News of the Massacre Reaches England

    579. From Lord Hillsborough, 26 April 1770

    580. To Lord Hillsborough, 27 April 1770

    581. From Sir Francis Bernard, 27 April 1770

    On the evening of 21 April, Customs Commissioner John Robinson arrived in London with the shocking news of the Boston Massacre. Hillsborough responded immediately, ordering Hutchinson to stay the sentences of Thomas Preston and any of the soldiers should they be convicted. He instructed General Thomas Gage and Commodore Samuel Hood to assist Hutchinson with any additional forces that he might need to maintain civil order, a request Hutchinson was highly unlikely to make under the circumstances. Hillsborough also ordered Hutchinson to quash the proceedings against Bernard, Gage, and other royal officials who had been indicted for libeling the town of Boston in their official correspondence.

    579. From Lord Hillsborough

    Whitehall, 26th April 1770

    No. 36

    Sir, Your Dispatch of the 12th of March No 5, was delivered to me by Mr Robinson, who arrived here Saturday last, & lost no time in laying it before the King.1

    The transactions at Boston on the 5th and 6th of March are indeed of a very melancholy and alarming nature, and in whatever light they are viewed, they give His Majesty the greatest concern.

    It is now under consideration what measures it may be proper to pursue in consequence of this Event; in the mean time His Majesty does not entertain a doubt of you making a prudent and proper use of the powers placed in your hands for the due execution of Justice, and the support of the dignity of Government, but in so very extraordinary a case as that of Capt. Preston and the Soldiers appears to be, I am commanded by the King to signify His Pleasure to you that if upon their Trial they should be convicted and condemned, you do respite the execution until His Majesty’s Pleasure shall be known, transmitting to me, in order to be laid before His Majesty, Copies of all the Proceedings on such Trial, to the end that His Majesty may give such further Directions as Justice and the nature of the case shall appear to require.

    As the present state of the Town of Boston and the Phrenzy of it’s Inhabitants afford but too just ground to apprehend that they may be induced to commit further violence, the King has thought fit that His Majesty’s Commands should be signified to Major General Gage and to Commodore Hood, that they do give every Assistance in their Power which you and the other Civil Officers and Magistrates at Boston shall require, to enable you to preserve the public Peace & support the legal Authority of Government; And His Majesty trusts that by availing yourself, in a prudent and constitutional manner of the Assistance these Gentlemen will be able to afford you, all obstruction to Justice and the execution of the Laws may be prevented until further measures shall be fallen upon for restoring a due Influence to the King’s Government, and Security to His Majesty’s Subjects in the Province of Massachuset’s Bay.

    Major General Gage and Sir Francis Bernard having informed me that the Indictments have been preferred and Council against them in the superiour Court of your Province, on the ground of their representations of the State of public Affairs there, in their Letters to His Majesty’s Ministers; I am commanded by the King, before whom Copies of these Indictments have been laid, to signify to you His Majesty’s Pleasure that you should direct the Attorney General to enter a Noli Prosequi, in the King’s Name, in every Suit that may be commenced on any Indictment of such a nature, either against them or any Officer of the Crown whatever.2

    I am &c.


    SC (National Archives UK, CO 5/759, ff. 133–34); at head of letter, “Lieut Gov Hutchinson.” AC (National Archives UK, CO 5/765, ff. 93–96); at head of letter, “Lieut. Governor Hutchinson (No 36).” SC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers); at head of letter, “(Copy)”; at foot of letter, “Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson”; docketed, “Copy of a Letter from the Earl of Hillsborough to Lieut. Govr. Hutchinson dated Whitehall 26th April 1770.”; enclosed in Lord Hillsborough to Thomas Gage, 26 April 1770. SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 43, 1:126); addressed, “Lord Hillsborough to Lieut. Governor Hutchinson Whitehall April 26th 1700”; excerpt beginning, “It is now under consideration. . . .”

    580. To Lord Hillsborough

    Boston 27 April 1770

    No. 9

    My Lord, By the last Post from New York I have the honour of your Lordships Letters No. 31 and 32 by the January and February Packets.1 It will be happy for the Colonies if the Parliament shall have gone into such measures as His Majesty has been pleased to recommend for suppressing the Confederacies against the Authority of Parliament.2 Until this is done I see no prospect of the recovery of any degree of vigour in the Government of this Province. I have omitted nothing which by the Constitution I am impower’d to do. I have only the shadow of Power, without the Council, and I have never been able to obtain their advice or Consent to any proposal I have made for discountenancing the Usurpation of the Powers of Government by the Town of Boston; and the People being now possessed with an opinion that they have many advocates in Parliament who justify them in all they have done the case is more desperate than ever. The Negative Power given me by Charter I have made use of to exclude from Office the Heads of the Combiners, Mr Hancock from being Speaker Pro Temp & Mr. Cushing from the Office of Commissary General to which they were elected, and a Vote of the two Houses calculated for giving to Mr Molineux the use of a large Building for carrying on Manufactories I have refused my assent to.3 This is doing but little. I can remove none who are in Office, some of whom are more inflammatory than any who are out of Office. They are now attempting to compel all the Importers of what they call contraband Goods to send them back and I am not sure they will not succeed. All Goods which they have not enumerated are called contraband. Tea from Holland may lawfully be sold: Its a high crime to sell any from England. Mr Hancock has offered to send one or more of his Ships back and to lose the freight. Several of the Importers plead that they shall be utterly ruined but our Zealots have no bowels and give for answer that if a Ship was to bring in the Plague no body would doubt what was necessary to be done with her but the present case is much worse than that.

    It gives me the greatest pleasure to be informed by your Lordships Letter of the 17th Febr that my attention to the proceedings of the Merchants meets with His Majesty’s Approbation.4 The total neglect of proceedings of the like nature by the authority of so many of the other Colonies not only confirms the Council here in their refusal to afford me any aid, but it renders me obnoxious to the people who charge me with distinguishing myself from his Majesty’s other governors. I doubt not they are all convinced, as I now am myself by experience, that an Attempt to suppress a measure in which the People are so generally engaged would, without the aid of the Authority and Power of Parliament be to very little purpose, and that for this reason they have been wholly silent.

    I shall acquaint the Inhabitants of the Fishing Towns with his Majesty’s Commands concerning their Petition and I am very sure that what is most fit will finally be determined upon it.5 “I could never give the Commissioners of the Customs any great encouragement to hope for Success from their application to be exempt from Taxes, but the opinion and Report of the Attorney and Solicitor General from a prudential consideration, I shall communicate to no body but to the three Commissioners themselves.”6 Mr Hulton and Mr Burch have been at Portsmouth in New Hampshire for several weeks past and I am informed, had some thoughts of removing the Board to that Province, but as soon as the people suspected the design they discovered such a dislike to it that it was laid aside. Mr Paxton has been sometimes in Town but chiefly at Cambridge. Mr. Temple’s connexions are such that he has been under no apprehensions of any molestation. I am informed they all intend to be in Town and to hold a Board in a few days. Perhaps the present Commotions in the Town on account of the Importation may retard it.

    I hoped to be able by this Ship to have transmitted the Acts passed the last Session of the General Court and the Journal of the House of Representatives, but the Secretary has not had time to prepare the former, and the Clerk of the House, who is also a very active Member, has not yet printed the latter:7 I have already acquainted your Lordship that the House sat near a fortnight before they would do any business because they were carried from Boston.8 For near 30 years they have, without any Instance to the contrary, made a Grant for the Salary of the Commander in chief, at the opening of the Session; to the Governor at the begining of the year, to look forward the whole year, to the Lt Governor twice a year to look forward half a year only. Although this is not agreable to the letter of the Instructions yet as all preceeding Lt Governors had taken it in that manner I could expect no more from them. They had an apprehension that I should receive Instructions to lay before them matters which might occasion a sudden dissolution, and, therefore refused to make any Grant, although I put them in mind of a declaration of an Assembly, soon after the year 1730, that if any future Assembly should refuse such Grant they would justly incur his Majesty’s displeasure. They kept off the usual Grants also to the Justices of the Superior Court & other officers. Three or four days before their dissolution they passed a Bill for granting to me 550 pounds only for past & future services. This, if it be understood to look forward to June only when there must be a new Assembly, amounts to between 490 and 500 pounds Sterling per annum. I had ordered the Secretary to lay none of their Acts before me until they had passed this. A Dissolution without doing any business at all, would have gratified the leaders, because it would have increased the present confusion. They kept the Bill, a day or two, upon their Table that they might prepare a Message or Remonstrance which they likewise imagined would produce a Dissolution.9 I transmit a copy of it to your Lordship, with my Answer which as soon as the Secretary had read to them I thought it necessary they should be dissolved.10 As they could continue but three or four days longer, their dissolution was considered rather as a thing of course than to shew that resentment which the Message deserved. “The longer we go on in this way without check from the supreme Authority the farther the Infection spreads. The Boston principles obtain more & more in the remote parts of the Province and the Representatives of seven eighths of the Towns appeared in the present Session to be favourers of the Non Importation measures. Our internal distresses may in a course of years force us to desist, but the distress at present, and, it may be so for some time to come, lyes principally upon the friends to Government, who run the risque of Importing Goods & then are compelled by the ruling Power to keep them unsold or to ship them back.” I made an attempt to day to prevail upon a Merchant of the first Estate & Character to induce him to promote an Association but to no purpose.11 He gave me for Answer that until Parliament made provision for the punishment of the Confederacies all would be ineffectual and the Associates would be exposed to popular rage. He observed farther that the last year when the King’s Speech and the Addresses of the Lords and of the House of Commons first came to us, the Heads of the Opposition were struck with Terror and the seditious News Paper writers laid aside their Pens for 5 or 6 weeks but, as soon as the apprehension of vigorous measures ceased, their fears were over and they became more assuming & tyrannical than before, and although the Terror was not so great the present year, yet it was visible, and now that they expect nothing will be done, they are recovering their Spirits knowing that there is no power within the Government to restrain them. I have the honour to be with the greatest Respect My Lord Your Lordships most humble and most obedient Servant,

    Tho Hutchinson

    DupRC (National Archives UK, CO 5/759, ff. 158–60); in WSH’s hand; at head of letter, “Duplicate”; at foot of letter, “Right Honble the Earl of Hillsborough”; docketed, “Boston 27th. April 1770. Lieut. Govr Hutchinson (No 9) Rx 13. June (Dup—origl. not reced)”; notation, “C: 18:.” RC (National Archives UK, CO 5/894, ff. 36–38); at foot of letter, “Right Honorable the Earl of Hillsborough”; docketed, “Massachusets Duplicate of a Letter No. 9 from Lt. Gov. Hutchinson to the Earl of Hillsborough dated April 27. 1770 relative to the procedings of opposers of Government.” SC (National Archives UK, CO 5/768, ff. 116–24); docketed, “Boston April 27th 1770 Lieut. Govr. Hutchinson (No. o) Rx 13 June (Dupe. Origl. not received).” AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 25:391–94); at foot of letter, “Rt. honble. Earl of Hillsborough”; docketed, “Copy to Ld Hillsborough 27 April 1770.” SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 43, 1:122); excerpt of first paragraph only. SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 10, 3:78–79). Enclosures to DupRC: Printed copy of TH’s message to the House and its response, 26 April 1770 (f. 161).

    581. From Sir Francis Bernard

    Pall Mall, April 27. 1770. past 10 p’m

    No. 27

    Dear Sir, I have been informed only this afternoon (at My Lord Hillsborough’s at Dinner) that a Packet will be dispatched tonight directly to Boston. This is a sudden Resolution owing to the Packet Boat which had formerly sailed putting back to Falmouth. I therefore can but just inform you that Mr Robinson with Dispatches arrived here yesterday.1 As Nothing has been published but that infamous Account in the Boston Gazette, you may think that the Faction carries all before them: but it is not so; People observe that the Account is, Felo de se, and it has sufficiently discredited itself.2 It will soon be amply contradicted by Accounts which have Regard to Truth.

    This Affair has been brought into Parliament: I think it will end as the Friends of Government can desire; tho it is not easy to say in what Manner. All People on both Sides express great Concern for Captn Preston, who is supposed to be in great Danger, not from Law, but from the Contradiction of it. I hope to God you have prevented his being murthered by a Mob; which is apprehended here, as the Case of Captn Porteous is known to have been quoted among you.3 If this or something of the like kind does not happen; Govt may be reconciled to the removing of the Troops tho it is far from being generally approved of: but I think it very justifiable & have justified it.

    As I have a Copy of Some Minutes of what past in the House, I think it proper to send them to you tho I had no time to peruse them or the Author to correct them.4 All I can recommend at present is that you act firmly, as the present State will permit, & do not despair. Your Business in now in the Offices.5 I am &c.,


    SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 4, 8:87–88); at foot of letter, “The Honble Gov Hutchinson.”