286 | To the Board of Trade

    Boston June 29. 1764

    My Lords

    On the 15th day of this Month I put an end to the first Session of this Assembly which lasted little more than a fourtnight.1 In the course of the proceedings some things passed which I find proper for your Lordships notice.

    At the end of the last Session An Act passed for dividing the Town of Newbury into two to be called Newbury & Newbury Port.2 It has been a constant rule with me in dividing old Towns to take care that the Number of Representatives should not be increased. This has generally been done by providing that the two new Towns created out of one old Town should join in the Election of Representatives in the same manner as if they had not been separated.3 But in the present case for good reasons It was orderd otherwise: The old Town of Newbury had allways sent two Members: and as of the two new Towns the one was composed of Husbandmen & the other of Merchants & therefore their Intrests would be different; It was thought best that Each should send one member only, instead of both joining in sending two. And so it was enacted.

    Nevertheless upon the new elections of the present Assembly, The Town of Newbury returned two Members.4 This was so barefaced [a]5 Violation of a Law but just passed; that I thought I could not avoid taking notice of it. I accordingly directed the Commissioners appointed to administer the oaths to the House not to swear the two members for Newbury. This produced, as I expected it would, a remonstrance from the House by a Committee complaining of a breach of priviledge for not leaving to them the judgement of the Validity of the Elections of their own members. I told them that I did not desire to impeach their priviledges nor did imagine that I had done it in this instance. That the Act which gave the House the cognisance of the Validity of Elections must be confined to matters that were doubtful or disputable in some degree.6 But where a return appeared upon the face of it to be contrary to Law, it was no return, & ought to be rejected in the first instance. That I was obliged to take notice of this by the practice of the house, which was to postpone the consideration of the returns till after the first day; by which means all persons returned, tho’ ever so illegally, had a Vote in the election of Councellors. And if the Governor could not reject returns that were illegal on the face of them, & the House would not enquire into them before they entered upon business; it followed that any Number of pretended members might be poured in to serve a particular purpose in the election of Councellors, who would be content to be rejected after they had done the business they came for. If this was the Law, It was high time it should be animadverted upon. Upon which sevral Gentleman present, who had been Speakers in former Assemblies, declared that It was the old usage to examine the returns before they did Any business & that the postponing it was a very late practice. And the Committee of the House, all except one, said that they beleived that the House would, as soon as they were sworn, immediately proceed upon enquiring into this return. Upon which I told them that, in confidence that they would do so, I would withdraw my caution & let them proceed in their own way. Nevertheless the House upon debate postponed the Consideration of this election & left the two Members of Newbury at liberty to vote for Councellors; altho’, as I have been told, they did not actually vote. So that It is now established by formal precedent, that pretended Members, tho’ their return be ever so notoriously illegal, will have the liberty to Vote for Councellors, before their return is disallowed.

    If the present Method of constituting the middle Legislative body is to be permanent, it will be proper, that it should be secured from being abused as much as is possible. It’s natural & constitutional imperfection, which has been continually encreasing, is enough: new & adventitious disadvantages need not be added. I must therefore desire your Lordships’ directions how I am to act upon a future occasion of the like kind: for if a Notion should prevail that All Persons returned as Members, whether legally or not, will have a vote for Councellors, before their right of sitting at all can be determined: It is obvious to me, that Advantage will be taken of such a laxity in the Government to Serve occasional purposes.

    Another business in this Session deserves Animadversion. Your Lordships must have observed that in this Province the Governor Council & House of Representatives, under the title of the General Court, act with more connexion & conjunction, than is usual in other provinces. This is a good deal owing to the forms of the old Charter Government being handed down & adopted by the new Government under King William’s Charter . In consequence of this The Agent of the Province is appointed by the General Court, that is, elected by the two houses by joint-ballot & approved by the Governor: and his Correspondence has for the most part been carried thro’ the Secretary, & all instructions & orders to Him have been approved of drawn up by a joint Committee of both Houses, approved of by each house & then consented to by the Governor. And there has been no instance of the Representatives having a separate Agent of their own, but in turbulent times, when they have been in opposition to the Government & at variance with the Council. But now, when there was no Apparent ill humour between the sevral powers of legislature, but as good an Understanding prevailed in the whole general Court, as usual, take one time with another; the House of Representatives proceeded to give separate instructions to the Agent, without so much as asking the Council to join with them; & rejected a Vote of the Council to appoint a joint Committee to prepare instructions for the Agent, as has hitherto been hitherto for many years past been the usual Method. Your Lordships will see these instructions in the Votes pa 72;7 & will not be at a loss to account for their excluding the Council from this business; as will appear that the Terms of these instructions would require much softning before the Council could join in them. And that was what the Gentleman who prepared this draught were desirous to avoid. Your Lordships will observe that in the last paragraph but one a book is promised: this is advertised, but not yet published; as soon as it comes out I shall send Copies of it.8 you will also see that at the end there is a Committee appointed to invite the other Assemblies on the Continent to join with them; meaning undoubtedly the representatives only. Altho This may seem at first sight only an Occasional measure for a particular purpose, yet I have reason to beleive that the Purposes it is to serve are deeper than they now appear. I apprehend that it is intended to take this opportunity to make a schism in the general Court to be enlarged & extended beyond the present business; and also to lay a foundation for connecting the demagogues of the several Governments in America to join together in opposition to all orders from Great Britain which dont square with their notions of the rights of ^the^ People. Perhaps I may be too suspicious; a little time will show whether I am, or not.9

    I beg leave to refer your Lordships to the Votes of the Assembly pa 29, for an Account of the present state of the Indians in the Eastern Country, which is drawn from many informations & observations, & when laid before the Assembly was fully supported by letters & other authentic papers. Nevertheless The Assembly would not come into the measure I proposed, holding a general conference with the Indians at Fort Pownall. The reason given was that it was an unnecessary expence: indeed frugality is at present a prevailing principle, & must greatly influence measures for the Eastern Country, as it is natural for the Assembly, which is allmost wholly formed out of the old Country, to grudge money for the expence of the Eastern parts, which contribute very little to the public treasury. I must therefore make the best of the means in my power to keep the Indians in that Country quiet; which I persuade myself I shall be able to do: nevertheless I have order’d the Commanders of the Forts10 to keep on their guard, & have strengthened them Considerable with Men Artillery & some new Works.11 Some time ago I sent an Agent among the Passimaquodies to reconcile them to the settling the Country: this has had good success; by advices I have received from thence they seem to be perfectly satisfied with the assurances I have given them.12 Your Lordships will observe in my message to the Assembly that mention is made of two conferences I had with the penobscot Indians.13 The first related to the truck trade only; & I thought it not worth while Communicating to your Lordships, as evry thing Complained of was immediately redressed.14 The other Conference I now enclose:15 it has laid by me, in hopes that I should be able to form a plan for providing the Indians with a priest; But I know not what to propose: A Romish Priest, if one well affected to Great Britain could be procured, would immediately enter into great Authority with them; whereas a protestant Missioner would gain upon them but slowly. But as no such offers at present, I am endeavouring to provide one from the establishment of Fort Pownall, where the Assembly have lately, at my desire, allowed a Chaplain: & the person I have appointed has undertaken to get acquainted with the Indians & their language & manners. For which purpose He is now among them; & if he can gain an influence over them, for which he seems Very well calculated, He may easily take upon him the function of a Missioner with probable Success.16 He is at present gone with a party which I have sent from Fort pownall to Quebec to reconnoitre the Country, accompanied by some of the cheifs of the Penobscots. They are now probably at Quebec, & if the hot weather will permit it will return probably before the end of this Month.

    I am, with great respect, My Lords, your Lordships most obedient & most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honble The Lords Commissioners for Trade &c

    ALS, RC CO 5/892, ff 11-16.