384 | To the Earl of Halifax

    Castle William Aug 31. 1765

    My Lord

    It is with the utmost concern that I am obliged to continue the subject of my last letters of the 15th & 16th & of the 22d inst;1 the disorders of the Town having been carried to much greater lengths than what I have before informed your Lordship of.

    After the Demolition of Mr Oliver’s house was found so practicable & easy, that the Government was obliged to look on, without being able to take Any one step to prevent it; & the principal people of the Town publickly avowed & justified the Act; The Mob, both great & small, became highly elated, & all kinds of ill humours were set on float. Evry thing that for years past had been the cause of any popular discontent was revived; & private resentments against persons in office worked themselves in & endeavoured to execute themselves under the mask of the public cause.2 Among others the Affair of the Attack upon the Admiralty & Custom house above 4 years ago, (which after a contestation of a year, by the steadiness & resolution of myself (I may truly say) & the other officers of the Crown, ended entirely in conclusions on the side of the Crown)3 was brought up again & became as fresh as if it had been a Business of yesterday. One B __ H ____4 of this Town, who was in London about two years ago,5 had got a sight of the depositions, which were sent home on the behalf of the Crown. Upon his return to Boston He took upon him to report the Substance of these with additions of his own, & concluded with an assertion that the whole Body of Merchants had been represented as smuglers. This Occasioned some Murmuring at that time; but it soon past over. All this Story has been now revived with fresh circumstances of acrimony & inflammation, & a diligent pointing out the persons, who in the former contest had acted on the side of the Crown: and H __ __ __ instead of telling his Story verbally, reduced it into writing,6 which was handed about the Town. This occasioned much clamour among some of the Merchants, who were told, without the least foundation, in truth, that they were represented at home by name: and the clamour, as usual, soon descended from the top to the bottom of the Town; and sevral persons houses began to be threatened. This was truly the principal if not the Sole cause of the second insurrection which has had such shocking effects.

    On Monday Aug 26 there was some small rumour that Mischief would be done at night; but it was in general disregarded. Towards Evning some boys began to light a bonfire before the Town house, which is an usual signal for a Mob: before it was quite dark a great Company of People gathered together crying liberty & property, which is the usual Notice of their intention to plunder & pull down an House. They first went to Mr Paxton’s House (who is Marshall of the Court of Admiralty & Surveyor of the Port); & finding before it the owner of the House (Mr Paxton being only a Tenant) He assured them that Mr Paxton had quitted the house with his best effects; that the house was his; that he had never injured them; & finally invited them to go to the Tavern & drink a barrel of punch: the offer was accepted & so that House was saved. As soon as they had drinked the punch, they went to the house of Mr Story, Registrar deputed of the Admiralty, broke into it & tore it all to pieces; & took out all the books & papers among which were all the records of the Court of Admiralty & carried them to the bonfire & there burnt them. They also lookt about for him with an intention to kill him. From thence they went to Mr Hallowell’s, Comptroller of the Customs, broke into his house & destroyed & carried off evry thing of Value, with about 30 pounds sterling in cash. This House was lately built by himself & fitted & furnished with great elegance.7 But the grand Mischief of all was to come.

    The Lieut Governor had been apprized that there was an evil Spirit gone forth against him: but being conscious that he had not in the least deserved to be made a party in regard to the stamp Act or the Customhouse, he rested in full Security that the Mob would not attack him; & he sat Supper with his family, when he received advice that the Mob were coming to him. He immediately sent away his children & determined to stay in the house himself: but happily, his eldest Daughter8 returned & declared She would not stir from the house unless he went with her; by which means She got him Away, which was undoubtedly the Occasion of saving his Life. For as soon as The Mob had got into the house with a most irresistible fury they immediately lookt about for him to murder him; & even made a diligent enquiry whither he was gone. They went to work with a rage scarce to be exemplified by the most Savage people. Evry thing moveable was destroyed in the most minute manner, except such things of Value as were worth carrying off, among which was near 1000 pounds ^sterling^ in Specie, besides a great quantity of family plate &c. But the Loss to be most lamented is, that there was in one room kept for that purpose a large & Valuable  Collection of Manuscripts & Original papers which he had been gathering all his lifetime, & to which All persons, who had been in possession of Valuable papers of a public kind, had been contributing as to a public Museum. As these related to the history & policy of the Country from the time of its settlement to the present & was the only collection ^of its kind^, the loss to the publick is great & irretrievable, as it is to himself the Loss of the papers of a family, which had made a figure in this province for 130 years. As for the house, which from its structure & inside-finishing seemed to be from a design of Inigo Jones9 or his Successor; It appears that they were a long while resolved to level it to the ground: they worked for 3 hours at the Cupola before they could get it down; & they uncovered part of the roof: but I suppose that the thickness of the Walls which were of Very fine brickwork adorned with Ionick Pelasters workt into the Wall, prevented, their completing their purpose; tho’ they Worked at it till day light. The next day the Streets were found scattered with money, plate Gold rings &c which had been drop’t in carrying off. The whole Loss in this house only is reckoned at 3,000 pounds sterling.10

    As soon as I received advice of this at the Castle, I immediately sent an order to the Secretary to summon a Council at Cambridge early in the afternoon, not thinking Boston a safe place to sit at. As I was going thither, on the road, I received a letter from the Secretary11 desiring that I would hold the Council in Boston: for that this affair had given such a turn to the Town, that all the Gentlemen in the place were ready to Support the Government in detecting & punishing the Actors in the last horrid Scene; and there was a Town meeting appointed to testify their abhorrence of it.12 I accordingly went to the Council13 & there issued orders to the Colonel of the Regiment of Militi a,14 the Captain of the Company of Cadet Guards,15 the Captains of the Batteries16 & of the Companies of Militia in Charles Town, Cambridge & Roxbury,17 to raise their sevral Corps & make detachments therefrom to keep a constant guard; & I recommended to the Gentleman of the Town who were excused from military duty, to enroll themselves as Volunteers in some of the Corps, many of which did, especially in the Cadets, which were doubled upon this occasion; to whom I assigned the Guard of the Customhouse where there were sevral thousand pounds of the Kings Money.18 And these measures were but just taken in time: for otherwise a Much greater Mischief would have happened the Second Night than the former. For, it seems, the Mob had set down no less than 15 houses in or near the Town to be attacked the next night, among which was the Customhouse & the houses of some of the most respectable persons in the Government. It was now becoming a War of plunder, of general levelling & taking away the distinction of rich & poor: so that those Gentlemen who had promoted & approved the cruel treatment of Mr Oliver, became now as fearful for themselves as the most loyal person in the Town could be: they found, as I told some of them, that they had raised the Devil & could not lay him again. However by means of the Military guards, the Town was kept quiet that night, without anything happening, except that the Cadets were obliged once to present their pieces, but did not fire.

    After I had established these guards which took up all that day, I considered whether it would not be proper to call in Assistance from without.19 By an instruction I am directed to have the advice of Council whenever I call for military Aid:20 I knew that the Council would never advise me to call in the Kings troops in cases more desperate than this; their own situation & dependence would make them affraid of being answerable to the people for so disagreable a step. I therefore put the question whether it was expedient to advertise Genl Gage & Lord Colville of what had happened at Boston. But they advised in the negative, saying that such advertisement would amount to a tacit request for forces: and tho’ they expected Such forces would be ordered hither sometime or other they would not help to bring them here nor hasten them before their time. I therefore transmitted to Genl Gage a copy of this resolution of Council, copies of my proclamations, with advise of the intention of lodging the Stamps in the Castle, & augmenting the Garrison for that purpose; from all which he will see the restraint I am under.21 I then acquainted the Council with the various reports I had heard of the Castle being threatend if the Stamps were put in there; represented the present state of the Garrison & proposed that an independent Company should be raised for augmenting the Garrison, which they readily came into, & I immediately dispatched orders for that purpose. I am also by all means in my power strengthening the Castle: so that if I can get the reinforcement here in time, I shant be affraid for the Castle, against any number; tho’ I cannot think that any people will be desperate enough to attack it, notwithstanding what has been given out.22

    When first the Town took this new turn, I was in hopes that they would have disavowed all the riotous proceedings, that of the first night as well as the last. But it is no such thing: great pains are taken to separate the two riots; what was done against Mr Oliver is still approved of, as a necessary Declaration of their resolution not to submit to the stamp Act; & even the cruel treatment of him & his family is justified by its23 consequences the frightning him into a resignation; and it has been publickly hinted that if a line is not drawn between the first riot & the last, the civil power will not be Supported by the principal people of the Town, as it is assured it shall be now.24And indeed if the last Riot had been the only One The Civil Government would appear to be in full Power. Many people concerned in the last riot are daily taken up & committed to Goal, where a constant guard is kept by the militia; and the Town cries aloud for some of them to be made examples of. And yet if one was to offer to take one of the persons concerned in the first riot only, Things would again be flung into confusion & the Civil power would become as weak as ever. So that the present Authority of the Government is only exercised upon condition & with prescribed limitations.25

    It seems therefore that the Horror of this last affair has not at all abated the Spirit of the People against the Stamp Act. I am again & again assured that this Town & Country about it (how far deep I cant say) are as resolute as ever to oppose the execution of the stamp act & to suffer the utmost extremities rather than submit to it. There are but two things which are like to produce a change in these resolutions: the one is a nearer & fuller prospect of the Anarchy & Confusion which must take place, when the Courts of justice & public Offices are shut up; as they must be on the first of November, unless Stamps are allowed to be used. These must necessarily alarm all serious people & especially those who have much property. The other is the meeting of the Assembly; which I beleive I shall be obliged to call at the time it is prorogued to, the 25th of Septr: tho’ I could have wisht that it might have been postponed till I could have received orders from England. I should have much dependence upon the prudence of the Assembly in common cases: but I know not how to expect that they will act against the Voice of the People, if it is such as I am told it is. On the other hand, they must be greatly staggered, when they are called upon to assist the Execution of an Act of parliament which is opposed by Violence. Hitherto The Opposition is chargeable upon private persons only; it will then be adopted by the Legislature; & if that should fail in so important a duty, they must expect ^that^ a forfeiture of their rights will be the consequence. If these two Causes, the Apprehension of confusion when all business shall cease, & the Prudence, or what is the same, the Fear of the Assembly should co-operate together, it is possible, that the Act may be yet carried into execution at its day. I shall watch every opportunity & improve evry incident to produce so happy an Event.26

    I labour under many difficulties, & none more than ^that^ the Council, which I have to advise with, is composed almost wholly of Gentlemen, whose connections & properties are in Boston: They that live out of Boston will not come in; I have had but 2 or 3 such since the last riot; and I have known some that have been affraid to come to Boston. By these means nothing can pass the Council, that is like to be displeasing to Boston; expedients are thereby render’d very few & spirited Measures are quite impracticable.27 I submitted to the Council whether it would not be best to call the Assembly at a distance from Boston, that it might sit free from intimidation or undue influence: it passed in the negative. I then asked, if I should call a general Council28 by summoning evry member to meet at Cambridge, & I urged that sevral members naming them, objected to coming to Boston: it passed in the negative. I then proposed calling such general Council at Boston which was approved of: and it is appointed for thursday next Sep 5.29 It is true that I can, without advice of Council, call the Assembly & the Council to what place I please: but, it is the business of the Council among other things, to guard the Governor against Popular30 Odium from his taking unpopular measures necessary to Government, by concurring with him & advising such measures: and when they refuse so to do, it would be dangerous as well as impolitic for the Governor to expose himself solely to the resentment of the people by acting without or contrary to the advice of Council. I must however add that it is become now much safer to meet at Boston than it was a week ago: the Town is now become as quiet as ever it was; and the principal Gentlemen have desired me, who have of late slept in the Castle,31 altho’ I have been in Town allmost evry day & sometimes all day long, to live more at the Province house assuring me that I shall have a guard of what Number of Gentlemen I please: and I shall go to the province house on Monday & stay there some days, to show that I dont keep out of the Town for fear of it. There will therefore remain only the Objection to the Assembly’s meeting at Boston upon account of undue influence; which I own has considerable Weight with me; tho’ perhaps it may not have so much weight with the Council, by whom I must be determined concerning the sitting of the Assembly.

    I am, with great respect, My Lord, Your Lordship’s most obedient and most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honble The Earl of Halifax.

    P.S. I have taken the liberty to use only initial letters in one name as the person is of no significance & has a brother who is a Very faithful Officer of the Kings

    A Duplicate of my letter to your Lordship dat Aug 15 & another Letter dat Aug 2232 went by the Ship Liberty, Smith, for London inclosed to Barnard & Harrison Merchants in London

    ALS, RC CO 5/755, ff 287-300.