A Disposition to Stretch the Prerogative, and to Abridge us of Our Constitutional Rights

in about Warren

Date: January 12, 1767

Author: Philopatria, a pseudonym

Messieurs Edes & Gill,

Philanthrop in one of his performances very roundly asserts, that G—r B—d “has given every possible proof of the most sincere friendship to this much deceived people”: He would perhaps think it invidious in any one to call upon him to produce a single instance in support of his assertion: I will not insist upon it.  If he at last makes it appear to the impartial world, that his hero has not acted the part of an enemy to the province, it will be as much as in reason can be expected of him.  The adversaries of G—r B—d are however desired to remember, that every man has his foibles: He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.  If avarice is Mr. B—d’s cardinal vice, which I do not pretend to affirm, let Messieurs A. X. Paskalos, and others, consider how difficult it is for them to guard against the sins that easily beset them, and be ready to make allowances for the infirmities of others. – I neither know nor care much about the dollars at the castle: too much time and paper, I think has been spent upon this matter, which in my poor opinion is of little importance to the G—r, or the public: No one, I think, can blame Mr. B—d for accepting of Mount Desert, be it worth more or less, when it was offered him, provided no indirect methods were taken by him to obtain the grant.  I am free to own, I should not have hesitated about it.  A thousand instances of this nature will not prove that Mr. B—d is an enemy to this province, so much as that he is under the strongest ties of gratitude, as well as duty, to be its friend and patron. – Whether he is or is not an enemy to the province, is the point which I think ought to be kept to: Philanthrop has drawn it into question, and voluntarily undertakes to show that he is not: This being a negative, it is a hard task for him to prove it, but by making it appear, either that G—r B—d has given “sufficient proofs of the most sincere friendship” to the province, or that the allegations of his adversaries are groundless.  For the first, we have only his assertion, unsupported by a single fact; and when he is press’d to make out the latter, he artfully shifts the question, and puts the onus probandi[1]  upon his opponents.  Thus we find him calling upon all the world to show whether G—r B—d has ever employed his influence at the court of Great Britain, to the injury of the province?  A sensible writer, who signs X, joins issue, and positively asserts, that he has.  Among other instances, he produces the joint testimony of the Lords, who protested against the repeal of the stamp-act, giving it as one reason for their protest, that Mr. B—d had said that it was the intention of the Americans to bring the authority of parliament into contempt: If this be a fact, could the G—r employ his influence at the Court of G. B. more effectually, to the injury of the Province than be representing them as disaffected to the King’s Government and aiming at independency?  Philanthrop affects to treat his opponent X with great contempt, and after two or three flirts, he waves this very important question, by hinting that possibly their Lordships mistook his E—y.  But if this writer has nothing material to say, what must the impartial reader conclude, but that, either the Lords have grossly abused G—r B—d, or that he has abus’d the province in so palpable a manner, as that he ought to be considered and treated, as a public enemy, at least so far as to give a check to his proceedings.  – I confess I find it very hard to believe that those whom Philanthrop will acknowledge to be the better sort of people in the nation, would make a public & solemn declaration, which should most sensibly affect the character either of G. B—d or of the people of America, without the best grounds: But he thinks it sufficient to intimate, that possibly their Lordships tack’d together a number of detach’d sentiments in Mr. B—d’s letters, and out of them all made an assertion, which he never thought of making himself, that the Americans intended to bring the authority of Parliament into contempt! and thus the matter is, to use the expression of X, slid over. – I with Philanthrop would treat his correspondent X with a little more ceremony, who in my opinion writes with caution and good sense: In the mean time, in further answer to his question, let me ask whether his E—y, before the passing the stamp-act, did not acquaint the Ministry that “America could bear considerable Duties and Taxes”?  This was publickly said, if I mistake not, in your paper some months ago, and I do not remember that it was ever contradicted: If this was a fact, had not such information, from a gentleman of his station and importance, a tendency to facilitate the passing of the detested stamp act?  If this did not originate the design of taxing the colonies, could he have said more to encourage it?  And did he not then employ his influence at the Court of Great-Britain to the injury not of this Province alone, but of the whole Continent?

Philanthrop again asks whether G—r B—d has ever discovered the least inclination to abridge us of any of our constitutional rights and privileges?  And is it not sufficient to say, that he was a most restless and indefatigable advocate for the stamp-act?  Did he not discover the strongest inclination and use all the means in his power in private as well as in publick, to enforce a submission to a parliamentary taxation; which, tho’ not by the name of a stamp-act, he had before recommended and encouraged?  And is not such a taxation on all hands allowed to be an abridgment of our constitutional rights?  Philanthrop says that “Mr. B—d’s honest representation had a great influence in procuring the repeal of the stamp-act.”  But detested as he owns it is, the representations or rather recommendations of Mr. B—d, whether honest or not, had in all likelihood, as great an influence in bringing the act into being – so that to make the most of it, he only had a hand in undoing what he had before recommended to be done; and which when done, his friends will own, he supported to the utmost of his power; till he found the whole continent, better sort and all, resented it as a violation of their constitutional rights – and yet Philanthrop can ask whether he ever discovered the least inclination to abridge us of our constitutional rights and liberties?

It is further asked whether he has ever attempted to stretch Prerogative beyond its just bounds?  A notable instance of which B B has mentioned, in his attempting to make himself the sole judge of the qualification of the members of the House: Does not this discover in him a disposition to stretch the Prerogative, and to abridge us of our constitutional rights [?]  And if, as it is said, he still asserts his claim, and has represented the case home, is he not even now, using his influence at the Court of Great Britain to the injury of this Province in a very tender point?  And pray what regard did he discover, what tenderness to the privileges of the House of Representatives and of the People, when he asserted it as the right of the Governor and Council to apply the public money to the purposes of Government ex arbitrio?[2]  His own words are, “There will sometimes be cases in which the Governor, with the Council, is to be justified in issuing money (out of the treasury) for services not expresly provided for by the General Court.” – This I take to be the Law and usage of every Royal government on the continent.  And he further declares, that to call in question the discretion of the Governor and Council in such an act, would “very much weaken government.”  The House of Representatives did in fact remonstrate to his E—y, against this very conduct: and in his answer he plainly told them, “That it was an act which the Governor with the Council had a Right to do: That it was a legal and constitutional exercise of the powers vested in them: And that if it was ill advised” (which he would by no means admit) “it could amount to no more than an improper application of the public money, by those who had Lawful Authority to apply such money to the public purposes.”  Was this inadvertence, or was it not an open and a bold attempt to abridge us of our constitutional rights, and stretch Prerogative beyond its just bounds?  Instances might be multiplied, but the task is disagreable: Philanthrop has business enough on his hands: Let him prove as he asserts, that these are “the groundless insinuations of faction and malice” – “The calumnies of ambitious and envious pretenders to patriotism” – Let him make it appear to the impartial world, that they are “the bold assertions of turbulent destroyers of the publick peace”, or by his silence at least, give countenance to the just complains of a much injured Country.  For my own part, I wish that a veil could be spread over all that has past: But this cannot be done till a better temper shall prevail: Could we for the sake of peace, bury the hard speeches of May and June last, in perpetual oblivion; and nevermore remember that the Country had been charged, at one time with undutifulness, unthankfulness, oppugnation of the King’s authority – anon, with disaffection to the Parliament, and an intention to bring it into contempt – Could we for the sake of harmony, mutual confidence and affection, which a lover of his Country wishes to see, forget all these things; yet we ought not, we cannot forget that, our Country is under the displeasure of its Sovereign: And when we read Lord Shelburne’s letter to his Excellency Governor Bernard “I have says he, received your letters and the inclosures, and have laid them before his Majesty” — &, “his Majesty is sorry to find than an ill temper prevails in his colony of Massachusetts-Bay” – when we read, see and judge for ourselves, can we be at a loss, to conclude, in whose breast alone this ill temper prevails: And should we suspect, that his M—y received those ill impressions of us, at the very time when these letters and inclosures were laid before him, I am apt to think Philanthrop would find it diffic[ult] [t]o convince a reader of impartial and common sense, that the suspicion “has its force, not in truth, nor in a regard for our welfare, but in some of the worst of Passions.


Source: Boston Gazette

See also: Beezlebub, June 9, 1766; Anonymous, November 24, 1766; Philanthrop, January 12, 1767; C.C., January 12, 1767; Anonymous, February 2, 1767; F.F., February 2, 1767; Rober D. Coverly, February 2, 1767; Friend of the Province, March 9, 1767.

Commentary: Governor Bernard continues to be roundly criticized for impugning Boston and its Whigs to the Ministry.

[1] (Editor’s Latin translation): “…burden of proof…”

[2] (Editor’s Latin translation): “…arbitrarily?”

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