State of the Disorders, Confusion, and Misgovernment in Massachusetts Bay
State of the Disorders, Confusion, and Misgovernment which have lately prevailed, and do still continue to prevail, in His Majesty’s Province of Massachuset’s Bay in America.
The King having thought fit to Command that a state of the disorders, confusion, and misgovernment which have of late prevailed in the Province of Massachuset’s Bay, should be laid before His Privy Council, for their advice to His Majesty thereupon; the Papers herein referred to, are submitted as containing all the material facts which shew the distracted situation of that Province.
From these papers it will appear that notwithstanding the Colonies in America, by the nature and principles of the Constitution of this Kingdom are, and have by Law been expressly declared to be subordinate unto and dependent upon the imperial Crown and Parliament of Great Britain, and that it hath also been enacted and declared, that the King’s Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make Laws of sufficient force and validity to bind the Colonies & people of America in all cases whatsoever; Yet nevertheless a variety of illegal, violent and unwarrantable Acts and proceedings, tending to question and deny that right and authority, to subvert the Constitution, and to oppress the subject, have been committed and done within the Province of Massachuset’s Bay; and that the General Court in their corporate capacity, have not only pursued no measures nor provided any means for suppressing the same and punishing the Offenders as it was their duty to have done, but that the Council acting in their seperate Capacity as a Board of advice, have in all cases where the authority of the supreme Legislature was in question, shewn a backwardness to concur in such measures as were judged necessary for the preservation of the public peace, and that the House of Representatives have countenanced and encouraged such violent and illegal acts by adopting the same opinions & declaring the same principles upon which they were grounded.
A narrative of the material transactions in the Government of Massachuset’s Bay since the repeal of the Stamp-Act will justify the above observation; and the papers themselves from which it is drawn, will support the charge it contains.
The success which had attended the flagitious publications in the Boston news-papers on the subject of the stamp Act, in exciting the popular tumults which followed the promulgation of that Law, was too obvious to escape the attention of those who wished to see the same opposition given to the subsequent Revenue Laws; and therefore when it became known that such Laws were proposed, or at least so soon as they were published, and the concomitant establishment of Commissioners of the Customs for America had taken place, the press again teemed with publications of the most during nature denying the authority of the supreme Legislature, and tending to excite the people to an opposition to its Laws.
The effect of these publications, and the general disposition of the people to adopt the principles they held out were apparent, not only in unwarrantable attempts to evade the payment of Duties imposed by Act of Parliament, but also in the rescue by force of seizures made in consequence thereof, & in the grossest ill-treatment of the Revenue Officers, and of all those who gave them countenance and support, several instances of which in the years 1766. 1767. & 1768. will be found in the papers referred to, in some of which instances the cases appear to have been attended with very aggravating circumstances of the most daring insult and violence.
Whilst the spirit of opposition to the authority of Government and to the Laws of this Kingdom was confined to Libels in the newspapers and to acts of violence and disorder committed by individuals, there was reason to hope that by a due exertion of the constitutional powers granted by the Charter, such unwarrantable proceedings might have been suppressed and the authors brought to due punishment; but it is represented that those cases in which the Governor thought he could not act without the advice of the Council were not only deliberated upon in a manner that apparantly shewed they were not disposed to concur in any measures that might be effectual for that purpose; but that those persons from whom the remedy was to be expected, were deeply infected with those principles from the adoption of which these disorders had arisen.
Upon the election of the Council in May 1766, the Lieut. Governor, the Secretary, the judges of the Superior Court, and the Attorney General, — all of which, except the Attorney General, are stated to have been usually elected Members of that Board were excluded apparently as the Governor represents for no other reason but to mark a disrespect to the Crown Officers for the Men themselves were of unexceptionable characters, But no argument of justice to them or respect to Government could prevail; on the contrary, the Lieut, Governor was soon after excluded from being present at the Meetings of the Council notwithstanding his claim to such privilege had both reason and usage to support it.
In the interval of the adjournment of the General Court in 1766, a transport with Two Companies of Artillery was driven by distress of weather into the Port of Boston, and upon application made to the Governor by the commanding Officer that these Companies might be quartered pursuant to the act of Parliament[,] The Governor with the advice of the Council, ordered the Commissary to furnish them with the articles required by the said Act. When the Assembly met this matter was moved in the House, and it appearing that the Act of Parliament above referred to, had with some other Acts of Parliament been printed by order of the Governor and Council, a message was sent to the Council desiring to be informed by what authority the said Act or Acts had been so published, and whether they knew of any Act requiring the registry of Ordinances, which the Legislature there had not consented to. The Council having in answer to this message referred the House to the Governor for the information they desired, the answer was voted to be not satisfactory, and a Committee was appointed to take the matter into consideration during the Recess.
Upon the meeting of the Assembly on the 28th of January 1767 a message was sent to the Governor, desiring to be informed whether any provision had been made at the expence of that Government for the King’s Troops lately arrived in the Harbour of Boston. In answer to which the Governor sent them the Copy of the minute of Council, by which provision was made for the Artillery Companies pursuant to Act of Parliament, and also an account of the expence that had been incurred. In reply to which they charged this measure upon the Govr. as a violation of the Charter which was (they say) the more grievous to them, as it was justified upon the authority of an Act of Parliament, which was as great a grievance as the Stamp-Act, which took away the unalienable Right of Freedom from all taxation but such as they should voluntarily consent to, and grant.1
The next important matter taken up by the Assembly that manifested a spirit of opposition to the authority of Parliament was that of the Circular Letter of the 11th of February 1768 to the other Colonies inviting them to concur in Petitions for redress in the case of the Revenue Laws, in which letter they did at least draw into question if not openly deny the authority of Parliament to enact laws binding upon the Colonies in all cases whatever, asserting that the Acts imposing Duties upon the people of that Province with the sole and express purpose of raising a Revenue were infringements of their natural and constitutional Rights.2
The same doctrine and principles were also held forth in other Letters written by order of the Assembly at the same time to such persons of Rank in this Kingdom, as they conceived concurred with them in opinion, and also in a letter to their Agent, in which letter a variety of other Acts of Parliament, and measures of Government founded thereon, are stated to be grievous and oppressive and a violation of their Charter-Rights.
The publication of these letters, which the House ordered to be printed with their Journals,3 and the atrocious publications in the News-papers which continued without any controul, could ^not^ fail of having a very mischievous effect.
On the 18th of March the anniversary of the Repeal of the Stamp Act, some disorders were committed, and the Governor was induced, from many concurrent circumstances, to suspect that further and greater violences were intended; upon which he thought fit to ask the opinion of the council, whether they would at that time advise him to take any measures for securing the peace of the Town, and what those measures should be: To which they replied, that as they apprehended there was no danger of any disturbance, they did not think any measures necessary to be taken for that purpose; but upon the Governor’s laying before them a letter from the Commissioners of the Customs, expressing their apprehensions that insults would be offered to them, and one of their Officers having made oath before the Council, of his having been threatened with mischief, they adjourned the consideration of what might be proper to be done to a later hour, when no disturbances being reported to them, they declared their adherence to their former opinion. Upon which the Governor thought fit to acquaint the Commissioners that he could give them no protection.
In the beginning of March 1768, subscriptions were made, and associations entered into for the non-importation of Goods from Great Britain, but this last measure was at that time defeated, by the Merchants in other Colonies refusing to concur in it.
The exclusion of the Lieut. Governor and other officers of Government from the Council at the general election in 1766, has already been mentioned. The same disrespect was shewn ^to^ them in 1767, and repeated upon the meeting of the general Court in 1768, and whilst the conduct of the Assembly was actuated by such principles, and such a disposition in which it is represented that the Council had upon many occasions manifested a strong inclination to concur, there was little room to hope that the disorders in that Government would abate. On the contrary it appears that in consequence of the seizure of a vessel in the harbour of Boston for running uncustomed Goods, a Mob was assembled on the 10th of June 1768, and that the Collector of the Customs, the Comptroller, and other Officers and Persons, who were assisting in the said Seizure, were violently Assaulted by the said Mob, their lives endangered, and the houses of several of them attacked and attempted to be forced; and that this Riot was followed by papers stuck upon Liberty Tree, containing an invitation to the people to rise and clear the Country of the Commissioners and their Officers, one of which is said to have been devoted to Death.
On the 11th of June 1768 the Governor recommended the state of the Town under these violences and disorders, to the consideration of the Council, who advised that such of the Members of the Board who were Justices of the Peace, should make Inquiry into the particular facts, and report the same to the Govr. in Council, that so they might take proper measures upon this interesting occasion. The Governor observes however in his letter giving an account of this transaction that there appeared a disposition in the Council to meddle with it as little as possible.4
On the 13th of June 1768 the Govr. communicated to the Council a letter from the Commissioners of the Customs, complaining that no notice had been taken of the late disturbances in the Town of Boston, whereby they were so immediately affected. Whereupon the Governor at the desire of the Board, ^wrote an Answer to the said Letter, & informed them that the Board being under^ no apprehensions of fresh disturbances when they met last, they had postponed the consideration of the business to that morning. This being done the Governor stated his apprehensions that there would be fresh disturbances, and urged the consideration of measures for the prevention thereof. But the Council thinking that there was no immediate danger of such disturbances, advised that the matter should be referred to the consideration of the General Court.
In consequence of this resolution of the Council, and upon the Governor’s acquainting the Commissioners that he could give them no protection, and ^that^ Boston was no place of safety for them, they went on board His Majesty’s Ship Romney, and obtained an order from the Governor for their admission into Castle William.
What is here stated with regard to the proceedings of the Council is taken from their journals; but as many things are related by Govr. Bernard to have past at the meeting on the 13th of June 1768, which are not stated upon the journals, it may not be improper to refer to the Governor’s letter to Lord Hillsborough on that subject, dated the 14th of June 1768.5
In this letter mention is made that on the 13th of June, notice was given by a paper fixed on a Tree, called Liberty Tree, for all those who in this time of oppression and distraction wish well to the Town and Province, to assemble at that Tree upon the next day: And the Govr. relates in another letter, dated 16 of June, that in consequence of this notice, there was a tumultuous meeting of the people at the said tree, from which they adjourned to the Town-Hall, where it was objected they were not a legal meeting; whereupon they adjourned to the afternoon, that in the meantime the Select-men might call a Town meeting to legalize the Assembly.
In the afternoon they met in a Meeting-House, the Town Hall being not large enough for the Company, and Mr Otis was chosen Moderator.6
The Govr. in his letter to Ld Hillsborough giving an account of this transaction, relates that at this meeting many wild and violent proposals were made, but were warded off. Among these were, that every Captain of a Man of War that came into the Harbour should be under the command of the General Court. Another was, that if any person should promote or assist the bringing Troops there, he should be deemed a disturber of the peace and a traitor to his Country. But nothing was done finally except the passing a petition to the Governor and appointing a Committee of 21 persons to present it to him, and also a Committee to prepare Instructions for their Representatives, and a letter to Mr Deberdt, as their Agent, after which they adjourned to the next day.
In the Petition and in the Instructions, which, in consequence of these Resolutions were agreed upon and afterwards published in the Boston News-papers it is asserted as a fundamental principle of the Constitution “that no Man shall be Governed by Laws or taxed but by himself or Representative legally and fairly chosen, and to which he does not give his own consent; that Laws and taxes are imposed upon them, to which they have not only not given their assent, but against which they have firmly remonstrated as violations of their constitution, and as meant only to support swarms of Officers and Pensioners in Idleness and Luxury.”
They say that to contend with their Parent State is a dreadful extremity, but that they cannot bear the reflection of tamely submitting without one struggle, and apprehend that it is in the option and power of the Governor to prevent them effecting too much, and save them the reproaches and shame of attempting too little. That as the Board of Customs have thought fit, of their own motion, to relinquish the exercise of their Commission; and as they cannot but hope that being convinced of the impropriety and Injustice of such an Establishment, and of the inevitable destruction which would ensue from the exercise of their Office, they will never reassume it; they flatter themselves the Govr. will redress the other grievance, by immediately ordering the Romney Man of War to remove from the Harbour.
That they would maintain their loyalty to the King, a reverence and due subordination to the British Parliament as the supreme legislative in all cases of necessity for the preservation of the whole Empire; but at the same time to assert and vindicate their dear and invaluable Rights and Liberties at the utmost hazard of their Lives and Fortunes.
They then state the case of impressing as a grievance contrary to an express Act of Parliament,7 desire their Representatives will pursue measures for their redress and for preventing impresses of all kinds, and to promote parliamentary Inquiry, whether the Commissioners of the Customs, or any other persons whatever, have really written or solicited for Troops, and for what end; and that they would forward if they thought expedient, Resolutions that every such person who shall solicit or promote the Importation of Troops at this time, is an enemy to that Town and Province, and a Disturber of the Peace.
Whether proceedings and Resolutions of this nature in a Town Meeting, legal only to the purposes of election of Officers and the management of the prudential affairs of the Town, are or are not criminal, or if criminal what is the degree of the guilt must be submitted; but it is necessary to observe, that they were followed the next day by a concurrent vote of the Council and Assembly, that Inquiry should be made into the Grounds and Reason for the present apprehensions of the people, that measures have been, and are now taking for the execution of the late Revenue Acts of Parliament by a Naval and Military Force.
In this situation the disorders and confusions which had prevailed in the Town of Boston remained unnoticed until the 22d of July, when the Govr. moved the Council to take into consideration some measures for restoring vigour and firmness to Government. Whereupon it was agreed to take up this consideration on the 27th, and to summon such Members as were within such a distance as to be able to give their attendance.8
At this Meeting the Governor recapitulated what had passed relative to the riot on the 10th of June 1768, and desired the opinion of the Council, what might be done to punish the perpetrators of those outrages, to preserve the peace of the Town, and to give such protection to the Commissioners of the Customs, as that they might return in safety to Boston.
The Governor further stated, that the proposition, made at a former Meeting, that this business should be taken up by the General Court at large, had produced no effect, and that all the disorders complained of, and objects recommended to consideration, remained unredressed or unprovided for; that no measures had been fallen upon to enable the Commissioners of the Customs to return in safety, to punish the raisers and perpetrators of the riots and tumults, or to preserve the peace of the Town, and to support the authority of Government, that this neglect would certainly be taken notice of at home, and therefore he required them to give him their full, free and true advice, according to the duty of their office, and the terms of their oath to perform the same; that he had received advice from General Gage that the Troops at Hallifax were ordered to be in readiness in case he (the Govr.) should require their assistance, in return to which he had informed the General that he would communicate this to the Council, and if they advised him to require those Troops, he should do so, and if they should not advise him to require them, he should not, being determined in such a business to do nothing without the advice of the Council; and therefore he desired their advice, whether he should, according to General Gage’s offer, require Troops from Hallifax to support the execution of the Civil Power.
On the 29th of July 1768 the Council made a reply to what had been laid before them, and proposed by the Governor, in which they state that the disorders which happened on the 10th of June 1768, arose from the violent and unprecedented manner in which the Officers of the Customs had made seizure of the Sloop Liberty.
They reminded him of the order that had been made on the 11th. of June for the Justices to inquire into the facts relative to the Riot that had been committed; they alledged that the matter, as it stood referred to a Committee of the General Court, included a consideration of Measures necessary to be pursued for the prevention of the like disturbances for the future, that the bringing that consideration to a report and issue was prevented by what passed in consequence of the orders from Home, by which the Assembly was threatened with a dissolution, and was finally defeated by the prorogation, and dissolution that followed in consequence thereof; that they are now ready upon the first call since that dissolution, to do everything in their power to prevent future disturbances, that with regard to the Commissioners of the Customs, their quitting the Town was a mere voluntary act of their own, no insult having been offered to them, nor any attack upon their persons or house[s.]9 That the posting Men of War in the Harbour was an imputation on the loyalty of the Town, and a discouragement to its trade; that if the Commissioners had procured those Ships, or had endeavoured to procure Troops to be sent thither, it could not be thought strange, that the Province entertained no affection for them; that they detested and abhorred the riots and disorders which had been committed, and therefore advised the Governor to direct the Attorney General to prosecute all persons guilty thereof, or that any ways aided or abetted the same, and to issue a Proclamation for preventing, suppressing and punishing all tumults and unlawful assemblies; That with regard to the offer made by General Gage, they were of opinion the Civil Power did not need the support of Troops, and that it was not for His Majesty’s Service, or the peace of the Province, that any Troops should be required; And that if any persons have made application to General Gage for Troops, they deemed them in the highest degree unfriendly to the peace and good order of the Government, as well as to His Majesty’s Service, and the British interest in America.
The foregoing account of what passed in Council on the 27. & 29th of July 1768, is taken from the journal of their proceedings, but it is submitted whether it may not be adviseable on this occasion to refer to journals themselves, and to the account given by Governor Bernard of these proceedings in his letter to Lord Hillsborough of the 30th of July 1768, where many things are stated that do not appear upon the journals, and many remarks are made upon the manner in which the Council attempt to justify their conduct in the case of ^the^ riots and disturbances in the Month of June 1768.10
The general Court having been dissolved in August 1768, in consequence of the Assembly’s refusal to rescind the Resolution that gave birth to the circular letter of the 11th. of March [February], it is necessary to state many facts and events of a very extraordinary nature subsequent thereto.
Notice has been already taken in a former part of this paper, of the attempt made in March 1768, to set on foot associations and subscriptions for not importing Goods from Great Britain, and of the causes of the failure of that attempt. This unwarrantable Measure was however again tried with better success (in the beginning of August), when most of the Merchants of the Town of Boston, entered into and subscribed an agreement, that they would not send for, or import any kind of Goods or merchandize from Great Britain, some few articles of necessity excepted, from the first of Janry 1769. to the 1st of Janry 1770. and that they would not import any Tea, Paper, Glass, or Painters colours, until the Act imposing duties on those articles ^should^ be repealed.
On the 5th of Sepr. there appeared in the Boston Gazette a paper containing certain queries, calculated to possess the people with an opinion that the measures of Parliament with respect to America, and those which Government had pursued for the support of them, were of such a nature, as that the political union between Great Britain and the Colonies was thereby dissolved; and therefore that it was necessary, that a convention should be held, in order to agree upon a plan for the Government of that Colony in particular.11
The Governor alarmed at the doctrine held out in this paper, and for the consequences which might follow therefrom, if the Troops which General Gage had informed him were by the King’s command coming from Halifax, should arrive without the People’s having any intimation of them, thought fit to give out that he had private advice that such an event might be expected.12
In consequence of this Intelligence being made public, several private meetings (as the Governor represents)13 were held by the inhabitants of Boston, in one of which it was the general opinion that they should raise the Country & oppose the Troops; that it was reported and believed that a Resolution was come to, in the other Meeting to surprise and take the Castle; and that an empty turpentine barrel was put upon the pole of a Beacon that had been lately erected without his consent; that the Council alarmed by these reports and appearances, desired a meeting might be summoned, which was accordingly done; at which meeting orders were given for taking down the barrel fixed upon the Beacon.
On the 12th of Septr. the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Town of Boston assembled in Town Meeting at Faneuil Hall, and after a prayer upon the occasion by the Revd. Doctor Cooper, Mr Otis was unanimously chosen Moderator, and a petition of the Inhabitants, praying that the Town might be legally convened, in order to inquire of the Governor, the grounds and reasons of sundry declarations made by him, that Three Regiments might be daily expected there, and also to consider of the most wise, constitutional, loyal and salutary measures to be adopted on such an occasion, having been read, a Committee was appointed to make the inquiry requested, and a petition to the Govr. was framed, praying him to issue precepts for convening a General Assembly with all speed.14
At the same time a Committee was appointed to take the state of public affairs into consideration, and report the measures they apprehend the most salutary to be taken in the present emergency. On the next day to which the meeting was adjourned, the Committee reported the following declaration and Resolves:15
Whereas it is the first principle in Civil Society, founded in Nature and Reason, that no law of the society can be binding on any individuals,16 without his consent given by himself in person, or by his representative, of his own free election:
And whereas in and by an Act of the British Parliament passed in the First year of the reign of King William & Queen Mary of glorious and blessed memory, entitled, an Act declaring the Rights and liberties of the subject,17 and settling the succession of the Crown; the preamble of which Act is in these words viz “Whereas the late King James the Second, by the assistance of divers evil Counsellors, judges and ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant Religion, and the Laws & Liberties of this Kingdom”; it is expressly among other things declared, that the levying money for the use of the Crown, by pretence of prerogative, with^out^ grant of Parliament, for a longer time, or in other manner than the same is granted, is illegal.
And whereas in the Third year of the reign of the same King William and Queen Mary, their Majesties were graciously pleased, by their royal Charter to give and grant to the Inhabitants of this His Majesty’s Province, all the Territory therein described, to be holden in free and common soccage:18 And also to ordain and grant to the said Inhabitants certain Rights, liberties & privileges therein expressly mentioned: Among which it is granted, established and ordained, That all and every the subjects of them, their heirs & successors, which shall go to inhabit within said Province and Territory, and every of their Children which shall happen to be born there, or on the seas in going thither, or returning from thence, shall have and enjoy all liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects, within any of the dominions of them, their heirs and Successors, to all intents, purposes and constructions whatever, as if they and every of them were born within the realm of England.
And whereas by the aforesaid Act of Parliament made in the First year of the said King William and Queen Mary, all and singular the premises contained therein, are claimed, demanded and insisted upon as the undoubted rights & liberties of the subjects born within the Realm:
And whereas the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of this Town the metropolis of the Province in said Charter mentioned, do hold all the rights and liberties therein contained to be sacred and inviolable; at the same time publicly and solemnly acknowledging their firm and unshaken allegiance to their alone rightful sovereign King George the Third, the lawful successor of the said King William and Queen Mary to the British Throne
Resolved, that the said Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Town of Boston, will at the utmost peril of their lives and fortunes take all legal and constitutional measures to defend and maintain the Person — Family — Crown and Dignity of our said Sovereign Lord George the Third, and all and singular the Rights, liberties, privileges and immunities granted in the said Royal Charter; as well as those which are declared to be belonging to us as British subjects by birthright, as all others therein specially mentioned.
And whereas by the said Royal Charter it is specially granted to the Great and General Court or Assembly therein constituted, to impose and levy proportionable and reasonable assessments, rates and taxes upon the estates and persons of all & every the proprietors and inhabitants of the said Province or Territory for the service of the King in the necessary defence and support of his government of the Province, and the protection and preservation of his subjects therein: Therefore
Voted, as the opinion of this Town;20 that the levying money within this Province for the use and service of the crown, in other manner than the same is granted by the great and general Court or Assembly of this Province, is in violation of the said Royal Charter; and the same is also in violation of the undoubted natural Rights of subjects, declared in the aforesaid Act of Parliament freely to give and grant their own money for the service of the Crown with their own consent in person or by representatives of their own free election.21
And whereas in the aforesaid Act of Parliament it is declared, That the raising or keeping a standing Army within the Kingdom in time of Peace, unless it be with the consent of Parliament, is against law: It is the opinion of this Town, that the said declaration is founded in the indefeasible right of the subjects to be consulted, and to give their free consent in person, or by representatives of their own free election to the raising and keeping a standing army among them; And the Inhabitants of this Town, being free subjects, have the same right, derived from Nature & confirmed by the British Constitution as well as the said Royal Charter, and therefore the raising or keeping a standing army, without their consent in person or by Representatives of their own free election, would be an infringement of their natural, constitutional and charter Rights; and the employing such Army for the enforcing of laws made without the consent of the people, in Person, or by their Representatives would be a Grievance.
This Report was unanimously accepted and recorded, and the following votes were also unanimously passed, after which the meeting was dissolved: vizt.
Whereas by an Act of Parliament of the First of King William and Queen Mary it is declared; that for the redress of all grievances, and for amending, strengthening and preserving the Laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently, and insomuch as it is the opinion of this Town, that the people labour under many intolerable grievances; which unless speedily redressed, threaten the total destruction of our invaluable natural, constitutional and Charter Rights.
And furthermore, as his Excellency the Governor has declared himself unable at the request of this Town, to call a General Court, which is the Assembly of the States of this Province, for the redress of such Grievances:
Voted, that this Town will now make choice22 of a suitable number of Persons to Act for them as a Committee in Convention, with such as may be sent to Join them from the several Towns in this Province, in order that such measures may be consulted and advised, as his Majesty’s service, and the peace & safety of His Subjects in the Province may require.
Whereupon the Honble. James Otis Esqr. Honble Thomas Cushing Esqr. Mr Samuel Adams, and John Hancock Esqr. were appointed a Committee for the said purpose: The Town hereafter to take into consideration what recompence shall be made them for the services they may perform.
Voted, that the Selectmen be directed to write to the selectmen of the several Towns within this Province informing them of the aforegoing vote, and to propose that a convention be held, if they shall think proper at Faneuil-hall in this Town, on Thursday the 22d. of September instant, at 10 O’ clock before noon, upon a motion made and seconded, the following vote was passed by a very great majority vizt.
Whereas, by an Act of Parliament of the First of King William and Queen Mary it is declared, that the subjects being Protestants, may have arms for their defence: It is the opinion of this Town, that the said declaration is founded in Nature, reason and sound policy, and is well adapted for the necessary defence of the community:
And for as much as by a good and wholesome Law of this Province every listed soldier, and other householder (except Troopers who by law are otherwise to be provided) shall be always provided with a well-fixed firelock-musket, accoutrements and ammunition, as in said law particularly mentioned, to the satisfaction of the commission Officers of the company: And23 as there is at this time a prevailing apprehension, in the minds of many of an approaching war with France; in order that the Inhabitants of this Town may be prepared in case of sudden danger: Voted that those of the said Inhabitants, who may at present be unprovided, be, and hereby are requested duly to observe the said Law at this Time.
The Honble. Thomas Cushing Esqr. communicated to the Town, a letter lately received from a committee of Merchants in the City of New York, acquainting him with their agreement relative to a non-importation of British Goods; whereupon the Town by a vote expressed their high satisfaction therein.
The Town taking into serious consideration the present aspect of their public affairs, and being of opinion that it greatly behoves a people professing godliness to address the supreme Ruler of the World on all important occasions, for that wisdom which is profitable to direct
Voted unanimously, that the Selectmen be a Committee to wait on the several Ministers of the Gospel within this Town, desiring that the next Tuesday may be set apart as a day of fasting and prayer
Ordered that the votes and proceedings of the Town in their present meeting, be published in the several News-papers.24 The Town voted their thanks to the Moderator for his good services and then the Meeting was dissolved.
The following is a copy of the Circular letter written by the Selectmen of Boston, and directed to the Selectmen of the several Towns within that province agreeable to the above votes.25
Boston, September 14, 1768
You are already too well acquainted with the melancholy and very alarming circumstances to which this Province, as well as America in general is now reduced. Taxes equally detrimental to the commercial interests of the parent Country and her Colonies are imposed on the people without their consent. Taxes designed for the support of the Civil Government in the Colonies in a manner clearly unconstitutional and contrary to that in which ’till of late, Government has been supported by the free gift of the people in the American assemblies or Parliaments; as also for the maintenance of a large standing Army; not for the defence of the newly acquired Territories, but for the old Colonies, and in a time of peace. The decent, humble and truly-loyal applications and petitions from the Representatives of this Province for the redress of these heavy and very threatning grievances, have hitherto been ineffectual, being assured from authentic intelligence that they have not yet reached the royal ear. The only effect of transmitting these applications hitherto perceiveable, has been a mandate from One of His Majesty’s Secretaries of State, to the Governor of this Province to dissolve the General Assembly, merely because the late House of Representatives refused to rescind a Resolution of a former House, which implied nothing more than a right in the American Subjects to unite in humble and dutiful petitions to their gracious Sovereign, when they found themselves aggrieved; This is a right naturally inherent in every man, and expressly recognised at the glorious Revolution, as the birthright of an Englishman.
This dissolution you are sensible has taken place; the Governor has publicly and repeatedly declared that he cannot call another assembly and the Secretary of State for the American Department in one of his letters communicated to the late House, has been pleased to say, that “proper Care will be taken for the support of the dignity of Government;”26 the meaning of which is too plain to be misunderstood.
The concern and perplexity into which these things have thrown the people, have been greatly aggravated, by a late declaration of his Excellency Governor Bernard, that one or more Regiments may soon be expected in this Province.
The design of these Troops is in every one’s apprehension nothing short of enforcing by military power the Execution of Acts of Parliament, in the forming of which the Colonies have not, and cannot have any constitutional influence. This is one of the greatest distresses to which a free people can be reduced.
The Town which we have the honor to serve, have taken these things at their late Meeting into their most serious consideration: And as there is in the minds of many a prevailing apprehension of an approaching War with France, they have passed the several votes which we transmit to you, desiring that they may be immediately laid before the Town, whose prudentials are in your care, at a legal Meeting, for their candid and particular attention.
Deprived of the Councils of a General Assembly in this dark and difficult Season, the loyal people of this Province, will, we are persuaded, immediately perceive the propriety and utility of the proposed Committee of Convention: And the sound and wholesome advice that may be expected from a number of Gentlemen chosen by themselves, and in whom they may repose the greatest confidence, must tend to the real service of our ^most^27 gracious Sovereign, and the welfare of His subjects in this Province; and may happily prevent any sudden, & unconnected measures, which in their present anxiety and even agony of mind, they may be in danger of falling into.
As it is of importance that the Convention should meet as soon as may be, so early a day as the 22d of this Instant September has been proposed for that purpose — and it is hoped the remotest Towns will by that time, or as soon after as conveniently may be, return their respective Committees.
Not doubting but that you are equally concerned with us and our fellow citizens for the preservation of our invaluable Rights, and for the general happiness of our Country, and that you are disposed with equal ardour to exert yourselves in every constitutional Way for so glorious a purpose.28
The foregoing account of the proceedings of the Town-meeting was printed by their direction in the Boston Gazette of the 19th of September but as their are many circumstances relative to what passed at this meeting, related in Governor Bernard’s Letter to Lord Hillsborough of the 16th. of that month, which appear to be very material for consideration, it is presumed that letter will be referred to.29
It may be proper here to repeat what has been before said, in respect to the proceedings of a former Town-meeting,30 that is to say, that whether they are or are not criminal, or if so — what is the degree of guilt, must be submitted; but it is also here as in the former case necessary to observe, that no steps whatever were taken to suppress so extraordinary a proceeding, nor does it appear to have been taken any notice of by the Council, or by any of the civil Magistrates in the Colony.
On the 22nd of September 1768, a number of persons, upwards of 70, being Committees from 66 Towns and Districts, assembled in Convention at Faneuil Hall, to consult and advise the most effectual measures as might promote31 the peace and good order of His Majesty’s subjects in that Government at this very dark and distressing time.
The first step taken in this extraordinary convention was the chusing a Chairman and clerk, and the objects of this choice were the late Speaker and the Clerk of the Assembly,32 after which they agreed upon a Petition to the Governor, praying that he would summon the Constitutional Assembly of the Province, in order to consider of measures for preventing an unconstitutional encroachment of military power on the civil establishment for promoting the prosperity of the King’s Government, and the peace, good order, and due submission of His Majesty’s Subjects.
The Governor however thought fit to refuse the receiving this petition, assigning for reason that such a reception would be to admit this Convention to be a legal Assembly, which he could by no means allow, and therefore admonished them by message to break up instantly,33 and separate themselves before they did any business in order to avoid the consequences of the high offence they were committing.
In answer to this message they endeavoured to justify themselves by stating the grounds on which they assembled, and by openly disclaiming all pretence to any authoritative or Governmental Acts; but the Governor refused to receive any paper from them, and, after having sate for Three days, they adjourned to the Third of October, when they broke up, finishing their proceedings with the publication of a paper which they styled, The result of the conference and consultation of the Committees chosen by a number of Towns and Districts, and convened at Boston on the 22d of Sepr. 1768.
On the 19th. of September the Governor communicated to the Council the Letters which he had received from Genl. Gage, and the Earl of Hillsborough, informing him of the orders that had been given for sending to Boston Two Regiments from Hallifax, and Two from Ireland, and moved the Board to give him their advice in what manner provision should be made for their reception and accommodation.
As the answer given to the Governor by the Council on this occasion, and what passed in consequence thereof, as well as upon the arrival of the Troops, in respect to the quartering of them in the Town of Boston, are very material to the consideration of the state of the Government of Massachuset’s Bay, and to the conduct of the Council as a Board of Advice and consultation, and as the subject matter of these transactions cannot be related abstractedly, without a hazard of misleading, it is submitted whether it may not be most advisable to refer, not only to the journals of the Council, but also to the Governor’s Letters to the Secretary of State, upon the subject,34 in which are related35 the many difficulties that were created to obstruct the King’s service on this occasion, the pretences that were used to evade and defeat the operation of the Act of Parliament for quartering His Majesty’s Troops in America, and to bring reproach upon, and excite opposition to the measures His Majesty had been graciously pleased to pursue for supporting the civil Magistrates, and enabling them to execute the Law.
It was not however in this business alone that the Council are said to have obstructed the measures of Government; they are stated by Governor Bernard to have shewn upon every other occasion, where they were consulted by him upon matters relative to the state of the Colony, in cases where the authority of Parliament was in question, a resolution to persevere in a conduct that could have no other effect than to encrease the disorders and ill humours that prevailed, and to defeat every step that could be taken for restoring peace and good order in the Town of Boston. It would be drawing out this paper to too great a length to enumerate all the instances of this disposition which are stated: they are fully set forth in the Governor’s letters to the Secretary of State; and it is to this disposition in the Council that he attributes that weakness in the Government which rendered ineffectual every measure that had been directed or proposed for remedying the disorders which had so long existed in that Province, and for supporting His Majesty’s authority, and that of the supreme Legislature.
There is one fact however stated in the account of the transactions of this time, which is too material to be passed over in the consideration of the state of the Province, as it relates to the conduct of the Council, which is, the pretence they are said to have set up,36 of acting as a Council of State, without the intervention of and separate from the Governor, and their presuming to publish the minutes of their proceedings and their resolutions, in some instances, before37 they were communicated to him.
It must however be observed that the Council in Three Letters to Lord Hillsborough, Two of the 15th of April and one of the 12th of June 1769,38 thought fit to give an explanatory detail of their conduct in the cases in which they are charged by the Governor with neglect of duty, and want of zeal for the support of Government, to which letters it may be also proper to refer. But whatever was the cause to which the weakness of Government in that Province is to be attributed, the fact is, that all the unwarrantable proceedings stated in the foregoing sheets, were committed and done with intire impunity; and though repeated orders were given to the Governor to pursue every measure for bringing the offenders to justice, and for making inquiry into the grounds and causes of the disorders and distractions, and every support given that was required to enable the officers of the crown and the civil magistrates to perform their duty; yet these orders had no effect, and therefore it was thought fit in the beginning of the year 1769 to submit the state of the colony to the consideration of Parliament.
The result of this measure will appear in the joint resolutions of both Houses of Parliament, and their address to the King in February 1769.39
The just censure40 of the proceedings in the province of Massachuset’s Bay, and of the conduct of the Council, and other civil Magistrates expressed by both Houses of Parliament in their Resolutions, and their approbation of the measure of sending Troops thither to support and protect the Magistrates and the officers of the Revenue were very far from producing the good effect that might reasonably have been hoped for; a disposition to deny the authority and resist the laws of the supreme Legislature continued still to prevail, not only in flagitious publications in the daily News-papers, but also in a variety of violent and unwarrantable Resolutions and proceedings of those Merchants and others, who had subscribed to the agreements for non-importation of Goods from Great Britain.
Meetings of the associators are represented to have been held41 in as regular a manner as any other meeting authorized by the Constitution. Committees were appointed to examine the cargoes of all vessels arriving from Great Britain; and regular votes and Resolutions of censure were passed in these meetings upon all such as refused to concur in these unlawful associations; their names were published in the public Newspapers as enemies to their Country; and the mandates & decrees of those Committees met with a respect & obedience denied to the constitutional authority of Government.42
In some cases Goods imported from Great Britain were locked up in Warehouses under the care of these Committees, in order to prevent their being sold; and in one or two instances they were re-shipped to Great Britain.
It is not necessary to relate all the unwarrantable and violent proceedings of these associators; the nature and effect of them can only be judged of by reading the proceedings themselves which are here referred to.
On the 31st of May 1769,43 the General Court met at the Court House at Boston pursuant to His Majesty’s writs, and the first step the Assembly took before they proceeded on any other business, was to send a message to the Governor asserting that the having Ships in the Harbour, & Troops in the Town of Boston, was inconsistent with their dignity and Freedom, and therefore that they had a right to expect that he would give orders for the removal of the forces by Sea and Land from that Port, and from the gates of the City during the Session of the Assembly; and at the same time the House came to several Resolutions to the same effect as the declarations contained in their message to the Governor.
The Governor having in reply to their message, acquainted them that he had no authority over His Majesty’s Ships in that Port, or His Troops in that Town, nor could give any orders for the removal of them, they then proceeded to the election of Councellors, in which election, not only the Lieut. Governor, and other Officers of Government, were excluded, but also several other gentlemen who had been of the former Council, and who (the Governor represents) shewed a disposition to support the King’s Government, to acknowledge the authority of Parliament, and to preserve the people from Democratical despotism, and were otherwise distinguished by their integrity and ability.
On the 13th of June the Assembly sent an Answer to the Governor’s message of the 31st. of May in which he told them he had no authority over the King’s Ships or Troops.44
In this answer they assert that by the principles of the Constitution the Governor of that Colony has the absolute Military Command; that the sending a military force there to enforce the execution of the Laws, is inconsistent with the nature of Government, and the spirit of a free constitution. That the unwillingness of a people in general, that a law should be executed, was a strong presumption of its being an unjust Law — that it could not be their law, as the people must consent to Laws before they can be obliged in conscience to obey them.45
Several other messages passed between the Governor and Assembly upon the subject of the Troops, but they are little more than a repetition of the matter that has been already stated; and the altercation ended on the 21st of June with a Resolution of the Assembly,46
That the British Constitution admits of no Military force within the Realm, but for the purposes of offensive and defensive War; and therefore that the sending and continuing a military force within this Colony, for the express purpose of aiding and assisting the civil Government is an infraction of the natural & constitutional rights of the people, a breach of the privilege of the General Assembly, inconsistent with that freedom with which this House, as one branch of the same, hath a right and ought to debate, consult and determine; and manifestly tends to the subversion of that happy form of Government which we have hitherto enjoyed.
Whilst the General Court was sitting, intelligence was received of the Resolutions of Parliament respecting the disorders within the Province of Massachuset’s Bay, and authenticated copies of such of the correspondence with the Governor as had been laid before Parliament had been transmitted from thence;47 upon which the Assembly did on the 7th of July come to several Resolutions,48 asserting that the sole right of imposing Taxes upon the Inhabitants of that Colony was legally & constitutionally vested in the House of Representatives lawfully convened according to the antient and established practice with the consent of the Council and of His Majesty the King of Great Britain, or of His Governor for the time being; that the Convention in Sepr. 1768, was a measure of necessity, nor could it possibly be illegal, as they positively disclaimed all Governmental Acts; That the establishment of a standing army in that Colony in time of peace, without the consent of the General Assembly, was an infringement of49 the natural Rights of the people, and a violation of their Charter; That the sending of an armed force into the Colony under pretence of assisting the Civil authority was an attempt to establish such a standing army without their consent and was highly dangerous, unprecedented, and unconstitutional; That too many persons in power at home, do avow most rancorous enmity against the free part of the British Constitution, and are indefatigable in their endeavours to render the monarchy absolute and the administration arbitrary in every part of the British Empire; That the extension of the power of the Courts of Admiralty was highly dangerous and alarming, that50 all Trials for Treason misprision of Treason, or for any felony or crime whatsoever committed or done: in that Colony, ought of right to be had and conducted within the Courts of the Colony, and that the seizing any person or persons residing in that colony, suspected of any crime whatsoever, committed therein, and sending such person or persons to places beyond the Sea to be tried, is highly derogatory to the Rights of British Subjects, as thereby the inestimable privilege of being tried by a Jury from the vicinage as well the liberty of summoning & producing witnesses on such Trial will be taken away from the party accused.
These are some of the principal declarations contained in the Resolves of the Assembly, but they do also contain a variety of other assertions of a very dangerous & malignant nature, tending to inflame the minds of the people against the King’s Government, and against the Governor and Commander in Chief; and Sir Francis Bernard having in repeated Messages recommended51 to them to make provision for the expences that had been incurred in quartering the King’s Troops, the Session ended with an answer to these Messages, in which they arraign in the strongest terms the justice of the supreme Legislature in passing the revenue Laws, and more especially that for quartering the King’s Troops, and declare their Resolution never to make provision for the services pointed out in the Governor’s Messages.
The General Court having in consequence of these proceedings been prorogued by the Governor to the 10th. of January 1770, nothing of any great moment occurred in the Colony, excepting a continuance of very violent, and unwarrantable measures for supporting the associations for non-importation of Goods from Great Britain, until the unhappy Quarrel between the Town’s people of Boston and the Soldiery on the 5thof March, from the accounts of which, as well as from the frequent attacks that had at different times been made upon the Troops, there is much reason to apprehend that there was a premeditated design to seek occasion by such quarrels for forcing the Regiments to leave the Town.
Since this event every endeavour has been exerted by the people of Boston to accelerate the Trial of Captain Preston, and the Soldiers who surrendered themselves up to Justice; and to involve the Commissioners of the Customs and their Officers in the guilt of aiding and abetting the Soldiers in (what is called) the massacre of the people. And though the Courts of Justice have endeavoured to withstand the attempts that have been made to influence their Proceedings, yet there are but too many symptoms of their being awed and terrified by the violences of the people.
The firmness52 of the Lieutenant Governor in negativing in one or two Instances, the election of persons who have been most forward in opposition to the authority of the Parliament seems, in some degree, to have checked53 the dangerous spirit which hath prevailed, yet there is great reason to believe54 that he has only the shadow of power, not being able to act without the Council, who will consent he has never been able to obtain to any proposal55 he has made for discountenancing the usurpation of the Powers of Government by the Town of Boston; and the people being now possessed of56 an opinion, that they have many advocates in Parliament who justify them in all they have done the State of the Colony is more desperate than ever. But this will be better explained by the Instructions from the Town of Boston to their Representatives on the 15th. of last Month, and by the Assembly’s answer to the Lieutenant Governor’s Message of the 7 April, and his Reply thereto.”57
June 21st: 1770
- Letter from Govr. Bernard dated the 31st of Augt. 1767 (No 21) Inclosing
- The Boston Gazette of 31st Augt. 1767.
- Do______ dated 7 Sepr. 1767 (No. 22) inclosing Piece of a printed News-paper
- Do______ dated 14 Sepr. 1767 (No. 23) inclosing
- The Boston Gazette of 14 Sepr. 1767 and the Boston Evening Post
- Do______ dated 21. & 23 Sepr. 1767 (No 24) inclosing
- The Boston Gazette of 21 Sepr. 1767
- Do______ dated 8 Octr. 1767 (No 25) inclosing59
- Copy of a Memorial to the Governor
- The Boston Gazette of 28 Sepr. & 5th Octr. 1767
- The Boston Evening Posts of Do —— Do.
- Do______ dated 21st Novr. 1767 (No 29)60
- ________ Thirty Three Boston News Papers
- Letter from Govr. Bernard dated 17 March 1766. Inclosing a Printed Proclamation61
- Do______ (to Lords of Trade) dated 18 Augt 1766, Inclosing62
- Copy of a Letter from the Collector & Comptroller of the Customs at the Port of Falmouth, dated 11 Augt. 1766,
- And Minutes of Council thereon
- Do______ dated 10th October 1766 in closing
- Depositions &ca, relative to Danl. Malcolm’s running contraband goods
- Do______ dated 28th Febry 1767 (No 8)
- Do______ dated 18 & 19 July 1769  (No 12)63
- ———— Copy of a Memorial from the Commissrs. of the Customs in America, to the Lords of the Treasury dated Febry 12. 1768.
- Do______ To Do 28th March 1768.64
- A ______ Letter from Mr Bradshaw to Mr Pownall dated 22d July 1768. Inclosing
- Copy of Letter from Mr Venner to Mr Bradshaw dated 20 June 1768
- Copy of a Letter from the Commrs. of the Customs to Govr. Wentworth.
- Letter from Mr Bradshaw to Mr Pownall 22d July 1768 Inclosing
- The examination of Mr Hallowell at the Treasury Board 21 July 1768
- Memorial of the Commrs of the Customs, transmitting 24 Letters, Affadavits &ca.
- Letter from Mr Bradshaw to Mr Pownall 4th of August 1768 Inclosing
- Case and Opinion of the Attorney General relative to the seizure of the Sloop Liberty.
- Letter from Govr. Bernard (to the Lords of Trade) dated 7th July 1766.65
- Do______ dated 7th. 14th. & 18th Febry: 1767 (No. 5) Inclosing
- Two printed papers.
- Do______ dated 21st. Febry. 1767 (No 6) Inclosing
- A printed paper.66
- Do______ dated 24th Decr. 1766 (No 2.)67
- Do______ dated 18th Febry 1768. (No 4.) Inclosing68
- Copy of Circular Letter from the Assembly of Massachuset’s Bay to the Speaker of the several Assemblies on the Continent of America.69
- Do______ dated 19 March 1768 (No 8) Inclosing70
- The affidavit of William Wootten Esqr.
- Minutes of Council of Massachusets Bay 18th March 1768.
- Letter from Govr. Bernard dated 21st. March 1768 (No 9)71
- Do______ dated 30th May, 1767 (No 15) Inclosing
- printed Account of the Council & House of Representatives and the Governor’s Speech.
- Do______ dated 30th May 1768 (No 4.)72
- Do______ dated June 11th. 1768 (No 5)
- Do______ dated June 14: 1768 (No 6) Inclosing
- Sundry depositions and Copies of Letters between Governor Bernard, and the Commissioners of the Customs.
- Do______ dated June 16th 1768 (No 7) Inclosing73
- Copies of papers stuck up at Boston
- Petition of the Inhabitants to the Governor and his answer.
- Boston Gazette of 20 June 1768 containing the petition of the Inhabitants of Boston to the Governor and his answer, and Instructions from the Town of Boston to their Representatives.74
- Letter from Govr. Bernard dated 30 July (No 14) Inclosing75
- Observations upon the answer of the Council.
- Do______ August 9. 1768 (No 17) Inclosing
- Boston Gazette of Augt. 15. 1768
- Boston Gazette of Sepr. 5. 1768
- Letter from Govr. Bernard Sepr. 16. 1768 (No 22) Inclosing76
- Letter from the Selectmen of Boston,
- and Boston-Post Boy of Sepr. 19. 1768
- Boston Gazette of Sepr. 19. 1768
- Letter from Govr. Bernard Sepr. 23. 1768 (No 23)
- Do______ September 26. 1768 (No 24.) Inclosing77
- 1 Letter from Council to the Govr.
- 2 Minute of Council 19th. Sepr. 1768.
- 3 Do . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22d Do . . . . . .
- 4 Massachusets Gazt. Sepr. 26. 1768
- Do______ October 1st. 1768 (No 26.) Inclosing
- Minute of Council 29 Sepr.
- Do______ October 5. 1768 (No 28.) Inclosing
- Minute of Council 3d Octr. 1768.
- Do______ October 14. 1768. (No 29.)
- Do______ November 1. 1768. (No 30) Inclosing78
- 1 Minutes of Council 12th Octr. 1768.
- 2 Do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17th . . . . . . . . .
- 3 Do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 . . . . . . . . . .
- 4 Warrant of Govr. Bernard to Mr Goldthwait.
- 5 Answer of the Justices.
- 6 Postscript to Boston News Letter of the 13th of October 1768.
- Letter from Mr Danforth Boston 15th April 1769.
- Do from Mr Bowdoin . . . . . . . . . Do . . . . . 1769.
- Do from Mr Danforth 12th June 1769. Inclosing79
- Minute of Council June 8th. 1769.
- Printed Copies and Extracts.
- Letter from Govr. Bernard dated June 1. 8. 10 & 17 1769 (No 11) Inclosing
- 2 slips of Newspapers
- Do______ July 1: 7: 11 & 13. 1769 (No 12) Inclosing
- Printed slips of Newspapers
- Nos (1) (2) (3) (4) and (5) Resolves of the Representatives of Massachusets Bay.
- Do______ July 1. 1769. (No 13.) Inclosing80
- Printed slip of Newspaper.
- Printed Journal of the House of Representatives of Massachusets Bay.
- Letter from Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson March 12. 1770. (No 5.) Inclosing
- 1 Copy of Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson’s Letter to Genl Gage.
- 2 Minutes of Council March 6. 1770.
- Mr Secretary Oliver’s account of the proceedings in Council at Boston March 6. 1770.
- Letter from General Gage April 10. 1770 (No 41)
- Massachuset’s Gazette of May 17. 1770.
- Printed Messages between Lieutenant Governor and Assembly