The Papers of Francis Bernard, Governor of Colonial Massachusetts, 1760–69, is a comprehensive documentary record of an imperial official on the eve of the American Revolution struggling to implement British colonial policies in the face of a popular protest movement. The published documents cover a range of provincial and imperial issues that preoccupied Governor Sir Francis Bernard (1712–79) for much of his nine-year administration: they express the governor’s genuine anxieties about colonial radicalism, his hopes for imperial reform, and his frustrations with British inertia. This sixth and final volume in the series switches focus from events in Massachusetts to developments in Great Britain, following Bernard’s recall and departure for England. He boarded HMS Rippon on 1 Aug. 1769 sailing out of Boston harbor the following day to the relief of many colonists. While Bernard demitted office in favor of his deputy Thomas Hutchinson, he did not retire from politics immediately, and, for several years, remained an interlocutor in British government discussions on Massachusetts.

    Upon arriving in England in early September, Bernard was obliged to confront the accusations of the Massachusetts House of Representatives that he had deliberately maligned the province in official correspondence with British ministers. The petition reviewed Bernard’s conduct since the onset of the Imperial Crisis in 1765 and argued that he had deliberately misconstrued the colonists’ objections to imperial taxation and other measures as seditious. Calling upon the King to remove Bernard and the Privy Council to impeach him was an overtly partisan maneuver never likely to succeed, but neither the colonists’ concerns nor Bernard’s anxieties were unfounded. The governor’s official correspondence documented both the rise in colonial opposition and the decline in royal authority with a keener eye than his critics ever allowed. At times, Bernard resorted to misinformation (rather than disinformation) to thwart his enemies’ propaganda campaigns against British policies and parliamentary authority or to bolster his own standing with ministers. In 1768, he consistently exaggerated the governmental crisis he faced when enforcing imperial law — and which enemies suspected but could not prove — and persuaded the British government to send troops to Boston to cow opponents.1

    Bernard took lodgings in Pall Mall, and, following a brief sojourn visiting family and friends in the countryside, returned to London to prepare his defense against the House petition (No. 800). Bernard was eager for an early hearing before the Lords of the Committee on Plantation Affairs — the committee of the King’s Privy Council with oversight in colonial matters and governors’ conduct — confident he was not guilty of malpractice.

    The “Answer” he devised was a self-validating point-by-point refutation of the seventeen articles laid out in the House petition, supplemented with a file of notes, both of which he expected to present as evidence when called. (Appendix 2). Portraying himself as a beleaguered but loyal Crown servant caught in the crossfire of colonial radicalism and British imperial interests, he nevertheless staged a competent riposte, without having to parry questions from the Lords as to how he himself might have aggravated the colonists, even inadvertently. In truth, the documentary evidence of wrongdoing cited in in the petition was insubstantial to prove charges of disinformation, malfeasance, and corruption; the evidence mainly comprised a batch of Bernard’s official letters purloined by the colonists’ friends in London and published by Boston radicals in the spring of 1769. The House agent, Dennys DeBerdt, was hopelessly underprepared to corroborate the charges against Bernard and waited in vain for more substantive evidence from Boston. Friends on the committee — identified in Thomas Bernard’s detailed “Account” (Appendix 3) — ensured that Bernard was cleared of all charges on 7 Mar. 1770. The Privy Council ruling was a sharp condemnation of the colonists.

    While Bernard remained titular governor of Massachusetts following his recall, and Hutchinson acting governor, he never seriously contemplated returning to America. A brief interest in the governorship of New York was dampened by a resurgence in riot and factionalism there (No. 806), and the prospect of Barbados held little appeal because of the West Indies’ high mortality rates (No. 839). (Had distaste for plantation slavery been a factor, he would have mentioned it.) He resolved to resign the Massachusetts governorship soon after his exoneration by the Privy Council but delayed telling Hutchinson of his determination until July (Nos. 836, 850) while attending to a raft of unfinished petty personal business that risked distracting Hutchinson (Nos. 855, 860). Bereft of his governor’s salary, Bernard angled for a government position or pension (No. 805, 858) and retained the Massachusetts Naval Office for his older sons in succession (No. 827, 828, 851, 879, 880, 913). He now looked to obtain Crown confirmation of the Mount Desert Island grant (in abeyance since 1764) and more recent grants in New Hampshire (No. 844, Appendix 1.2) He eventually secured a position on the Irish Revenue Board, unaware of political controversy surrounding the proposed reform of the Board which, together with illness, prevented him undertaking any work (Nos. 891 and 892). With an annual salary of £1,000, the pension of £600 he was awarded in 1769 was suspended but restored in 1774 once he left the Board (Nos. 821, 822, 896, 917). The lobbying required for all of this demanded Bernard’s presence in London.

    Following reunions with his daughters Jane (aged twenty-three in 1769) and Frances Elizabeth (now twelve, she had been an infant when her parents departed for America) and their guardian (his cousin and lifelong friend, Jane Beresford [c. 1702–71]), Bernard lived with his third son and amanuensis Thomas (27 Apr. 1750–1 Jul. 1818) at Pall Mall until moving to the suburb of Hampstead in May 1770 in anticipation of Lady Bernard’s arrival (No. 799). Thomas proved an indispensable aide and clerk to his father, assiduously maintaining the governor’s letterbooks and papers with occasional help from Jane Bernard, who managed the Hampstead household.2 Lady Amelia Bernard (c. 1719–26 May 1778) and her (enslaved?) black cook Cato had remained in Massachusetts with the younger children: Amelia (b.16 Sept. 1754). William (27 May 1756–1776), Scrope (1 Oct. 1758– 18 Apr. 1830), and Julia (b.19 Nov. 1759).3 Shute (26 Jul. 1752–5 Apr. 1768) had died in Massachusetts. Her oldest son Francis Jr. (27 Sept. 1743–5 Nov. 1770), known as “Frank,” continued as the province naval officer while John (26 Jan. 1745–25 Aug. 1809) became a merchant.4

    Personal affairs figure more prominently in this volume than previous volumes. There are touching accounts of Frank Bernard’s psychosis and death (Nos. 803, 865, 866, 869), John’s debt-ridden misadventures (Nos. 888, 890, 897, 904 to 910), and Lady Bernard’s terrifying winter crossing of the Atlantic with her children and servants to arrive in early Feb. 1771 (No. 882). Occasional references to Lady Bernard in the governor’s correspondence dwell on his concern for his wife’s well-being (No. 889); she had given birth to ten healthy children over sixteen years, and now, fifty-two years old, had endured the disturbing death of her eldest son without her husband’s support. John Bernard, Thomas Hutchinson, and customs officer Walter Logan provided what care they could for both Lady Amelia and Frank (Nos. 812, 873 etc.). (Letters to Amelia from her husband during their separation were probably damaged in transit.) Reunited, the family continued in rented property at Hampstead, before moving to Kensington Gravel Pits in May 1771, thence to the College House at Lincoln to assist the ailing Jane Beresford who was then living in Nettleham northeast of the town in a house Bernard leased from the bishop of Lincoln or in property she rented from Nettleham Hall estate.5 In her will, this “excellent . . . Woman” bequeathed Nether Winchendon Manor and other property to Bernard and left legacies to his daughters (No. 891).

    Bernard never wavered in the conviction that Thomas Hutchinson should succeed him as governor, regardless of Hutchinson’s self-doubts and equivocations following the Boston Massacre (No. 841). His flattery peremptorily dismissed the notion of the British replacing Hutchinson with a “common seeker” (No. 846) or “adventurer” supposing only a person of “Rank & Ability” (No. 845) would be commensurate to Hutchinson’s own talents. (Hutchinson would not have missed the irony of Sir Francis, an undeniably an experienced colonial official, distancing himself from “common” office-seekers — a depiction appropriate to Bernard’s own circumstances when he first came to the colonies). Bernard knew he had Hillsborough’s ear and, though not a confidant, was sufficiently confident to press Hutchinson’s case regardless until Hutchinson’s commission was finalized on 28 Nov. 1770.

    Hutchinson, naturally, was Bernard’s prime source of information on developments in Massachusetts, though it cannot be said with certainty that Bernard was Hutchinson’s prime adviser on British politics given Hutchinson’s wider range of correspondents. Their relationship remained close, personally and politically; the intimacy of their friendship prompted a private exchange on Frank’s death (No. 876, which has not survived in full) and candid discussion of controversial issues in which disagreements surfaced. Together they planned for a succeeding administration staffed by a small group of friends of government (No. 861) and for Hutchinson to maintain regular contact (No. 801), which he did for the duration of his administration. Bernard supposed that he might intercede directly with ministers on Hutchinson’s behalf, much as Lord Barrington had for him, but this time with “Lord H” — Hillsborough, secretary of state for the American Colonies.

    I make the best Use I can of communicating your Letters; with Lord H I have scarce any Secrets; to others in the Ministry I consider what is proper for Communication; to Americans I have no Occasion… to communicate any thing at all.

    He was especially wary of the inscrutable colonial agent Benjamin Franklin (No. 809).

    Bernard provided Hutchinson with accounts of parliamentary debates, some based on first-hand observations (Nos. 820, 838). There were reports of varying quality intimating government opinion on the expulsion of John Wilkes and the repeal of the Townshend duties (No. 831). He served early notice that parliamentary opinion generally echoed government in favoring the retention of the tea duty (Nos. 808, 816), though he did not attend the repeal debate of 5 Mar. (No. 834). He came to rely on other observers (perhaps including son Thomas) and newspaper reports to monitor divisions and the consolidation of the North ministry (Nos. 824, 838, 840). He disclosed ministers’ anxieties that Capt. Thomas Preston, commanding officer of the company of British soldiers who fired on Bostonians the night of the Massacre, might be lynched awaiting trial (No. 842). Meanwhile, he assisted Hutchinson with architectural drawings (No. 885) and the purchase of a coach in England (No. 886).

    Governor Hutchinson’s out-letters to Bernard detail the ebb and flow of Massachusetts, such as the brief account of the Boston Massacre (No. 837). Together, these letters are a significant addendum to Hutchinson’s official correspondence with the earls of Hillsborough and Dartmouth largely because of their references to local dignitaries and local politics, and they have been published in volumes two and three of the Hutchinson Correspondence. Only those letters from Hutchinson bearing on Bernard’s interactions with British ministers or pertaining to Bernard’s personal life (such as No. 869) have been published in this volume of the Bernard Papers, while Bernard’s out-letters to Hutchinson (which mainly concern British politics) appear in both series; the RCs have not survived, save No. 813.

    In terms of British politics, Bernard identified with the administrations of both Grafton and North. He was never an insider — at court or Westminster — yet neither was he so distant from leading politicians as to be irrelevant. He attests to several meetings with the prime minister, Lord North, colonial secretaries Hillsborough and Dartmouth, and regular communications with their undersecretary John Pownall. Bernard’s correspondence was already well-known to parliamentarians interested in American affairs. Upwards of seventy of his letters had been presented to Parliament since 1765 (listed in Appendix 7). Most recently, between Nov. 1768 and Jan. 1769, when the Grafton administration laid official American correspondence before the House of Commons and the House of Lords, extracts from thirty or so of Bernard’s letters were read to demonstrate the extent and nature of opposition in Boston.6 Bernard was roundly criticized by parliamentarians friendly to the Americans, but while his British defenders doubted the probity of some of his claims concerning rebelliousness, they largely accepted the governor’s reports as a substantive record and regarded publication of his official letters in Boston and London as a breach of trust calculated to undermine his credibility. (Governor Hutchinson similarly suffered publication of his private correspondence in 1773.)

    Thomas Hutchinson. Oil on canvas by Edward Truman, 1741. Massachusetts Historical Society. Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

    John Pownall, undersecretary of state for the American Colonies, probably consulted Bernard when he prepared a comprehensive report on the “State of the Disorders, Confusion, and Misgovernment” in Massachusetts for a Privy Council inquiry conducted in the aftermath of the Boston Massacre of 5 Mar. 1770. (For Bernard’s own reactions see Nos. 842, 843, 867, and 868.) The primary evidence cited by Pownall included numerous letters from Bernard to the earl of Hillsborough (Appendix 4). Bernard provided testimony in person on the inquiry’s second day (27 Jun.) and urged Hillsborough and the other Lords to embark on the reform of colonial government as he had long recommended. His “great Ambition” for Massachusetts, he told Hutchinson later, was to create a “perfect a Model of the English Constitution, as its dependency upon the imperial State will admit of . . . And then let them say I had a hand in it.” (No. 850). These reforms, he contended, could be delivered by revising the Province Charter of Massachusetts Bay (1691), that provided the constitutional framework for the provincial government. This would require parliamentary legislation and would serve as a condign demonstration of its supremacy (Nos. 857, 864). The Privy Council did not make any such recommendations in its final report. Instead, it proposed the garrisoning of Castle William by British soldiers, the relocation of the Royal Navy’s North Atlantic, and that Parliament conduct an inquiry into affairs in Massachusetts when it met in November.

    Reforming the Massachusetts government was not compatible with Britain’s conciliatory American policy. The North administration had sought to placate the colonists with the partial repeal of the Townshend Revenue Act (1767) and the withdrawal of troops from Boston while also asserting parliamentary supremacy through the retention of the tea duty. That approach seemed to be working when the nonimportation movements began to collapse, first in New York in July, then in Boston, Philadelphia, and other ports by mid-October (No. 862). The tactical relocation of British ships to Boston and soldiers to Castle William was a signal of sorts — of readiness to modulate policy — though not one of intent. So too was the introduction of Crown annual salaries for the governor (£1,500) and lieutenant governor (£300) payable from the tea duty. North’s cabinet further authorized Hillsborough to draft a parliamentary bill to amend the Province Charter, should it be judged necessary to take a more interventionist approach.7

    Bernard joined Hillsborough and his undersecretaries of state William Knox and John Pownall to produce a “Draft Act to Amend the Charter of Massachusetts Bay” (Appendix 5). Knox later recalled that shortly after his appointment as undersecretary (in Jun. 1770), Bernard

    produced . . . papers to Lord Hillsborough . . . and . . . Hillsborough, Sir Francis, Mr. Pownall and myself had a meeting upon them. I gave my opinion then against any alteration but that of the Council. The others were for all, and for my dissent in this case, I was ever after excluded by Lord Hillsborough from all consultations whilst he staid in office.8

    Bernard’s participation in these discussions has been acknowledged by historians,9 but correspondence printed in this volume adds both a timeline and further significant context.

    While Knox indicates that the group started meeting over the summer, Bernard had already supplied Hillsborough with detailed information regarding the colonial jury systems (No. 823, dated 3 Feb.) while closely following Parliament’s debates on the repeal of the Townshend Revenue Act (Nos. 829 and 834). He also advised Lord North about the expediency of mollifying colonial merchants through repealing duties on “three” of the articles (thus excepting tea), (No. 832, 22 Feb.) He stressed to Hillsborough the necessity of persuading Hutchinson to accept the governorship of Massachusetts and pressed for Crown salaries for all senior provincial officials (not just the governor and lieutenant governor), (No. 839, 22 Mar.) Bernard was in regular contact with Hillsborough, meeting “several times” between 8 and 20 Jun., to discuss TH’s hesitancy in the matter of the governorship (No. 847). He indicated to Hutchinson that, for the first time, he had Hillsborough’s “confidence” regarding American affairs although he was unable (not unwilling) to disclose “particulars” as to “what will be done to remove the disorders” but was convinced “effectual” “Measures” would follow to “restore Government & good order.” (No. 847, 20 Jun.)

    Hillsborough probably initiated the group discussions mentioned by Knox following presentation of the Privy Council’s report to the King on 6 Jul. At the request of a “higher Authority” — Hillsborough — Bernard requested TH’s views on immediate practical measures to reinvigorate the provincial government. Hutchinson offered only lukewarm support for Bernard’s long-standing proposal for a royal-appointed Council, fearing it could reignite radicalism (see source note to No. 870). Discussions were in abeyance for August and September (No. 854), and much of October too (given Bernard’s insistence that he knew nothing about ministerial intentions for the upcoming Parliament), (No. 864). Bernard’s letter to Hutchinson of 10 Nov. (No. 870), however, provides clear evidence that the discussions with Hillsborough about Massachusetts had concluded for the time being. Hillsborough expressed surprise at Hutchinson’s “Caution” about reforming the Council, prompting Bernard’s intercession to excuse his colleague’s half-formed “Sentiments” on the matter. He revealed to Hutchinson that the ministry would not attempt to legislate the forfeiture of the Province Charter but that he and Hillsborough had explored “10 Articles” Bernard presented for “Reformation of the Government” before settling on two:

    1 the vesting the Appointment of the Council in the King: 2 that Jurors shall be returned according to the Laws of England, of which some late Statutes are excellently calculated to prevent Prejudice.

    These proposals were included in the Draft Act (see Appendix 5) while the other “Articles” were put aside for “better times” should Parliament be more amenable to punitive legislation (No. 870).

    While Bernard supposed there was a “Concurrence of Circumstances more favorable to this Business than ever has happened at any time within my Knowledge,” Hillsborough was far less sanguine as to winning parliamentary support for reforms that would certainly provoke opposition in Massachusetts (though they did not anticipate resistance or revolt). (No. 870.) The discussions continued into the New Year. Upon visiting Hillsborough’s offices on 16 Jan. 1771, Benjamin Franklin encountered Bernard in the levee room and learned that he “attends there constantly.”10 But the reform initiative evaporated when the cabinet became preoccupied by the Falklands Crisis, which threatened war with Spain. The substance of their discussions, however, — despite Hillsborough’s resignation in 1772 — influenced subsequent ministerial deliberations on the more contentious Massachusetts Government Act of 1774, which did spark resistance.

    Hutchinson did not share Bernard’s enthusiasm for constitutional reform in hope rather than expectation that colonial radicalism would dissipate following British conciliation (No. 850). Both the governors and the British were probably surprised by the resurgence in opposition following the introduction of Crown salaries for colonial judges that in 1773 drew Hutchinson into a protracted, polarizing debate with the House of Representatives over constitutional principles (No. 903). Hutchinson’s entrenched defense of parliamentary supremacy left little or no room for advocates of colonial legislative independence or greater colonial self-government.

    Bernard’s withdrawal from public life was hastened by serious illness. He suffered a “paralytick” “fit” — a stroke — sometime in Dec. 1771 or Jan. 1772. While he recovered mobility and manual dexterity and was strong enough to travel from London to Bath within weeks, the episode left him “quite frightened” for the future. Some of that concern came from the realization that he was no longer fit for government office (No. 896). According to son Thomas, while his father overcame “palsy” and resumed horse-riding he now “suffered epileptic fits.” Bernard recuperated at Bath until May 1772, and in July was awarded an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree by Christ Church, Oxford. That summer the family moved to Nether Winchendon Manor.11 The manor’s living quarters proved unsuitable, and from Sept. 1772 the Bernards rented the Prebendal House in Aylesbury (occupied by John Wilkes when he was the local MP, 1761–64). Lady Bernard tried to ensure her ailing husband kept a “very strict Regimen” of medicine and riding (No. 906).

    Illness inevitably interrupted Bernard’s correspondence with Hutchinson. Hutchinson sent sixty-five official letters between Aug. 1769 and Jul. 1771 followed by at least seventeen private letters until 30 Mar. 1772 when he learned of Bernard’s stroke (No. 900). Thereafter Hutchinson kept Bernard abreast of events in Massachusetts without expectation of reply, sending at least nineteen letters in 1772, thirteen in 1773, and three in 1774. Bernard’s correspondence was much diminished; his last surviving letter to Hutchinson predates his stroke (No. 888) though it is evident he resumed correspondence before Aug. 1772.12

    These last few flourishes were self-affirming, with Bernard relishing a role as the éminence grise of American affairs. “The proceedings at Boston are more systematical, deeper laid and upon a broader bottom than perhaps you imagine,” he wrote John Pownall in Aug. 1773. Colonial radicalism was “continually furnished” with “advice” from England and in Samuel Adams had found a leader, “writer & a partisan” the “match” of any governor; “no Governor could stand his ground after their party had opened the trenches against him.” With Hutchinson “greatly distressed” and in need of assistance Bernard intervened directly with the new American Secretary, the earl of Dartmouth. (No. 912). When opposition to the Tea Act of 1773, which privileged East India Company operations in the colonies, culminated in the Boston Tea Party of 16 Dec. 1773, North and Dartmouth reactivated Bernard and Hillsborough’s plan for a royal Council.

    In early 1774, Bernard joined British ministers and officials in discussions about reforming Massachusetts’s government. These discussions probably commenced soon after the cabinet’s decision of 19 Feb. to introduce punitive legislation “to alter the constitution of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay.” Meeting as a group Lords North and Dartmouth, undersecretaries Pownall and Knox, and former governor Bernard explored options for strengthening royal government in the province. (Bernard does not appear to have participated in parallel discussions that were to lead to the Boston Port Act.) Significant differences of opinion emerged, firstly over the proposal for a royal Council, long advocated by Bernard. Bernard, Dartmouth, and Knox favored amending the Province Charter to establish a permanent a royal Council, according to Knox (though Knox previously had opposed such a measure). Pownall probably dissented — a position that can be inferred from his own summary of cabinet discussions over three months or so wherein he advised ministers against “altering the Constitution” and reiterated Hutchinson’s early criticisms of Bernard’s reform plans. Pownall supposed that current and future governors could yet influence the proceedings of the Council by following Bernard and Hutchinson’s tactic of vetoing radicals elected to the Council. Even more drastically, Pownall pressed for the “principal Incendaries,” including Samuel Adams and William Molineux, to be brought to trial in England. A second point of contention among the group, Knox recalled, was whether or not to advocate “further alterations” to the Charter as Bernard was urging but which Dartmouth and Knox opposed. Bernard “with his old papers infused the opinion into Lord North that the juries should be also regulated,” and, Knox continued, (alluding to article 7 of the subsequent Massachusetts Government Act), “the preventing town meetings came also from him.”13 Bernard’s “old papers” probably comprised the Draft Act to amend the Province Charter (Appendix 5), together with the “Plan” of “10 Articles” that Bernard and Hillsborough also discussed in 1770 without Knox (which plan has not survived).14

    Pownall’s summary, disclosed in conversation with Hutchinson on 5 Jul. 1774, and Knox’s account, written in late 1774 or early 1775, while self-vaunting, also attest to Bernard’s influence as an advisor on Massachusetts affairs. Knox excised his frustrations with Hillsborough for having ignored his early warnings about amending the Province Charter by blaming Bernard for misleading North on the propriety of regulating Massachusetts town meetings. Pownall, meanwhile, without citing Bernard directly, offered that Chief Justice Mansfield, at the last minute, “diverted” ministers from pursuing treason trials by “urging the other measures” being discussed in cabinet — by which he meant measures to reform not only the Massachusetts Council but the province’s jury system and judiciary. These “other measures” the cabinet adopted as policy by 10 Mar.

    The Massachusetts Government Act that took effect on 20 May 1774 bore hallmarks of Bernard’s influence: article 2 concerning the direct appointment of a royal Council; article 7 restricting town meetings; and article 8 on the selection of juries. He probably also advised ministers on some of the Act’s other twenty-four articles — matters of interest to Lord Mansfield — that gave the governor new powers to appoint judges, provincial officers, and sheriffs without the Council’s consent (arts. 3 and 4). Furthermore, articles relating to jury selection and the specific responsibilities of constables and sheriffs (arts. 9 to 23) were conformable to the English practice as set out in the model acts cited in the Draft Act of 1770.15 To reiterate: while the documentary record of Bernard’s discussions with ministers and officials on reforming colonial government between 1770 and 1774 has not survived in full that which has — the Draft Act of 1770 (Appendix 5), correspondence such as No. 870, and the testimonies of Knox and Pownall — infer Bernard’s influence on the genesis of the controversial Massachusetts Government Act. Regarding implementation, Bernard, moreover, provided Dartmouth with lists of prospective royal councilors drawn from the Massachusetts friends of government (Nos. 914, 915, and 916). Dartmouth returned to these recommendations when finalizing the list of nominees for the mandamus Council (Appendix 6). As historical evidence all this aids understanding of the construction of the second of the so-called Coercive Acts that triggered rebellion in Massachusetts during the late summer and autumn of 1774.

    The well-known portrait of Bernard by artist John Singleton Copley is of a middle-aged man in the flush of good health.16 But it is not the man that Hutchinson would have encountered upon arriving from Boston in the summer of 1774. At Aylesbury, Hutchinson was upset to find Bernard “more altered by a paralitick shock than . . . expected” though his “intellectual powers” were “not sensibly impaired.” Bernard was not so incapacitated by the stroke or the onset of epilepsy as to cease travel. He reciprocated the July reunion by lodging with Hutchinson in Park Place, London, for ten winter days spent “in great friendship”; they dined with the earl of Dartmouth in early December, where indubitably they would have discussed the onset of rebellion in Massachusetts and the reform of the Council.17 Visiting London during 1775, Bernard again lodged or dined with Hutchinson (as did Thomas, Julia, and William Bernard)18 and maintained contact with Loyalist exiles. The day before the American war broke out, Bernard wrote to Dartmouth to promote Dr. John Calef’s scheme to establish a Loyalist settlement along the Penobscot river. Bernard had long supposed the territory of Sagadahoc — roughly the area between the Kennebec River and Passamaquoddy Bay (Nos. 921 and 922) — might be usefully separated from Massachusetts, and in so doing provide some protection for his own lands on Mount Desert. He called upon Hutchinson in London through 1776 despite “poor health” and the trauma of William’s drowning at sea when his troop transport sank in the English Channel on the way to North America. Visits were less frequent thereafter — one in 1777 and two in 1778 before Lady Bernard’s death on 26 May: these were probably their final meetings.19

    Francis Bernard died on 16 Jun. 1779, attended by daughter Jane and son Thomas. His last hours were punctuated by convulsive fits and delirium. He died after a second “frightful convulsion,” Jane wrote soon after (No. 924). Seven months later, Thomas related to Hutchinson that his father had been suffering “dropsy” for two months or so before his death and a week prior had experienced an epileptic fit “more violent and lasting than any he had had before.” Jane and Thomas were restraining him “when water rose in his stomach” and he expired in their arms. Mention of “dropsy” and convulsions suggest the underlying cause of death may have been pneumonia and/or heart failure. He was sixty-seven years old and was buried alongside Lady Bernard in a vault in St. Mary’s Church, Aylesbury.20 The well-being of his large family, through years of long separation, had long been his principal preoccupation, and he certainly succeeded in his paternal obligations. He willed bequests to his children exceeding £11,000 and he devised to them equally all his property with instructions to sell (though John Bernard alone was left Mount Desert Island and relieved of an outstanding £1,000 debt to his father). Banished by the state of Massachusetts in 1778, Bernard’s farm at Jamaica Plain was confiscated and sold two months after his death.21 Nether Winchendon Manor, however, was later valued at £5,000 (upon purchase from his siblings by Scrope) and his Nettleham estates at £6,300 (purchased by Thomas), which minus mortgages by demise suggests his real estate was worth c. £8,771 (No. 891). John and Thomas succeeded to the baronetcy in turn, with John becoming a colonial governor and Thomas and sister Frances Elizabeth emerging as notable social reformers.22

    Thomas Hutchinson, for so long Bernard’s friend and ally, died in London twelve months after Bernard, probably of a heart attack. For John Adams, resident in Paris with the American diplomatic mission, news of Hutchinson’s passing at the onset of London’s terrifying Gordon Riots prompted one of his most hateful jibes: that Hutchinson’s corpse ought to be exhibited on a “Gibbet or a scaffold” — hanging in chains like a vile murderer in condign punishment for “His Misrepresentations” having “contributed to the Continuance of the War with America.” Bernard, he condemned by association. The former governors were the “primary Instruments of the Calamities” unleashed — a war now five years old and mayhem in the streets of London. Adams’s imaginative, telescopic history acknowledged Bernard’s long shadow on American affairs. It also stood in silent acknowledgement of Adams’s own witness to Bernard’s troubled administration — when the Stamp Act Crisis opened the fault lines in British imperial power in the American Colonies and the riots in Boston first raised the specter of social conflict, neither of which the governors had the means nor the will to repair.23

    Sir Francis Bernard is historically important less for what he did or did not do as governor of Massachusetts than what he had to say about the American colonists and British policy — as documented in the Bernard Papers. He indirectly influenced British colonial policymaking during and after his administration as governor of Massachusetts, 1760–1769, principally because British government ministers and senior officials generally accepted the reliability of his reports on provincial affairs. It is this which so alarmed John Adams and his contemporaries. By the time Bernard had left office, his correspondence was already an archive of sorts — a source of information about events themselves and the ways and means that Britain might arrest colonial radicalism. It was easy, then, for Bernard to portray himself as an incorruptible “faithfull servant of Government” acting, he opined, “as well as I could judge.”

    I have had my conduct approved of by all the Ministers to whom I have been subject, notwithstanding the fluctuation of the Policy of the Department I was under. Upon particular occasions I have been taken notice of in Parliament in a manner that did me much honour.

    Bernard’s interpretation of American affairs never rested unchallenged in Westminster or escaped criticism in Whitehall. But his increasingly pessimistic portrayal of imperial power contributed to the entrenchment of official British opinion in defense of Parliament’s legislative supremacy and provoked British interest in remedial measures to halt the apparent decline. In 1770, following the Boston Massacre, the North administration found in Bernard’s letters from the mid-1760s validation for punitive measures should its conciliatory policy fail, and, when it did fail by early 1774, historical evidence of radicalism affirming the case for immediate countermeasures that, in end, provoked the rebellion Bernard had long feared.