The Merchants Tighten Enforcement

    392. To Sir Francis Bernard, 8 August 1769

    393. To Lord Hillsborough, 8 August 1769

    After seeing a circular letter that Lord Hillsborough sent to colonial governors informing them of the likelihood of the repeal of the duties on paper, glass, and paint in the next session of Parliament, many Boston merchants began to anticipate that it might be difficult to maintain the nonimportation movement until all the revenue acts were repealed. Thus on 26 July, the Merchants and Traders of Boston passed an agreement renewing their commitment to nonimportation and began calling on hold-outs to store any newly imported goods until 1 January or the repeal of all the duties on trade, whichever came later. Those who refused to comply would have their names publicly noted and their customers actively discouraged from trading with them. The fact that Hutchinson’s sons Thomas Jr. and Elisha and Governor Francis Bernard’s son John were among the nonsubscribers made the acting governor’s situation particularly difficult. Hutchinson increasingly looked to Parliament to ban such extralegal confederacies that dictated to independent businessmen how they might or might not dispose of their property. See TH History, 3:181–82.

    392. To Sir Francis Bernard

    Boston 8 August 1769

    No. 1

    Dear Sir, If you have had for four or five days past as fine a wind at sea as we have had ashoar you must have the prospect of a short passage. I hope whenever you arrive you will meet with that favour & reward which your services & sufferings justly deserve. I am sure if you should not the enemies of government will triumph.

    I have wrote to Ld Hillsboro & taken notice of the measures in which the Merchants are engaged.1 They sent Hancock Inches & Phillips he that was formerly partner with the Secretary to Rogers to know what he intended to do with his goods in Jacobson.2 He asked them by what Law they had any thing to do with the disposition of his goods. They all replied the Law of Necessity. They proposed that he should deliver them to a Comittee of the Merchants to be kept till they thot it proper for them to be sold. He said if they thought proper to take them he should know where to look for the pay. No, they would not do that but in a long course of conversation gave him such apprehensions of consequences from his refusal that he gave his word he would not sell nor open any of them until after the first of January. They doubted whether this would be satisfactory. He came to me soon after to tell me that if I could assure him of protection he would do nothing further and that if he could have had opportunity of seeing me he would have consulted me before he went so far. One of the Jacksons who is a large Importer has made the like engagement and your son tells me that he let Tom Boylstone who is another of the Comittee know that he would engage the same with respect to the goods he had imported if that would satisfy them.3 Hancock said in the meeting that my two sons ought to be sent for their Warehouse was the chief support of the Comissioners they had imported such large quantities of Tea the last year he had no doubt it was with somebodys help. I find the people I had most dependance upon have either subscribed or given their words not to Import. When Jo Green was asked why he did not oppose measures so subversive of all Government he replied that he & many others were well enough inclined to do it but they could make no judgment what was intended in England.4

    To compel the few that stand out subscriptions are now carrying about thro the Town & I doubt not they will spread to other Towns for each Inhabitant to promise he will buy nothing of any Importer; which must be fatal to their business. Tell the persons employed that they will be liable to make good the damage and they laugh at you and are willing to run the Risque of it. The Merchants now hold their meetings in Fanueil Hall and its difficult to distinguish them from a Town meeting for every master of a Sloop & broker Shopkeeper or Huckster is admitted & has a vote in ordering the property of the first Trader in the province. Otis attends & comes away smiling at his success. I have lost one of the NE. parsons I_____ who at first refused to subscribe but found the danger he was in of the peoples drawing off from his meeting & complied. P. yet holds out but I cant press him to ruin himself.5 The three professions Lawyers Physicians & Clergy depending intirely on the people for their support must comply with popular humours.

    It is not prudent to commit to a ship Letter my sentiments upon any particular measures & to you it is not necessary because you know them. In general I am fully of the mind that so far as encouragement has been given for a Repeal of the Revenue Laws as they are called it is necessary there should not be a failure, for it must be supposed the encouragement was given because the thing was in its self reasonable and the behaviour of our people since does not alter the nature of it. This behaviour is indeed culpable but should be punished some other way; & effectual provision must be made for preventing the like for the future & for deterring people from all confederacies or combinations to resist or to defeat the operation of Law.

    I am told that these same Merchants have a Comittee to consider of some method for getting rid of the Naval Office which is judged to be a Grievance & I doubt not they will either refuse to enter & clear or if they do will refuse to pay the usual fees but as this is yet in Embrio I must defer any further account of it until it is brought to something of maturity.6 I know of nothing else worth communicating. I am with the most sincere respect & esteem Sir Your faithful & most obedient Servant,

    T H

    P.S. Since the morning when I wrote the foregoing Colo Dalrymple was at my house to introduce two Gentlemen from the Southward one from Virginia Mr Wormesley the other from Maryld Mr Ogle son to the former governor.7 I had but little conversation with this company coming in & they were in haste to go to Salem. I have since seen Gen Mackay. He tells me their principal business is to see our sons of Liberty & to let them know that their conduct is not approved of by the Southern Colonies that they extend their Ideas much further than the people of Virginia or Maryland that there they have not in contemplation any thing more than the repeal of the Duties upon paper glass &c. or of the late Act so far as it lays those Duties and that if we carry matters to the length which since their coming here they perceive to be intended we may depend on it the Southern Colonies will leave us. If this be true as I believe it is the Crests of our Cocks of the game I think will fall. I have not sufficient evidence of this fact to mention it in my Letter to Lord Hillsborough but shall know the circumstances more fully when the Gentlemen return. It may however be of use to communicate it to you to be improved as you think proper.

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:361–62); unaddressed but TH numbered his letters to only two correspondents during this time—Bernard and Lord Hillsborough—and the tone and contents of this letter are more in line with TH’s other correspondence with Bernard; marked, “per Hall &c” for ship transport.

    393. To Lord Hillsborough

    Boston 8. August 1769

    No. 1.

    My Lord, As the Governor will make the fullest representation of the state of the Province at the time he left it, I shall not take up your Lordship’s time in mentioning any thing which occurred before, but shall not fail of acquainting your Lordship with every thing, after that, which shall appear to me to deserve your notice.

    The great Object, at present, with those who call themselves sons of Liberty is to put a stop to any further importation of goods from Great Britain and meetings for that purpose are called, and held by adjournments where resolutions are come into Committees appointed and other proceedings had in as formal a manner as in a body corporate legally assembled and known & established by the Constitution; and these meetings have had such effect that within these few days most of the Importers in Captain Jacobson have engaged not to dispose of their goods for a certain time unless they have the leave1 of the Merchants in general to do it, and most of the Traders who until now had firmness enough to stand out have joined in the subscription to import no more goods until after the 1st of January, and because there are still a very few who have not complied a subscription is carried about, from house to house that every Inhabitant may engage not to purchase any goods from such persons as shall refuse to join in the general agreement not to import.2

    I am very sensible that this whole proceeding is unwarrantable but it is so generally countenanced in this and several other Colonies and the powers of Government are so feeble3 that an attempt to put a stop to it would have no other effect than still further to inflame the minds of the people. I can do no more therefore at present than represent it to your Lordship and wait for such Instructions as may be thought proper. I have the honour to be with the greatest respect My Lord Your Lordships most humble and most obedient Servant,

    Tho Hutchinson

    DupRC (National Archives UK, CO 5/758, ff. 180–81); at foot of letter, “The Right Honorable the Earl of Hillsborough”; marked “Duplicate.” RC (National Archives UK, CO 5/893, ff. 159–60); at foot of letter, “The Right Honorable the Earl of Hillsborough”; docketed, “Massachusets. Duplicate of a Letter No. 1. from Thomas Hutchinson Esqr. Lt. Govr. of Massachusets Bay, to the Earl of Hillsborough, dated August 8, 1769, relative to the measures taken by those, who call themselves Sons of Liberty, to put a stop to any further importation of Goods from Great Britain. Recd Read Decr. 6. 1769.” AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:360); at foot of letter, “Rt Hon Earl of Hillsborough.” SC (National Archives UK, CO 5/768, ff. 20–21); docketed, “Lieut. Governor Hutchison, Boston, 8th. August 1769 (No. 1.) Rx 13 Septemr. (Dup, Orig. not received)”; in an unknown hand. SC (Staffordshire Record Office, Dartmouth Collection D(W)1778/V/611B); extract (“The great Object . . . as may be thought proper.”); in an unknown hand. SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 43, 1:111); extract (same passage); at head of letter, “Thos. Hutchinson to the Earl of Hillsborough”; in an unknown hand.