A Possible Lynching?

    633. To James Murray, 20 June 1770

    634. From Sir Francis Bernard, 20 June 1770

    635. To Thomas Gage, 21 June 1770

    636. To Thomas Gage, 22 June 1770

    637. To Stephen Greenleaf, 22 June 1770

    638. To Thomas Gage, 23 June 1770

    The delay in the trials of Captain Thomas Preston and the soldiers, while pleasing to Hutchinson and Gage, who hoped for a fairer trial in late summer, fanned discontent with the Superior Court, and rumors began to circulate that a lynch mob would soon take matters into its own hands, especially after Preston’s version of the events of 5 March (printed in London) began to circulate in Boston. Although Hutchinson took what precautions he could, there would be little he could do stop a mob since soldiers were no longer stationed in the town.

    633. To James Murray1

    Milton 20 June 1770

    Dear Sir, I will take every precaution which is in my power which I wish was greater than it is and am Yours sincerely


    RC (Massachusetts Historical Society, Miscellaneous Bound Papers); docketed, “In answer to a Letter informing him that the Towns people of Boston, since seeing Capt Preston’s printed Case, threatned his Life.”

    634. From Sir Francis Bernard

    Hampstead June 20 1770

    No. 31


    Dear Sr., Since I wrote my last I have talked with Ld. Hillsborough about your declining the Government several times. He ask’d me if it was known to you that it was intended to assign a salary payable by the King to the Government of Mass. Bay; and if the Knowledge of such a Measure being resolved upon wou’d make any alteration in your purpose of declining the Government. I told him that I was certain that you had no advice of such intention when you signified your desire to decline, to me, and I did not beleive that you had received any advice of it since; that I could not say whether such intelligence would have altered your desire or not; that such a Measure would not remove your Objections, which arose more from the impractability of the Government in its present State, than from a fear of the Governor not being paid.

    Upon talking upon this Subject 2 or 3 days ago, I offered to write to you if the Government would probably remain vacant till I could receive an answer. He said He was in no hurry to fill up the Government, unless something should happen which would require an extraordinary appointment; and he had no desire of his own to appoint any other person than you; and therefore he was inclined to let the matter rest till it was determined what measures should be taken for remedying the disorders of the Government.

    I cannot give you any more particulars of what will be done to remove the disorders of your Government than I did in my last; the little I know is communicated in confidence. All that I can at present say is that the Measures which will be taken with your people promise to be such as will probably be effectual, and restore Government & good order; unless the People really intend to measure swords with Great Britain. But tho this is plainly the design of the Cheifs of the Boston faction, yet I cannot think they will engage any considerable part of the people in so wild & desperate a scheme. However Government will be prepared to encounter such an opposition & Parliament, notwithstanding their divisions in other matters, will be almost unanimous in supporting it in the maintenance of the imperial Sovereignty.

    You will probably receive with this an order to continue the assembly by short prorogations, that it may be ready to give answer to what shall be proposed to them. Your application for leave to call the assembly at some other place than Cambridge will produce nothing in favor of Boston: you will have leave to call it at any other place, except Boston. Then what will the Town of Cambridge say to the College for depriving them of the benefit of the Assembly’s sitting there, which besides the present advantages, must in time greatly improve the Town, & increase the Value of the estates there: besides the objection is contradicted by the practice of every other College in America, which are purposely situated in the Towns where the Assemblys meet.

    I communicated the contents of your letter No. 19 to no one but the brother of the Gentleman who is the Subject of it; & I concealed from him the person from whom I had the intelligence.1 But I have since had an account of it from two Gentlemen, one of which had rec’d a Letter to the same purpose & I yesterday heard that the Prime Minister was advised of it by an Anonymous Letter.

    From what I have wrote you will see that you are not like to be soon releived from the cares of Government, & I am mistaken if you will not have as difficult work to come as any you have had as yet: But if it tends to restore Peace & good order, you will not grudge it. If what I expect shall come to pass, you may think it proper to reconsider your declining &c. I am &c.,


    SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 4, 8:99–101); at foot of letter, “The Honble Govr Hutchinson.”

    635. To Thomas Gage

    Boston 21st June 1770

    Sir, I have the Pleasure of acquainting you that I have received His Majesty’s Express Commands to direct the Attorney General of this Province to enter a Noli Prosequi in every suit commencd on any Indictment against Major General Gage Sir Francis Bernard or any other Officers of the Crown whatever on the ground of their Representations of the State of Publick Affairs in their Letters to His Majesty’s Ministers.1 The Attorney General is now absent upon a Circuit. Immediately upon his Return I shall obey His Majestys Commands and give the Directions accordingly.

    I have an Affair of Moment which by the next Post I intend to communicate to you and desire your Advice.2 I have the honour to be Sir Your most humble and most obedient Servant.

    RC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers); at foot of letter, “His Excellency General Gage.” AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:507).

    636. To Thomas Gage

    Boston 22 June 1770

    Sir, I ever supposed it would be necessary for me, at all Events, if Capt Preston & the Soldiers should be found Guilty and Sentence be passed, to grant a Reprieve until His Majesty’s pleasure should be known. I am now under stronger Obligations to do it than before having received His Majestys express commands so to do.1 I am much less concerned from an Apprehension of the rage of the people against me than I am from the danger in our present dissolute state of Government of the people’s taking upon themselves to put the Sentence into execution. I do not believe I have one Magistrate who would be willing to run any risque in endeavouring to prevent it. If Troops were in the Town I do not know that a Magistrate would employ them on such an occasion but I think they might notwithstanding be the means of preventing it. What measures will be taken in England is to me very uncertain. It is incumbent on me to mention my apprehensions to you, but I do it in the most confidential manner least their being known might suggest to some what perhaps otherwise they would not have thought of, but as there will be probably ten or twelve weeks time before the Trial will come on I should be glad of your opinion upon any steps which can be taken to guard against so fatal an Event.

    My publick Letters do not enable me to make any Judgment of the measures intended in England. Sir F B in private letters says “The Opposition call upon the Ministry to act with Spirit & upon a System or to resign their Offices as unequal to them” and again “Evry one without exception says it must be immediately done; those in opposition are as loud as any.”2 I have seen another letter from a Gentleman near the Court & friendly to Government which says “This affair will either bring about a total Removal of the Troops or effectually fix them upon you.”3 So that every thing is yet uncertain. I have the honour to be Sir Your most humble & most Obedient Servant,

    RC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers); at foot of letter, “His Excellency General Gage.” AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:509–10). SC (National Archives UK, CO 5/88, f. 114); at head of letter, “Extracts of Letters from Lieutt. Governor Hutchinson to General Gage.”; docketed, “Extracts of Letters from Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson to General Gage. Boston 22d: & 23d: June 1770” and “In Lieut. Genl. Gage’s No 47 of 7th. July 1770”; excerpt of first paragraph only. SC (National Archives UK, CO 5/234, ff. 49–50); at head of letter, “Extracts of Letters from Lieut. Governor Hutchinson to General Gage, dated Boston 22 & 23 June 1770”; excerpt of first paragraph only. Contemporary printings: Boston Gazette, 17 July 1775; Massachusetts Spy, 26 July 1775.

    637. To Stephen Greenleaf1

    Milton 22 June 1770

    Sir, The Inclosed Letter I have this minute received from Mr. Murray.2 I think it must be sufficient grounds for every precaution in your power to guard against so fatal an Event and you ought to have a special Watch without any [torn] and I must desire you to consider [torn] desirable and necessary, for some time at least, to have the Keys of the prison every night lodged in such hands that the Keeper himself if they should be demanded may not have it in his power to deliver them, for if there be any such Design as is suggested I think it probable they would force the Keeper to open the Doors. The whole should be a profound Secret in your own Breast. I am Sir Your very humble Servant,

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:511); at head of letter, “Mr Stev H Greenleaf.”

    638. To Thomas Gage

    Boston June 23 1770

    Sir, After I had wrote to you yesterday I received, towards evening, at my house in the Country a Message from Colo. Dalrymple at the Castle with a Letter he had received from Capt Preston expressing his great fear that the people were so enraged as to force the gaol that night and make him a sacrifice, several of his friends having informed him this was their intention. I sent immediately proper Orders to the Sheriff &c.1 I directed to every precaution I could think of but, being extremely uneasy, I went to Town. I found the people were enraged upon reading Capt Preston’s narrative which I wish had not been published in England.2 I sat up till midnight and untill the Scouts which had been sent to different quarters made return that all was quiet and I find that where Capt Preston’s fears have come to the knowlege of the Liberty People they have generally remarked that whatever danger there may be after Trial it would be the heighth of madness to think of any such thing before. I shall however continue all the caution I have in my power. I am very respectfully &c. Sir, Your Most Obed Servant,

    Thomas Hutchinson

    I beg the favour you would forward the inclosed by first opportunity. I have taken the like liberty presuming the post is not a private expense if it be I shall desist, or provide for it myself.

    RC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers); at foot of letter, “His Excellency General Gage.” AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:511); at head of letter, “Gen Gage.” SC (National Archives UK, CO 5/88, ff. 114–15); at head of letter, “Extracts of Letters from Lieutt. Governor Hutchinson to General Gage.”; docketed, “Extracts of Letters from Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson to General Gage. Boston 22d: & 23d: June 1770” and “In Lieut. Genl. Gage’s No 47 of 7th. July 1770.” SC (National Archives UK, CO 5/234, f. 50); at head of letter, “Extracts of Letters from Lieut. Governor Hutchinson to General Gage, dated Boston 22 & 23 June 1770.”

    639. From Sir Francis Bernard

    Hampstead, June 23rd. 1770

    No. 32

    Dear Sir, Since I wrote my last I have received your Letter No. 15 by Mr. Bridgham, who made an Apology for not delivering it sooner. Before I opened Your Letter I acquainted him with the Regard I had for his Father & my Readiness to serve him.

    In Regard to the turning out Goldthwait I am very sorry for it more upon Account of the Interest he has in those Parts than of the Place itself.1 I have been long prepared for his losing that Office; but I was determined that no one else should succeed him: and for that Purpose I intended to have negatived a new Man toties quoties2 and given for Reason that it was very improper that the Command of the Fort & the Office of Truckmaster should be in seperate Hands, and as I could not with Justice remove him from the former I could not with Propriety admit another to the latter, and so have left it to the Assembly to have put an End to the Office if they pleased. I beleive I never communicated this Plan to you but if I had, probably it would not have suited you to have pursued it at this time.

    When I communicated your Letter to my Lord H & explained to him the Nature of the Command & the Office; he said that he hoped you had not superseded Goldthwait in his Command and given it to Prebble,3 for if you had it would be admitting these People, at a time they are threatning the King with Resistance by Force of Arms, by indirect Means to remove an Officer, upon Account of his Fidelity from the Command of a Fort of the Kings, & place therein a Man that has no other Recommendation but what arises from Opposition to the Kings Government. I said that I beleived you would not remove Goldthwait from the Command of the Fort, as you was very friendly to him, but I did not know how State Reasons may operate. He said, that you must be wrote to that if you have removed him you directly restore him to the Command. You will accordingly receive a Letter from Mr. Pownall upon this Subject.

    You will remember that this Fort was built by the King; and therefore the Province has no Right to use it as a Truck house. If they are permitted to use the Room appointed for that Purpose, that must be the utmost they can expect. If they withdraw the Garrison they must not expect that. In such Case you will undoubtedly appoint Goldthwait to the Custody of the Fort. If a Garrison shall be wanted, a Serjeant’s Guard may be sent by the Commanding Officer at the Castle, which will never want Troops. Upon this Movement the Truck Trade must be infallibly put an End to; & the Defence of the Fort will probably be left to Col. Goldthwaits Company of Militia: which will not be a bad End to a Business which must otherwise be a perpetual Bone of Contention. I shall write to Goldthwait upon this Subject, & shall give him strong Assurances of your Friendship, which I hope you will confirm.

    Altho I cannot now point out the Means from whence you are to derive your Comfort, yet I can assure you that you need not as yet despair of seeing Government & Order again restored among you. The Measures which are to be carried on for that Purpose are now preparing with all possible Diligence & Expedition: they promise to be such as will probe the Wounds to the Bottom & remove the first Causes of the Disorders. It was impossible to engage the Ministry to bring on the great Affairs of America before Parliament last Session; but they can’t avoid doing it the next; & will make the best Use of the intermediate time to prepare for it to Advantage. I understand that Orders are gone to Genl. Gage to keep one Regt. at the Castle; & I expect they will soon be followed by Orders to send another thither—in which Case they must build new Barracks. All the Ships that can be spared from Halifax will be stationed at Boston under the new Commander in Cheif. I beleive it will not be long before the refractory Part of your People will be obliged to give a categorical Answer to the Question whether they will be obedient to Great Britain or not. I am &c.,


    SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 4, 8:101–04); at foot of letter, “The Honble Govr Hutchinson.”

    640. To Sir Francis Bernard

    Boston 26 June 1770

    No. 25

    My Dear Sir, By the inclosed Message &c. you will perceive the House act like humorsome sulky children who have been indulged by their Parents until they have lost all fear & reverence. The C. have very unnecessarily taken their part. & I think have very much exposd them selves by their absurd Messages & replications.1 I should certainly have had a majority in the C. if it had not been for the family T______ is connectd with and I do not despair before the year is out of lessening their Influence.2 I could wish this behaviour of the two House[s] might be refered to the Board of Trade & a Report made upon it & that I may be justified and my Conduct approved in such a manner as that it may be laid before the Assembly and that their own may be censured for I think it is disowning or refusing to submit to their Charter from the most arrant Quibble started by Bowdoin & worthy of him that by force of the words full power the King is excluded from the controul which otherwise he would have had. Their shuffling about the Exercise of the Prerogative only when it is for the Publick Good of which sometimes every one & sometimes the two Houses are judges is as [foolish?] as their other observation and more absurd.3 I have said more to them than I have intended. It would have been easy to set their Arguments in such a light as would have exposed them to ridicule but I thought it best to avoid irritating as very many who have fallen in with the Faction for fear of being marked are in their hearts friends to me. You must feel what Impatience I was in to know how the news of that unfortunate Affair of the 5 of March would be received in Engd. I am still at a loss to know what the measures will be consequent upon it. They are not yet feared by any of the most active sons of Liberty. Their friends still write them from Engd that all will issue very favorably for them.

    I have so often been disappointed in the prospect of the overthrow of the Combinations that I cannot depend upon the present prospect. It is certain we are at war with N H Rhd Isld and Virg. and we have bickerings with N Y and Penns4 and there is nothing wanting but resolution eno in the Merchants to appear & speak their minds to over power the Democratic Tyranny in this Town.

    At present it is kept up by two or three of the most abandoned and [atheist?] fellows in the world united with as many precise enthusiastical persons who head the Rabble in all their Meetings. Erv B & P still support them out of doors & in C. H ______ is made their Dupe by A____s help.5 E____s two sons have both left them and are at variance with T______.6 If the plan you hint at of a special Commission &c. should be adopted I think Young Coop M Ph Adams &c. will not have many to pity them for nobody imagines that what they have been doing can proceed from a principle which can be justified7 but this is flattering ourselves with I something in prospect for the power still continues in the same hands. A few nights ago Mr. Hulton’s house was attacked.8 I laid the matter before the C. who could not help advising to the formality of a Proclamation tho B & P both declared they believed the attack was made by people employed by the Commissioners.9 You will easily judge the distress of Mrs. H Mrs. B & daughter.10 Burch who has lately moved to Tom Olivers house at Dorchester lay upon his arms the next night & kept his Scouts out but the Women being so distressed both H & he went the day after to the Castle with their families.11 Porter & several of the Officers lodged upon Jam. Plain.12 Lady B told me yesterday at Cambridge all the Gentlemen upon the plain left their Houses the night before upon intimation that they were in danger & that a search for Officers was intended. Can you believe that when these & the like cases have been laid by me before the Council the connexion I have just mentiond have palliated excused and almost justified them as necessary to prevent the encroachments upon our Rights? I lost all patience & recovered it only by finding more of the C. than I expected expressing their abhorrence & some of them owned that all the Evils which any imagind we were in danger of could not equal what we felt from the measures taken to prevent them.

    The piece you see in the N papers against the Comissioners I think looks like B____n.13 That against P______ I suppose to be F____n under T____s direction for the old Councellor was E____g.14 P______ is in a poor stat[e] of health and I believe these troubles will shorten his days.15 I keep up with hopes that Dabit Deus his quoque finem.16 I am most sincerely Dear Sir Your most humble Servant,

    No. 24 is gone to New York for the packet.

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:514, 516).