420 | From Andrew Oliver

    Boston 17 Decemr. 1765.


    As some things of a public nature have just occurred in which I have been more particularly interested, I beg leave to bring a Narrative of them before your Excellency.

    On Monday the 16th. Instant between nine and ten o’clock in the morning, a Publisher of one of the Boston News Papers came to me with the following anonymous Letter, which he informed me had been thrown into the Printing Office the Eve[ning] before vizt.

    Messrs. Printers.

    It is expected you publish the following.

    All the Distributors and Inspectors of the Stamps throughout North America have in the most public and solemn, some of them in a genteel and generous manner resigned their detestable Employment, except only the honbl. Andrew Oliver Esqr Secretary of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay and Stamp Distributor within the same, who since the 1 Instant has taken up his Commission—Whether he intends to act under it or not, is uncertain? He only can resolve the Question.

    The Printer informed me that he apprehended Mischief would ensue to him, if he took no Notice of it: and as I apprehended Mischief to myself in case it should be published, without something from me at the same time to satisfy the People; I sat down while the Printer stayed, and wrote on the other side of the Paper as follows, to be published with it vizt:

    Having received the foregoing anonymous Letter, We thought it prudent to acquaint Mr. Oliver with the Contents. He frankly told Us, that although he had now received a Deputation to act as Distributor of the Stamps for the Provinces of the Massachusetts: He had taken no Measures to qualify himself for the Office, nor had he any thoughts of doing it, and gave Us liberty to assure the Public that he would not.

    I had no time to advise upon this Declaration, it being published in the Morning Papers, and the Press being stopped merely on this Account.1 It gave satisfaction to many; but in the Evening between nine & ten, a person unknown knock’d at my door, and gave my servant a Letter for me, and went off in a hurry. The Contents of the Letter are as follows vizt.

    Hanover Square Decr. 16, 1765


    The respectable Inhabitants of the Town of Boston observe your Answer to an anonymous Letter published in Messrs. Edes and Gills News Paper of today, which We don’t think satisfactory, therefore desire that You would to morrow appear under Liberty Tree at 12 o’clock to make a public Resignation—your Noncompliance will incur the displeasure of the true Sons of Liberty—

    NB. provided you comply with the above, You shall be treated with the greatest politeness and humanity—If not—

    Superscribed to the Honle. Andrew Oliver Esqr —Present.2

    It being now late in the Evening and dirty weather, I could not go abroad to consult your Excellency, or any of my Friends upon it. And I thought I might be watched the next morning and that it might raise a Jealousy of your Excelly in the People, if I was to wait on you in the day time. I knew at the same time from the present temper of the people, and from what had happened in other places on the like Occasions, that there was no avoiding a compliance with this Demand. My business then was to settle what Answer would be satisfactory, and at the same time as little dishonourable as might be. To this purpose I sent to a Friend3 who I apprehended was well acquainted with the Characters of People in general in the Town, who came to me about nine o’clock in the morning. Just before he came I received a note from another Friend acquainting me that there were Notifications posted up in several parts of the Town, to assemble the People at the time and place appointed in the Letter I had received the Evening before. I procured one of these Notifications which is as follows — “The free born Sons of liberty are desired to meet under Liberty Tree at 12 o’clock to hear the public Resignation of Andrew Oliver Esqr Stamp Distributor Tuesday Morning Decemr 17. 1765”

    When my Friend came to me as above mentioned, He acquainted me that he had heard the Evening before, of an Effigies being prepared, which he understood was to have been exhibited in case I did not comply with the demand that had been made; and that he intended to have inform[ed] me of this, if I had not sent to him. This would as hereto[fore] have been a certain prelude of Mischief at Night.

    I had before he came prepared the draft of a declaration[n] to be made to the People, apprehending such a measure [to] be unavoidable, as in fact it proved to be. And I desire[d] him to see some people that he judged would have an influence on the multitude, and settle the form of the Declaration with them. He returned with it about eleven o’clo[ck] with some small Alterations informing me that he belie[ved] they would expect my Oath to it.

    I had before he went from me first, desired him to procu[re] the presence of some of my Friends that I might not be left intirely at the Will & Pleasure of the Populace; and to ask them to meet me at a particular Gentlemans House4 near to the place appointed.

    I accordingly repaired thither at the time prefixed, whe[n] I found the Representatives and Selectman of the Town and a considerable number of the Merchants, who had assemb[led] in consequence of my desire as aforesaid. These Gentlemen having called in some of the Leaders of the People, I communicated what I had to offer: the Gentlemen thought it was as full as they could reasonably desire; and although some of the People had prepared a draft of their own, which I was told was not so decent, the Gentle men persuaded them to accept of what I had offered, and would have recommended to them to have taken it upon my word of honour, but the people insisted upon my swearing to it. I acquiesced, and then being accompanied by the said Gentlemen repaired to the House to which the Tree of Liberty (so-called) belong. There were I am imagine at least 2000 People present and would have been many more, had it not been a very rainy day. From the Chamber Window the Declaration was read to the People in the Street below, which being sworn to, the People signified their Approbation by giving three Huzzas, and appeared to go off well satisfied.

    The Declaration is as follows vizt.

    Whereas a declaration was yesterday inserted in my name and at my desire in some of the Boston News Papers, that I would not act as Distributor of Stamps within this Province; which Declaration I am informed is not satisfactory. I do hereby in the most explicit and unreserved manner declare, that I have never taken any measures in consequence of my Deputation for that ^purpose^ to act in the Office: and that I never will directly or indirectly, by myself or any under me, make use of the said Deputation or take any measures for enforcing the Stamp Act in America, which is so grievous to the People.

    Signed, Andrew Oliver5

    I pray your Excellency to cause the foregoing Narrative to be laid before his Majestys Ministers, and represent to them the necessity I was under of acting in a manner therein mentioned.

    I am Sir Your Excellencys most obedient and most humble Servant

    Andrew Oliver

    His Excelly Governor Bernard.


    It may be proper for me to add to the foregoing Narrative __ That being willing [to] avoid as much of the Ignominy of this Affair as I could, I by the Advice of a Gentmn. who called upon me at 11 o’clock on purpose to mention it, sent up my Son6 with a Note directed to the Gentmn. assembled, proposing if it was agreeable to them, that I would deliver them my declaration from the Court ^House:^ otherwise, I would meet them at the Place appointed __ When this was read, to them, the Cry was __ The first Proposal __ The first Proposal __

    ALS, RC CO 5/755, ff 415-417.

    Andrew Oliver. By John Singleton Copley. Oil on copper, c.1758. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. NPG.78.218.