The Pressure for the Trials To Begin

    557. To Sir Francis Bernard, 25 March [1770]

    558. To Richard Jackson, 26 March 1770

    559. From Thomas Gage, 26 March 1770

    560. To Lord Hillsborough, 27 March 1770

    561. To Sir Francis Bernard, 30 March 1770

    562. To Thomas Gage, 1 April 1770

    The statutory term of the Superior Court was to begin 13 March, just over a week after the Massacre. Eager to see punishment meted out to those they held responsible for the death of five of their own citizens, town leaders pressed for an immediate trial. The grand jury quickly handed down a series of indictments against Ebenezer Richardson and George Wilmot (who had stood by Richardson on the day Christopher Seider was shot); Thomas Preston and the soldiers; Edward Manwaring, a minor customs official from Canada; and three alleged accomplices accused of firing from the windows of the Custom House on the night of the Massacre.

    Hutchinson feared a rush to judgment and did what he could to delay the proceedings. When Justices John Cushing and Edmund Trowbridge reported they were too ill (or too intimidated) to attend a meeting of the court, town leaders pressed Hutchinson to appoint replacements. He demurred, and the court set a date in June for the trials to begin. Dissatisfied with the news, Samuel Adams and other town leaders burst into the courtroom and publicly demanded the trials proceed sooner. The trial of Richardson, it was agreed, would begin on 23 March.

    557. To Sir Francis Bernard

    25 March [1770]

    No. 11

    Secret and Confidential

    My Dear Sir, The C. has been sitting at Cambridge ever since the 15 refusing to do any business & urged me to remove them to Boston but I shall not do it. I hope no copy of My L H’s Letter to me of the 9th of December will be suffered to be made publick nor of mine to his Lordship in answer for I have followed your advice and they do not know that I had any sort of descretion left in the matter.1 Indeed after I had prorogued the C & wrote that I should hold the session there I had not. Salem would have been better than Cambridge the further from Boston the better. The H will be sour & troublesome enough but all they can do will be a perfect trifle compared with the trouble the T of B gives me. They enterfere in every affair and threaten all the Government which will not conform to them. They are carrying on the prosecution of poor P and his Soldiers with inimitable thirst after their blood. When the Court had determined to put off the trials to the first week in June a Committee viz. S. Adams, W. Cooper, Dr. Warren and divers others came from Mr. T’s where they had dined that day & a vast concourse of people after them into the Superior Court and harangued the J until they alter’d there determination and resolved to go on with business.2 This they assured me was contrary to their inclination but they were under Duress & afraid to offend the T who keep alive a T meeting by short adjournments to observe how the business of the Court goes on. Ruggles tells me the Town has the entire command of the House.3 I prevailed on Williams Strong and a few more good men to attend but they say it is to no purpose the whole Province must give way to the T.4 You used to tell me my regard for the T made me too tender of its Interest to the damage of the publick Interest. I cannot help an attachment to the place of my birth & I have some personal interest 140 or 50 pounds sterling annual rent besides the House I live in but I would [not?] give all up if the Town could be separated from the rest of the Province. I do not see how that can be done but something may and must be done to humble the leaders of the people of the Town and to keep the inhabitants in order. I have tried the Council and represented to the Judges the illegality of the Town acts. They say there is no possibility of helping if the body of the people are all of a mind and there is no stemming the Torrent. It is the common language of Warren Adams and the rest that they are not to be intimidated by Acts of Parliament for they will not be executed here5 and should there be an Act of Parliament to vacate the Charter as the Lawyers told the Justices of the Superior Court the people would not submit to it. I do not see what should prevent the new Counsellors from being as obnoxious as the Comissioners.6 We are most certainly every day confirming ourselves in our Principles of Independance & Judge Goffe tells me he is fully convinced that nothing but sharp external force will bring Boston into a state of due subordination.7 He is intimidated from attending the Ct thro a nervous disorder he is under which was brought on by his apprehensions of danger if he should act according to his judgment. Sewall tells me he never will appear at any other Ct in that Town after the present as Attorney General and the whole Court say they do not sit there with freedom.8 They would represent this to the G Ct if there was any prospect of their making an Act to hold the Court in any other place but instead of that they know they would be told their fears were groundless. I need not suggest to you what is necessary to be done. The longer we are neglected the harder our cure will be. Until Government in England appears to be in earnest the friends of Government dare not shew themselves among us. It is possible when they know they can be supported they may appear more numerous than the Sons of Liberty now imagine. I write with this freedom to you from a regard to the Publick Interest &the duty which I owe to the K and not from a regard to my personal Interest which will be no more affected than other peoples after I am superseded by the appointment of a new Governor which as I observed in my last ought not to be delayed. I am sure you will not suffer what I write to come back again even by rumors.

    Samuel Quincy, 1767. By John Singleton Copley. In the absence of Jonathan Sewall, the attorney general, the job of prosecuting Captain Preston and the soldiers fell to Samuel Quincy, the solicitor general, assisted by Robert Treat Paine. Ironically, Samuel (who later became a loyalist) argued the case against his brother Josiah Quincy Jr., a leading patriot. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:471–72); at head of letter, “Sent to the printer.” Contemporary printings: Remembrancer for the Year 1775, 1st ed., pp. 181–82; Boston Gazette, 5 June 1775; Essex Journal, 9 June 1775; Providence Gazette, 10 June 1775; Connecticut Courant, 12 June 1775; Massachusetts Spy, 14 June 1775; London Chronicle, 9–12 September 1775.

    558. To Richard Jackson

    Boston 26 March 1770

    Dear Sir, A most unfortunate Action between the Troops and some of the Inhabitants of Boston has given a very great advantage to the Opposers of Government for many of the Inhabitants immediately took to their arms &they were about to fire a Beacon to bring in the County. The next day the whole Town was all day assembling & many people of the neighbouring Towns joined & with one voice from the members of the Council down to the lowest order urged that the Troops might go into the Barracks as it would be impossible the succeeding night to prevent an attempt to extirpate the Troops by the united force of T & Country. I let them all know repeatedly that I could give no Orders to remove the Kings Troops but Colonl Dalrymple upon advising with the Council & hearing there unanimous opinion that the people would rise and take to their arms offerd to remove one of the Regiments Which had been most imbroiled with the people until he could receive General Gages Orders. This did not satisfy them and they took the advantage of the offer & one of the Reps of the Town let the Col. know that as he undoubtedly could remove both as well as one if he did not do it he would be answerable for the consequences.1 Upon further conference with some of the C in the afternoon before I came to Council he had let them know that if I would go so far as to join with them in desiring him to remove the other Regiment also he would do it. This was immediately known abroad for the C themselves wished to see the Troops at the Castle as much as the people did. My own inclination was to have withdrawn to the Castle for all agreed I could not remain in Town after the people were once persuaded that the Troops being kept there was wholly owing to me. Besides the Secretary there were present the Captain of the Rose Man of War & the Commanding Officers of the two Regiments who saw the Temper of the people abroad and upon being consulted by me apart from the C all of them advised me to comply with the advice of the C as being absolutely necessary to prevent a general Insurrection.2 I thought after deliberating until near night that this would be a less cost than to desert the Government and leaving the people to shew the Effects of all that rage which the deaths and dangerous wounds of so many innocent persons had raised in their breasts for I do not find above one or two but what were passengers thro a publick street or else unconcernd Spectators.3 That the Troops were insulted and struck with sticks and stones it is said can fully be proved but certainly prudence at this time especially required much to be borne before an unarmed multitude was fired upon. The T of B are pursuing the Officer and Soldiers with such vehemence that several of the Judges tell me they are incapable of acting with freedom & would resign their places if I did not in some sort compel them to continue. I am not sure I shall finally prevail. In all matters which relate to the authority of Parliament the T do just as they please & have the intire command of the C the H and the executive part of the Government all who finally disapproved of there measures being afraid openly to appear against them. What are called Town meetings are kept alive by adjournment to see how the Superior Court proceed & to take their measures accordingly. Their leaders are very sanguine that no notice will be taken of them by Parliament but if there should be they now in the most open manner say that no Act of Parliament against the mind of the people shall ever be executed here.

    I have received your most obliging Letter of 18 Nov. & thank you for your kind offer in case I had been appointed to succeed Sir F B.4 I find my constitution not strong eno’ to bear so great a burden & I hope the next Vessels will bring us news of a person of weight and importance appointed to the Government for a common Seeker will not now be a proper person. This is not all which is necessary but it ought to precede or accompany other measures which may be determined upon. I am with the most sincere regard and esteem

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:465); at foot of letter, “Mr Jackson.”

    559. From Thomas Gage

    New York March 26th 1770

    Sir, It concerns me, that any Expression in my last Letter to you, should have given you any uneasiness, or the least Addition to the distress you have been under, in your Administration. I did not perhaps, sufficiently consider Words in the full extent of their meaning;1 but as to the point of removing the Troops, it appeared proper to me; that Lt. Colo. Dalrymple should have removed them, whether by the Requisition, Prayer, or desire of the Civil Government of the Province; particularly when the end proposed, was to prevent an insurrection of the Province, which you seem firmly to believe, would have been the consequence of keeping the Troops in the Town. Your Situation and the State of the Province, are as well known at home as here, and as they are under consideration of a Committee of His Majesty’s Servants, it is not possible to act with propriety, till His Majesty’s Pleasure thereupon shall be signified to us. And as a Packet is daily Expected with the Janry: ^& Feby^ Mails, I will wait her arrival before I send any orders about the Troops, who are now, I find, all gone to the Castle Barracks. But as it will not be possible to keep two Regiments in those Barracks for any length of time without endangering their Healths, I propose to remove one of them immediately after the Packet arrives, unless I shall receive particular Orders concerning their Destination. The other Regiment may remain some time longer, till it is seen how affairs are likely to turn out. I should judge from your Letter of the 18th Instant, that this Disposition would be agreeable to your own Sentiments, unless Accidents might happen, that would require an alteration in it.2

    Could I be of the least Service; I should readily pay my Respects to you at Boston, but it is pretty plain, that the presence of a military Commander at present would tend to make Affairs worse, rather than contribute towards conciliating the minds of the People, and particularly so of one, already Unpopular amongst them.

    All I have been able to gather concerning the late unhappy Affair, that bears the least Resemblance to Truth is, that there was a Quarrell between two Soldiers and some Towns People, about 8 o’Clock at Night, and the latter rang the Fire Bell; upon which the People assembled, and went in Bodys to several of the Barracks, where bad Language and a few strokes passed. That the Mob afterwards passed the Main Guard using provoking Speeches, and went to attack the Centry at the Custom House; to which place, a Party was sent to protect the Centry, and the Custom House. That the Party was attacked, and severely pressed, and fired in their own defence, without any orders from Capt. Preston to fire, who used all his Endeavors to prevent their Firing. However this Affair may have happened it is much to be feared the Prisoners will not be tryed by a fair and Unprejudiced Jury, and that the very People who assaulted them will be brought as Evidences against them. I Have the Honour to be with great Regard, Sir, &ca.,

    Thomas Gage

    The Letter for Mr. Pownal will be forwarded by the first opportunity3

    RC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 25:383–85a); at foot of letter, “Honble Lieut Govr. Hutchinson”; docketed, “[page torn] March 26 1770.” AC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers); at foot of letter, “[page torn] Hutchinson.”

    560. To Lord Hillsborough

    Boston 27 March 1770

    No 6

    My Lord, The General Court has sat at Cambridge ever since the 15. but the House of Representatives would not enter upon business until yesterday when they passed certain Resolves protesting against their sitting any where except at Boston and declaring that it was from absolute necessity they submitted to this Grievance.1

    Although I perceive no disposition in the majority of the House to make my administration uneasy to me from any personal prejudice, yet the same principles with respect to parliamentary authority remain as prevailed in the last Session and they have appointed a Committee of grievances whose business probably will be a recapitulation of what they have already enumerated, unless they should be discouraged by any Intelligence from England which we are every day expecting.

    The Effect of the late unfortunate Action of the Troops will long continue. The Town have taken a great number of Depositions which they have printed here in order to publish them in England and the House of Representatives are preparing Instructions to their Agent upon the Subject and I am informed the Council intend also to furnish their Agent with a state of the Case.2 The minds of the people are so inflamed that it is much to be desired that the Trial of the Officer and Soldiers should be deferred; but the Town by their Committee have taken upon them to act as Prosecutors and press the Court with so much earnestness that I doubt whether they will have firmness enough to resist it.3

    The Grand Jury have found Bills against three or four persons, one of them a Waiter in the Customs, for firing guns upon the people from the Custom house at the same time the Soldiers fired in the street.4 They have moved to the Court to be admitted to bail and if the Evidence be so slight as is commonly reported it cannot be refused. The Commissioners of the Customs, except Mr Temple, have kept but little in Town since the people were killed.5 Assurances are given by many who pretend to have great Influence that the Commissioners are not in danger of any Injury or Insult, but so much pains has been taken to prejudice the minds of the people that both they and their families apprehend that upon any little disgust they have no security. Upon their application to me I gave an Order to the Commanding Officer at Castle William to receive and afford the best accommodation to them and their Families which they propose to make use of only in case of immediate danger. This was the only way, in my power of affording them assistance for the whole Government has been taught to connect together the Office of the Commissioners and the Duties in the Revenue Acts and there is no authority which would take any step to support or defend either one or the other. When the Troops were in the Town the Commissioners were sensible they could have no dependance upon them for if any Riot had happen’d I know of no Civil Magistrate who would have employed the Troops in supressing it, those, who from principle would have been disposed to it, refusing and giving this reason, that they must immediately after have left the Country. Just the same principles prevail with respect to the Troops which are said to be unconstitutional and, altho’ established by an Act of Parliament yet it is an Act which, it is said, does not bind Colonists.6

    I find, My Lord, I have not strength of constitution to withstand the whole force of the other branches of Government, as well as the body of the people, united against the Governour in every measure he can propose for suppressing those Irregularities which appear to me repugnant to the fundamental principles of Government and tending to a separation of the Colonies from the Kingdom,7 and must humbly pray that a person of superior powers of body and mind may be appointed to the Administration of the Government of the Province. I shall faithfully endeavour to support such person according to the best of my Abilities and I think it not improbable that I may be capable of doing His Majesty greater service in the Province even in a private Station than I am at present. I have the honour to be with the greatest respect My Lord Your Lordship’s most humble & most Obedient Servant,

    Tho Hutchinson

    RC (National Archives UK, CO 5/759, ff. 143–44); at foot of letter, “Rt Honorable the Earl of Hillsborough”; docketed, “Boston 27th. Mar 1770. Lt Govr. Hutchinson (No. 6) Rx 14th. May”; notations, “C: 15” and “Entd.” Dft (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:460–61). SC (National Archives UK, CO 5/768, ff. 108–11); at head of letter, “Lieut. Govr. Hutchinson, Boston, 27th March 1770. (No. 6.) Rx 4th May.” SC (Houghton Library, Sparks 43, 1:119); addressed, “Thos. Hutchinson to the Earl of Hillsborough Boston March 27th 1770”; excerpt beginning, “I find, My Lord. . . .” Enclosures to RC: Copy of the House of Representatives to TH, 15 March 1770 (National Archives UK, CO 5/759, f. 145); Copy of TH to the House of Representatives, 16 March 1770 (f. 145); Copy of the House of Representatives to TH, 17 March 1770 (f. 146); Copy of the Council to TH, 20 March 1770 (ff. 146–47); Copy of TH to the Council, 21 March 1770 (f. 147); Copy of the House of Representatives to TH, 23 March 1770 (f. 148); Copy of TH to the House of Representatives, 23 March 1770 (f. 148); Copy of TH to the House of Representatives, 22 March 1770 (f. 148); Newspaper clippings from the New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle, 23 March 1770, containing a potentially treasonous letter signed “Consideration” and from the Boston Evening-Post, 26 March 1770, printing the report of a committee of the House of Representatives concerning historical precedents for holding the General Court in Boston.

    561. To Sir Francis Bernard

    Boston 30 March 1770

    No. 12

    under cover to Gen. Gage

    My Dear Sir, Frank has furnished me with a copy of the C’s letter to their Agent.1 It was prepared by Mr. Bowdoin sent up to Cambridge to the Council without any direction from them & they have made it their Act altho they had no sort of Evidence before them of the facts set forth in it. The H are swallowing another Narrative which they know as little about.2 The Affair of the Soldiers is very unfairly represented in both. What the C mention of an alarm bell being rung in consequence of abuses from the Soldiers I rather think is not true & that it is much more probable it was in consequence of an agreement among the lower Class of Inhabitants to have a battle that evening. I heard nothing of this Bell at my house it being an hour before the people were killd and the bell at the North End of the Town being about a quarter of an hour after they were killd. But altho they heighten every thing against the Troops yet I am afraid poor Preston has but little chance. Mr. Auchm. who is his Counsel tells me the evidence is very strong to prove that the firing upon the Inhabitants was by his order and he doubts whether the Assault could be an excuse for it.3 Our people are as infatuated as they were in the times of the Witchcraft. They have been attempting to prove a Conspiracy of the Commissioners of the Customs against the Inhabitants & the Grand Jury had the affair several days before them & they had evidence that a tall man was seen to come into the balcony of the Custom house & that one of the guns was fired from thence. It is not improbable that a Bill would have been found against Mr. Robinson if he had been here for Mr. P [blank space in MS] hinted to me in Council there could be no doubt that he was the man.4

    They found a Bill against Manwaring & 4 more who are now in Goal and all by the Evidence of a Boy who had been proved to be at another place than where he swore he was5 & Manwaring who had been apprehended before by Danas warrant had also proved an Alibi but the G J were satisfied with what this boy of 14 years old had sworn.6 The Court I doubt not will admit them to bail and if the Attorney General dares to do his duty he will discourage so barbarous a proceeding. Hulton & Burch I am told are upon a visit to Portsmouth and I am told like their reception.7 If they should think of holding their Board there I should not advise them against it. I think they can do more there for checking our illicit Traders than they could in Town and when they see such attempts to charge them with the blackest of crimes it must justifie them & will bring a great reproach upon the Town. You would be amazed to see the alteration since you was here in the people Select men Representatives & I may go a step higher [to] talk in the most open manner that no Troops shall land in the Town & the Militia more or less of them are every evening practicing Military exercises and they have their fifes and make it a diversion and expect to make great allarm in it &c. The S Men on a Committee of the Town concern themselves in the proceedings of the Superior Court all the time they are sitting and several of the Judges have expressed to me their wishes that they might never hold another Court here. If the [blank space in MS] is not humbled there will be the greatest Tyranny among us that has ever been heard of.8 I write this Letter with the greatest consideration of Secrecy and am Dear Sir most sincerely yours.

    AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:467).

    562. To Thomas Gage

    Boston 1 April 1770

    Sir, I am very much obliged by your favour of the 26th. of March and am much pleased to find, that my sentiments agreed with your own upon the propriety of giving no orders for the Removal of the Troops, until His Majesty’s pleasure shall be signified upon the Result of that Committee of His Servants who had our Affairs under consideration.1 I am very sensible of the insufficiency of the Barracks and wish it was in my power to enlarge them. If it shall be thought proper for any part of the Troops to encamp, all the Island, except what is necessary for the Garrison shall be at their service.

    I am very much at a loss what measures will be thought proper when the news of this last affair reaches England. I have represented to My Lord Hillsborough in the fullest manner the declarations of the Council, Justices, Selectmen &c. of their knowledge of the Determination of the Inhabitants to effect the Removal of the Troops. The Selectmen & Justices have drawn up a long Narrative and taken a great number of Depositions, all exparte have printed them here, but pretend not to suffer them to go abroad until the Trials are over. Some of them are gone to England. I have given my sense of the very great irregularity of this proceeding, and though it may have a Temporary Effect upon the People in England, it will not be regarded by the Ministry.

    The Representation which has been made to you of the late Affair is, I have reason to think, a very just one.2 The only Bell I heard was after the people were killed, but I have since no doubt a Bell at the other end of the Town had been rung an hour or two before. That the Party which went to protect the Centinel was assaulted all agree; but there is a great contrariety in the Evidence as to the degree of violence in the Assault, one side saying it was only with Snowballs, and the other with Brickbatts & clubs or sticks. There are several Witnesses who are very positive they heard Capt Preston give orders to fire, others who were as near, swear that the men fired without orders, upon the Provocation they received. I have taken every measure that was likely to succeed to keep off the Trial and shall continue to do so that people may have time to cool.

    The Grand Jury have joined with the Captain and Soldiers four persons viz. M. Manwaring an Officer of the Customs at Gachepé two servants of the Board here and one Mr Munroe said to be an acquaintance of Manwaring, as accessories for firing out of the Custom house, all upon the Evidence of a french Boy of about 14 years of age a servant to Manwaring notwithstanding that upon the information of this same Boy a Warrant had been issued by a popular Justice and Manwaring apprehended & dismissed upon the detection of the villainy of the Boy.3 All four have lain near a week in Goal. Upon a petition to be admitted to Bail the Court are to determine upon it tomorrow and I suppose cannot refuse it. The Grand Jury I am well informed took pains also to find some sort of Evidence to bring the Commissioners of the Customs in as conspiring with the Army to Massacre, as they term it, the Inhabitants. Thus, when the People are infatuated, this excellent part of the English Constitution, a Guard to the Lives of the Innocent, is improved to bring them into danger. I am sure, just now, the most innocent are the least secure.

    We expect every day five or six Vessels from London. Our Heroes think that part of the King’s Speech which relates to America will have no very important consequences. I hope they will be mistaken. I have the honour to be very respectfully Sir Your most humble & most obedient Servant,

    Thomas Hutchinson

    I will cover the copy of a Letter sent by the Council to their Agent. It was drawn by Mr Bowdoin tho’ not of the Council without any Act or Order of Council and given by him to Mr Erving his father in Law & so offered for acceptance.4 Give me leave to ask your favour in forwarding the inclosed by 1st Packet or other conveyance.5

    RC (Clements Library, Thomas Gage Papers); at foot of letter, “His Excellency General Gage.” AC (Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, 26:468–70); in an unknown hand except the postscript, which is in TH’s hand; at foot of letter, “His Excelly General Gage.”