The Old Ministry Crumbles

    501. From Sir Francis Bernard, 10 January 1770

    The joint ministry of Lord Chatham and the Duke of Grafton had been notoriously unstable. Even after Chatham’s retirement in 1768 for reasons of health, one could never be quite sure whether he would rise from his sickbed to unleash rhetorical bombast at what he believed to be the mistaken policies of his former allies. Deep divisions within the government concerning American policy, from Chatham and Lord Camden on one side to less conciliatory figures such as Lord Hillsborough and Lord Mansfield on the other, prevented the ministry from agreeing on a formula that would successfully assert the supremacy of Parliament. Meanwhile, Francis Bernard, and Thomas Hutchinson after him, languished without clear instructions. In the end, the government could not withstand the storm of controversy surrounding the refusal by the House of Commons to seat John Wilkes as the duly elected member from Middlesex. In January 1770, Grafton resigned, succeeded briefly by Charles Yorke, before the premiership settled finally on the shoulders of Frederick, Lord North, who remained as leader through the American Revolution.

    501. From Sir Francis Bernard

    Pall Mall Jan. 10th 1770

    No 14

    Dear Sir, We are now come to the Opening of Parliament: hitherto Nothing has transpired concerning what is to be done on the Business of America; & it is probable that no certain System has been settled on that Subject. It is generally beleived that the American Ministry is much divided upon American Affairs; & probably they may be postponed, in the hope of greater Unity soon prevailing. The Opening of the Session seems to flatter such Expectation; as more than one Member of the Cabinet has divided with the Opposition. However the Ministry have showed themselves very strong in both Houses; a full Trial having been made of the Power of both Parties.

    I was in the House of Lords yesterday till 9 at night when the last Speaker was up. The Address was moved by the Duke of Ancaster & seconded by Lord Dunmore.1 Lord Chatham then rose & in a Speech not very long proposed 3 Amendments of the Address. 1st the soft’ning the Word unwarrantable applied to the Measures taken by the Americans against the Trade of Great Britain. 2. To strike out an Epithet which implied a Commendation of the late Peace. 3. That in that Part of the Adress which answered his Majesty’s Recommendation of avoiding Heats & Animosities should be inserted, “that they saw with Concern a General Alarm & Ill humour prevailing throughout the Nation upon Account of the House of Commons having declared a Member whom they had expelled incapable of sitting in the House & thereby deprived the People of their right of free Election, & would enquire into the same.”2 The two first were made Subjects of Declamation only, the third was fought thro’ all the Weapons. The Speakers were thus ranged.



    Duke of Ancaster

    Earl of Chatham

    E of Dunmore. second

    Earl of Cholmandely.

    E of Denbeigh


    E Talbot

    E of Shelburne

    E of Pomfret

    E Temple

    Lord Sandys

    L Camden

    D of Grafton

    D of Richmond

    L Mansfield

    L Littleton3

    E of Sandwich


    L Weymouth4


    For the 1st Amendment it was said that unwarrantable must mean illegal; & to declare any Proceedings illegal before they were enquired into was a hasty Condemnation. To this it was answered by some that the Proceedings of the Americans were so well known that the Expression was rather soft than aggravated; one Lord said that if the Word Rebellious had been used it would not have been too much. The second Amendment was rather attended to with Declamation than Argument, as it was only a Subject for the former.

    The 3rd Amendment was seriously debated. It was proposed by the first Mover as a Matter of the highest Importance & demanding the Interposition of the grand Hereditary Council of the Kingdom Nation; that the House of Commons by declaring a Man incapable of being elected who was eligible by Law, had broke thro the Constitution, & had by a Resolution of their House only, made a new Law, which was the sole Business of the whole Legislature & thereby had violated the Rights of the King the Lords & the Body of the People constituents of that House. That this Proceeding had alarmed the whole People of England from the Lands End to Berwick which had been testified by Petitions signed by all the honest Freeholders in the Kingdom. That unless something was done to appease the People the utmost Confusion must be expected. That no Body was so proper to interpose in so great a Service as the House of Lords.5

    To this it was answered that the Determination upon which this Uneasiness was supposed to arise was undoubtedly the Business belonging to the House of Commons, to whom for above 100 Years past the Judgement of the Qualifications of their own Members solely belonged; that, if they did wrong there was no Appeal from them. For if the House of Lords was to interfere they would commit a certain Violation on the Rights of the Commons in order to remedy what was with great Uncertainty charged upon them. And one Lord (Ld M), applying to the Times, observed that if the Lords should join with the People to run down the House of Commons, they might expect that the House of Commons would make Use of the same Agents to run down the House of Lords.6

    Indeed when Lord Mansfield had spoke the Argument seemed to be at an End: He so clearly showed that the Right of the House of Commons to judge solely of the Election & Eligibility of their own Members had been acknowledged for above 150 Years, that the Lords could not enter into a Question of it without violating the Priviledges of the Commons. And as it was impossible that the House of Commons should submit to the Lords interfering with the Exercise of their undoubted Priviledge, it must end in a Breach between the two Houses, which might make a Dissolution necessary: And if the People were so fermented, as the Lords on the other Side said Nothing worse could happen to the Nation. But for his Part he was not so apprehensive of the impending Danger as the Lords for the Amendment appeared to be. Let everyone do his Duty; Let the King be firm & steady; Let the two Houses mind their own Business & do it; and let all preserve a Confidence in one another, and he should be under no Fear for the Consequences of the groundless Clamour which had been propagated among the People.

    It is not easy to express with what Attention my Lord M was heard & approved: & yet Lord C—m chose to reply to him.7 As Lord M had left little Room for Argument, Lord C was obliged to make it up with Declamation & Passion, which left the reasoning of Lord M unimpeached, & greatly disappointed the Expectation of the Hearers. Lord Sandwich followed Lord C, & first observed of Lord M, that when that learned Lord stood up, he was allways prepared to hear Reason & Argument & to receive Conviction; that he should not have beleived there was a Lord in the House who was not convinced of the Truth of what he had laid down, if it had not been contradicted by the Lord who spoke last; whose Manner of speaking was so far from convincing, that he owned he seldom understood what he meant or could apply what he said to the Question in Debate. As to their extravagant Accounts of the People’s Uneasiness he knew the Falsity of it. He lived in the Middle of England & knew of 10 Counties lying about him who had not petitioned. Could the Alarm which was said to run from the Lands End to Berwick jump over 10 Counties & yet continue its Course? If every honest Freeman had signed Petitions it must follow that there was not one honest Freeholder in the Counties of Northhampton Huntingdon &c. He then rallied the Manner in which Petitions had been obtained by sending Orators & Lawyers from Town to Town like Mountebanks to frighten People with Evils which did not exist. In Short the whole Speech was highly entertaining & really closed the Debate tho two Lords spoke afterwards. Upon putting the Question whether the Address should pass as first proposed, the Numbers without [with?] Proxies were pro. 89. con. 36. The Numbers, without Proxies the Majority was much greater ^100^. This was ended about 10 oclock.

    The same Matter was agitated in the House of Commons upon a Question varied only to suit that House. The Debate lasted till near two o’clock in the Morning, when they divided, for the Address at first proposed 254, con 138. I can’t undertake to give you an Account of that Debate but will mention two or three Occurrences which passed there. Col B in the heat of speaking said the K had alienated the Affections of his People.8 Lord N said in plain Words the Assertion was false.9 B endeavoured to palliate the Expression; Another Member held him to the Words. But they were not censured in the Manner they should have been. Col B produced the late Speech of Lord Botetourt & treated it with Severity endeavouring to turn some of the strange Expressions it contains to a Charge against the Ministry.10 Lord Barrington (tho he did not speak on the Subject of Debate) rose & vindicated his Friend Lord B in such a Manner as did Honor to his Ability & Humanity.11

    The Marquis of G who had voted for Wilkes Expulsion & Disqualification at the last Session now disclaimed his former Act & said he had altered his Opinion & now thought that the Proceedings in the House on that Occasion were wrong.12 This is accounted for by an Offence the Duke of R has taken, on two Justices being appointed in Leicestershire, where ^he^ is Lord Lieutenant, without his Concurrence. But this made doubtful by another Son of the Dukes voting with the Ministry in this Question.13

    Mr Dunning Sollicitor general who was heretofore Council for Wilkes & has upon that Account heretofore declined meddling with political Matters, now avowed his Party & voted with the Minority.14

    I should have mentioned before that the Duke of Northumberland voted with the Minority, either from some private Resentment, or to court the popular Party in Middlesex or at least temporise with them.15 You will see the whole List of the Minority of Peers in the Gazetteer. These are all the Defections from Ministry that have yet appeared: their Numbers seem to be very little diminished.

    It must be expected that some Removals will follow; One great Officer especially, it is expected will be dismissed. His Removal has been talked of for 6 Months; two or three Months ago, it was said, it was very near being effected; but Means were found to prevent it. Mr York was then & is now talked of to succeed him.16 You must consider all this as ^nothing more than^ common Conversation, of which you will find a great deal more in the Newspapers.

    But it is allowed by all that the Number which the Ministry have counted in each House are no Sign of a Change of Administration any further than in 2 or 3 Offices; and that may contribute to produce resolution & Unanimity where it may happen to be wanting. It is upon this Account perhaps that there is no great Hurry in bringing on the American Business. However the Papers relating to the Combination against the Trade of Great Britain are got ready to be laid before the two Houses when they shall be called for. But the first great Business entered upon will probably be the Petitions to the King for dissolving the Parliament, which will, it is said, be laid before the two Houses by a Message.17 The Consideration of this will undoubtedly make warm Work. And if the Ministry gains as great a Victory on this Subject as they did on the like Dispute they will surely hold their Ground.

    Enough of Politics for one Time. You will communicate this Rhapsody only to Freinds who will make no improper Use of it. I am Sir &c.

    (Postscript to No. 14 to Lt Govr Hutchinson)

    P. S. Jan. 16

    Since the former Date 2 Lords of the Bedchamber the Duke of Manchester & the Earl of Coventry have resigned;18 the Earl of Huntingdon Groom of the Stole is removed;19 Lord Mansfield has declined taking the great Seal;20 Lord Bristol is made Groom of the Stole;21 Mr York has had 3 Days to consider of his taking the great Seal, which is out today. All this makes an Arrangement in a Paper of today very possible probable; Mr York Lord Chancellor; Lord Mansfield Lord President, Lord Gower Privy Seal.22 If this takes Place the Ministry will be very firm, & all will come to rights. Mr Thurloe is made Sollicitor General in the Room of Mr Dunning.23 I hear now that Mr York has accepted. Yesterday the House of Lords adjourned for another Week not without Debate & Division, the Numbers were 52–18.

    SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 4, 8:34–42, 43–44); at foot of letter, “The Honble Lt. Govr Hutchinson.”

    502. To John Pownall

    Boston 13 Jan. 17691

    My Dear Sir, This Vessel being detained by contrary winds I can acquaint you further than I could do when I wrote before with the effect of my late orders. I think the party in opposition to Government are most dejected. It is a favorable circumstance that some of their Correspondents in England who used to encourage them to go on now tell them they have gone too far & they shall not be able to support them. I have made that part of My Lord H. Letter which relates to the Association of the Merchants as publick as possible & I hear today that the person who has always acted as their chairman has expressed himself in such terms as shew that he is tired of his part.2

    I ever was of opinion that the source of all our disorder was an apprehension that the united opposition of the Colonies would bring Parliament to any terms & that whenever it appeared that at all events Parliament would maintain its authority this opposition would subside. Upon the present prospect it lowers & every possible means is now used to persuade rather than to compel to persevere in this opposition.

    But whenever Parliament shall determine to make a trial of its strength I should think it best with great deference that it should be upon some point altogether unexceptionable. If therefore the Duties in the late Act so far as has been proposed or wholly should be repealed nothing could be more proper than an Act declaring the offence and the penalties of combinations to resist or defeat the operation of Acts of Parliament that remain in force, for it must strike every common understanding that such combinations are absurd & contrary to the fundamental principles of Government.3 The great difficulty is to provide some method for an impartial trial of offences against such an Act. The Act would at least be a Test for a conformity to it under the present constitution of all the Colonies all Judges & Juries being sworn to go according to Law could be refused or neglected upon no other principle than because the Kingdom & the Colonies are two distinct Governments & the Parliament is not the supreme Authority of the whole. Let the Attorney General & other Officers of the Crown to whom it appertains be required to see that evry offence against this Act be vigorously prosecuted & if any Colony shall refuse to adopt it every measure to cause the return of such colony to a due subjection must be justified & a new method of trying Offences against it may be absolutely necessary. If at the same time the Colonies could be convincd that a further extension of the Revenue Laws was not intended. I cannot but hope that all will end well.4 After all I have said we are still liable to all the disorders of a State very near approaching to Anarchy for until the Council can be brought to alter their sentiments the confederate merchants will be under no restraint except what depends upon advices from England & a mere rumour may raise them again. If the Council would have joind with me I should long ago have tried whether we had not interior strength to suppress them. But if the present combination was intirely at an end, I think it absolutely necessary the sense of the nation should be publickly to prevent the like hereafter and indeed whenever government is feeble every attempt of this nature is to be guarded against in the first place & should be crushed in embrio.

    If you think any thing I have wrote deserves My Lord Hillsboroughs notice you will be pleased to communicate it.

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:431–32). Contemporary printings: Remembrancer for the Year 1775, 1st ed., pp. 120–21 (all except the first paragraph); Boston Gazette, 19 June 1775; New England Chronicle, 22 June 1775; Norwich Packet, 26 June 1775.

    503. From Sir Francis Bernard

    Jan. 13. 1770

    No. 15


    Dear Sir, In my former Letters I told you that you stood fair in my Lord Hillsborough’s good Opinion. He has since told me that he intended to appoint you Governor as soon as he could with Propriety supersede me. The two Preliminaries were making a Provision for me, & the Council determining upon the Assembly’s Complaint against me, without which the superseding me might be supposed to be in Consequence of that Complaint.1 I acquainted him today that my Business at the Treasury was determined, and would soon be finished in form. And as to the Complaint, if the Council would hear it summarily, that might be determined as soon. Upon which my Lord assured me that as soon as that was over he would immediately appoint you Governor.

    My Lord is as well disposed towards Mr Oliver, & is ready to appoint him Lt Govr, if we could but tell how to make a Satisfaction for the Loss of the Secretary’s Office: for my Lord absolutely declares against any valuable Consideration being given for Mr Oliver’s Resignation or even permitting it to be done without his Knowledge.2 The only Way that has been thought of to make Mr Oliver Amends, has been to get the Annuity granted to you as Cheif Justice, which must expire upon your taking the Government, assigned to Mr Oliver as Lieut Govr.3 My Lord H approves the Thing, & will urge it at a proper Time to the D of G; & I will upon a signal for proper Time endeavour to enforce it with my Lord North.4 The cheif Difficulty apprehended is the great Frugality professed at the Treasury, which I have experienced myself; On the other hand it must be remembered that Mr O is a Creditor of that Board of some standing.5 I have closely attended to these Matters & have the Pleasure to say I meet with all the good Will I could wish.

    You will expect to hear what is done with Respect to me. It was some time after I arrived before my Subject was brought upon the Carpet. My Friends L H & L B had fully persuaded themselves that I should have a Pension of 1000 pds a Year.6 But when Lord H came to talk with the Duke of G, the latter applied the 1000 pds only to the time I continued Governor, & said that the Sum of the standing Pension was yet to be settled: He proposed 600 pds; L H pressed for 800. In this uncertain State it lay for several Weeks, untill the Duke went into Suffolk to spend his Christmas. The Day after, Mr Bradshaw acquainted me that it was impracticable to find time for a Reconsideration of this Matter before the Duke went out of Town;7 & added that he had allready Authority to make out a Warrant for 600 pds a year from the first of Decr; that he would perfect this Warrant if I pleased, or would delay it till the Duke came to Town again in Hopes of procuring an Addition to the Sum. I was quite alarmed at the Prospect of this Business being carried into the Time of the sitting of the Parliament; & immediately determined to accept the Offer; & the Warrant was completed before the D returned. Soon after his Return, an Order was issued for 500 pds to be paid to me for the half Year ending at Decr 1, from whence the Pension commenced. My Friends in general disapprove of this nice Frugality in a Case where, they say, the Honor of the Crown was so much concerned. But they acquit the D of Ill Will towards me which I am assured he is far from having. It is rather imputed to an Apprehension that a larger Sum would incur Censure in the public Papers; tho in Truth whoever would censure the Grant of 1000 pds would equally condemn one of 600. For my own Part I am quite easy about it & have no doubt but, by having the Disposal of my time Situation & manner of living, I shall make a Pension of 600 pds as valuable as a Place of 1000. However I intend to convert my Pension to a Place as soon as I can & have allready wrote to the D for that Purpose. For Notwithstanding my Attachment to America I have no Desire to return thither, untill the Disputes with Great Britain are determined. I send you herewith a Letter to authorise you to grant a Leave of Absence to my Son in the Name of the King & tested by you.8 I sollicited this sometime ago & have got this Business put in the Right Channel. I would not have him made acquainted with this: But it will be of Use, if it shall be thought advisable to send him to England. I am much obliged to you for your Care of him: I shall write on this Subject to Lady B. I am &c.

    SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 4, 8:44–47); at foot of letter, “The Honble Lt Govr Hutchinson.”