388 | To the Earl of Halifax

    Castle William Sep. 7 1765

    My Lord

    By my letter dated Aug 31,1 I acquainted your Lordship that I had summoned all the Gentlemen of ye Council to meet at Boston on thursday Sep 5. They met accordingly to the Number of 25, being the whole except 3 persons.2 I laid before them a pathetick & yet most true representation of the present deplorable state of the province, & the miseries which were sure to ensue, if the Stamp Act was not carried into execution on the first of Novr. It was in general admitted that I had not at all exaggerated the dismal Prospect which was before us; & yet they doubted, whether any means could be found to get the Act executed in due time; but all agreed that if it was to be done at all, It must be by the Authority of the general Assembly; which they advised me to call by Proclamation, at the time to which it was prorogued. I then put the question separately whether it should be called to Boston or elsewhere; when they allmost unanimously advised, to Boston: and indeed the Reasons for calling it to any other place are become less forcible than they were not many days ago. I accordingly immediately issued the proclamation for that purpose.3

    It had been observed in Council that the Uneasiness which the People had expressed at the intention of lodging the stamped papers at the Castle, arose in a good measure from their apprehension that the Stamped papers would be unpacked there & distributed from thence. As this was never intended nor was practicable, I thought it would be best to set the matter right. I therefore made a declaration in form to the Council, that I had no power to distribute the stamped papers or unpack them, or order Any one so to do; that all I intended in the present exigency was to preserve the stamped papers entire in their packages, & to prevent an high insult being offered to the King, & the Town or Province being answerable for the Value of the Stamps, which they would be if they were taken away. This Declaration The Council desired I would give leave to be published in that days newspaper4 & it was immediately published & gave great satisfaction to the Town & occasioned a common talk that the Stamps would be very safe upon these terms.

    This occasioned a Motion which had been made before in the Council to be renewed with great earnestness, that the orders for levying men to reinforce the garrison at the castle might be Countermanded, as they had occasioned much uneasiness among the people, & it now appeared that the Castle would be in no danger, & might be safely left to its own ordinary Garrison. I said that if I could be assured that the Castle was in no dange[r]5 I should readily at the desire of the Council countermand my orders for levying men: but that I could not take common Conversation for such an assurance;6 I must have something more formal, & what I might be at liberty to make public. Accordingly some gentlemen of the Council undertook to get such an assurance signed by some of the principal people of the Town; but they could not accomplish it; & therefore the Council, allmost unanimously, advised that the levies should proceed & the reinforcement be Compleated.7

    In pursuing these measures I had a proof of the Vehemence of the Country against the Stamp Act. To raise the new Company I engaged an Officer  who had served all the late War & had commanded a regiment in the latter Campaigns.8 Knowing his experience & resolution, I intended to give him the Command of the Castle upon the present emergency. He is much beloved in his Town for which he has been the constant representative for some years past. And yet when it was known that he was inlisting men for this purpose, his house was surrounded by a mob of 2 or 300, who demanded his inlistments & that he would discharge the Men; both which he refusing to do, the Mob declared that if he marched any men in support of the Stamp Act, as they called it, they would levell his house to the ground. However He will march the Men hither & leave his house to its fate.9

    And yet the People of this Town, I mean the Persons of property & Consideration, begin to cool in their Zeal. The Prospect of the consequences opens, & affords a most shocking View. If the Ports & the Courts of Justice are shut up on the first of November, terrible will be the Anarchy & Confusion which will ensue: Necessity will soon oblige & justify an insurrection of the poor against the rich; those that want the necessaries of life against those that have them.10 But this is not all: It is possible that, when all the provisions in the province are divided among the people, with^out^ regard to property, they may be insufficient to carry them through the Winter; By Cutting off the resources from Pensylvania & Maryland, upon which this Province has great dependence, a Famine may ensue. Less obvious Causes but very lately were so near producing one, even with the help of the usual importations, that many perished for Want: And who can say that the present internal Stock of the Province is sufficient without importations, to support the inhabitants through the Winter only?11

    I do not doubt but that the Representatives will meet, full of the passions & prejudices of the People & perhaps under some instructions from their Constituents: and I am aware that tho’ means should be found to open their Eyes in the general Court, yet they will be affraid to act so unpopular a part, as to assist the execution of the Stamp Act. And yet I cannot help thinking, that when a clear Representation of the Miseries, which await the province if the Stamp Act is not executed at its day, shall be made unto them, they cannot but be alarmed; & must sacrifice their prejudices & their popularity too, if necessary, to save their Country from immediate ruin. This is my cheif or rather my only dependence for getting the Act carryed into execution by the Authority of the general Court, without whose assistance it is not to be done by the present Power of Government.

    I have now little doubt of my preserving the stamped papers: not only upon account of the apparent alteration of the peoples intention towards them; but for that another Man of War, the Sloop Jamaica, is arrived in the harbour,12 & is stationed so that no Ship can pass without his notice of her. And when the Ship with the Stamped papers arrives, He will see ^her^ to anchor off the Castle, where the Fortune Man of War now lies; and they will both guard her whilst she has stamped papers on board. I have considered it Very fortunate that this insurrection broke out as it did: for if this Design had been kept secret till the stamped papers had arrived & the Ship had come up to Town without Any Suspicion, the Stamped papers would have been infallibly destroyed.

    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 311-315.