Letter from the Earl of Shelburne to the Governor

in about Warren

Date: November 24, 1766

Author: [Anonymous]

To the Publishers of the Boston Evening-Post.

The Letter from the Right Hon. the Earl of Shelburne to the Governor of this province is of public and important concern, and therefore very necessary to be known to the people in general.  It was with this view no doubt that his Excellency directed the Secretary to read it to the House, before there could be time for a copy of it to be taken, least as the Court was so near rising some of the members might not be apprized of its contents. – I was extremely sollicitous to obtain a copy of this letter, in order to get it published in every news-paper, but I find that the honorable Board have given directions to have it done.

His Lordship begins with acknowledging to his Excellency the receipt of his letters of the 29th of June and 19th of July, together with the Inclosures therein contained; and with telling him “that he had received his Majesty’s command to communicate them to such of his servants as he thinks proper usually to consult upon his most important affairs’ – from hence it is very certain that his Excellency’s letters, with the inclosures, contained m[a]tters of the greatest importance to this province – and from his Excellency’s frequent declarations of his own paternal tenderness for the people over which he presides, I acknowlege I felt myself sorry that he did not judge it prudent to lay before the house the said letters and inclosures; that conviction might flash like lightning in the face of every opposer of his Excellency in the Hon. House, as well as the deluded people in the galleries, and the minds of all might be conciliated.

But my opinion soon altered upon reading the very next paragraph of his Lordship’s letter, “In the mean time, his Majesty is extremely sorry to observe any degree of ill-temper remaining in his colony of Massachusetts-Bay, or, that points should be so improperly agitated as to tend to the revival of disputes, which every friend to America must wish to be forgotten.”  From this passage, which must have a reference to his Excellency’s letters and inclosures, I think every one has a right to believe, and I freely declare, that it is my firm belief, that Gov. B—d had informed his Lordship that a degree of ill-temper remained in the colony of the Massachusetts-Bay, and that points had been improperly agitated, which tended to the revival of disputes which every friend to America must wish to be forgotten: And I shall give my reason presently, why I think he has informed his Lordship that this ill-temper is in the House of Representatives, and that such points have been agitated there. – One need not, indeed, have better evidence that Gov. B—d has thus represented the province, than his Lordship’s letter; which, tho’ it does not in express terms declare it, cannot be clear of impertinence without we suppose it refers to such representations; and this is a charge which no one can impute to his Lordship. – But as a corroborating circumstance let us only recur to his Excellency’s own speeches, litera scripta manet, and there we shall find scatter’d thro’ every part of them charges of the same nature against this people and their representative.[1] – “It were to be wished,” says the Governor, “that a veil could be drawn over the late disgraceful scenes.  But that cannot be done till a better temper and understanding shall prevail in general than seems to be at present; if we can judge from some proceedings, &c.  But the inflammation of this country has been a grand object with some persons, and neither the indulgence of the parliament, nor the moderation of government, nor the exigency of affairs, have as yet been able to put a stop to that pursuit.”  Again, “But when the government is attack’d in form; when there is a profest intention to deprive it of its most able servants, whose only crime is their fidelity to the Crown, I cannot be indifferent.”  Further, “It is not now in your power to shew your respectful gratitude to the mother country, or to make a dutiful and affectionate return to the indulgence of the King and parliament.  It must and will be understood, that those gentlemen are turned out for their deferrence to acts of the British legislature.  While this proceeding has its full effect you will not, you cannot avoid being chargeable with unthankfulness and dissatisfaction on ground of former neat and prevailing prejudice.”  I had like to have omitted the following remarkable passage.  “I find myself obliged to exercise every legal and constitutional power to maintain the King’s authority against this ill-judged and ill-timed oppugnation of it.”

These are exact quotations from his Excellency’s own speeches, and if his letters to his Lordship are wrote with remarkable tenderness and affection to the people of this province, we leave it to his Excellency to reconcile them, or to Paskalos to animadvert on them.

But to proceed with his Lordship’s letter.  “Upon this occasion.”  What occasion?  Why, upon consideration of the ill-temper and ill-conduct of the people of this province, “it is proper to observe in general, that the ease and honor of his Majesty’s government in America will greatly depend on the temper and wisdom of those who are intrusted with the administration there; and that they ought to be persons disdaining narrow views, private combination, and partial attachments.”  Some have thought this passage to contain strictures on his Excellency’s own conduct: But however natural and just this conclusion might seem to be, I cannot think this was his Lordship’s intention; especially as the next sentence in the letter contains a complement to the Governor. – I rather think that it refers to some reasons that his Excellency might think necessary to give to his Lordship, for a piece of conduct, which was thought by his friends here as impolitic as it was uncommon, in negativing no less than six gentlemen, elected by a considerable majority of both Houses, as Councellors.  It appears to me very probable that his Excellency could not think of a better colouring for his conduct, than by telling his Lordship, if he really thought so, that the gentlemen disapproved were of such a character – and this by the way helped to give a color also, and induce his Lordship to believe that what he had before said of the temper of the people was just; for if the persons elected were of narrow views, private combinations, and partial attachments, it is natural to conclude that the majority who elected them were of the same cast.  And this is the reason I promis’d to give, why I firmly believe that Gov. B—d represented to his Lordship, that this ill-temper and ill conduct subsisted in this House of Representatives.

His Lordship’s letter goes on.  “It is with great pleasure, Sir, that I have observed the manner in which you have conducted yourself during the disputes of the last year, which I cannot do without highly approving your attention and watchfulness, on the one hand to support the authority of government, and on the other the tenderness and affections, which appeared in all your letters, towards the people under your government.”  This complement gives great sptrit to Gov. B’s remaining friends: Here, say they, is a second testimony from another of his Majesty’s Secretaries of State of the tenderness and affection towards the people, &c. with which he has conducted himself: But I ap[p]eal to the reader’s judgment and to Gov. B’s conscience, whether without any false gloss this passage will not bear the following construction.  “I cannot but highly approve of your conduct during the disputes of the last year, for while on the one hand your attention and watchfulness to support the authority of government was commendable; and, as you tell me, you have labor’d abundantly, in endeavouring to subdue that ill-temper which too much prevails among the people, and have even negatived six Councellors, elected by both Houses, as being unfit to be entrusted with a part in the administration of government, because they were persons of narrow views, private combinations and partial attachments, yet it must be owned you discover in your letters a shew of great tenderness and affection towards the people; you are particularly grieved for them, to find that points are agitated in the House of Representatives, which tend to revive disputes, which every friend to America must wish to be forgotten; but alas, there are by your accounts, too few such friends to America there.” – Can he who ventured to tell two houses of assembly that their conduct would not bear any tolerable coloring, that they were guilty of oppugnation of the King’s authority, for no reason but giving their free suffrages in an election – Can he, I say, to give a tolerable coloring to his conduct, have thus abused as loyal a province as any the King has – Have not the people of this province since the repeal of the Stamp-act been easy, contented and happy? — Did not their joy and gratitude to the best of Kings and his Parliament, upon the happy news, burst I had almost said into extravagant acclamation? — Could they have done more unless they had even adored? — Did not perfect good humor and tranquility appear in the faces of all except a disappointed few — till two speeches, one after another, came forth with a voice like thunder, which alarmed the whole people, awoke their jealousy, and loudly proclaimed that their greatest enemy was in their own bosom. – But I am unaccountably led into this digression, for which I ask my readers pardon – I therefore return to his Lordship’s letter which I shall further consider in my next.

Your’s &c.”

Source: Boston Evening-Post

See also: Beezlebub, June 9, 1766; Philopatriae, January 12, 1767; 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: The author is critical of Governor Bernard for his comments before the governor’s council and House of Representatives. The anonymous author asserts that Bernard had cast aspersions on the citizens of Boston to the Ministry in letters whose content were not public, but the author inferred.

The op-ed piece also mentions Paskalos, a pseudonym of Joseph Warren, as being critical of Governor Bernard’s conduct. Paskalos’ sole letter predating this pieces appeared on June 2, 1766, in the Boston Gazette. Perhaps Paskolos wrote additional pieces as yet unknown to this archive.

[1] (Editor’s Latin translation): “…the written word endures…”


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