The Writings of Samuel Adams Vol 2

“And the Governor for the time being shall have full power and authority from time to time as he shall judge necessary, to adjourn, prorogue and dissolve all Great and General Courts or Assemblies met and conven’d as aforesaid.”
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  • 1904-1908
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This text was prepared by Bill Stoddard .












Article Signed “Vindex,” January 8th . . . Power of Governer over sessions of General Assembly.

Article Signed “Determinatus,” January 8th . . . Non-importation agreement.

To the Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts, March 19th . . . Memorial of town of Boston–Apointment of special justices.

To John Hancock, May 11th . . .
Proposed resignation.

To Benjamin Franklin, July 13th . . . Letter of town of Boston–Effect of massacre narrative–Influences upon public opinion–“Case” of Captain Preston.

To the Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts, August 3d . . . Answer of House of Representatives–Place of meeting of General Assembly–Legal opinions–Precedents–Royal instructions–Nature of Province Charter–Rights of House.

Article Signed “A Chatterer,” August 13th . . . Royal instructions.

Article Signed “A Chatterer,” August 20th . . . Character of office holders.

Article Signed “A Chatterer,” August 27th . . . Reply to “Probus”–Character of lieutenant-governor.

To Benjamin Franklin, November 6th . . . Letter of House of Representatives–Appointment as agent–Attitude of administration to Massachusetts–Royal instructions–Admiralty jurisdiction–Salaries and appointments.

To Stephen Sayre, November 16th . . . Letters of “Junius Americanus”–Non-importation agreement–Trial of Preston–Royal instructions.

To the Lieutenant-Governor of Massachussetts, Novemer 20th . . . Memorial of House of Representatives–Vacancies in militia.

Article Signed “A Tory,” November 20th . . . Effects of present administration.

To Peter Timothy, November 21st . . . Reply to Charleston committee–Non-importation agreement.

To Stephen Sayre, November 23d . . .
Choice of agent–Royal instructions–Attitude of Huthchinson.

To Josiah Williams, November 23d . . . Personal advice.

Article signed “A Chatterer,” December 3d . . . Royal instructions–Control of troops–Custody of Castle William.

Article signed “Vindex,” December 10th . . . Trials of Preston and soldiers–Discussion of testimony.

Article signed “Vindex,” December 17th . . . Trials of Preston and soldiers–Discussion of testimony.

Article signed “Vindex,” December 24th . . . Trials of Preston and soldiers–Discussion of testimony.

Article signed “Vindex,” December 24th . . . Reply to “Somebody”–Trial of soldiers.

To John Wilkes, December 28th . . .
Introduction of William Palfrey–Conditions in colonies.

Article signed “Vindex,” December 31st . . . Action of Boston on massacre–Attitude of troops–Events of March 5, 1770–Testimony upon trial–The dead.

Article signed “Vindex,” December 31st . . . Testimony upon trial of soldiers.


Article signed “Vindex,” January 7th . . . Trial of soldiers–Discussion of testimony.

To Stephen Sayre, January 12th . . .
Enclosing articles on trials.

Article signed “Vindex,” January 14th . . . Discussion of testimony–“Case” of Captain Preston.

Article signed “Vindex,” January 21st . . . Result of trial of soldiers–Discussion of testimony–Reply to Philanthrop.

Article signed “Vindex,” January 28th . . . Discussion of testimony–“Case” of Captain Preston.

To Charles Lucas, March 12th . . .
Acknowledgments of Boston.

To Arthur Lee, April 19th . . .
Beginning of correspondence–General conditions–Designs of Administration–Royal instructions.

To the Governor of Massachusetts, April 24th . . . Answer of House of Representatives–Action of Spain at Port Egmont–Attitude of Administration–Place of meeting of General Assembly–Appointment of Governor.

To the Governor of Massachusetts, April 25th . . . Salary bills.

Article signed “Candidus,” June 10th . . . Place of meeting of General Assembly–Royal instructions–Attitude of Hutchinson.

Article signed “Candidus,” June 17th . . . Address of clergy.

To Benjamin Franklin, June 29th . . . Letter of House of Representatives–Right of Parliament to tax–Revenue and tribute–Independence of officers–Rights of colonists–Position of colonial agent.

Article signed “Candidus,” July 1st . . . Convention of clergy.

To Arthur Lee, July 31st . . .
Conditions in London–Effects of faction and of arbitrary power–Attitude of Hutchinson–Disturbances in North Carolina

Article signed “Candidus,” August 5th . . . Address of clergy–Character of convention.

Article signed “Candidus,” August 19th . . . Custom of “addressing”–Public opinion of Administration–Stamp Act–Events in 1768–Character of addresses.

Article signed “Candidus,” September 9th . . . Assertion of rights by colonists–Factions–Revenue acts.

Article signed “Candidus,” September 16th . . . Circular letter of February, 1768–The mandate to rescind–Letter to Hillsborough of June, 1768–Refusal to rescind.

Article signed “Candidus,” September 23d . . . Dissolution of General Assembly–Charter rights of General Assembly–Royal instructions.

To Arthur Lee, September 27th . . .
Remonstrance of London–Despotism in Massachusetts–Cause of colonial grievances–Possiblity of impeachment–Opposition to an American episcopate–Introduction of William Story.

Article signed “Candidus,” September 30th . . . Letters of Bernard–Disorders in 1768–Letters of commissioners.

To Arthur Lee, October 2d . . .
Comments on William Story.

Article signed “Candidus,” October 7th . . . Salary of Governor–Attitude of Hutchinson.

Article signed “Candidus,” October 14th . . . Historic instances of slavery and tyranny–Comparison of America and Rome–Liberties of America.

Article signed “Valerius Poplicola,” October 28th . . . Acts of trade–Subjection and allegiance–Legislative power in Massachusetts–Jurisdiction of Parliament.

To Arthur Lee October 31st . . .
Action of Council on “Junius Americanus”–Relationship of office holders–Attitude of House of Representatives–The “Hue and Cry.”

To Joseph Allen, November 7th . . .
Personal advice.

Article signed “Candidus,” November 11th . . . Jeroboam as a Governor–Attitude of the clergy.

To Arthur Lee, November 13th . . .
Proclamation by the Governor–Its reception by the clergy.

Article signed “Cotton Mather,” November 25th . . . Salary of Governor–Provisions of the charter.

Article signed “Candidus,” December 2d . . . Attitude of the people–Reply to “Chronus”–Royal instructions.

Article signed “Candidus,” December 9th . . . Jealousy of liberty–Control of revenue–Powers of Governor.

Article signed “Candidus,” December 16th . . . Reply to “Chronus.”

Memorandum, December 18th . . .
Alleged criticism of Hancock

Article signed “Candidus,” December 23d . . . Effect of petitioning–Control of funds–Infringement of liberties.


To Henry Marchant, January 7th . . .
Election in London–Activity of government agents–Policy of Crown officers.

To Arthur Lee, January 14th . . .
Attitude of Government.

Article signed “Candidus,” January 20th . . . Acts of trade–Power of taxation–Colonial right of legislation–Extent of “Dominion.”

Article signed “Candidus,” January 27th . . . Acts of trade–Magna Charta.

To the Governor of Massachusetts, April 10th . . . Answer of House of Representatives–Place of meeting of General Assembly–Power of Governor over sessions.

Article signed “Vindex,” April 20th . . . Reply to “Philanthrop Jun.”

To the Governor of Massachusetts, July 14th . . . Answer of the House of Representatives–Repair of Province House.

Article signed “Valerius Poplicola,” October 5th . . . Tribute–Effect of petitions–Freemen or slaves?

To Andrew Elton Wells, October 21st
Family affairs–Royal power over colonial government.

To Elbridge Gerry, October 27th . . . Independence of judges.

To Elbridge Gerry, October 29th . . . Independence of judges–Action of Boston.

To Arthur Lee, November 3d . . .
Retirement of Hillsborough–Character of Dartmouth–Independence of judges–Action of Boston.

To Elbridge Gerry, November 5th . . . Concert of action–Action of Boston–Independence of judges.

To Elbridge Gerry, November 14th . . . Activity in Marblehead–Rights as Christians–Attitude of Roxbury and Plymouth.

The Rights of the Colonists as Men, as Christians, and as Subjects, November 20th . . .

A List of Violations of Rights, November 20th . . .

A Letter of Correspondence, November 20th . . .

Article Signed “Vindex,” November 30th . . . To Aaron Davis–Character of Doctor Young.

To Arthur Lee, November 31st . . .
Proceedings of Boston–Activity of public enemies–Action of Roxbury and Plymouth.

To Elbridge Gerry, December 7th . . . Acknowledgment.

To William Checkly, December 14th . . . Personal reflections.

Article Signed “Candidus,” December 14th . . . Criticism of Draper’s Gazette–Proceedings of Boston . . .

To Elbridge Gerry, December 23d . . . Proceedings of Marblehead.

To Darius Sessions, December 28th . . . Response to request for advice–The Rhode Island commission–Effect on judiciary system.

To the Committee of Correspondence of Cambridge, December 29th . . . Acknowledgment of Boston committee for their endorsement.

To the Committee of Correspondence of Plymouth, December 29th . . . Acknowledgment of Boston committee for their endorsement–Character of early settlers.


To Darius Sessions, January 2d . . .
The issue in Rhode Island–Advice to the colony–Probabilities considered.

To the Governor of Massachusetts, January 26th . . . Answer of the House of Representatives–Jurisdiction of Parliament–Colonial charters–Rights of colonists–Historical precedents.

To the Committee of Correspondence of Lynn, February 9th . . . Acknowledgment of Boston committee–Diffusion of liberty.

To Darius Sessions, February . . .
Futher advice upon political situation.

To the Governor of Massachusetts, February 12th . . . Message of the House of Representatives–Independence of judges–Attitude of Governor.

To John Adams . . .
On reply to Governor.

To the Governor of Massachusetts, March 2d . . . Answer of House of Representatives–Proceedings of Boston–Rights of King in colonies–Jurisdiction of Parliament–Historical precedents




[Boston Gazette, January 8, 1770.]
–“And the Governor for the time being shall have full power and authority from time to time as he shall judge necessary, to adjourn, prorogue and dissolve all Great and General Courts or Assemblies met and conven’d as aforesaid.”–1

THE power delegated by this clause to the Governor was undoubtedly intended in favor of the people–The necessity and importance of a legislative in being, and of its having the opportunity of exerting itself upon all proper occasions, must be obvious to a man of common discernment. Its grand object is the REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES: And for this purpose it is adjudg’d that parliaments ought to be held frequently–The people may be aggriev’d for the want of having a good law made, as well as repealing a bad one: So they may be, by the mal conduct of the executive in its manner of administring justice wrongfully under colour of law. In all these cases and many others, the necessity of the frequent interposition of the legislative evidently appears. And if either of them, much more, if all of them should at any time be justly complain’d of by the people, the adjourning, proroguing or dissolving the legislative, at such a juncture, must be the greatest of all grievances–There may be other reasons for the sitting of an American assembly besides the correcting any disorders arising from among the people within its own jurisdiction.–Some of the Acts of the British parliament are generally thought to be grievous in their operation, and dangerous in their consequences to the liberties of the American subjects: An American legislative therefore, in which the whole body of the people is represented, ought certainly to have the opportunity of explaining and remonstrating their grievances to the British parliament, and the full exercise of that invaluable and uncontroulable Right of the subject to petition the King, as often as they judge necessary, ’till they are removed. To postpone a meeting of this universal body of the people till it is too late to make such application must be a frustration of one grand design of its existance; and it naturally tends to other arbitrary exertions.–I have often tho’t that in former administrations such delays to call the general assembly, were intended for the purpose above-mentioned: And if others should have the same apprehension at present I cannot help it, nor am I answerable for it. It may not be amiss however for every man to make it a subject of his contemplation. We all remember that no longer ago than the last year, the extraordinary dissolution by Governor Bernard, in which he declared he was merely ministerial, produced another assembly, which tho’ legal in all its proceedings, awaked an attention in the very soul of the British empire.

It is not to be expected that in ordinary times, much less at such an important period as this is, any man, tho’ endowed with the wisdom of Solomon, at the distance of three thousand miles, can be an adequate judge of the expediency of proroguing, and in effect even putting an end to an American legislative assembly; and more especially at a time when the evil spirit of Misrepresentation is become so atrocious, that even M. . .y itself is liable to be wrongly informed!–It is for this reason that the delegation of this power to the governor for the time being, appears to be intended in favor of the people: That there might be always at the head of the province, and resident therein, as the charter provides, a person of untainted integrity, candor, impartiality and wisdom, to judge of and determine so essential a point–A point, in which I should think, no person who justly deserves this character, can be passive or merely ministerial, against his own judgment and conscience. Whenever therefore a Governor for the time being, adjourns, prorogues or dissolves the general assembly, having the full power and authority delegated to him of judging from time to time of the Necessity of it, we ought to presume that he exercises that power with freedom: That he determines according to the light of his own understanding, and not anothers: That he clearly sees that it will answer those purposes which he himself judges to be best; having, as a man of fidelity in his station ought, thoro’ly revolv’d the matter in his own mind: And, that however flattering the concurrent sentiments of any other man may be, he would have been impelled to do it, from the dictates of his own judgment, resulting from his own contemplation of the matter, if he had not received the “express command of his superior.” Such a man “will bravely act his mind, and venture–Death.”


1B. P. Poore, The Federal and State Constitutions, 1878, vol. i., p. 949. vol. ii.–i.


[Boston Gazette, January 8, 1770.]

To the Printers.

The agreement of the Merchants of this distressed and insulted continent, to with hold importations from Great Britain, it seems to be allowed on all sides, has the strongest tendency towards the repeal of the acts of parliament for raising a revenue in America without our consent. It is no wonder then, that it was oppos’d with so much vehemence at first, by the Cabal; who knew full well, that their Places and their Pensions, and all teh delectable profits which they expected to reap, and are now actually reaping, at the expence of the people in town and country, would entirely cease, if these acts, by the means of which their places, pensions and profits arise should be repealed–When they could no longer with any face call it the last efforts of a dying faction, (for the measure was so rational and pacific, that it soon spread far and wide, and was chearfully adopted by all disinterested friends of the country thro’-out the continent) they put on the appearance of the Sons of Liberty; and now their cry is, Where is that Liberty so much boasted of and contended for? We hear them very gravely asking, Have we not a right to carry on our own trade and sell our own goods if we please? who shall hinder us? This is now the language of those who had before seen the ax laid at the very root of all our Rights with apparent complacency,–And pray gentlemen, Have you not a right if you please, to set fire to your own houses, because they are your own, tho’ in all probability it will destroy a whole neighbourhood, perhaps a whole city! Where did you learn that in a state or society you had a right to do as you please? And that it was an infringement of that right to restrain you? This is a refinement which I dare say, the true sons of liberty despise. Be pleased to be informed that you are bound to conduct yourselves as the Society with which you are joined, are pleased to have you conduct, or if you please, you may leave it. It is true the will and pleasure of the society is generally declared in its laws: But there may be exceptions, and the present case is without doubt one.–Suppose there was no law of society to restrain you from murdering your own father, what think you? If either of you should please to take it into your head to perpetrate such a villainous act, so abhorrent to the will of the society, would you not be restrained? And is the Liberty of your Country of less importance than the life of your father! But what is most astonishing is, that some two or three persons of very little consequence in themselves, have Dared openly to give out that They Will vend the goods they have imported, tho’ they have Solemnly pledg’d Their Faith to the body of merchants, that they should remain in store ’till a general importation should take place! Where then is the honor! where is the shame of these persons, who can look into the faces of those very men with whom they have contracted, & tell them Without Blushing that they are resolved to Violate the contract! Is it avarice? Is it obstinacy, perverseness, pride, or from what root of bitterness does such an unaccountable defection from the laws of honor, honesty, and even humanity spring? Is it the Authority Of An Unnatural Parent–the advice of some false friend, or their own want of common understanding, and the first principles of virtue, by which these unhappy young persons have been induced, or left to resolve upon perpetrating that, at the very tho’t of which they should have shudder’d! By this resolution they have already disgrac’d themselves; if they have the Hardiness to put the resolution into practice, who will ever hereafter confide in them? Can they promise themselves the regards of the respectable body of merchants whom they have affronted? or can they even wish for the esteem of their country which they have basely deserted, or worse, which they have attempted to wound in the very heart.–If they imagine they can still weary the patience of an injured country with impunity.–If–I will not utter it–would not the grateful remembrance of unmerited kindness and Generosity, if there was the least spark of ingenuity left, have Influenced to a far different resolution!–If this agreement of the merchants is of that consequence to All America which our brethren in All the other governments, and in Great-Britain Itself think it to be–If the fate of Unborn Millions is suspended upon it, verily it behooves, not the merchants Only, but every individual of Every class in City and Country to aid and support them and Peremptorily To Insist upon its being Strictly adhered to.



[MS., Office of the City Clerk of Boston.]

To his Honor the Lieutenant Governor in Council

The Memorial of the Town of Boston legally assembled in Faneuil Hall Monday March 19 1770

Humbly shews

That with deep Concern they are made to understand that thro the Providence of God diverse of his Majestys Justices of the Superior Court are renderd unable to attend the Duties of their important Trust by bodily Indisposition.

That there are a great Number of Prisoners now in his Majestys Gaol in the County of Suffolk, of whom fifteen are confind for Tryal for capital offences.

That the Sherriff of said County has been under Apprehension of the Escape of said Prisoners as appears by his Letter to the Town hereto annexd to be laid before your honor.

That there are a great Number of Witnesses in the Cases of the late Trajical Murder in Boston many of whom are Seamen & detaind to their very great Disadvantage & possibly some of them may be under Temptation to absent themselves from the Tryal.

All which the Town beg leave humbly to represent to your honor as cogent Reasons for the Tryal of the said Prisoners as early as possible in the present Term.

Wherefore your Memorialists humbly pray your Honor to appoint special Justices in the Room of those taken off as aforesaid,2 in order for the Tryal of the said Prisoners, or otherwise that your Honor wd take such Steps to prevent the Delay of Justice at this important Crisis as in your Wisdom shall seem meet.

And as in Duty bound your Memsts shall ever pray.

Signd in Behalf of the Town at the Meeting aforesaid.

1Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and John Barret were on March 19, 1770, appointed by the Boston town-meeting “a Committee to draw up a Memorial to the Lieuvetenant Governor and Council praying that special Justices may be appointed for the Superior Court now sitting in the room of those who may be necessarily prevented by sickness from attending their duty; that so the Tryals of the many Criminals now committed may not be postponed. . . .” At the same session the committee reported a draft, which was accepted.–Boston Record Commissioners’ Report, vol. xviii., p. 15. [back]

2At this point the words “whom the Town reverence & esteem” were stricken from the original draft.


[MS., Samuel Adams Papers, Lenox Library; a text with slight variations is in W. V. Wells Life of Samuel Adams, vol. i., p. 343.]

BOSTON May 11 1770


Your Resolution yesterday to resign your seat gave me very great Uneasiness. I could not think you had sufficient Ground to deprive the Town of one whom I have a Right to say is a most valueable Member, since you had within three of the unanimous Suffrages of your Fellow Citizens, & one of the negative Votes was your own.1 You say you have been spoken ill of. What then? Can you think that while you are a good Man that all will speak well of you–If you knew the person who has defamd you nothing is more likely than that you would justly value your self upon that mans Censure as being the highest Applause. Those who were fond of continuing Mr Otis on the Seat, were I dare say to a Man among your warmest friends: Will you then add to their Disappointment by a Resignation, merely because one contemptible person, who perhaps was hired for the purpose, has blessd you with his reviling–Need I add more than to intreat it as a favor that you would alter your Design.

I am with strict truth
Your affectionate friend & Brother.

1At the Boston town-meeting on May 8, 1770, Hancock received, as a candidate for representative, 511 out of 513 votes. On June 13, 1770, William Palfrey, acting for Hancock, wrote to Haley and Hopkins: “The removal of the General Court to Cambridge obliges Mr Hancock to be often there.” John Hancock. His Book, by A. E. Brown, p. 167.


[MS., Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society; an incomplete draft is in the Samuel Adams Papers, Lenox Library; the latter text only is in the handwriting of Adams.]

BOSTON July 13th: 1770


It affords very great Satisfaction to the Town of Boston to find that the Narrative of the horrid massacre perpetrated here on the 5th of March last which was transmitted to London,1 has had the desired effect; by establishing truth in the minds of honest men, and in some measure preventing the Odium being cast on the Inhabitants, as the aggressors in it. We were very apprehensive that all attempts would be made to gain this Advantage against us: and as there is no occasion to think that the malice of our Enemies is in the least degree abated, it has been thought necessary that our friends on your side the Water, should have a true state of the Circumstances of the Town and of everything which has materially occurred, since the removal of the Troops to the Castle. For this purpose we are appointed a Committee:2 But the time will not admit of our writing so fully by this Conveyance, as we intend by the next, in the mean time we intreat your further friendship for the Town, in your Endeavours to get the Judgment of the Public suspended, upon any representation that may have been made by the Commissioners of the Customs and others, until the Town can have the Opportunity of knowing what is alleged against it, and of answering for itself. We must confess that we are astonished to hear that the Parliament had come to a determination, to admit Garbled extracts from such Letters as may be received from America by Administration and to Conceal the Names of the Persons who may be the Writers of them. This will certainly give great Encouragement to Persons of wicked Intentions to abuse the Nations & injure the Colonies in the grossest manner with Impunity, or even without detection. For a Confirmation hereof we need to recur no further back than a few months, when undoubtedly the Accounts and Letters carried by Mr. Rob[in]son would have been attended with very unhappy if not fatal effects, had not this Town been so attentive as to have Contradicted those false accounts by the depositions of many credible persons under Oath. But it cannot be supposed that a Community will be so Attentive but upon the most Alarming Events: In general Individuals are following their private concerns, while it is to be feared the restless Adversaries are forming the most dangerous Plans for the Ruin of the Reputation of the People, in order to build their own Greatness on the Distruction of their liberties. This Game they have been long playing; and tho’ in some few instances they have had a loosing hand, yet they have commonly managed with such Art, that they have so far succeeded in their Malicious designs as to involve the Nation and the Colonies in Confusion and distress. This it is presumed they never could have accomplished had not these very letters been kept from the view of the Public, with a design perhaps to conceal the falsehood of them the discovery of which would have prevented their having any mischievous effects. This is the Game which we have reason to believe they are now playing; With so much Secrecy as may render it impossible for us fully to detect them on this Side of the Water; How deplorable then must be our Condition, if ample Credit is to be given to their Testimonies against us, by the Government at home, and if the Names of our Accusers are to be kept a profound Secret, and the World is to see only such parts or parcells of their Representations as Persons, who perhaps may be interested in their favor, shall think proper to hold up–Such a Conduct, if allowed, seems to put it into the Power of a Combination of a few designing men to deceive a Nation to its Ruin. The measures which have been taken in Consequence of Intelligence Managed with such secrecy, have already to a very great degree lessened that Mutual Confidence which had ever Subsisted between the Mother Country and the Colonies, and must in the Natural Course of things totally alienate their Affections towards each other and consequently weaken, and in the End destroy the power of the Empire. It is in this extended View of things that our minds are affected–It is from these Apprehensions that we earnestly wish that all communication between the two Countries of a public nature may be unvailed before the public: with the names of the persons who are concerned therein, then and not till then will American affairs be under the direction of honest men, who are never afraid or ashamed of the light. And as we have abudent reason to be jealous that the most mischievous and virulent accounts have been very lately sent to Administration from Castle William where the Commissioners have again retreated for no reason that we can conceive but after their former manner to misrepresent and injure this Town and Province,–we earnestly intreat that you would use your utmost influence to have an Order passed that the whole of the packetts sent by the Commissioners of the Customs and others under the care of one Mr Bacon late an officer of the Customs in Virginia, who took his passage the last week in the Brigantine Lydia Joseph Wood Commander may be laid before his Majesty in Council–

If the Writers of those Letters shall appear to be innocent, no harm can possibly arise from such a measure; if otherwise, it may be the means of exploring the true Cause of the National and Collonial Malady, and of affording an easy remedy, and therefore the measure must be justified & applauded by all the World.

We have observed in the English Papers, the most notorious falsehoods published with an apparent design to give the World a prejudice against this Town, as the Aggressors in the unhappy Transaction of the 5th of March, but no account has been more repugnant to the truth, than a paper printed in the public Advertiser3 of the 28th of April which is called The case of Capt. Preston. As a Committee of this Town we thought ourselves bound in faithfulness to wait on Capt Preston to enquire of him whether he was the Author–he frankly told us that he had drawn a state of his case, but that it had passed thro different hands and was altered at different times, and finally the Publication in the Advertiser was varied from that which he sent home as his own; we then desired him to let us know whether several parts which we might point to him and to which we took exception were his own, but he declined Satisfying us herein, saying that the alterations were made by Persons who he supposed might aim at serving him, though he feared they might have a Contrary effect, and that his discriminating to us the parts of it which were his own from those which had been altered by others might displease his friends at a time when he might stand in need of their essential Service; this was the Substance of the Conversation between us, whereupon we retired and wrote to Capt Preston a Letter the Copy of which is now inclosed.4

The next day not receiving an answer from Capt. Preston at the time we proposed, we sent him a message desiring to be informed whether we might expect his answer to which he replied by a Verbal Message as ours was that he had nothing further to add to what he had said to us the day before, as you’l please to observe by the inclosed Certificate–

As therefore Capt Preston has utterly declined to make good the charges against the Town in the Paper called his case or to let us know to whom we may apply as the Author or Authors of those parts which he might have disclaimed, and especially as the whole of his case thus stated directly militates not only with his own Letter published under his hand in the Boston Gazette, but with the depositions of others annexed to our Narrative which were taken, not behind the Curtain as some may have been, but openly and fairly, after notifying the Parties interested, and before Magistrates to whose credit the Governor of the Province has given his full attestation under the Province Seal, we cannot think that the Paper called the Case of Capt. Thomas Preston, or any other Paper of the like import can be deemed in the opinion of the sensible and impartial part of mankind as sufficient, in the least degree to prejudice the Character of the Town. It is therefore altogether needless for us to point out the many falsehoods contained in this Paper; nor indeed would there be time for it at present for the reason above mentioned–We cannot however omit taking notice of the artifice made use of by those who drew up the statement, in insinuating that it was the design of the People to plunder the King’s Chest, and for the more easily effecting that to murder the Centinel posted at the Custom House where the money was lodged. This intelligence is said to have been brought to Capt Preston by a Townsman, who assured him that he heard the mob declare they would murder the Centinel.–The townsman probably was one Greenwood a Servant to the Commissioners whose deposition Number 96.5 is inserted among others in the Narrative of the Town and of whom it is observed in a Marginal Note, that: “Through the whole of his examination he was so inconsistent, and so frequently contradicted himself, that all present were convinced that no credit ought to be given to his deposition, for which reason it would not have been inserted had it not been known that a deposition was taken relating to this affair, from this Greenwood by Justice Murray and carried home by Mr. Robinson,” and further “this deponent is the only person, out of a great number of Witnesses examined, who heard anything mentioned of the Custom House.” Whether this part of the Case of Capt Preston was inserted by himself or some other person we are not told. It is very much to be questioned whether the information was given by any other than Greenwood himself, and the sort of Character which he bears is so well known to the Commissioners and their Connections some of whom probably assisted Capt Preston in stating his Case, as to have made them ashamed if they regarded the truth, to have given the least credit to what he said.–Whoever may have helped them to this intelligence, we will venture to say, that it never has been and never can be supported by the Testimony of any Man of a tolerable reputation. We shall only observe upon this occasion, how inveterate our Enemies here are, who, rather than omit what they might think a lucky opportunity of Slandering the Town, have wrought up a Narrative not only unsupported by, but contrary to the clearest evidence of facts and have even prevailed upon an unhappy Man under pretence of friendship to him, to adopt it as his own: Though they must have known with a common share of understanding, that it’s being published to the world as his own must have injured him, under his present Circumstances, in the most tender point, and so shocked was Capt Preston himself, at its appearing in the light on this side the Water, that he was immediately apprehensive so glaring a falsehood would raise the indignation of a people to such a pitch as to prompt them to some attempts that would be dangerous to him, and he accordingly applyed to Mr Sheriff Greenleaf for special protection on that account: But the Sheriff assuring him that there was no such disposition appearing among the People (which is an undoubted truth) Capt Preston’s fears at length subsided: and he still remains in safe custody, to be tried by the Superior Court of Judicature, at the next term in August; unless the Judges shall think proper further to postpone the Trial, as they have done for one whole term, since he was indicted by the Grand Jury.

Before we conclude it may not be improper to observe that the removal of the troops was in the Slowest order, insomuch that eleven days were spent in carrying the two Regiments to Castle Island, which had before landed in the Town in less than forty eight hours; yet in all this time, while the number of the Troops was daily lessening, not the least disorder was made by the inhabitants, tho’ filled with a just indignation and horror at the blood of their fellow Citizens, so inhumanely spilt! And since their removal the Common Soldiers, have frequently and even daily come up to the Town for necessary provisions, and some of the officers, as well as several of the families of the soldiers have resided in the Town and done business therein without the least Molestation; yet so hardy have our Enemies been as to report in London that the enraged populace had hanged up Capt Preston.

The strange and irreconcileable conduct of the Commissioners of the Customs since the 5th of March–their applying for leave to retire to the Castle as early as the tenth, and spending their time in making excursions into the Country ’till the 20th of June following, together with other material Circumstances, are the subject of our present enquiry; the result of which you will be made acquainted with by the next conveyance. In the mean time we remain with strict truth.–

Your much obliged
and most Obedient Servants


1Under the date of March 23, 1770, James Bowdoin, Samuel Pemberton and Joseph Warren, as a committee of the town of Boston, wrote to Lord Dartmouth, enclosing a narrative of the events of March 5 and a certified copy of the vote of town, on March 22, directing them to transmit the printed narrative. The original letter is No. 320 of Lord Dartmouth’s American MSS., at Patshull House. The text of the same letter, which was addressed to the Duke of Richmond and others, is in A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston, New York, 1849. (This is reprinted, with notes by John Doggett, Jr., from a copy of the original edition of 1770, in the library of the New York Historical Society. Another reprint, with notes by Frederic Kidder, was published at Albany, 1870.) The Additional Observations to a Short Narrative, 1770, are reprinted by Doggett, pp. 109-117. Cf., Proceedings of Colonial Society of Massachusetts, April 1900, pp. 13-21.
2The town of Boston, on July 10, 1770, appointed a committee of nine, including Adams, Hancock, Dana, Cushing and Joseph Warren, to prepare a “true state” of the town and of the acts of the commissioners since March 5.
3Published in London. The “Case” was also printed in the Annual Register, 1771. Cf., Boston Gazette, June 25, 1770. 4Under date of July II, 1770. A copy is in S. A. Wells, Samuel Adams and the American Revolution, vol. i., pp. 230-232. 5The affidavit of Thomas Greenwood, sworn to March 24, 1770, is printed in Doggett’s edition of the Short Narrative, pp. e Short Narrative, pp.101-103.


[MS., Boston Public Library; a text, with many modifications of detail, is in Massachusetts State Papers, pp. 240-248; it was also printed in the Boston Gazette, August 6, 1770.]

In the House of Representatives August the 3 1770

Orderd that Mr Hancock Cap Thayer Mr Pickerin Cap Fuller and Cap Sumner carry up to the Honbl Board the following Answer of this House to his Honors Speech to both Houses at the opening of this Session


1 May it please your Honor

The House of Representatives, having duly attended to your Speech2 to both Houses at the Opening of this Session, and maturely considerd the several parts of it, have unanimously, in a full House determind to adhere to their former Resolution “that it is by no means expedient to proceed to Business, while the General Assembly is thus constraind to hold the Session out of the Town of Boston.” Upon a Recollection of the Reasons we have before given for this measure, we conceive it will appear to all the World, that neither the good People of this Province, nor the House of Representatives can be justly chargd with any ill Consequences that may follow it. After the most repeated & attentive Examination of your Speech, we find Nothing to induce us to alter our Opinion, and very little that is new & material in the Controversy: But as we perceive it is publishd, it may possibly be read by some who have never seen the Reasons of the House; and as there are specious things containd in it, which may have a Tendency to make an unhappy Impression on some minds, we have thought proper to make a few Observations upon it.

You are pleasd to say, “you meet us at Cambridge, because you have no Reason to think there has been any Alteration in his Majestys Pleasure, which you doubt not was determind by wise motives, & with a gracious Purpose to promote the Good of the province.” We presume not to call in Question the Wisdom of our Sovereign or the Rectitude of his Intentions: But there have been Times, when a corrupt and profligate Administration have venturd upon such Measures, as have had a direct Tendency, to ruin the Interest of the People as well as that of their Royal Master.

This House have great Reason to doubt, whether it is, or ever was his Majestys Pleasure that your Honor should meet the Assembly at Cambridge, or that he has ever taken the matter under his Royal Consideration: Because, the common and the best Evidence in such Cases, is not communicated to us.

It is needless for us to add any thing to what has been heretofore said, upon the Illegality of holding the Court any where except in the Town of Boston: For admitting the Power to be in the Governor to hold the Court in any other place when the publick Good requires it; yet, it by no means follows that he has a Right to call it at any other place, when it is to the manifest Injury & Detriment of the Publick

The Opinion of the Attourney and Solicitor General has very little Weight with this House in any Case, any farther than the Reasons which they expressly give are convincing. This Province has sufferd so much by unjust, groundless & illegal Opinions of those officers of the Crown, that our Veneration or Reverence for their Opinions is much abated. We utterly deny that the Attuorny & Solicitor General have any Authority or Jurisdiction over us; any Right to decide Questions in Controversy, between the several Branches of the Legislature here: Nor do we concede, that even his Majesty in Council has any Constitutional Authority to decide such Questions, or any other Controversy whatever that arises in this Province, excepting only such Matters as are reservd in the Charter. It seems a great Absurdity, that when a Dispute arises between the Governor and the House, the Governor should appeal to his Majesty in Council to decide it. Would it not be as reasonable for the House to appeal to the Body of their Constituents to decide it? Whenever a Dispute has arisen within the Realm, between the Crown & the two Houses of Parliament, or either of them, was it ever imagind that the King in his privy Council had Authority to decide it? However there is a Test, a Standard common to all, we mean the publick Good. But your Honor must be very sensible that the Illegality of holding the Court in any other place besides the Town of Boston is far from being the only Dispute between your Honor & this House: we contend, that the People & their Representatives have a Right to withstand the abusive Exercise of a legal & constitutional Prerogative of the Crown. We beg Leave to recite to your Honor what the Great Mr Locke has advancd in his Treatise of civil Government, upon the like Prerogative of the Crown. “The old Question, says he, will be asked in this matter of Prerogative, who shall be Judge when this Power is made a right Use of?” And he answers, “Between an executive Power in being with such a Prerogative, and a Legislature that depends upon his Will for their convening, there can be no Judge on Earth, as there can be none between the Legislative & the People, should either the Executive or Legislative when they have got the Power in their Hands, design or go about to enslave or destroy them. The People have no other Remedy in this, as in all other Cases, where they have no Judge on Earth, but to appeal to Heaven. For the Rulers, in such Attempts, exercising a Power the People never put into their Hands (who can never be supposd to consent that any Body should rule over them for their Harm) do that which they have not a Right to do. And when the Body of the People or any single Man is deprivd of their Right, or under the Exercise of a Power without Right, and have no Appeal on Earth, then they have a Liberty to appeal to Heaven whenever they judge the Cause of sufficient moment. And therefore, tho the People cannot be judge, so as to have by the Constitution of that Society any superior Power to determine and give effective Sentence in the Case; yet they have by a Law antecedent & paramount to all positive Laws of men, reservd that ultimate Determination to themselves which belongs to all Mankind where there lies no Appeal on Earth viz to judge whether they have just Cause to make their Appeal to Heaven.” We would however, by no means be understood to suggest that this People have Occasion at present to proceed to such Extremity.

Your Honor is pleasd to say, “that the House of Representatives in the year 1728, did not think the Form of the Writ, sufficient to justify them in refusing to do Business at Salem”; It is true they did not by any Vote or Resolve determine not to do Business yet the House, as we read in your Honors History, “met and adjournd from Day to Day without doing Business”;3 and we find by the Records, that from the 31 of October 1728 to the 14th of December following the House did meet and adjourn without doing Business; And then they voted to proceed to the publick & necessary Affairs of the province “provided no Advantage be had or made, for and by Reason of the aforesaid Removal (meaning the Removal to Salem) or pleaded as a precedent for the future.” Yet your Honor has been pleasd to quote the Conduct of that very House, as a precedent for our Imitation. We apprehend their proceeding to Business, & the Consequences of it viz, the Encouragement it gave to Governor Burnet to go on with his Design of harrassing them into unconstitutional Compliances, and the Use your Honor now makes of it as an Authority and a Precedent, ought to be a Warning to this House to make a determind & effectual Stand. Their Example, tho respectable, is not obligatory upon this House.–They lived in times, when the Encroachments of Despotism were in their Infancy.–They were carried to Salem, by the mere Caprice of Governor Burnet, who never pleaded an Instruction for doing this–An Instruction from a Ministry who had before treated them with unexampled Indignity–An Instruction which they were not permitted to see. They had no Reason to apprehend a fixd Design to alter the Seat of Government, to their great Inconvenience and the manifest Injury of the Province.

We are not disposd to dispute the Understanding, Integrity, Familys & Estates of the Council in 1728. We believe them to have been such, that if they were now upon the Stage, they would see so many additional & more weighty Reasons against proceeding to Business out of Boston, that they would fully approve of the Resolution of this House; as well as of what has been lately advancd by their Successors, who are also Gentlemen of Understanding, Integrity, Fortune and Family, in the following Words; “Governor Burnets Conduct in convening the General Court out of Boston, cannot be deemd an acknowlegd or constitutional Precedent, because, it was not founded on the only Reason on which the Prerogative of the Crown can be justly founded, The Good of the Community.” We shall only add, that the Rights of the province having been of late years most severely attackd, has inducd Gentlemen to examine the Constitution more thorowly, & has increasd their Zeal in its Defence.

You are pleasd to adduce an Instance in 1754 in Addition to that in 1747, which you say “makes it probable, that the House of Representatives rather chose that the Court should sit elsewhere, when a Comittee was chosen to consider of and report a proper place for a Court House at a Distance from Boston”. We beg Leave here to observe, that both these are Instances of the House’s interresting themselves in this Affair, which your Honor now claims as a Prerogative: If the House were in no Case to have a Voice, or be regarded, in chusing a place to hold the Court, how could they think of building a House in a place, to which they never had been, and probably, never would be called.–

While the House have been from time to time, holding up to View, the great Inconveniencys and manifest Injurys resulting from the Sitting of the Assembly at Cambridge, and praying a Removal to Boston, it is with Pain that they have heard your Honor, instead of pointing out any one good Purpose which can be answerd by it, replying that your Instructions will not permit you to remove the Court to Boston. By a royal Grant in the Charter, in favor of the Commons of this province, the Governor has the sole power of adjourning, proroguing and dissolving the General Court: And the Wisdom of that Grant appears in this, that a person residing in the province, must be a more competent Judge, of the Fitness of the Time, and we may add, the place of holding the Court, than any person residing in Great Britain. We do not deny, that there may be Instances when the Comander in Chiefe, ought to obey the Royal Instructions: And should we also admit, that in ordinary Cases he ought to obey them, respecting the convening, holding, proroguing, adjourning & dissolving the General Court, notwithstanding that Grant; yet we clearly hold, that whenever Instructions cannot by complyd with, without injuring the people, they cease to be binding. Any other Supposition would involve this Absurdity in it, that a Substitute by Means of Instructions from his Principal, may have a greater Power than the Principal himself; or in other Words, that a Representative of a King who can do no Wrong, by means of Instructions may obtain a Right to do Wrong: for that the Prerogative extends not to do any Injury, never has and never can be denyd. Therefore this House are clearly of Opinion, that your Honor is under no Obligation to hold the General Court at Cambridge, let your Instructions be conceivd in Terms ever so peremptory, in as much as it is inconvenient and injurious to the province.–As to your Commission, it is certain, that no Clause containd in that, inconsistent with the Charter can be binding: To suppose, that when a Grant is made by Charter in favor of the people, Instructions shall supercede that Grant, and oblige the Governor to act repugnant to it, vacating the Charter at once, by the Breath of a Minister of State. Your Honor thinks you may safely say, “there is not one of us, who if he was in your Station, would venture to depart from the Instructions .” As you had not the least Shadow of Evidence to warrant this, we are sure you could not say it with Safety: And we leave it with your Honor to determine, how far it is reconcileable with Delicacy to suggest it. In what particulars the holding the General Court at Cambridge is injurious to us and the Province, has already been declared by the House, and must be too obvious to escape your Honors Observation. Yet you are pleasd to tell us, that “the Inconveniences can easily be removd, or are so inconsiderable that a very small publick Benefit will outweigh them”–That they are not inconsiderable, every Days Experience convinces us; nor are our Constituents insensible of them: But how they can be easily removd, we cannot conceive, unless by removing the Court to Boston. Can the publick Offices & Records, to which we are under the Necessity of recurring, almost every Hour, with any Safety or Convenience to the publick be removd to Cambridge? Will our Constituents consent to be at the Expence of erecting a proper House at Cambridge, for accommodating the General Court, especially when they have no Assurance that the next Freak of a capricious Minister will not remove the Court to some other place? Is it possible to have that Communication with our Constituents, or to be benefited by the Reasonings of the people without Doors here, as at Boston? We cannot but flatter ourselves, that every judicious and impartial Person will allow, that the holding the General Court at Cambridge, is inconvenient and hurtful to the Province; Nor has your Honor ever yet attempted to show a single Instance, in which the province can be benefited by it: No good purpose which can be answerd by it, has ever yet been suggested by any one to this House. And we have the utmost Confidence, that our gracious Sovereign, has no Desire to hold the General Court at any place inconvenient to its Members, or injurious to the province; but rather, that he will frown upon those, who have procurd its Removal to such a place, or persist in holding it there.

We are not indeed sure, that the Ministry caused the Assembly to be removd to Cambridge, in order to worry them into a Compliance with any arbitrary Mandate, to the Ruin of our own or our Constituents Libertys: But we know, that the General Assembly has in Times past been treated with such Indignity and Abuse, by the Servants of the Crown, and a wicked Ministry may attempt it again.

Your Honor observes, that “the same Exception may be made to the Use of every other part of the prerogative, for every part is capable of Abuse.” We shall never except to the proper Use of the prerogative: We hold it sacred as the Liberty of the Subject. But every Abuse of it, will always be excepted to, so long as the Love of Liberty, or any publick Virtue remains. And whenever any other part of the prerogative shall be abusd, the House will not fail to judge for themselves of the Grievance, nor to exert every power with which the Constitution hath entrusted them, to check the Abuse, and redress the Grievance.

The House had expressd to your Honor their Apprehension of a fixd Design, either to change the Seat of Government, or to harrass us, in order to bring us into Compliance with some arbitrary Mandate: Your Honor says, you know of no fixd Design to harrass us &c.: Upon which we cannot but observe, that if you did not know of a fixd Design to change the Seat of Governmt you would not have omitted so fair an Opportunity to satisfy the Minds of the House, in a Matter of such Importance to the Province. As to your very condescending and liberal Professions, of exercising patience, or using Dispatch, as would be most agreable to us, we shall be very much obligd to your Honor, for the Exercise of those Virtues, whenever you shall see Cause to remove us to our ancient and established Seat: But these professions can be no Temptations to us, to give up our Privileges.

Your Honor is pleasd to say, that “we consider the Charter as a Compact between the Crown and the People of this province” and to ask a Question “Shall one Party to the Compact be held, and not the other”? It is true, we consider the Charter as such a Compact, and agree that both Parties are held. The Crown covenants, that a Great & General Court shall be held, every last Wednesday in May for ever; The Crown therefore, doubtless is bound by this Covenant. But we utterly deny, that the people have covenanted to grant Money, or to do Business, at least any other Business than chusing Officers and Councellors to compleat the General Court, on the last Wednesday of May, or in any other Day or Year whatever: Therefore this House, by refusing to do Business, do not deprive the Crown of the Exercise of the prerogative, nor fail of performing their part of the Compact. Your Honor wd doubtless have been culpable had you refusd to call a General Court on the last Wednesday in May: And the House might have been equally culpable, if they had refusd to chuse a Speaker and Clerk, or to elect Councellors, whereby to compleat the General Court; for in Case of Omission in either part, a Question might arise, Whether the people would have a Legislature. When the General Assembly is thus formd, they are impowerd by the Charter, to make, ordain and establish all Manner of wholesome and reasonable Orders, Laws, Statutes & Ordinances, Directions and Instructions, either with penaltys or without. But the Charter no where obliges the Genl Court, to make any Orders, Laws, Statutes or Ordinances, unless they, at that time judge it conducive to the publick Good to make them: Much less does it oblige them to make any Laws &c, in any particular Session, year or number of years, whenever they themselves shall judge them not to be for the publick Good. Such an Obligation would leave them the least Color of Freedom, but reduce them to a mere machine; to the State the Parliament would have been in, if the Opinion of the two Chiefe Justices and the three puisne Judges had prevaild in the Reign of Richard the second “that the King hath the Governance of Parliament, and may appoint what shall be first handled, and so gradually what next, in all matters to be treated of in parliament, even to the End of the parliament; and if any person shall act contrary to the Kings pleasure made known therein, they are to be punishd as Traitors”–for which opinion those five Judges had Judgment as in Case of high Treason.–Your Honor will allow us to ask, Whether the Doctrine containd in your Question viz, “If you should refuse to do Business now you are met, would you not deprive the Crown of the Exercise of the prerogative, and fail of performing your part of the Compact” which implys a strong affirmation, is not in a Degree, the very Doctrine of Chiefe Justice Tresilian and the four other Judges just now mentiond? By convening in Obedience to his Majesty’s Writ, tested by your Honor, and again, at the time to which we are prorogud, we have submitted to the prerogative, and performd our part of the Compact.

This House has the same inherent Rights in this Province, as the House of Commons has in Great Britain. It is our Duty to procure a Redress of Grievances, and we may constitutionally refuse to grant our Constituents money to the Crown, or to do any other Act of Government, at any given time, that is not affixd by Charter to a certain Day, until the Grievances of the people are redressd. We do not pretend, that our Opinion is to prevail against his Majestys Opinion: We never shall attempt to adjourn or prorogue or dissolve the General Court: But we do hope, that our Opinion shall prevail, against any Opinion whatever, of the proper time to make Laws and to do Business. And by exerting this Power which the Constitution has given us, we hope to convince your Honor and the Ministry of the Necessity of removing the Court to Boston.–All judicious Men will allow that the proper time for the House to do their part of the Business of the province, is for the House to judge of and determine. The House think it is not, in the present Circumstances of the province, a proper time to do this Business, while the Court is constraind to hold their Session out of Boston: Your Honor is of a different Opinion: We have conformd to this Opinion as far as the Constitution requires us, And now our right of judging commences. If your Honors or even his Majestys Opinion concerning this Point is to prevail against the Opinion of the House, why may not the Crown, according to the Tresilian Doctrine, as well prescribe what Business we shall do, and in what Order.

The House is still ready to answer for all the ill Consequences which can justly be attributed to them; nor are they sensible of any Danger from exerting the power which the Charter has given them of doing their part of the Business in their own time.–That the Province has Enemies who are continually defaming it, and their Charter, is certain; that there are Persons who are endeavoring to intimidate the province from asserting and vindicating their just Rights and Liberties, by Insinuations of Danger to the Constitution, is also indisputable; But no Instance happend, even in the execrable Reign of the worst of the Stuart Race, of a Forfeiture of a Charter, because any one Branch of a Legislature, or even because the whole Government under the Charter, refusd to do Business at a particular time, under grievous Circumstances of Ignominy, Disgrace and Insult; and when their Charter had explicitly given to that Government the sole power of judging of the proper Season & Occasion of doing Business.

We are obligd at this time to struggle, with all the Powers with which the Constitution hath furnishd us, in Defence of our Rights; to prevent the most valueable of our Libertys, from being wrested from us, by the subtle Machinations, and daring Encroachments of wicked Ministers. We have seen of late, innumerable Encroachments on our Charter: Courts of Admiralty extended from the high Seas, where by the Compact in the Charter, they are confind, to numberless important Causes upon Land: Multitudes of civil Officers, the Appointment of all which is confind by Charter to the Governor and Council, sent here from abroad by the Ministry: A Revenue, not granted by us, but torn from us: Armys stationd here without our Consent; and the Streets of our Metropolis, crimsond with the Blood of our fellow Subjects.–These, and other Grievances and Cruelties, too many to be here enumerated, and too melancholly to be much longer born by this injurd People, we have seen brot upon us by the Devices of Ministers of State. We have seen & had of late, Instructions to Governors which threaten to destroy all the remaining Privileges of our Charter. In June 1768, the House, by an Instruction were orderd to rescind an excellent Resolution of a former House, on pain of Dissolution;4 they refusd to comply with so impudent a Mandate, and were dissolvd. And the Governor, tho’ repeatedly requested, and tho’ the Exigences of the Province demanded a General Assembly, refusd to call a new one, till the following May. In the last year, the General Court was forcd to give Way to regular Troops, illegally quarterd in the Town of Boston, in Consequence of Instructions to Crown Officers, and whose main Guard was most daringly and insultingly placd at the Door of the State house; and afterwards they were constraind to hold their Session at Cambridge. The present year the Assembly is summond to meet, and is still continued there in a kind of Duress, without any Reason that can be given–any Motive whatever, that is not as great an Insult to them, and Breach of their Privilege, as any of the foregoing.–Are these things consistent with the Freedom of the House; or, could the General Courts tamely submiting to such Usage, be thought to promote his Majestys Service!

Should these Struggles of the House prove unfortunate and ineffectual, this Province will submit, with pious Resignation to the Will of Providence; but it would be a kind of Suicide, of which we have the utmost Horror, thus to be made the Instruments of our Servitude.

We beg leave before we conclude, to make one Remark on what you say, that “our Compliance can be of no Benefit to our Sovereign, any farther than as he interests himself in the Happiness of his Subjects.” We are apprehensive that the World may take this for an Insinuation, very much to our Dishonor: As if the Benefit of our Sovereign were a Motive in our Minds, against a Compliance. But as this Imputation would be extremely unjust, so we hope it was not intended by your Honor. We are however obligd in Justice to our selves and our Constituents to declare that if we had Reason to believe, that a Compliance would by any, the least Benefit to our Sovereign, it would be a very powerful Argument with us; But we are on the Contrary, fully perswaded, that a Compliance at present, would be very injurious and detrimental to his Majestys Service.

1From this point the manuscript is wholly in the handwriting of Adams. 2Massachusetts State Papers, pp. 237-240. 3Inaccurately quoted from T. Hutchinson, History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, vol. ii., p. 317.
4See Vol. I., p. 230.


[Boston Gazette, August 13, 1770.]

Messieurs EDES & GILL,

“What availed the good Qualites of Galba? He who should not have employed bad Men, or at least should have restrained or punished them, incurred the same Censure as if he himself had done it!–It is the common Craft of corrupt Ministers to represent their Cause as the Cause of their Prince.”

His Honor the Lieutenant Governor, in his late Reply2 to the House of Representatives, tells them, that “a Secretary of State has by Virtue of his Office free Access” to the King; & “receives the Signification of his Majesty’s pleasure”; from whence he concludes that “he will give no directions but what he knows to be agreable thereto”, and therefore “every order coming from a Minister of State, must be suppos’d to come immediately from the Crown”–This is reasoning plausibly enough; but before I can give my full Assent to the Conclusion, I must have good Grounds to believe this same Secretary to be a Man of Wisdom and Integrity; a Character, which however requisite, does not always belong to a Minister of State. If he is deficient in both or either of these, we can have no Assurance, that every Order coming from him is declaratory of the Pleasure of the Sovereign: His want of Wisdom may render him altogether incapable of understanding the Mind of his royal Master; or, failing in point of Integrity he may maliciously and traiterously pervert his benevolent Intentions for the Good of his Subjects. Whenever Orders are given by a Secretary of State, that are evidently calculated to injure the Publick, we are by no Means to suppose them to come immediately from the Crown, for the King can do no Wrong: Will his Honor have us believe that the King can do a weak & foolish, or a malevolent and wicked Act? If not, such Instructions are to be look’d upon as the acts of the Minister and not of the King. Ministers of state were formerly shields to the persons of Kings from such kind of imputations; but it is much to be feared, if care is not taken to prevent it, the idle whimsies of Ministers, their weakness and folly, or their daring and impudent attempts to destroy the Liberties of the People, will be attributed to a Cause which no one, to be sure at present, will chuse to mention.–I hope his Honor’s reasoning, and his correspondent Conduct, does not lead to this–The House of Representatives seem to be aware of the Danger of such Doctrine, when they expressly say, “They presume not to call in question the Wisdom of their Sovereign or the rectitude of his Intentions”; at the same time that they speak with a manly Freedom, of certain Instructions that have come from Ministers of State, and even treat them with Indignity and Contempt. His Honor presumes “they would not have done this, if they had known it to be an Order from his Majesty.” I believe they would not; they saw reason to think that the Mandate to rescind in June 1768, was the mere act of a weak Minister; and as his Honor does not give the least Intimation, that he either knows or believes to the Contrary, I must beg leave to say, that in my poor Opinion, the Epithet given to it by the House, is neither “coarse” nor “indecent.”

We seem, Messrs. Printers, to be drawing very near the time, when some people will be hardy enough to dispute, whether we are to be governed according to the rule of the Constitution, the building of which has been the Work of Ages, or to use the words of the House, by the “breath of a Minister of State.”–Instructions, form’d by a set of Ministers, calculated for certain purposes and sent over to a Governor, who to avoid their high Displeasure and the terrible Effects of it, must implicitly believe, or say he believes them, to come immediately from the King; and the House of Representatives must by no means controvert them, lest, as Bernard once impudently told them, they should be chargeable with “oppugnation against the King’s authority.”3

There is a sort of Impropriety, as I take it, in saying that every Order from a Minister of State comes immediately from the Crown. However, little Inaccuracies in diction are not to be regarded in a performance fraught with reason and sound argument: It is rather to be wondered at that we meet with so few Imperfections, since we are assured by his Honor that he had taken “one Day only for his Reply” to an Answer which he intimates cost a Committee of the House full Eight Days hard Labor.4 Some men are said to have intuitive knowledge; and such have nothing to do but write down pages of unanswerable reasons as fast as the Ink can flow.

It was doubtless from this opinion that “every Order from a Secretary of State comes immediately from the King,” or as his Honor elsewhere more properly expresses it, is a ‘Signification of his Majesty’s pleasure,’ that he concludes it to be his Majesty’s pleasure that he should not communicate them; for such a prohibitory order is said to come from the Secretary. But the House seemed to think it impossible that our gracious King, should hold his Subjects to a blind obedience to Orders which they were not permitted to see; and therefore concluded, and as I humbly conceive very justly, that this order in a particular manner, was to be suppos’d to be an Act of the Minister and not of the King–His Honor indeed speaks of it with great Veneration; and tells them that “the restraint he is under appears to him to be founded upon wise Reasons.” But from this alone, he could not with certainty conclude that the Order came immediately from the King; for it is undoubtedly his Honor’s opinion, that the present set of Ministers are very wise men, tho’ not so wise as his Majesty; and therefore he might take it for granted, the Order was founded on wise reasons if it had come from them only. But as in these times of Light and Liberty, every man chuses to see and judge for himself, especially in all matters which are prescribed to him as rules of faith and practice; it is pity his Honor did not condescend to communicate those wise reasons, that the House and the People without Doors, here and there “a transient Person” who may have a common share of understanding, might judge whether they appeared to them to be reasons becoming the Wisdom of a King, or only as the House somewhere express it, “the freaks of a capricious Minister of State.”

If I have leisure I shall write you again. In the mean Time, I am, Your’s,


1The succeeding articles of this series were attributed to Adams by George Bancroft. This is confirmed by apparently contemporaneous annotations in the file of the Gazette owned by Harbottle Dorr, at one time a selectman of Boston. At the trial of Capt. Preston in November, 1770, he was drawn as a juror and “challenged for cause.” An advertisement of his business appears in the Boston Gazette, October 1, 1770.
2August 3, 1770, Massachusetts State Papers, pp.249-254. 3May 29, 1766 Massachusetts State Papers, p. 75. 4Massachusetts State Papers, p. 254.


[Boston Gazette, August 20, 1770.]

“One of the greatest indications of Wisdom that a Prince can show, is to converse with and have about him virtuous and wise Men: But Princes are liable to be deceived; Fraudum sedes aula, was the saying of a Philosopher who understood Courts well.–A good Prince may suffer by employing bad Ministers and Servants.”


WE are told in a late reply, that “the offices of Attornies and Sollicitors-General have been for more than fifty years past filled up by persons of the highest reputation for learning and integrity.”1 I am apt to think, if we look back we shall find that some of these officers of the crown have been as deficient in learning or integrity, or both, as we know some ministers of state have been. The house of Representatives say, “the province has suffer’d much by their unjust, groundless and illegal opinions”–2 Among other instances of weakness or wickedness in some persons who have filled these offices, I shall only mention one which now occurs to my mind–There is an act of Parliament which exempts seamen from an impress in America: This act was upon several occasions urged by the Americans, and it has been the opinion of attornies and sollicitors general, at different times, that the act was limitted to a time of war, when in truth there was no part or clause whatever in it to justify such opinion.–Well then may it be called a groundless opinion; and if groundless, will any one insist that there was no defect in these instances in point of integrity, if not of learning–Perhaps these opinions may appear to his Honor to be founded upon wise reasons; but others who cannot see the force of these reasons, have a right to think differently; and such a freedom is not likely to bring dishonor upon them–It is enough for those who are dependent upon the great for commissions, pensions, and the like, to preach up implicit faith in the great–Others whose minds are unfettered will think for themselves–They will not blindly adopt the opinions even of persons who are advanced to the first stations in the courts of law and equity, any further than the reasons which they expressly give are convincing.–They will judge freely of every point of state doctrine, & reject with disdain a blind submission to the authority of mere names, as being equally ridiculous, as well as dangerous in government and religion.–It may have been, Messirs. Printers, too much the practice of late, for some plantation governors, like Verres either ancient or modern, to oppress and plague the people they were bound to protect, and, perhaps in obedience to “orders that have come from secretaries of state”–These orders truly were to be treated with as profound veneration, without the least enquiry into their nature and tendency, as ever a poor deluded Catholic reverenc’d the decree of Holy Father at Rome.–While such a disposition prevailed, O how orderly were the people, how submissive to government! But when once a statute or the constitution was pleaded, which it was as dangerous for the people to look into, as it would be for an Italian, after the example of the noble Bereans, to search the scriptures, the secretary of state was to be informed that the people were become rebellious; as they said of St. Paul for preaching doctrines opposite to the humour of the Jewish Masters, that he “turned the world upside down”–The whole ministerial cabal was summoned; opinions were called for and taken–and however ludicrous, to say the best of them, those opinions were, if the people did not swallow them down as law & reason, they were told, that the freedom they used with the characters of great men forsooth “would bring dishonor upon them” and standing armies were sent to convince them of the reasonableness of these opinions–I confess that “too great a respect cannot be paid to the honorable part of the profession of the law,” but when state-lawyers, attorneys and sollicitors general, & persons advanced to the highest stations in the courts of law, prostitute the honor of the profession, become tools of ministers, and employ their talents for explaining away, if possible the Rights of a kingdom, they are then the proper objects of the odium and indignation of the public.–A very judicious author has observed that “our maladies and dangers have originated chiefly in the errors and misconduct of ministers; who from defect of ability or fidelity, or both, were unequal to the wants of a kingdom: A great genius, infinite knowledge and infinite care, says he, are requisite to form a prime minister; but youth and dissipation, with the trainings of the turf and the gaming table, will now suffice to make a man master of the most difficult trade in the world, without learning it”–Such were the men, under whose Influence Attorneys and Sollicitors General, within these fifty Years past, have held their places, and have even been advanced to the highest Stations in the Courts of Law, without any other recommendation than a servile disposition to prostitute the Law and the Constitution, whenever their Masters should require it of them–Such have been the Men, from whom Orders have come to Governors and Commanders in Chief, civil and military in America! And shall we easily be persuaded to take it for granted that such men are incapable of abusing the high trust reposed in them, and that Orders coming from them are always to be considered as “Significations of the pleasure of the Sovereign.”–




[Boston Gazette, August 27, 1770.]


I Find in the last Monday’s Evening Post,1 a Piece, signed Probus; the Intention of which seems to be, at least in Part, to show that I must be “effectually disappointed in my Attempt to convince the World that I am a greater Scholar than the Lieutenant-Governor of this Province”! Now upon the Word of a Chatterer, I declare to all my kind Readers, as well as Hearers, that I never did make the least Pretension to Scholarship; and besides, the World must long have been so fully convinced of the “profound Erudition” of the Lieutenant-Governor of this Province, that it would be the highest Degree of Vanity in any Man to think of rivaling him as a Scholar. It was obvious to common Readers that “what comes from the King thro’ his Minister, does not come immediately from the King”–And yet every Paper of the 6th of August led us to think that an “Expression in itself repugnant and absurd”, had, perhaps thro’ Inadvertency, drop’t even from a learned Pen–So far was I from “bravely attacking the Word immediately,” or “entering into a formal Criticism,” or any Criticism at all, that I but barely mentioned it as a “little inaccuracy”; at the same Time making the best Apology I could for it, by saying that as his Honor had assured us he “had taken one Day only for his Reply” it was rather to be wonder’d at, that we met with so few Imperfections of that kind. But Probus has rectify’d the Mistake, and Probus has vindicated the Lt. Governor of this Province as a Scholar.–We Chatterers, Messrs. Printers, have as much Pretension to the Character of the Gentleman, as any such formal and grave kind of folks as Probus: But I did not think myself under any obligation “as a Gentleman or an honest Man” to hunt after the Original, and therefore I have no Acknowlegment to make to any one for “a faulty Neglect in not seeing it before my Publication.” I suppos’d, as any one might, that the printed Copies were agreable to the original; and, that our Enemies may not avail themselves of the common Artifice, in representing the Advocates for the People as endeavoring to deceive the public I do again declare, that “in my Conscience I thought the printed Copy to be genuine”; and I hereby bear my Testimony, as far as that will go, against any Abuse being offered to Probus, which, poor Man, he either is, or affects to be under Apprehensions of, for rectifying this Mistake: But as few persons beside his Honor the Pope, lay Claim to Infallibility, upon due Consideration it seemeth not, that I am guilty of such high Crime and Misdeameanour, as by any Rule in Law to be subjected to Indictment or ex officio Information. However, I think it incumbent on you to suffer your Readers to be advertiz’d, that instead of immediately in his Honor’s Reply to the House of Representatives, as published in your Paper of the 6th of August, they ought to read mediately; which may prevent some other Chatterer from rudely attempting to convince the World that he is “a greater Scholar than the Lt. Governor of this Province;” Such an attempt perhaps may otherwise be made at a Distance where Probus may not have it in his Power to set right this notable Mistake–The Word being thus restored, the Passage will remain just as liable to the Chatterer’s Exception, notwithstanding all that Probus has said, as if it stood as it did; for the whole that was intended, was, to show, that we ought to take the Characters of Ministers of State into Consideration, before we conclude, as his Honor would have us, that every Order from them comes mediately from the Crown, or is a Signification of his Majesty’s Pleasure.

There is in the same Evening Post, as well as the Boston Post-Boy & Advertiser,2 & also in the Gazette of Thursday last, an Advertisement wherein the same Notice is taken of this Assault and Battery of mine upon the Scholarship of the Lieutenant Governor of this Province–I am sorry that my poor Publication, which seems after all to be of no more Significancy in their Opinion than “a Man of Straw” has given so great Uneasiness to some of his Honor’s Friends–This Advertiser indirectly chargeth me with Indecency in “undertaking to answer a Governor’s Message.” Now I did not undertake to anwer a Governor’s Message; and to speak plain, I did not think it worth while to undertake it–I believe I am not alone in the Opinion, that some messages might easily be answered, & possibly each in “one Day only”: But if I had undertaken it, where in the Name of common sense would have been the Indecency of it? I know very well that it has been handed as a political Creed of late, that the Reasoning of the People without Doors is not to be regarded–But every “transient Person” has a Right publickly to animadvert upon whatever is publickly advanc’d by any Man, and I am resolv’d to exercise that Right, when I please, without asking any Man’s Leave–And moreover, I am free to say, that if ever a Governor’s Message should happen to be below the Attention of a Scholar, no Person can more aptly take Notice of it, that I know of, than


1The Boston Evening Post, published by T. & J. Fleet. 2The Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy Advertiser, published by Mills and Hicks.


[Boston Gazette, July 22, 1771: a text is printed in Papers Relating to Public Events in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, 1856, 169-177.]

NOV. 6, 1770.


The House of Representatives of this his Majesty’s province, having made choice of you to appear for them at the court of Great Britain, as there may be occasion; it is necessary that you be well informed of the state and circumstances of the province, and the grievances we labor under, the redress of which will require your utmost attention and application.

You are sensible that the British parliament have of late years thought proper to raise a revenue in America without our consent, by divers acts made expressly for that purpose; The reasons and grounds of our complaints against those acts, are so well known and understood by you, that it is needless for us to mention them at this time.

The measures that have been taken by the American assemblies, to obtain the repeal of these acts, tho’ altogether consistent with the constitution, and clearly within the bounds of the Subjects Rights, have been nevertheless disgustful to administration; to whom we have been constantly represented by the servants of the crown and others on this side the water, in the most disagreeable and odious light.

Whether this province has been considered as having a lead among the other colonies, which they have never affected, or whether it is because Governor Bernard, the Commissioners of the Customs and others, who have discovered themselves peculiarly inimical to the Colonies, have had their residences here, certain it is, that the resentment of government at home has been particularly pointed against this province: For it is notorious that we have been charged with taking inflammatory measures, tending to create unwarrantable combinations, to excite an unjustifiable opposition to parliament, and revive unhappy divisions among the Colonies; and we have frequently been censured as disobedient to government for parts of conduct which have been in no wise dissimular to those which have been taken by other colonies without the least censure or observation.

While administration appeared to have conceived undue prejudices against us, our enemies have not failed to take every measure to increase those prejudices; and particularly by representing to the King’s ministers, that a spirit of faction had so greatly and universally prevailed among us, as that government could not be supported, and it was unsafe for the officers of the crown to live in the province and execute their trusts, without the protection of a military force: Such a force they at length obtained; the consequence of which was a scene of confusion & distress for the space of seventeen months, which ended in the blood and slaughter of his Majesty’s good subjects.

It was particularly mortifying to us to see the whole system of civil authority in the province, yielding to this most dangerous power; and at the very time when the interposition of the civil magistrate was of the most pressing necessity, to check the wanton and bloody career of the military, the Lieutenant-Governor himself declared, as Governor Bernard had before, that “he had no authority over the King’s troops in the province,” and his Majesty’s representative in Council became an humble supplicant for their removal out of the town of Boston! What would be the feelings of our fellow-subjects in Britain, if contrary to their Bill of Rights, and indeed to every principle of civil government, soldiers were posted even in their captial, without the consent of their Parliament? And yet the subjects of the same Prince in America who are entitled to the same freedom, are compelled to submit to as great a military power as administration shall please to order to be posted among them in a time of profound peace, without the consent of their assemblies! And this military power is allowed to trample upon the laws of the land, the common security, without restraint! Such an instance of absolute uncontroul’d military tyranny must needs be alarming, to those who have before in some measure enjoy’d, and are still entitled to the blessings of a free government, having never forfeited the character of loyal subjects.–After the fatal tragedy of the fifth of March, the regiments under the command of Lieut. Colonel Dalrymple were removed from the Town of Boston to the Barracks on Castle Island, in consequence of a petition from the town to the Lieutenant Governor and his Prayer to the Colonel; since which, in pursuance of Instruction to the Lieut. Governor, the garrison there in the pay of the province, is withdrawn, and a garrison of his Majesty’s regular troops placed in their stead. And although this exchange is made ostensively by the immediate order of the lieutenant-governor, yet it appears by the inclosed depositions, that Col. Dalrymple in reality took the custody and government of the fortress by order of general Gage; and therefore the lieutenant governor has no longer that command, which he is vested with by the royal charter.

We cannot help observing upon this occasion, that the instructions which have of late been given to the governor, some of them at least, directly militate, as in the present instance, with the charter of the province; And these instructions are not always adapted to promote his Majesty’s service, or the good of the people within this province, but often appear to be solely calculated to further and execute the measures, and enforce the laws of a different state; by which means his Majesty’s colonies may be entirely subjected to the absolute will of his other subjects in Great Britain, for which there can be no pretence of right, but what is founded in mere force.–By virtue of their positive instructions, the general assembly of the province has been remov’d from its ancient establish’d and only convenient seat in Boston, and is still obliged to hold its session at Harvard College in Cambridge, to the great inconvenience of the members and injury of the people, as well as detriment of that seminary of learning, without any reason that can be assigned but will and pleasure: And thus the prerogative of the King, which is a trust reposed in him to be improved only for the welfare of his subjects, is perverted to their manifest injury.

And what is still more grievous is, that the Governor of the province is absolutely inhibited, as we are told, from laying before the assembly any instruction, which he receives, even such as carry in them the evident marks of his Majesty’s displeasure: By which means the House of Representatives cannot have it in their power to obtain here, that precise knowledge of the grounds of our Sovereign’s displeasure, which we are in reason and justice entitled to, nor can the ministry be made responsible for any measures they may advise to in order to introduce and establish an illegal and arbitray government over his Majesty’s subjects in the colonies.–We have an instance of this kind now before us; the Lt. Governor of the province having in his speech at the opening of this session, given a dark intimation of something intended against the province, and when the House of Representatives earnestly desired him to explain it, that they might have a clear understanding of what was inteded therein, he declared as he had before done in other like cases, that he was not at liberty to make public or to communicate by speech or message an order from his Majesty in council which he had received, although in consequence thereof the state of the province was to be laid before parliament. By such conduct in the ministry it appears that we may be again accus’d and censur’d by parliament as we have heretofore been, and perhaps suffer the greatest injury without knowing our accusers or the matters that may be alleg’d against us.

At the same time, by an order of parliament that the names of persons giving intelligence to the ministry which may at any time be laid before parliament, shall be made secret even to the members themselves, the greatest encouragement is given to persons inimical to the province, to send home false relations of speeches and proceedings in public assemblies, and elsewhere, containing injurious charges upon individuals as well as publick bodies: Some of which have been transmitted home under the seal of the province, without the least notice given to those individuals, or any but the few in the secret to attend and cross-examine such witnesses. Thus even parliament itself may be misled into measures highly injurious and destructive to the province, by the calumny and detraction of those who are not and cannot be known, and whose falsehoods cannot therefore be detected.–So wretched is the state of this province, not only to be subjected to absolute instructions, given to the governor to be the rule of his administration, whereby some of the most essential clauses of our charter, vesting in him powers to be exercis’d for the good of the people are totally rescinded, which in reality is a state of despotism; but also, to a standing army, which being uncontroul’d by any authority within the province, must soon tear up the very, foundations of civil government.

Moreover we have the highest reason to complain that since the late parliamentary regulations of the colonies, the jurisdiction of the court of admiralty has been extended to so enormous a length, as itself to threaten the very being of the constitution: By the statute 4th Geo. 3 chap. 15, “All forfeitures and penalties inflicted by this or any other act of parliament relating to the trade and plantations in America which shall be incur’d there, may be prosecuted, sued for and recovered in any court of admiralty in the said colonies.” Thus a single judge, independent of the people, and in a civil law court, is to try these extraordinary forfeitures and penalties without a jury: Whereas the same stature provides, that all penalties and forfeitures which shall be incurred in Great Britain, shall be prosecuted, sued for and recovered in any of his Majesty’s courts of record, in Westminster or in the court of exchequer in Scotland respectively. Here is the most unreasonble and unjust distinction, made between the subjects in Britain and America; as tho’ it were designed to exclude us from the least share in that clause of Magna-Charta, which has for many centuries been the noblest bulwark of the English liberties, & which cannot be too often repeated; “No freeman shall be taken or imprison’d or disseiz’d of his freehold, or liberties, or free customs, or be outlaw’d, or exil’d, or any otherwise destroyed, nor will we pass upon him nor condemn him, but by the judgment of his peers or the law of the land.”

These are some of the insupportable grievances which this province has long been laboring under, and which still remain altogether unredressed: For although they have been set forth in the clearest manner by humble petitions to the throne, yet such an ascendency over us have the officers of the crown here in the minds of administration, that our complaints are scarcely heard; our very petitions are deemed factious, and instead of obtaining any relief, our oppressions have been more aggravated, & we have reason to apprehend will be still increased.

For by the best intelligence from England, we are under strong apprehensions that by virtue of an act of parliament of the 7 Geo.3.2 which impowers his Majesty to appropriate a part of the revenue raised in America, for the support of civil government, and the administration of justice in such colonies where he shall judge it necessary, administration is determined to bestow large salaries upon the attorney-general, judges and governor of this province; whereby they will be made not only altogether independent of the people, but wholly dependent upon the ministry for their support. These appointments will be justly obnoxious to the other colonies, and tend to beget and keep up a perpetual discontent among them; for they will deem it unjust as well as unnecessary to be oblig’d to bear a part of the support of government in this province, and even in the courts of law; especially if designs are also meditating to make other important alterations in our Charter, by appointing the Council from home, &c. whereby the executive will be rendered absolute, and the legislative totally ineffectual to any valuable purpose. The assembly is in all reason sufficiently dependent already upon the Crown: The one branch annually for its being, as it is subject to the negative of the Governor; and both the branches for every grant and appropriation of their money, and also for their whole defence and security, as he is Captain-General, and has by Charter the sole military command within the province: All civil officers are either nominated and appointed by him with the advice and consent of his Majesty’s Council, or if elected they are subject to his negative: And our laws, after being consented to by his Majesty’s Governor, are by the first opportunity from the making thereof, to be transmitted to his Majesty for his approbation or disallowance: Three years they are subject to the revision of the crown lawyers in Britain, who my always be strangers to our internal polity, & sometimes disaffected to us: And at any time within the three years, His Majesty in his privy council may, if he thinks proper, reject them, and then they become utterly void. Surely the parliament of Great Britain cannot wish for greater checks, both upon the legislative and executive of a colony, unless we are to be considered as bastards and not Sons.–A step further will reduce us to absolute subjection. If administration is resolved to continue such measure of severity, the colonies will in time consider the mother-state as utterly regardless of their welfare: Repeated acts of unkindness on one side, may by degrees abate the warmth of affection on the other, and a total alienation may succeed to that happy union, harmony and confidence, which has subsisted, and we sincerely wish may always subsist: If Great Britain, instead of treating us as their fellow-subjects, shall aim at making us their vassals and slaves, the consequence will be, that although our merchants have receded from their non-importation agreement, yet the body of the people will vigorously endeavor to become independent of the mother-country for supplies, and sooner than she may be aware of it, will manufacture for themselves. The colonists, like healthy young sons, have been chearfully building up the parent state, and how far Great Britain will be affected, if they should be rendered even barely useless to her, is an object which we conceive is at this very juncture worth the attention of a British Parliament.

Your own acquaintance with this province, and your well known attachment to it, will lead you to exert all your powers in its defence: And as the Council have made choice of William Bollan, Esq; for their agent, you will no doubt confer with him, and concert such measures as will promote our common interest: Your abilities we greatly confide in; but if you shall think it for the advantage of the province to consult with and employ council learned in the law, the importance of your agency will be a motive sufficient for us to acquiesce in such expence on that account, as your own judgment shall dictate to you to be necessary.

Included are the proceedings of his Majesty’s Council of this province, upon an affidavit of Mr. Secretary Oliver, which this House apprehend has a tendency to make a very undue impression on the minds of his Majesty’s ministers and others, respecting the temper and disposition of the people, previous to the tragical transaction of the fifth of March last: You are therefore desired to make such use of them as shall prevent such unhappy consequences from taking effect.

1Attributed to Adams by Governor Hutchinson. Hutchinson to Pownall; Public Record Office, Domestic Geo. III., 11:25. Franklin’s reply, addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives under date of December 24, 1770, is in J. Bigelow, Complete Works of Benjamin Franklin vol. iv., pp. 371-373.
2Chap. 46.


[MS., Samuel Adams Papers, Lenox Library.]

BOSTON NOVr 16 1770


I should before now have acknowledgd your favor of the 5 June,2 but my being obligd to attend the Session of the General Court for 7 weeks3 & other necessary Avocations prevented it. I return the Letters signd Junius Americanus deliverd to me by Mr Cary,4 by your direction to be a valueable present. The Author has servd the American Cause in a manner in which I have long wishd some able pen would have undertaken to do it by appealing to the good Sense of the Body of the Nation. I believe the general Inclination there is to wish that we may preserve our Liberties; and perhaps even the Ministry could for some Reasons find it in their hearts to be willing that we shd be restord to the State we were in before the passing of the Stamp Act, were it not that a Set of detestable Men were continually writing from hence that we shd carry our Claims still higher & there wd be no Bounds to our Demands. I can venture to assure you that there is no Foundation for such Assertions, nor do I think they are really believd by any. The People here are indeed greatly tenacious of their just Rights & I hope in God they will ever firmly maintain them. Every Attempt to enforce the plan of Despotism will certainly irritate them; While they have a Sense of freedom they will oppose the Efforts of Tyranny; and altho the Mother Country may at present boast of her Superiority over them, she may perhaps find the Want of that Superiority, when by repeated provocations she shall have totally lost their Affections.–All Good Men surely wish for a cordial Harmony between the two Countrys. Great Britain can lose Nothing which she ought to retain by restoring the Americans to their former State, & they I am satisfied will no further contend; While the Struggle continues Manufactures will still increase in America in spite of all Efforts to prevent it; & how far Britain will be injurd by it, ought certainly to be well considerd on your side the Atlantick.

Our Merchants have receded from their Nonimportation Agreement. They held it much longer than I ever thought they would or could. It was a grand Tryal which pressd hard upon their private Interest. But the Landholders find it for their Interest to manufacture and it is their happy Consideration that while they are most effectually serving their Country they are adding to their private fortunes. The representatives of the people have this day agreed to promote Manufactures in their respective Towns, & the House have appointed a special Committee5 to form a plan for the effectual Encouragement of Arts Agriculture Manufactures & Commerce in this province; & even the Administration of a Bernard could not tend more to sharpen the Edge of resentment which will perpetually keep alive the Spirit of Manufactures than that which we are now blessd with. Lt Governor Hutchinson, more plausible indeed than Bernard, seems resolvd to push the same plan & the people plainly see that a Change of Men is not likely to produce a Change of Measures–so soon are the Words of the one verified when he said of the other that he could rely upon him as he could on himself.

Our House of Representatives have been inducd to do Business this Session, against their former remonstrances, principally from a Necessity which they apprehended they were under of attending to what mt be doing on your Side the Water. They accordingly chose an Agent. I gave my Suffrage with about a third part of the House, for Dr Lee–but Dr Franklin being personally known to many of the Members had the preference–both the Gentlemen were highly spoken of in the House, & afterwards Dr Lee was appointed to the Trust, by a very full vote in Case of the Death or Absence of Dr Franklin.

Our State Tryals as we may call them have at length come on. Preston is acquitted by a Jury!6 It is to be remarkd that the Baker of the Regiment, who indeed wd have had himself excusd, and three others were put on as Talesmen Preston having challengd Eighteen. One of the three was a known Intimate of Prestons and another had declared before that if he was to be of the Jury he wd sit till Doomsday before he wd consent to a Verdict agt him. Evidence to prove that the Soldiers were the Aggressors of which there was plenty was not admitted. The main Question was whether he orderd the Men to fire–diverse persons swore positively that he did, but they differing about the Circumstance of his Dress, & others swearing, one that he was very near him & did not hear him give the orders, & others that some other person unknown gave them, operated in his favor. But no Weight that I can learn was given, to full proof that he led the Soldiers armd with loaded Musquets & Bayonets. This he had a Right, nay it was his Duty to do, because the Centinel was in Danger & we must presume the People were the Aggressors. This Principle I suppose will clear the Soldiers whose Tryals begin on Tuesday next.7 Richardson who was convicted of the Murder of young Snider so long ago as March, remains unhangd, the Court not having yet determind upon his Motion for another Tryal. You may easily observe that we have catchd the impartial Spirit of the Kings friends, a synonimous term for friends of Govt here, from the Mother Country. I had not the opportunity of attending Prestons Tryal, but am in hopes of having a minute Accot of it from a sensible Gentleman who was present–if I can obtain it I will write you more precisely upon the Subject.

Before I conclude I must mention to you that the Minister has taken a Method which in my Opinion has a direct tendency to set up a despotism here, or rather is the thing it self–and that is by sending Instructions to the Governor to be the rule of his Administration & forbiding him as the Govr declares to make them known to us, the Design of which may be to prevent his ever being made responsible for any measures he may advise in order to introduce & establish arbitrary power over the Colonies. Mr Hutchinson has pushd this point with all the Vigour of Bernard, which has occasiond warm messages between him & the Assembly as you may observe in the Boston Gazette for several Weeks past. But of this I shall be more particular in my next.

I shall be proud of an epistolary Correspondence with you, and with Dr Lee to whom tho personally unknown to him I beg you wd make my Compliments. I am with strict truth.

1A resident of London, and at one time sheriff; his relations with the colonists appear in the letters printed in this volume. 2A copy is in S. A. Wells, Samuel Adams and the American Revolution, vol. i. pp. 293, 294.
3The session began September 26 and ended November 20. 4Probably Richard Cary, of Charlestown, Mass. Letters by him are in Papers Relating to Public Events in Massachusetts, pp. 113, 122, 124. 5On November 16; Samuel Adams was a member of the committee. 6The stenographic report of Preston’s trial was sent to England, but never published in America. Works of John Adams, vol. ii., p. 236. 7The Trial of the British Soldiers of the 29th Regiment of Foot was published at Boston in 1770, 1807 and 1824, and was reprinted in History of the Boston Massacre, Albany, 1870, pp. 123-285.



The House of Representatives have heretofore view’d with Concern the