What If Preston Were Found Guilty?

    700. To Sir Francis Bernard, 20 September 1770

    701. From Thomas Gage, 23 September 1770

    702. To Thomas Gage, 24 September 1770

    With Captain Preston’s trial near at hand, both Hutchinson and Gage began to worry about how to respond if the jury found him guilty. Hutchinson was concerned that an order from the governor to delay the execution of sentence until word of a royal pardon could arrive would appear to be an arbitrary intervention in the course of justice. Far better thought Hutchinson for Preston’s attorneys to move for an arrest of judgment, so that the case might be held over until the Superior Court reconvened at its next term in March, which would allow just enough time to hear from England. But when the trial was further delayed, this course of action seemed less viable. Preston could possibly be sentenced and executed before a pardon arrived.

    700. To Sir Francis Bernard

    Boston 20 September 1770

    No. 36


    Dear Sir, I now sit down to answer your private Letter of July 20th N. 35. Upon discoursing with Mr. John Bernard I found no disposition in him to make any difficulty about signing the Assurance. He was doubtful whether he could go to England as he must necessarily be absent above three months. He told me you knew of his determination to go to England and had said nothing to discourage it and as the Reversion only, in fact, is in John it would, I think be very hard to fasten both of them here.1 Lady Bernard seems averse to Mr. Frank’s going this Winter. He is better now than he has been since his confinement. Mr. Pelham takes very good care of him and I could not help advising to his remaining here until there could be farther advice from you. Mr. John was affraid that when the Office came into his hands exception would be taken to his doing business as a Merchant. A Collector I know ought not to trade but they are connived at in the West Indies, and no exception has been taken to the Naval Officers trading. After he had signed the Assurance I signed the Commission or Patent. I have not yet delivered the Bond to Pemberton but told him I must if he insisted upon it.2 He said he chose to have it in his own keeping and that it would be as private as in mine. He added he had rather take a certain sum & quit the annuity. That you will consider of. He is old but I fancy, hard to die and takes great care of himself, however I doubt whether you can agree, for I believe he expects to live longer than any body else thin[k]s he will.

    As I call this a private letter I will say something upon another subject of a private nature. I am greatly distressed by the publication of the deposition of the Secretary which I sent you and, I think, never sent to any other person.3 I did not send it to Ld Hillsborough because I was affraid it would be forced into parliament & fall into such hands as published your Letters. It has been over but a few days I have not seen any of the Council since, but I hear they are very much offended with their names in England. I must take all upon myself to screen the Secretary who was moved by me to do what he did. It will hurt my Interest with the Council which was every day encreasing. Indeed a Governor must cease from transmitting what passes here unless some way can be found to keep it from coming back again, for it not only makes him obnoxious to the particular persons to whom what he transmits more immediately relates, but he is exposed to the rage of the people and destitute of every protection & defence.

    What you mention in another Letter of Preston’s case is what I have thought much upon and Gen Gage has hinted to me but upon my answer to him seemed to doubt the practicability of it.4 The law of the Province makes special provision for the Establishment of Prisons but does not give the least colour for making the Castle a Prison. Would not it be taking a prisoner out of the Custody of the Law? If there should be any extrajudicial proceeding and any thing very bad happen in the execution of it or consequent upon it how would those concerned ever be able to answer it? If there should be occasion, I hope there will not, to consider of the expediency of the measure I will consult the Judges who are all well disposed. Nothing which can be done will be omitted.

    I have stated the case of Preston as it now stands in a letter to Gen Gage and sent a Copy of my Letter to My Ld Hillsborough.5 I was mistaken in the time of the beginning of next term which used to be the 2d Tuesday in March but is now altered to the 3d Tuesday in February which will straiten us more in point of time. I will cover another Copy to you which you will keep to yourself & only use it for promoting the design of it and with the greatest expedition if it be a practicable measure. I am with sincere regard Your

    T H

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 27:4–5); in WSH’s hand; at head of letter, “Gov. Bernard.”

    701. From Thomas Gage

    New York September 23d 1770

    Sir, I wish you had been able to put your first Intentions in the Execution, concerning the Tryal, and hope yet there might be time for it, notwithstanding that the Tryal is postponed, tho’ the Precaution you mean to take to guard against all Accidents, is undoubtedly the safest Method.1 But I am to acquaint you, that I know of no Deposition sent to England by my Direction, unless it might be some that were taken at the time of this unhappy Affair which I Advised Colonel Dalrymple to transmit, to corroberate the Narrative he sent of it to the King’s Ministers; And of this, the Colonel can give you the best Intelligence. And till the receipt of your secret Letter of the 12th; Instant, I never heard of any People being examined on this Subject, by a Committee of Council in England.2 This Unfortunate Affair must have given great Anxiety to you, as well as pains and trouble; And I hope every thing will be done at home to Assist you, and relieve you from a great part of the Burden. I am with very great Regard Sir, &c.

    AC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers); at foot of letter, “[Lt.] Governor Hutchinson.”

    702. To Thomas Gage

    Boston 24 Septemb. 1770

    Sir, I am now to acknowledge your favour of the 17th after you had received my Letter of the 9th by Express. My next Letter by Post will inform you that I exactly followed the Plan you propose as the best and I am very happy that you think with me that it will tend most to His Majestys Service to keep out of sight the seeming variance in the Charter from the King’s Military & Constitutional Power throughout his Dominions.1 I have had difficulty enough to keep the People in a tolerable temper whilst they are told that nothing more is done than changing the Garrison by the King’s Command to the Governor which the Governor by the Charter has a right to do from his own meer motion as oft as he thinks proper. The least jar or misunderstanding between the Civil and Military upon this occasion would have had a fatal tendency. Colo. Dalrymple is fully sensible of it and we have done every thing in concert and with perfect Harmony. The Success hitherto has been as favourable as could be expected. The 26th I am to meet the Assembly. I am not without prospect of a better Session than I have hitherto had, though I find there are very different opinions or conjectures about it. I expect to see Colo. Dalrymple & Captain Montresor some time to day.2 I am not certain what additions or alterations are intended in the works. To make the place tenable against a foreign Enemy there must be so great a change or departure from the original plan that I believe it will hardly be thought adviseable to begin this fall. I am with very great Regard and esteem Sir Your most Obedient Humble Servant

    Tho Hutchinson

    RC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers). AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 25:431–32).

    703. To Sir Francis Bernard

    Boston September 28 1770

    Dear Sir, The Bearer Patrick Mcmasters is the person who was carted out of Boston for importing Goods.1 I have kept him two or three months at the Castle allowing him the room under the Sutler. He and his brethren have been great Sufferers as well as many others. I could not refuse his request to certify his case. He can expect and I can desire no further favour from you than your giving him advice how to proceed if you think there is any chance for his obtaining any thing in England which I suppose he hopes for.

    I am writing to you at large by a vessel from hence which sails next day after to morrow. I am Dear Sir Your most humble obedient

    T H

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 27:6); in WSH’s hand; at foot of letter, “Gov. Berd.”

    Published by R. White in London in 1770, A Fair Account was intended to offset the impact of the Short Narrative compiled by the town of Boston. It contained a narrative, Thomas Preston’s version of events, twenty-eight depositions more favorable to the soldiers, and Andrew Oliver’s record of the Council meeting of 6 March. The circulation of the Fair Account in Boston in the fall of 1770 caused the Massachusetts Council to censure Oliver. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society