Response to the Townshend Reforms

    274. To Unknown, [September or October 1767]

    275. To Richard Jackson, 20 October 1767

    276. To [William Bollan], 31 October 1767

    277. To [Thomas Pownall], 10 November 1767

    Although Bostonians had some inkling by mid-July of additional colonial legislation pending before Parliament, the exact nature of Charles Townshend’s reform of imperial affairs was not known until shortly before it was to take effect on 20 November. The Townshend Act had three major components: 1) the enactment of new revenue duties on a number of imports including glass, paint, and tea; 2) the creation of the American Board of Customs and the restructuring of the vice-admiralty courts to make customs collection more efficient and lucrative; and 3) the establishment of a civil list for certain royal officials serving in the American colonies. Thomas Hutchinson regarded most of the new legislation as ill-advised, and as in the case of the Stamp Act, he underestimated the intensity of colonial resentment it would stir up. He believed a flurry of fiery articles in the Boston newspapers to be little more than the handiwork of a few demagogues and correctly predicted that New York would back away from its confrontation with Parliament over the Quartering Act of 1765. When in the fall of 1767 the Boston town meeting called for non-consumption as a means of pressuring Parliament to repeal the new laws, Hutchinson thought the plan would have little appeal elsewhere.

    274. To Unknown1

    [September or October 1767]2

    Sir, In the last Letter I had the honour of receiving from you you complain of the party spirit which has appeared in most of the political writers in this interesting controversy between Great Britain and her colonies. Some of their performances you say are evidently designed to keep up an opposition in the colonies and to render the authors popular there others are designed to vindicate the measures of the Ministers in England just as the authors happen to stand affected to them, few or none are calculated to heal the breach and to promote that union which every true friend to Britain and her colonies wishes to see established. There is no prospect of our being able to converse together upon this subject. You have been kind enough to communicate to me your sentiments upon particular points. I never had so favourable an opinion of my self as since you have allowed me the honour of your correspondence. I fancy we should think alike upon everything. I design in this letter to take a general and more extensive view of the controversy and to submit my thoughts to your correction. You will shew me my errors with your usual candour and I shall be ready to acknowledge them.

    The advocates for the colonists say that when their ancestors came to America they brought with them their natural rights and the rights of English men that it is an abridgment of these rights to take their property from them without their consent signified by each person by himself or his representative. That the distance of the places to which they were to remove rendered it impracticable for them to be any longer represented in Parliament, provision was therefore made either by charters or comissions from the crown for representatives & a legislative body with the powers of parliament within themselves; and that this was the sense both of the nation and of the colonies may be inferred from the non usage of parliament who never included the colonies in the publick taxations for more than an hundred years together.

    The advocates for the power of parliament say that the removal of the colonists was only from one part of the English dominions to another that every part was and continues to be subject to the supreme authority of the whole, that the provision made for representatives & legislatures within themselves was no more than the provision made for corporations in England, it may be necessary indeed for a colony to make laws very different from and of a more enlarged extensive nature than the laws of a corporation in England but both remained nevertheless equally subject to the supreme authority of the whole Empire when and as often as it should be thought proper to exercise it; that the indulgence shewn to the colonies in not exercising this authority cannot be urged as an argument against the right; that if the charters or commissions to any of the colonies exempt them from taxes the exemption is void and the King might as well have exempted any of his subjects within the realm, that the colonists enjoy the protection of the supream authority of Britain and subjection is but a natural and reasonable return.

    The colonists seem to take it for granted that every of the rights and privileges which a subject has a just claim to in Britain must necessarily remain to them in America although the enjoyment of such rights in America be incompatible with their dependance upon or connexion with Great Britian. Some of their opponents have been too apt to consider them as subjects of an inferior order and they have sometimes been treated in a ludicrous and contemptuous manner.

    Two or three years have passed away in this controversy. The jealousy of the nation and the discontent and disaffection of the colonies are rather increased than lessened. I am sure you are fully sensible that the interests of the nation and it’s colonies are closely connected. If you are impoverished and reduced to a dependant state in all probability we shall be the first sacrifice we shall become the property of some other power whose subjects ^even^ in Europe are strangers to the liberties which we should continue to enjoy under Great Britain, let all happen to us which we suppose our selves in danger of. What must we expect from such a power if they should consider us not as colonies but as conquered provinces? We should no longer distinguish between external and internal taxes,3 between a power of legislation and a power of taxation, nullus liber homo capiatur vel imprisonetur aut disscisietur de libero tenemento suo vel libertatibus vel liberis consuetidinibus suis aut utlagetur aut exulatur, aut aliquo modo destruatur &c.4 would never once be advanced. Instead of an inconsiderable duty upon Glass paper and tea our whole property would be at the mercy of our masters. From freeholders we should become tenants or at best we should hold our lands, which some of our families have possessed for many successions passed & which we please our selves with the thoughts of transmitting to as many future, by a very precarious tenure. On the other hand the colonists say it is the interest of the nation to have ^avoid^ every measure which may disaffect or discourage them. Oppression they say will cause them to avoid as far as possible all commerce or correspondence with their oppressors, to endeavour to live within themselves and though it would be madness yet this may be the effect that they ^will^ be indifferent whether they remain subject to Britain or to any other European State, perhaps some will say if they must be oppressed the oppression will be easier to bear from strangers than from their own country men.

    Rather than run the hazard of all the miseries they must suffer if they lose the protection of Great Britain it seems to be their interest to submit to some abridgment of the rights which their fellow subjects enjoy, especially seeing they have not the least room to suppose the supreme authority would deprive them of any part of those rights if they could be continued consistent with their relation to Great Britain and their Remaining part of ^the same^ Empire. If it be one of the fundamental rights of an Englishman that he should not have his property taken from him but by his consent by himself or his representative and this consent cannot be signified by individuals nor, as the colonists in general say by a representation in conjunction with the representation of the other parts of the Empire should not the colonists consider that upon their principles the Parliament must give up a fundamental principle not of the English constitution but of all government & which results from the very nature of government viz. that the several parts of which ^the State^ consists should be subject to the supreme authority of such state; for if you admit two supreme independent authorities you must admit also two distinct independent states. Why should we be incensed then against our mother country, as if, as it has been sometimes not very decently expressed, the Parliament was wantonly exercising its power over the colonies? Perhaps if we were inhabitants of Britain we should be as averse to any limitation of the supreme authority of the Empire as we are now we are colonists to any abridgment of our rights as Englishmen.

    Rather than risque the loss of the Colonies

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 25:433–36); the letter was written in TH’s formal script, with very few revisions, indicating that he may have originally intended this copy as the RC and then changed his mind, either not sending it at all or revising it in a different form; the MS page ended with the tag word “Colonies” so clearly TH continued the letter on a subsequent page or pages, now lost; unaddressed; undated.

    275. To Richard Jackson

    Boston 20 October 1767

    My dear Sir, My time is of so little Importance compared with Your’s that I am asham’d to be in your debt. Your Letter of the 17 June came to hand just as I was Leaving the Town for 5 or 6 Weeks, & that of the 15 of July I did not Receive until my Return about a Week ago.1 The Settlement of the Controversy with New-York I hope will be the Consequence of my Journey.2 In a very amicable way we brought the Subject of the Dispute from a large Country of 50 or 60 Miles Square to a very inconsiderable Strip of Land and should have shut up even that if we had not on both Sides been Limited by Instructions or other Intimations from our Principals. For the Sake of Peace we Conceded greatly on the part of the Massachusetts & more than as I am well assured, we Shall, be finally held to if there Should be an Adjudication in England. I will transcribe & inclose the Last proposals, which, if you think proper may be Communicated to the Secretary of State, who, I dare Say would willingly have no further Trouble with this Controversy.3 I was often in Company with Mr. Ingersol at New-Haven who is Recovering the Esteem of the Colony which is saying more for their honour than his own.4 My health, I thank God, has been for several months past in it’s usual State. It is not of that Importance You so kindly imagine.5 If the publick may find any good Effect from it I shall think that the best use which can be made of it. The place you thought of in the Way of Customs would have been more to my own Emoluments, but I doubt whether I cou’d have been of much Service, & if it had been offer’d to me I would have Submitted to the Ministry to determine where I could have been most Useful & if they had Thought as I do I would have foregone the Profitable Post and helpt the Serviceable one, although there should be no prospect of a Salary annex’d to it.6

    You will Expect to hear from me in what manner we receive the Late Acts of Parliament and other proceedings in England which immediately relate to Us. The disallowance of the Compensation Act makes no Stir at present. The Late Offenders are as Safe as if an Indemnity had been Ratified for nobody will prosecute them.7 I hope no branch of the General Court will take any improper Steps. The Governour is Pressed to Call the Assembly but he will keep it off as long as he can. The Act for granting duties is Complained of. Some say the dutch will fall the price of their Tea. If they do not I hope the pernicious Trade to Holland for this Article will be discouraged. I doubt whether Paper was the best Article for a duty because it can be brought cheaper from Holland than England.8 I do not know enough of the Constitution of the new Board of Commissioners to be Sure, that they will be able to lay the illicit Traders under any greater Restraints than they are at present. It is infused into the minds of the people that these Duties are a prelude to many more & much heavier and that a Standing Army is to enforce Obedience and the Legislative power of the Colonies to be taken away. I wish for nothing so much as to See the Colonies demean themselves so as that the nation may be Satisfied and all Compulsory measures prevented. I am not afraid of the personal fortitude of our Demagogues. Upon the least appearance of danger they wou’d flee, or renounce their principals. But discontent would fill the minds of the people through the Continent especially if their Legislative power should be taken away. They wou’d no longer Consider Submission to government essential to their own Interest whilst they are in this Sentiment 3 or 4 hundred Troops wou’d be Sufficient to prevent Accidental Riots & Tumults in any Colony but when they are fix’d in the Contrary Opinion it is difficult to determine what numbers would be Necessary to enforce Obedience when the Governours are at such distance from the Governed as to render it impracticable to provide for Emergencies as they may happen.

    To Restore tranquility to the Colonies & at the same time to preserve a just dependance upon great-britain hic labor, hic opus.9 Property is more equally distributed in the Colonies, especially those to the Northward of Maryland than in any Nation in Europe. In some Towns you see scarce a Man destitute of a Competency to make him easy. They have as high notions of Liberty as any part of the Globe, but then they are as tender of their property & see the Importance of enjoying their Estates in quiet. I find no Arguments so Successfull as urging to them that under the notion of obtaining their Liberty they are pursuing measures which will deprive them of their Property as well as Liberty or Render it of Little Value. This wou’d infallibly be the Case if Great Britain should cast them off. If they Continue connected as one Empire, they must expect to be Subject to the supreme Authority of this Empire. As Colonies, and especially from their remote Situation Legislatures within themselves are necessary but from the fundamental principal of Every Government these Legislatures must be Subordinate & Subject to the Supreme Legislative power of the Empire. This Power however will be Rarely Exercised and only when a just & equitable regard to the Common Interest of the whole empire renders it necessary. To exercise this power by Raising moneys either by internal or external Taxes from any part of the Empire, which is not Represented, can hardly be reconciled to the Constitution of the Empire, but yet, in the nature of things, seems necessary, because the Colonies cannot be Represented so as to enjoy the benefit of the Representation; however, if this Power should sometimes be exercised in this Way, it is more adviseable to Submit to it, than by Resistance to break off the Connection—even allowing that to be the worst Consequence that could attend such Resistance. Reasoning in this manner people will bear patiently. Tell them of an Army to Compell them to obey, or if one Regiment won’t do they shall have two or three, they fly into passion & rage & declare that if they must be Slaves they care not who are their masters only they had rather have but one than five hundred. I cannot answer for any Colony that there shall be no Tumults & disorders. I hope there would be greater numbers unite in suppressing them than there have been heretofore. Should the present duties be quietly submitted to the Mutiny Act every where is conformed to at least in Substance if not in the exact way & manner prescrib’d.10 Should no further duties be laid the next Session of Parliament, & in the mean time publick Officers conduct with Caution & prudence I cannot but hope the People would Return to a true sight of their Int’rest, & our wicked Incendiaries lose their influence. I don’t know that a moderate duty on Raisons, Lemmons, Oyl &c. from Spain & portugal &c. would be thought a grievance as it wou’d open a trade which is now prohibited.11 I am sure it would be a great benefit to the nation for all those Articles as well as Wine come now without any Duty & likewise prevent the duty upon Wines from the Islands which are sold so Cheap that there is no need of other Evidence they pay no duty.12 If Acts were more frequently passed which are apparently calculated for the benefit of the Colonies either as the Rule of Law in general or Relative to particular Colonies we Should be habituated to them. They might be Suggested every Session: Such was an Act concerning Witnesses & Wills &c. 15 or 16 Years ago,13 & such an Act for Restraining paper money in New-England only.14 I am not sure of the Success of my plan but it appears to me the most likely to Succeed.

    You speak doubtfully of your Continuing in Parliament. I hope you will not desert your Country nor despair of the Common-wealth at a time when from your perfect knowledge of Affairs & the Goodness of your heart you are so much wanted. I am with the most sincere Esteem and Respect Dear Sir Your obliged, faithfull, Servant,


    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/45X, 25:205–08); in WSH’s hand, copying errors have been silently corrected; “Copy to Mr. Jackson” written vertically in TH’s hand in left margin.

    276. To [William Bollan]

    Boston 31 October 1767

    Dear Sir, I was very glad to receive your Letter of 11 August, and to find that nothing on my part had caused an interruption of our Correspondence. It is kind in you to int’rest your self in what [con]cerns1 me. I am not much disappoint[ed. T]here are so many in distress for ^want of^ places that m[en]^who are not so^ have but little reason to expect them. I desire none but what I shall be thot capable of doing service in & no greater Salary than is adequate to the Service.

    I cannot think the Stipends to my present places are adequate but I am not to judge in my own cause.2 The post you hint at I find was thot of for me but the late Mr. T thot it incompatible with the post of LG.3 How Mr. T who is a LG came to be appointed I do not know.4 I must have quitted my place of Ch Just which I think is a more important post than that proposed & I ^therefore like better^5 to wait till something offers which I can have without prejudice to the publick Service. The G has had an extremely difficult Administration. There never was more occasion for a mixture of resolution & moderation just as circumstances occurred. I really think that few men would have given [less Room] for exception and it was not his fault that the Militia was not employed.6 They would not have appeared.[I thot it best to attempt it but] the Council advised to the contrary. Mr.P had no authority from me to say what he did. I have been cautious of saying any thing to any body about Regular forces.7 I have always feared that a force which could be supposed to be sent with a design to Reduce or to keep in subjection the Colonies would alienate them to such a degree that nothing but the last extremity could make it adviseable. I cannot say that a small number in a Colony to be employed as the Guards often are in London for suppressing mobs & tumultuous Assemblies would have had that Effect but even this I never did any thing to promote.

    I am just come from N H where I have been endeavouring a settlement of the Controversy with N York. We brought the Yorkers to consent to a Line from two points on our North & South Boundaries 70 miles from the River at right Angles but we were limited to the Line Reported by the Board of Trade 20 miles on an East course from the River which in its general course inclines to the East so much as to make the difference of near a mile the ^whole^ breadth of the Line ^province which is about 60 miles.^ As we are come so near to one another I think when the 2 Assemblies meet they will finish the Controversy.8

    I am very easy with being excluded a vote in Council and as the Ministry are very easy that the H should exclude a LG from being present there I submit to that also.9

    Our Incendiaries have endeavoured to inflame the people by a number of seditious pieces for several weeks together.10 They seem to be discouraged. I have spread it thro’ the Province as I travelled that the N Yorkers are all for peace & that we shall be left alone, & we have a better appearance just now than we have had for some time.11 Our internal authority however is miserably weak & it was not withou hazard that we dismissed the principal demagogue in the Province [from] practising in the Sup Court as a punishment for some papers in fav[or of li]berty but in contempt of the Court to which he had set his hand.12 It wa[s a]bsolutely necessary I do not find that hitherto it has had any ill Effect. When anything occurs worth communicating I shall continue our Correspondence with pleasure. I am Dear Sir Your affectionate humble servant,

    Dft (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 25:209–10); unaddressed but the volume index prepared by a later hand lists “William Bollan” as the recipient.

    277. To [Thomas Pownall]

    Boston 10 Nov 1767

    Dear Sir, I had no claim to the Repeated instances of friendship you have [shewn]1 me. I shall Retain the same grateful Remembrance of them as if all the advantages you intended me had accrued. The post you proposed would have been as easy & genteel a thing as I could have desired but I think I can do more service in another capacity.2 My ambition is to be instrumental in quieting the minds of the people. The better part & I hope the major part in their hearts are well affected to me. The Comission proposed is an unpopular thing & would have laid me under disadvantages. The Revolutions in the ministry are so frequent that it will not do to place any great dependence upon encouragement given of favour. It affords some satisfaction to have our conduct approved. If I am not flattered my history of the Province will be useful & very different from fugitive pieces the sentiments & observations will have a lasting effect. I have spent so much time in these amusements that I am habituated to them & as I find leisure I believe I shall be further dabling.3

    If you have no further use for the papers you mention some of them [may possibly be of use to me tho I have no Remembrance what they were. My nephew Mr Rogers will wait upon you and will Receive & forward them when you direct him. His business in London I suppose is wholly mercantile but for a N Engl. man I think he is sensible & clean.]4

    I wish if any farther Duties are thot of this Session they might be confined to articles from Spain Portug & Italy. This would have the appearance of a benefit to trade & yet would add to the Revenue more than all that was done the last Session. I believe little or no Duty is paid on Wine now. I am told the best Fyal wine is sold at about 7£ Sterl. This the pipe. This would not be possible if it had paid 3£ duty.5

    I suspect I differ from you in sentiment upon the Subject of paper mony. I have no idea of any benefit that can arise from it & I am fully satisfied that as much paper as we introduce so much Silver & Gold we drive away. If we have more of bills than we use to have of silver & gold the silver & gold will cease to be the measure when they cease to be the instrument & the currency will infallibly depreciate unless the bills have a certain intrinsick value & if they have such intrinsick value they will be no more likely to Remain among us than the Silver & Gold for which they are designed as a Substitute. I have no business with any other colony & if they are fond of them let them try. We have paid dearly for the experiment & I hope shall never be at liberty to make another trial.6 The Colonies around us seem to be quiet. We should be so too if it was not for a few of the most profligate abandoned fellows that ever lived. I could wish to take some of them down for their printed performances which one would think evry government under the sun would deem seditious but we have learned from your side of the water such absurd notions of the liberty of the press that no under the Sun ^Jury^ would convict them. A chief demagogue H. printed something high eno in favour of liberty but mixed with it something very contemptuous of the Court.7 We thot we had good right to proceed in a summary way & the first court at Springfield ventured to strip off his gown & forbid his pleading before us again. Some complain but I think in general what we have done is approved of.

    Boston Inhabitants are easily influenced with the sound of liberty. Their [Representatives a few weeks since applied to the G to call the Gen Court that they might have an opportunity of applying for relief from the Taxes laid on the Colonies the last Session of Parl. The Town met afterward and expressed their approbation of what their Representatives had done, & that]8 they might provide in some measure for their own relief they voted to forbear the importation & use of a great number of Articles of Brit. produce & manufacture; appointed Comittee to take subscriptions of such persons as would oblige themselves to conform to this vote & ordered their Resolves to be sent to all the Towns in the province & also to the other Colonies to invite them to join in the Confederacy.9 It is said a great number of persons of inferior Rank have subscribed. I hear of scarce any of consequence. It seems to be an ill judged puff. I communicated the abstract you inclosed to Capt Hallowell who I dare say will thank you.10 I am with great Esteem Sir Your faithful humble Servant,

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 25:216–17); unaddressed but the volume index prepared by a later hand lists “Governor Pownall (?)” as the recipient.

    Nonconsumption Agreement, 28 October 1767. By permission of Houghton Library, Harvard University