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CHAPTER XIII

Conduct towards the native Indians-Governor Bernard gave his negative

to several Counsellors elected by the House-. Plan to establish Episcopacy-Governor Bernard misrepresents the General Court-Complains that he is attacked in the public prints—Plays prohibited—Slave trade condemned by General Court-Town meeting in Boston ; Resolutions passed-Petition of House to the King, and Circular to other Colonies

-Refuse to rescind Circulars-. Governor dissolved the Assembly_Complaints of the people-Convention in Boston-British troops stationed in Boston-Conduct of Colonel of troops--General Gage in Boston-General Court convened-Governor Bernard unpopular-Firmness of the Council-Dispute between Governor and House.

The question of right in laying taxes on the people of the province, and legislating on their internal concerns, was of such general interest, that other subjects were frequently postponed; or, when before the general court, excited little attention, compared to the former. In 1767, however, there was a temporary suspension of the great controversy with the British administration, as all the arguments had already been advanced on both sides, and no particular measure, (except that of quartering the troops, which was also adjusted, as to the particular case which was presented,) exclusively engaged the public mind; other subjects occupied the attention of the legislature.

cannot exist.” This has been said to be the first explicit denial of the authors ity of parliament over the people in the colonies. But the declaration and resolves of the house of representatives of Massachusetts, in June, and especially in November, 1764, assert their exclusive right to levy taxes in the province. The citizens of Boston said, in May, 1764, "if our trade may be taxed by parliament, why not our lands? why not the produce of our lands and every thing we possess ? This, we conceive, annihilates our charter rights to govern and tax ourselves. It strikes at our rights and privileges, which we hold in common with our fellow subjects, who are natives of Great Britain. The house of assembly, in June 1764, remonstrated against the claim of parliament to tax the colonies. In a letter to their agent in England, they complained, " that he seemed to have tacitly admitted the right of parliament to lay duties and taxes on them ;' " which,” they added, “never could be conceded, as they were not represented in the British legislature : it being a fundamental principle of the British constitution, that the subject could not be taxed without the consent of his representative.” They complained that they should be reduced to slavery, if parliament could tax them at its pleasure. The house gave notice to the other colonies of these proceedings, (which, no doubt, led to the resolutions of Virginia and New York.) In October, 1764, the representatives of Massachusetts were still more explicit. They prepared a petition to the king, which the council saw fit to have directed to the British house of commons, and which they altered in some material points. The house had asserted the sole right to tax themselves by their representatives, and that it was an infringement on their rights, for parliament to impose taxes and duties on them. The council substituted privileges for rights. The house objected, and at last, by compromise, inserted liberties instead. The original draft, as adopted by the house, was as explicit and full as the resolves of Virginia in May, 1765. And in a letter to their agent, at this time both council and * It is not stated which colonies the complaints of the Indians referred to.

In his message to the general court, (May, 1767,) the governor communicated a letter from the British ministers, referring to complaints made by the Indians in some of the colonies, * that encroachments had been made on their lands. A joint committee was appointed, to consider the subject, so far as Massachusetts was concerned. The report of the committee was highly honorable to the character of the province from its first settlement. Nor was the statement made ever contradicted; as probably it would have been, if incorrect. The committee say,

we are satisfied there are no complaints against this province by his majesty's agents for Indian affairs. It is with much pleasure that we remind your excellency, and inform the world, that greater care was taken of the Indians by our pious ancestors, during the old charter, and by this government under the new, even to this day, than was ever required of us, by the British government." The report refers to a law of the colony, of 1633, " to prevent injustice and frauds towards the Indians;" to efforts early and frequently made to provide instructers for the Indians; and to laws requiring magistrates to see full justice done them in all cases. It added, " the Indians always had perfect confidence in the government of the colony. We glory in its conduct, in this respect : we make our boast of it, as unexampled; and we have been free and spontaneous on our part.”

At the general election, the last Wednesday of May, 1767, governor Bernard gave bis negative to several gentlemen who were chosen counsellors by the general court. They were members of the house; and were immediately appointed a

house say," that they had spoken in their petition of their rights, so as not to give offence, and so as that no inference should be drawn, either that they had given up, or had set up in apposition to parliament; but in a letter to him they might be more explicit, and they then say, “that the people of the colonies have the (sole) right to tax themselves, and that so far as parliament should lay taxes on them, so far they should be deprived of their right.”

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committee to introduce to the governor other counsellors elected in their place. A similar course was pursued by the representatives at a later day :* but whether from recollection of the former case does not appear. It was a singular instance, perhaps, that the governor proposed to the house, that if they would elect Mr. Hutchinson and some other of his friends into the council, he would consent to the choice of some of their particular friends. The house declined to make any such compromise.

The people of Massachusetts were again alarmed, this year, by the report, that bishops were to be supported in the colonies, under the patronage and at the expense of the British government. There was probably, no formal plan of the administration to establishr episcopacy in America as it was in England, though some zealous members of that church wished for such a measure. The fear was, that the congregational forms of worship would be discountenanced; and the complaints were therefore very general. Much was written on the subject. Both laity and clergy deprecated such a plan: and the agent in England was instructed to oppose it.

Whether the design of the British government, for giving greater support to episcopacy in America, was ultimately to promote political purposes, or grew out of a desire in the bishops to extend the borders of their church, and put down dissenters, can not easily be decided; but the degree of apprehension was the same, with the people of Massachusetts: their aversion was to the system, and not merely to the means of introducing and supporting it.

It had been long suspected, that governor Bernard and Mr. Hutchinson gave unfavorable statements of the views of Massachusetts to the British ministry ; that they approved of high duties and custom-house officers, and even of a military force to assist in carrying arbitrary and oppressive acts of parliament into operation. At the session of the assembly, in January, 1768, the governor sent them a copy of a letter he had received from one of the ministers, approving of his conduct, and censuring the house, for its opposition to acts of parliament ; and as being generally indisposed to a due submission to the parent government. The house requested of the governor, copies of any communication he had made to the ministry, to which this letter was a reply. For they considered, from some parts of the letter from England to the governor that he had misrepresented their views and characters; and led the king and his ministers to think them unreasonably disposed to complain of the measures of the British government. The governor declined to furnish any copies of his letters to the ministry ; and was even unwilling the house should retain a copy of the letter he had laid before them. They wished to communicate it to their constituents, and to point out its unfounded statements. After some delay, he gave them a copy as they desired ; which was soon after published. It was evident, from the tenor of the letter, that the governor had censured, and in some measure, misrepresented the general court to the British ministry. The letter of the minister commended the governer for his negative on the counsellors, chosen by the house ; but condemned the house for not electing such counsellors as would be agreeable to the governor. The conduct of the governor, in this instance, for writing privately to England, of the “ bad spirit (as he called it) of the people, of their opposition to the authority of the parent government, and recommending that regular troops be sent into the province, to keep the people in subjection”. -was noticed in the Boston Gazette, a paper devoted to the cause of liberty, with some severe remarks on his character, as a friend of arbitrary principles. Of this the governor publicly complained to the house. They replied, " that in a free country, and in times of political excitement, there would be severe remarks; and that his friends had represented, in some of the papers, the supporters of the liberty and rights of the province, to be bad men, and wholly governed by selfish motives.” They therefore concluded to take no further notice of the publication to which he referred. *

* In 1811. + This fact is mentioned by Mr. Hutchinson himself, in his III. Vol.

Attempts were made in 1767, to permit theatrical exhibitions, and to repeal the laws before made against them. In the early days of Massachusetts, severe laws were passed against them, but some unsuccessful efforts had been subsequently made to abolish such statutes. The proposal, this year, to repeal the old laws, was equally vain ; a majority of the people were opposed to such exhibitions and entertainments. They considered them as calculated rather to corrupt than to inprove the heart. They said, “they claimed, indeed, to be innocent amusements; but they believed them the means of dis

* The superior court set soon after in Suffolk, and the chief justice, (Mr. Hutchinson,) spoke of the libel, and told the grand jury they were bound by oath to notice it; and the attorney general laid a bill before them; but they returned it, indorsed, “ignoramus.

seminating licentious maxims, and tending to immorality of con

duct."*

The subject of slavery occupied the attention of the legislature of Massachusetts, at one of the sessions in 1767. A bill was passed by both branches of the general court, to prohibit the slave trade; but the governor refused to give it his signature. It was believed he had been so instructed by the British ministry, probably through the influence of merchants concerned in this in human traffic, to prevent the passage of such an act.

In the time of Governor Hutchinson, several attempts were made by the representatives of Massachusetts, to put an end to this practice, which is so gross an outrage against humanity ; but he also declined to give it his sanction, for the same reason. His directions from the ministry prevented. As correct views of civil liberty and of the rights of man prevailed in the province, greater sympathy for the Africans was manifested ; and many owners of slaves gave up their claims to their services. At this period, it was computed that one third within the province were in Boston.t

In the disputes, between Governor Bernard and the house of assembly of Massachusetts, for several years, he was unfortunate in his manner, and feeble in his argument, unless it was enough merely to assert the supremacy of parliament. The replies of the house were always able, and sometimes severe. He often exposed himself to their just criticisms : and they never failed to take advantage of his errors or his caprice. In 1767, he appears to have designedly avoided all dispute with them, and to have them in session as little time as possible. The general court was a less time in session that year, than in any other for a long period. The town of Boston, at this time, requested the governor to call a meeting of the legislature; but he declined. And a meeting of the citizens of that patriotic town was holden in November, to consider the state of public affairs. Resolutions were passed, to encourage industry, economy, and manufactures. A committee was also chosen to obtain subscribers to an agreement not to use British goods, and to refrain from the use of all unnecessary articles. The subscribers were very numerous ; and many other towns in the

* The British officers, then in Boston, frequently recited plays, or parts of them, before some of the inhabitants ; which led to an effort, in those who were pleased with the amusement, to obtain a repeal of the statute which forbid them.

Some negro slaves were brought into Massachusetts afterwards, in 1770, by the captain of a vessel from the West Indies ; they sued for their liberty, and the issue was in their favor.

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