354 | To the Earl of Halifax

    Boston May 17. 1765

    My Lord

    I bear constantly in my mind your Lordships orders to give you frequent accounts1 of my observations on frauds of trade: and I now sit down to inform your Lordship of what occurs to me at this present.

    I receive from divers persons intelligence that there is a great quantity of Dutch Teas stirring about this Town; & that Carts & other carriages are heard to be continually going about in the dead of the night, which can be for no other purpose than smuggling. And yet the Officers of the Customs are Very diligent in their duty ; but the industry of the smuglers eludes their Vigilance. And it is evident that mere Vigilance alone will not go far in preventing frauds of trade: other means not unknown here should be used & improved for that purpose.

    When I first came to this Government Seizures were much more frequent than they have been for 2 or 3 years past. They were all made by one Officer only (Mr Paxton the Surveyor of the Port) & wholly by means of private intelligencers, who were never discovered. To encourage these, It has been usual to allow the prosecutor a sum of money, about 10 or 15 pr cent of the Value of the seizure, to pay for private intelligence, upon no other voucher than his own oath that he had engaged to pay that sum to the intelligencer. This, with the consent of all parties was inserted in the prosecutors bill of charges, & allowed by the judge. There was no danger that this would be used to the King’s detriment: for as the Governor paid as much as the King, it must be Supposed that he would take care that the Sums allowed should be neither exorbitant nor unnecessary. And at one time I did confine these to 10 pr cent; tho’ I now think that upon some occasions they should be allowed as far as 15 pr cent.

    This was so effectual a Method to discover frauds of trade, that It deserved to be encouraged & improved by all ways & means, but the contrary has happened; & it is now got allmost wholly into disuse. The Survr genl, who in sevral instances has shown himself not Very friendly to seizing & prosecuting, altho’ he had in some instances consented to allowances of this kind, yet he has in general so declared against them, that Officers are unwilling to enter into engagements to reward private informers, for fear they should not be able to make them good; the Judge of the Admiralty declines making it part of the proceedings of the Court least it should afford matter of complaint against him; & I dont choose to make allowances which have not the Sanction of the Court so that this method, which is so much calculated for discovering frauds of trade is now growing into total disuse.2

    It seems to me that there never was greater occasion to use extraordinary means to prevent clandestine trade than at present. If I had it wholly in my power, I should immediately set about improving this method to the best advantage: and the Officers of this port would readily concur with me in it. But If I was to propose an improvement of this Method. The Survr genl would certainly Oppose it: and I should do nothing but engage my self & the Officers in a dispute with him. I have therefore thought it of consequence enough to lay this Matter before your Lordship; that if this method of discovering frauds of trade should be approved of, I may be authorised to order the Advocate general to consent on the behalf of the King to such allowances for private information, not exceeding [blank] pr cent as I shall consent to for myself; & also to order such Advertisements or notices of a promise of rewards to private informers as shall be judged expedient. This I conceive may contribute greatly to discourage & prevent the clandestine practices which now prevail in introducing Dutch Teas & other contraband goods, which can never be effectually discovered but by being betrayed by private information.

    I have another thing3 to recommend to your Lordship’s favor, which, tho’ at first sight it may appear a private concern, is really a publick one.4 Mr Bollan has for many years past held the appointment of the Advocate general; & as he has resided in London, the Office has been executed by an Advocate appointed by the Governor. Upon my coming into the Government, immediately begun the Confederacy against the Custom house & Admiralty, which was accompanied with much popular commotion. At the beginning of this The then acting Advocate general5 deserted  his post & put himself at the head of the Attack of the Kings Offices.6 At this critical time It was difficult for me to procure a proper person for this Office: the Service was Very discouraging & required great resolution as well as ability in law; not only a popular Torrent was to be stemmed, but all the best lawyers of the province to be combated. I appointed Mr Achmuty, the Son of the Judge of that name:7 and he has not only fully come up to, but much exceeded my expectations. I have had frequent occasion to testify my approbation of this Gentleman, especially in my letters to the Lords of Trade in the time of the Commotion. He has been firm in his engagements, learned & eloquent in his Arguments & faithfull to the Kings Service; & what is extraordinary he has never failed in any one prosecution he has undertaken. And now it is known that Mr Bollan does not intend to return to Boston, I am informed that Intrest is making for another Gentleman to be appointed Advocate general over Mr Achmuty’s head. This would, as I conceive, be Very detrimental to his Majesty’s Service: not only as it would be extremely discouraging to see a gentleman after sevral years faithful service with great ability & uncommon Success, in times of much difficulty superseded by a stranger; but I apprehend that the party of the King will be very much weakened by such a measure. I knew but one other Gentleman in this Country who is equal to the Office; & he does not desire it.8 If therefore a Gentleman, who has the business to learn, should be appointed to this Office, & the Gentleman who is now in it & master of the business, should be drove on the other side, The Kings Service will probably suffer much at a time when all means should be used to Support it. I do assure your Lordship, that I have no attachment to or connections with Mr Achmuty, but what have arose from his public office: and it is wholly the Honor & Service of the Crown, which induce me to be so earnest in his recommendation. For these considerations I humbly submit to your Lordship that it would be for his Majesty’s Service; that Robert Achmuty Esqr, the present acting Advocate general for the Province of Massachusets Bay, should have an appointment to that office from the Lords of the Admiralty upon the resignation of William Bollan Esqr.9

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

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honble The Earl of Halifax

    ALS, RC CO 5/755, ff 245-252.