The Lack of Instructions from England

    475. From Sir Francis Bernard, 4 December 1769

    476. From Sir Francis Bernard, 5 December 1769

    477. From Sir Francis Bernard, 5 December 1769

    478. From Thomas Pownall, 5 December 1769

    Ever since becoming acting governor on 2 August 1769, Thomas Hutchinson anxiously waited to see how Parliament would respond to the confrontational resolutions of the Massachusetts House and the tightened enforcement of the nonimportation agreement. Even after Parliament returned to Westminster in the fall, Hutchinson’s correspondents could give him no clear picture of what might happen. A more immediate problem concerned whether he should continue the prorogation of the General Court beyond the date set by Governor Francis Bernard. With little time remaining before the scheduled opening of the court, there was still no word from Lord Hillsborough. When the orders finally did arrive at the last moment, Bernard and Hillsborough both urged Hutchinson to convene the legislature in Cambridge but left it to his discretion whether or not to do so.

    475. From Sir Francis Bernard

    Pall Mall Dec 4 1769

    N 10

    Dear Sir, I have received your Letter of Octr 23 and also those of Octr 27; & am particularly obliged to you for the Care you have taken in Regard to the Subject of one of the latter & desire your Continuance of it. The Account is very unpleasing but not quite unexpected.1

    I cannot learn that it is as yet determined in what Manner American Affairs shall be treated in the next Session. A few days must produce some Resolutions upon these Questions both with Regard to the Extent of the intended Repeal, and the Methods to be used for the putting an End to the American Combinations against Great Britain & preventing the like for the future. If it shall be resolved to pursue this Business effectually, it will not be found difficult, & possibly may issue in such a Manner as may make the Managers of those unnatural Confederacies tremble.

    In your Expression of your Hopes of a Repeal of the late Act, you mean the Duties, It is not clear whether you intend the Repeal of the three Articles, as they are called or the whole Act including Tea. If the former you need not doubt of it; if the latter it is possible but the Odds are against it.2

    The Expectation of a one American Parliament is the absurdest Idea that could enter into a Mans Head at this time. When we recollect what an Alarm the late Congress at New York occasioned, can it be imagined that such an Assembly would be authorised by Great Britain?3 There are Men of Authority & Power here, who (notwithstanding the foolish Notion of the Expediency of dividing the Colonies into many little Governments which has prevailed heretofore) would be glad to see America divided into several large Principalities, with a Constitution as similar to Great Britain as well may be. But the present is not the time for so great an Undertaking.

    I have not yet had time to read over the Vindication &c. I have been congratulated upon it; & from what I have seen of it, with much Reason. It was advertised to be published by Almon immediately after the Arrival of the Ship.4 Their Publications have hitherto done me Honor; & I doubt not but this will have the same Effect. However I will not, if I can help it, enter the Lists with Writers who have set Truth at Defiance, & appear to be inspired by the Father of Lies.

    All the Vindication of myself which I am inclined to make is by a correct Publication of my Letters including those which the Faction has suppressed, & adding many others which have not come to their hands. By these will appear my true Sentiments of the Province & People over whom I commanded; & from thence will be determined how far I am to be adjudged their Enemy for having declared against the Policy of the Constitution of the Government after it had been rendered impracticable by the Successful Machinations of the wickedest Men in it. I am &c.,

    SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 4, 8:26–28); at foot of letter, “The Honble Lieut Govr. Hutchinson”; in an unknown hand.

    476. From Sir Francis Bernard

    Dec. 5 1769

    No 11—Private

    Dear Sir, Having wrote a full ostensible Letter I now come to a confidential one.1 You will receive by the Packet a Relaxation of your Orders concerning the Assembly, if they wanted any. You will also receive Directions for calling the Assembly at Cambridge, but not so peremptory as to oblige you to it if you should think it best to have it at Boston.2 It was judged this Measure would greatly contribute to what you express your Hopes of, the separating the Country Representatives from the Boston Faction. I recommended a peremptory Order that you might be more able to apoligise for it. But it was answered that this amounted to a peremptory Order, if your Opinion did not direct you to counteract it, in which Case you was left at Liberty to do what you thought for the best. But if you thought it best to obey it, you might quote it as a positive Order: for as you are not to communicate the Secretary of State’s Letters (no not even to the Council now) the discretionary Power which is given you need not appear. I do not know whether you & I agree in the Expediency of calling the Assembly out of Boston at this Time. I think the Opportunity which now offers for that Purpose ought by no Means to be neglected; & that even the keeping them at even so little a Distance as Cambridge will conduce very much to bring them from under the Despotism of the Faction. But you will judge for yourself. In a Conversation I had with Mr J, t’other Day, he of his own Accord proposed holding the Assembly at a Distance from Boston as a Remedy for the present Disorders arising from the Influence of the Faction;3 and observed that in popular Governments the Assembly should never meet in a great Metropolis; as they ought as much as possible, to be kept out of the Way of being tampered with by designing Men.

    I have two other Matters relating to the Assembly to write upon, but must defer them ‘till I make up my Packet by the Mail which will go next Fryday.4 I shall then write to some other of my Friends; at present I can only finish this. I am,

    SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 4, 8:28–30); marked “Private”; at foot of letter, “The Honble Lieut Govr Hutchinson”; in an unknown hand.

    477. From Sir Francis Bernard

    Pall Mall Dec. 5. 1769

    No 12.—Private

    Dear Sir, Having dispatched the Letter preceding this with a Punctuality, which, I have since learnt, was unnecessary, I now proceed to what was intended to be Part of it.1

    I have been desirous that some Rule should be laid down, whereby you might govern the Use of your Negative in the next Election of Councellors. But I see that this is not to be obtained: you must guide yourself by your own Judgement & Discretion, & act that Part which you think the Duty of your Office requires of you. If I mention the Difficulties you are under, it is said that all public Offices are full of Difficulties, & at this Time more than ever; & every one must submit to those belonging to his Office; that the best Way to overcome Difficulties is to act with firmness & Resolution & to do that which is right in your own Eyes: & it has been instanced for Example that supposing that in the List returned for Councellor to the Governor, there should be some who have actually subscribed against the Importation of British Goods, he could not with Propriety accept them as Councellors.

    In Regard to another Question, whether you should consent to Grants for supporting the Agents of the Council & the House, the same Answers might be applied. I have given my Opinion that in quiet Times no Governor would consent to such Grants. It is thereupon said that then they should not be consented to now.2 From hence you will see that I am not like to procure for you more explicit Directions for your Conduct than I had for my own. The most authoritative Opinion I have been able to procure for you is that it will be best for you to act with Firmness & Resolution according to your own Sense of your Duty.

    But you must consider all this to have passed at a Time when it was quite uncertain what Part Government or Parliament will take with Regard to America. If vigorous Measures should be resolved upon in the Cabinet & be taken up by Parliament, the present Diffidence would in some Measure vanish; & a System of firmness might take Place. And the very Proceedings of Parliament may possibly afford you some Light to guide you thro the uncouth Parts you are now in. It cannot be many days before I shall be able to form some Idea of what is to be done. In the mean Time make yourself easy about the Government: that will not be disposed of as yet; I must be provided for first. All the Candidates I have as yet heard of are Lt Govr Francklin, Lt Col Dalrymple & Col. Evelyn.3 I believe that all the Answer that will be given at present is that it is not vacant. I am &c,

    SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 4, 8:30–32); marked “Private”; at foot of letter, “The Honble Lt Govr Hutchinson”; in an unknown hand.

    478. From Thomas Pownall

    London Decr. 5. 1769

    Dear Sir, Having been confined now ten weeks to my House in a violent fit of Illness, from which it was not expected I should have recover’d; I can but just acknowledge the Receipt of your Letters.1

    In Return for the Information you give me, of the Spirit of the People & the Course of Affairs with you, I wou’d give you some Account of the Temper & Spirit of Business here: But as there is no giving any Account of the Course of a Ship when She has lost her Rudder; so as we have neither Minister nor Administration or Opposition, that seem to have any Course at all, excepting merely that of Opposing one another; I can give you no Account of what they would be at. I might as well write you the Shapes of the Clouds that have passed over this Island during Summer; & tis the same Reason that renders it impossible for me to give you any Account of your own Situation, or what is intended to be done.

    As soon as I can; you shall receive a Letter from me; in the mean time, pray believe me I am Dear Sir With real Respect & Regard Your friend & Servant,

    T Pownall

    I beg it may be known that I would by no means accept the agency upon a Contest even if attended with the greatest Majority that Success in a Contest could give.2

    RC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 25:346); addressed, “To His Honor Thomas Hutchinson Esqr. Lt. Govr. & Commander in Chief &c of His Majesty’s Province Massachuset’s Bay Boston. New England.”; endorsed, “[Gov] Pownall Dec. 5. 1769”; markings for postage.