397 | To Henry Seymour Conway

    Boston Sep 28th 1765


    By my Letter to my Lord Halifax1, bearing date the 7th inst2 I informed that I had called the General Assembly to meet at Boston the 25th inst, to try if I could get the assistance of the Legislature to carry the ^stamp^ Act into execution:3 this was done not so much with the prospect of success, as that nothing might be left untryed to procure obedience to the Act of parliament. In the mean time this Town has been kept pretty quiet; but the Country about it has grown more & more inflamed: Evry where have been heard loud declarations that they would not submit to the stamp Act upon any account or in Any instance. The levies for reinforcing the Garrison of the Castle still continuing to be a subject of clamour; it was again moved in Council to discharge those levies, which the Council being unanimous in I could not avoid consenting to; especially as the apprehensions which had caused the making those levies had a good deal ceased.4 About the same time, (Septr 10th) General Gage sent his aid de camp  to offer me a Corps of regulars: this was to consist of 100 men, being all he could spare to be drawn from Halifax. I found it necessary to decline such offer, as the Town was at that time in apparent tranquillity, and the Castle was not then threatned as it had been; & more especially as so small a force will serve to irritate the people and not protect the Government.5 I thought it better, if I could, to hold out with the ordinary Civil power untill orders came from England. I had also some hope, but not much, that the Assembly would put an end to these Disorders by procuring a submission to the Act.6

    Before the Assembly met, I was particularly cautioned against speaking freely to the Assembly on the subject of the Act of parliament:7 that the People would not bear to hear of a submission to it; and therefore it would be best to say as little of it as possible. But I observed that the Violences of the mob had intimidated some of the best people8 in the province, & left the Cause of the King & Parliament allmost without an Advocate. That if I should be awed also, so as not to explain to the Assembly the nature of the business for which they were called, there would be no means left to bring the People to their senses, & open their Eyes to the danger they were running headlong into. It was therefore necessary for me not only to speak freely but also fully9 upon the subject; as my speech would be the only Antidote for loads of Poyson10 which was continually distributed in weekly papers. But I meant to be as cautious as I could, without weakning the force of my argument. I accordingly opened the Session with the Speech, as is inclosed: and herein I must beg your honor’s indulgence in regard to ^the^ improprieties of it; that you ^will be^ pleased to consider it as addressed to a particular people & for particular purposes, which required11 me to treat a delicate subject with more freedom than I should have done, if my Cause had not required it.12

    The Speech was better received than I expected: the opposers of Government owned it was fair & candid; and the House paid it an unusual Compliment by ordering their ^printers13 to^ print it immediately & lay Copies on the table the next morning. But the House did not seem disposed to Comply with the advice of it: instead of debating the subject, & then adjourning to consult their Constituents, they appointed a Committee to prepare an Answer to my Speech. By previous questions put at the Committee, it appeared that there was a majority of one Voice against submitting to the Act; & it was certainly intended in their Answer to assert in positive terms the right of the Colonies to be exempted from Parliamentary Taxes. This would have entirely defeated my purpose: Therefore on the third day I adjourned the general Court for 26 days, giving for a reason that I saw it would be in vain to expect a full house untill the times for holding the usual Courts of Justice were Over. This Adjournment is in general much approved of, as it has prevented the Assembly, as such, adopting the follies of the people & confirming their obstinacy. The Assembly is now to meet on the 23d of October 9 days before the 1st of November: there will be time for the people to grow cool & considerate; and the Government will be much ^stronger^ in a fuller house than it was in this.14

    On the Saturday before the Assembly met, a Ship arrived here from London with stamped papers on board. She was immediately taken under the protection of the Men of War, who have waited here for that purpose. On the Monday I called a Council[,]15 acquainted them with the arrival of the ship & asked their advice what I should do with the Stamped paper: they referred the Consideration to the Assembly which was to meet [on?] the Wednesday. On thursday I sent a message to the Council & house jointly desiring their advice & Assistance for the taking care of the Kings stamped papers. The House answered me that it was none of their business; & they could not advise or assist me. The Council gave no other answer than by referring to a former advice that they should be lodged in the Castle. I am therefore preparing to deposit the stamped papers in the Castle in which I hope they will be safe, as the talk of attacking the Castle, if the stamps were lodged there, has long ceased.16 I shall enclose copies of the Minutes of Council, of my message to the general Court & of the Answer of the House.

    I shall constantly communicate to your Honor what shall further happen upon this dangerous & critical occasion; and must beg your observance of my difficult & perilous situation; in the midst of those, who first stirred up these disturbances; without a force to protect my person; without a Council to advise me; watched by every eye, & misrepresented & condemned for evry thing I do on the Kings behalf; not indeed personally charged17 with any default ^of my own^; but continually arraigned & abused for the execution of the functions of my Office. If things dont take another turn before the first of November[,] the appearance of Government will cease; as the real Authority has ever since the first riot. I must however, when I mention my being without Council, except the Lieut Governor, whose Zeal for his Majesty’s Service & Firmness of Mind has not been abated by the cruel treatment he has met with.18

    I am with great respect Sr Your honor’s most obedient and most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honble Henry Seymour Conway Esqr19

    ALS, RC CO 5/755, ff 323-328.

    Henry Seymour Conway, secretary of state for the Southern Dept., 1765-66. © National Portrait Gallery, London.