298 | To the Board of Trade

    Boston Aug 16 1764

    My Lords

    I have received from your Lordships his Majesty’s additional instruction, in regard to the fees of officers;1 in obedience to which, I have published a proclamation, as is herewith enclosed, in a form, which tho’ not usual in this province, is, I conceive, most agreable to his Majesty’s commands. As for the order for putting up tables of fees, It seems to be necessary to suspend it untill Consideration can be had of the fees of the Admiralty Custom houses & Naval Office; which are the Only Offices whose fees are not allready made public. I have sent out circulatory letters to these Offices to make a return to me of their fees: and as this business will take up some time, I shall now give your Lordships an extemporary Account of Fees in this Province.

    As for Surveys & Patents of lands there can be no complaint here; for there are no fees taken at all, unless the Secretary or his Clerk takes some small matter of the Value of the paper & writing, which I know not. The Governors fees, which make some figure in other provinces, are here next to nothing, the whole consisting of trifles which amount to never more than & seldom so much as £75 sterling pr an. By these means among others The Governor of this Province is by much the Worst paid of all the Royal Governors in America: and I fear He must continue So, untill his Majesty shall be pleased to take his appointments into his royal Consideration.

    The Fees of the Secretary’s office Courts of Justice Sheriffs Coroners &c are settled by two Acts one a perpetual one in King William’s time, the other a temporary one passed above 4 years ago.2 The latter Act lowers the fees mentioned in the former & adds several other low & inadequate fees for other business not mentioned in the former Act. The lowering of fees allready too low, is the result of the common invidiousness of people out of place against those that are in. But there is an Exception in form to the latter bill. It is a temporary Act & tends to repeal part of a perpetual Act; and yet it has no clause of non obstante3 in it: and indeed Such a Clause itself would create difficulty. I should not have passed Such an Act ^originally^, neither upon the Merits, nor upon the form: but it will be difficult for me to reject it when it comes for renewal only, after having been passed before: & having received a tacit approbation. I should therefore be glad to receive your Lordships orders how to act if this bill should be presented to me, as probably it will next Winter Session.4

    The Fees of the Court of Admiralty are in some few Acts prescribed by an Act of Assembly:5 but I beleive it has never been observed for reasons hereafter mentioned. The cheif part of the support of the Judge & Officers of the Admiralty arises from poundage of the Condemnations. This is an extreme bad method of paying a Judge, as it makes him intrested in evry Prosecution. The Notoriousness of the present Judges6 integrity makes him as little liable to such a charge, as Any Judge can be; but it does not prevent his uneasiness at being Subject to it at all. And yet even with these fees his office is Very poorly Supported. The only redress for this is the appointment of a certain Salary for the Judge Regr & Marshall, & thereby abolishing the poundage fees.

    The Fees of the Custom house officers appear to be settled in an Act of Assembly: but the Act was never observed.7 The Officers themselves have heretofore declared to the Assembly that they not being provincial Officers, shall not & ^can^ not submit to a provincial table ^of fees^ which are calculated to abolish their offices or at least to bring them into mean hands. On the other hand It has been urged  that these fees having been established by an Act which has received his Majesty’s consent by his Governor & afterwards his tacit approbation, ought to bind the Kings officers. But these Acts were passed by Lieut Governors; and the Kings tacit approbation, where there was no remonstrance against the Act, should not be very much insisted upon. However the Assembly has for some years desisted from attempting to inforce their Act: and the Custom house officers continue to receive the fees which have been customary for many years past, without any dispute or reluctance that I can learn.

    The Fees of the Naval office were settled by an Act in King William’s time:8 but that Act was never observed or at least has not been within the memory of living men. Many years ago the present Naval Officer presented a petition ^memorial^ to the Assembly setting forth that the Execution of the Act of King William must necessarily annihilate his office, as the fees therein given would not raise money enough to provide a room & the lowest kind of a Clerk. The Assembly seemed to acquiesce in this & the Naval Officer has ever since received the usual fees without any obstruction:9 & he sayes that they are the same as he found in the Office, which is between 20 & above 30 years ^ago^. And this I beleive is as good an Authority for fees as Any of the Kings officers can show.

    I shall transmit to your Lordships, as soon as I can get them prepared, compleat lists of the fees of all offices within my Government with such further observations thereon as shall occur to me10

    I am, with great respect, My Lords, Your Lordships most obedient and most humble Servant

    Fra. Bernard

    The Right Honble The Lords Commissioners for Trade & Plantations

    ALS, RC CO 5/892, ff 32-35.