409 | To John Pownall

    Castle William, Novr 1, 1765.

    Dear Sr,

    I am retired here1 to avoid the insults of the parades the Bostoners had determined to make on this day;2 altho’ I was assured there was nothing in them, that should convey any personal Affront on me: yet I thought it not suitable to my Character to be present in Town, when a gross affront on his Majesty’s Government at home was to be publickly passed. I had in vain endeavoured to prevent it, but finding myself unable to do it, I could show no other resentment to it but by retiring. I will give you the particulars of this in order of Time: at present I will pursue the subjects of my last letters.

    I send you now Copies of the Answer to my Speech;3 to the whole purpose of which you will perceive to be to set the people against me, without being able to charge me with anything but doing what in their Consciences they know to be my duty. I reserve my reply for the last words I shall say to them; and then shall be as short as possible: for it is to no purpose to attempt to reason with them. I also send you Copies of the famous resolves that have been so long in hand; they are much decenter than I expected, that is comparatively with other Assemblies: & yet they are false in many instances & wholly destructive of the fundamentals of American Government.4 As for the keeping a fast, that has been laid aside, being, I suppose, thought ^to be^ too glaring an abuse of religion; tho’ it is very subject to be abused to such purposes.5

    As for the Act for keeping open the public Offices without the use of Stamps, it came before the Committee in the Shape of a resolve & Order, which is a kind of petty Act6 not ^so^ subject to notice as profest Acts are. The Committee consisted of 6 Councellors, & 7 Representatives: & the resolve was at first opposed only by one Councillor & one Representative; afterward another Councellor joined the Opposition, & that was all. The Argument for it was that if something was not done to prevent the difficulties which would arise from the non usage of Stamps; the people would rise upon the Government. It was answered, that they might be sure the Governor would not pass it; & therefore the sending it up to him, would be laying the whole burthen upon him, & making him the sole Object of the resentment of the people. To this it was replied that the Governor would pass, it he must pass it, he could not refuse it, &c. And so it was reported, & by the board sent down to the House without being acted upon in the Council. The House could not reconcile themselves to it, & so recommitted it, with which the board concurred. The Committee made a small alteration to it, & reported it again according to the Copy I now send you, & it was sent down to the House. The House after a long debate postponed the Consideration of it, with an intention, as I am told, not to resume it. The principal difficulty was concerning the preamble; they could not assign a good reason for the resolve: if they had alledged that it was for want of a distribution of the Stamps, it would have been admitting that they would use them if they could get them, & they were apprehensive that in such Case I should make an offer of the Stamps; if they founded their resolve upon the illegality of the Act of parliament, they were affraid it would be going too far. So the thing, I believe, is dropt.7

    You see how near I was being drove out of the Province: for such must have been & still must8 be the Consequence if this resolve is sent up to me. And I doubt not but the Contrivers of it intended it for the purpose; so that I may expect if this fails, other attempts of the like kind will be made. Besides the People of this Town are so triumphant over the ruins of the Government; that evry day is like to produce a Necessity for my removal. I will give you the late instance. On Tuesday last Oct 29[th?]9, I laid before the Council informations that a great parade was intended on the first of Novr, the day of the Stamp Act’s commencing, with pageants & Images, some of which were to represent the Governor & Council: I also submitted to them the probable consequences of the usual riots on the 5th of Novr. They unanimously agreed that it was absolutely necessary to prevent the meeting of the people on both those days; for if the Mob was once allowed to assemble, it might soon grow uncontrollable, & the Town would be in great danger. They accordingly advised that a Military Watch should be kept day & night from the 31st of Octr to the 6th of Novr, to consist of two Companies of Militia each night before the 4th of Novr, & of 4 Companies on the night of the 4th & 5th, & of the Cadets, the Artillery Companies, &c, on the 5th & ensuing Night. I accordingly issued orders to this purpose in Council, & having called the Justices & Select men before me in Council, I exhorted them in the fullest manner to take care of the Peace of the Town, & for that purpose to prevent all shows & pageants, which should serve to draw the people together: which they assured me they would take care of.10

    On Thursday Octr 31 in the afternoon I came to Council by appointment to consider of making provision for the Militia who were to do duty that & the ensuing Nights. But before we could enter upon Business, the Col[onel?]11 of the Regiment & the Commanding Officer  of the guard appointed for the guard of the Night came to me & acquainted me that they could not execute my orders. The Colonel said he could not execute my orders get a Drummer to beat a Drum; one who had attempted it had his Drum broke; the others were bought off; the People would not muster; &c. The Captain also told me that the Men who had mustered declared they would go off, & that he should soon have none left but his Officers. I laid this account before the Council who heard the Officers:12 & we found ourselves obliged to revoke the orders & dismiss the Guard. We were assured that if the Guard was dismissed the Town would be quiet, otherwise not; that there would be a procession the next day, but there should be nothing in it to affront this Government; that if any Images were made for that purpose, they should not be exhibited; that nothing would more tend to disturb the Peace of the Town than opposing this procession, nor to preserve it than permitting it; & that particular care would be taken to close the show early in the Afternoon that the Town might be perfectly quiet before Night. We were obliged to acquiesce in these Assurances & the Town accordingly kept very quiet that Night.

    There is an high Tree standing in the Town, on which the Stamp Officers Image was hung, which is called the Tree of Liberty: It has a Copper plate fixed upon it, giving it that title in a pompous inscription dated Augt 14, 1765, the day that Mr Olivers House was demolished. On this Tree early in the Morning of Novr. 1st (which was ushered in by the tolling of bells) were found hanging two Images with inscriptions upon them, denoting that they were intended for G___e G___e & J___n H___k.13 Sevral persons were with me to assure me that the Carrying about those Images was all that was intended, & that there would be no hurt done to anyone or any thing; & to desire that I would not leave the Town. I told them that I was not apprehensive of any danger to myself; but that I must leave the Town to avoid being a Spectator of an insult upon his Majesty’s Government which I could not prevent: I accordingly went to the Castle. About two o’clock the procession began with carrying the Images thro’ the publick Streets accompanied with an innumerable people from the Country as well as the Town walking in exact order. At the Whipping post they were they were whipped, & at lenght last they were carried to the Gallows out of the Town & there tore to pieces & hanged. After which the Mob dispersed, & the Town was perfectly quiet before dark.14 It is remarkable that on this occasion the Ring leader of the Mob which demolished Mr Olivers house was employed with his Corps to keep Peace & prevent mischief: I was told that he had engaged so to do, as an assurance that no mischief would be done. This Man whose name is MackIntosh is a noted Captain of a Mob & has under him 100 or 150 men trained as regular as a military Corps. He was notoriously the Leader of the Mob against Mr Oliver, & was proved to be in the Lt Govrs House at the time it was destroyed. He was taken up for the latter: but the Justices were obliged to discharge him; & no one dares to call him to an account either for the one or the other.15 To this man it was thought proper to commit the Care of the Town on this occasion: so totally is the Town & consequently the Government in the hands of the Mob. During this time the Assembly continued sitting, but neither the Board nor the House showed any disposition to prevent this pageantry.

    Novr 5, 1765.

    As I could not get this letter on board the Ship I intended it for, I discontinued it in order to make the foregoing Account more perfect, as I had it only from report.16 I now send you the News Paper Accounts: for you must know that the News Papers come out unstamped as regularly as they did before the 1st of November. To show you how fully this Town is in the hands of the mob, I will add that Capt Mackintosh (now called Genl Mackintosh) who took the care of the Town, after the Militia had refused to muster under my order, & the Council advised me to discharge the Order, & who professes to have 150 or 200 men trained under him; on the 1 of November marshalled at least 2,000 men, & marched in a regular order. What is more surprising is, that one of the Council,17 Col Brattle, walked with him, arm in arm, along the Streets, complimented him on the Order kept & told him his Post was one of the highest in the Government. This Councellor conducted him round the Town House whilst both the Houses were sitting; before which regular Huzza’s were made. The next day the famous Mr Otis, who arrived from the Congress the day before, at a town meeting made a most inflammatory Harangue; among other things he gave it as his Opinion that the Governor had no right (according to the Charter which he quoted) to order the militia to muster, except in Cases of invasion or rebellion; that he hoped no one would call pulling down 2 or 3 two penny Houses rebellion, when the people were justly incensed at an invasion of their Liberties; for his part he wondered that, considering the provocation, no greater mischief had been done. He also inveighed against the Lt Govr in terms most suitable to have raised another mob against him, if any thing had been left for them to demolish.18 This very man at Genl Gage’s table at New York,19 said that the province of Massachusets would never be in order, untill the Council were appointed from Home: this he has been charged with since he came from NYork, & he owns it to be true & says ’tis his Opinion: and I believe most thinking people agree with him in that.20

    The same Man has made a speech in the House so mad & devilish21 that they all stood astonished & no one durst contradict him; his Speech was directed against the Council for advising me to augment the Garrison of the Castle, at a time when it was prublickly threatned to be attacked in case the Stamps were deposited there. In this Speech he called the Council a cursed Septemvirate (7 being a Quorum) that endeavoured to destroy the liberties of the People; an infernal Divan that ought to be sunk to the place from whence they derived their Councils.22 And the House (which now finds itself in the hands of the Boston mob as well as I & the Council) were weak enough to appoint a Committee with Otis at the head to remonstrate against that Act of Council: so there is fresh matter for inflammation.23

    Last Evening the Council24 unanimously desired me to withdraw my orders for mustering sevral military Corps on this day, alledging that the People were determined to have thier Shows; & that the appearance of an Opposition to them would only serve to inflame them. I, not readily consented: & accordingly sevral Stages with Images of popes & Devils & hanging Stampmen were drawn thro’ the Streets & placed before the Town House, whilst the whole General Court (myself in the Chair) was sitting; & no one except myself, dared to wisper a disapprobation of it: and I was obliged to consent that my People should give money to the Pageants, when they halted before my door.25 In short, this Government is entirely subverted, & I question whether it will ever again recover its activity in the same form.26

    I am perfectly convinced that the best Step I could take for his Majesty’s Service would be to set out immediately for London. But the Peremptoriness of my instruction staggers me & makes me affraid of using my discretion against the letter of the Order, in a business of such importance.27 The Lt Govr altho’ he has leave of absence will not go: he says that his late loss with no present View of being reimbursed, will make him unable to bear the expence: and indeed the same objection lies hard against me. but were I as well assured that my Conduct in so doing would be approved of, as I am persuaded it would be for his Majesty’s Service, I would run the risk of procuring a recompense some how or other. But there is not as yet an immediate necessity for my quitting the Place; The Resolve (which I have before mentioned, would, if it came up to me, drive me from hence) lies now in the house, & probably will go no farther;28 and there is at this time no immediate danger to threatnen my person.29 But30 considering the Madness of the People, & the Wickedness of some of their Leaders, I may daily expect fresh dangers to arise, which perhaps may come upon me too suddenly to be avoided. Then considering my functions are at end, & the Lieut Governor is ready to take my place, most probably with as much advantage as I can hold it; I think I should be of much more use in reporting the state of the Province at home, than I can be by remaining useless here. When I get persuaded of this, the positiveness of my instruction rises up again & makes me more uncertain than ever. And in this State I have no Council to advise me or to take off any of the burthen from me. If I should not Venture to go home unless I am drove from hence, which may or may not be the Case, I would very much recommend, that I may be instructed with his Majesty’s leave of absence as soon as possible to be used discretionally:31 and I will assure you that I will not use it unless it should appear to be most32 for his Majesty’s Service. Tho’ I should not be sorry to be ordered home peremptorily, provided such order should be expressive of some small approbation of my Conduct, which I hope it is not unreasonable for me to expect: for I have stood singly against a people; it has been, concurrere bellum atque Virum.33

    When I began this Series of Letters, I intended them rather as private letters, for the communication of such hints & informations as might not be proper for my public letters. But I apprehend, this letter must be used as a public letter as it will be proper that these Accounts should be known as soon as possible & I shall have no opportunity of Communicating them otherwise by this Ship. If you produce this entire, Allowance must be made for its familiarity: for it was begun without foreseeing that it would be carried to such a length or contain such intresting matters. But It may be best to communicate it by extracts, especially if it goes from your board: which I Submit to you. As soon as the Assembly is up which will probably be to day ^Nov 7^, I’ll write to their Lordships.34

    I send you inclosures which will speak for themselves; among them is a poem published here, which I send you for the insolent treatment of the King; see pa 6 & 12: This is publickly sold at a printers. This letter has been wrote by intervals & therefore must be treated tenderly.

    I am. &c.

    J Pownall Esqr

    PS. Nov 8

    There is such an appearance of tranquillity that I may remain here a Cypher some time longer.35

    AL, LbC BP, 5: 16-25.