Crown officers and left it to others—John Temple, Andrew Oliver, Thomas Hutchinson, the Superior Court, and the Council—to effect face-saving solutions that they hoped would also deflect the simmering anger and resentment of a populace now facing up to the prospect of economic hardship (Nos. 420-425).

    The circular and instructions that Bernard eventually received from Henry Seymour Conway, secretary of state in Rockingham’s administration, probably made for uncomfortable reading if Bernard was genuinely expecting a slate of remedial measures to reinvigorate royal government—or even orders announcing his recall (No. 405). The only reform issue to make the political agenda at home was the possibility of repealing the Stamp Act and the Sugar Act. Still, John Pownall reported with some satisfaction that Bernard’s reports had made quite a favorable impression on ministers and Parliament: “all doubts are removed & your Conduct in Genl. as well as in respect to every ^thing^ that has passed with you from the 14 of August to the 8. of Novr. stands not only justified but approved.” (No. 418.) However much all of this was politically welcome to Bernard, it was personally disappointing. He had been angling for leave to make a personal report to Britain, but Rockingham seemed determined to keep him in place, while Parliament contemplated repeal. Bernard was expected to re-establish imperial authority as best he might. But the messages he broadcast in 1766 and 1767 spoke loudly of the futility of such endeavors.

    The political alignment that was occurring in 1765-66 proved to be irreversible. The “friends of government” failed to rally in support of the governor and Britain refused, as Bernard saw it, to progress the governmental reforms necessary to reverse the decline in imperial authority. The caballing of the Whigs (as Bernard condescendingly described their political activities) did not amount to the stirrings of a revolutionary movement, as nineteenth-century historians once asserted. But the political origins of the American Revolution can be traced to the radicalization of Massachusetts politics during the Stamp Act Crisis and the emergence of protest movements in most of the colonies. Imperial officials like Francis Bernard were not just shaped by events, but had a singular influence in determining their course, although their politicking was often clumsy and their impact upon British colonial policymaking sporadic. Editing The Bernard Papers is proving a highly rewarding way of writing that history, none more so than in the mechanics of constructing what amounts to representations of contemporary dialogue.