1768—Samuel Adams to Dennys De Berdt


Boston, May 14, 1768



By Mr Edward Church a Passenger in Capt Wilson who sailed the 24th ult. [ult. means “last month”] I sent you the Journals of the House of Representatives for the year past. There cannot be a better Evidence of the Moderation and good temper, with which ye Affairs of the last Session, for the greater part of it, were conducted, than the Governors Speech to the two Houses, when it ended. The House of Representatives were constantly attentive to the late Acts of Parliament, and almost their whole time was employed in preparing a Petition to his Majesty and Letters to his Ministers &c. Nothing extraordinary passed between the Governor and the House, who seemed determined to carry on Business without giving his Excellency the least Uneasiness that could possibly be avoided. As an Instance, they readily complied with his Request for a further Establishment for Fort Pownal at the Eastward ; which I am satisfied was done rather to gratify the Governor at this Juncture, than from an Apprehension of the real Necessity of it. His Excellency in the Speech above referred to, complains, that the Lovers of Contention have sought an Occasion of reviving it. It is not difficult to find by the journals, what gave occasion of Uneasiness in the latter part of the Session. Had the Governor concealed from the House, the Letter he had received from Lord Shelburne, which it does not appear he was under any sort of Necessity of disclosing to them, all things would have gone on quietly; But when they found that his Lordship had passed a Censure upon their Conduct, grounded upon Information he had received, and probably as they thought, by his Excellency’s own Letters, it is not to be wondered at, that they judged it necessary to take Measures to set their Conduct right in the Mind of a Nobleman of his Lordships Dignity Character and Rank in his Majesty’s Service; especially as it appeared by the Letter that his Majesty himself had approved of ye Governors negativing some of the Gentlemen they had elected as Councillors, as being done with due Deliberation and Judgment. The Steps which the House took were no other than common Sense as I apprehend would dictate to any private Gentleman in a similar Case. They are published for the World to judge, if there was any Contention in the Matter, to whom the Blame ought to be imputed. It is observable that where there is a total Want of Confidence between a Governor and the People, which appears to me to be the Case in this Province at present, Suspicions of each other will often take place and operate to disturb the public Tranquility, and hinder the Affairs of his Majesty’s Government in the Province from being carried on so prosperously as all good Men would wish for. How far the Jealousies of the House in the present Case of his Excellency’s having misrepresented them to his Majesty, as acting from unworthy Views and Motives in their Elections is to be justified by his Lordships Letter, disinterested Persons will judge. Such kind of Jealousy has long been in the Minds of very many, if not the greater part of the People; and I am persuaded that nothing will remove it from the minds of by far the greater part of those persons who constituted that House, but a Sight of his Excellencies Letters; or a Declaration from His Lordship, if he will condescend to give it, to the contrary. That House has since been dissolved, according to Custom, and a new one will be returned this month; I have no Reason to think that a Cordiality will ever subsist between the present Governor and the Representatives of the people: Harmony upon the Principles of Liberty and Virtue is much to be desired; but Prejudices have taken so deep Root that it is not to be expected: Which side soever is in fault, if the Prejudice be invincible, his Majesty’s Government must be impeded, and both the Governor and the People must be unhappy.

I now speak my mind with an unreserved freedom, and I hope with Candor and Impartiality, and not indecently; for tho I can by no means say that I am captivated with his Excellency’s Administration, I should always rejoice in his Prosperity; and were he my Patron or Father, my Regards for his Ease and Comfort as well as for the People would induce me to wish for his Removal to another Government. The Board of Commissioners of the Customs here is extremely disgustful to the people; they are neglected by Men of Fortune and Character and are viewed in general in no better a Light than the late Commissioners of the Stamps; They appear to be a useless and very expensive set of officers, and the Arrival of their Appendages from time to time with large Salaries, together with the many Officers of inferior Class, which they have created, since they came here, alarm the People with disagreeable Apprehensions. The Ideas of their being designed to facilitate trade are now altered; and they are considered as the Regulators of a Revenue raised out of the People without their Consent and therefore unconstitutional, and oppressive. Besides it is apprehended that in a very little time they will have an Influence that will be justly formidable. By appointing as many officers under them as they please, for whose Support it is said they may sink the whole Revenue, they may have it in their power to form such a Connection as to make themselves terrible to the Liberties of the People. There is an anxious Expectation of the Event of the Petition and Letters sent home; It is hoped by the most thinking and judicious here that the Revenue Acts will be repealed and the Commissioners recalled; If this should not take place, it is hard to say what may be the Consequence; While America enjoyed her Liberties, Great Britain reaped the Profits of her Trade and had her warmest Affection; But if her Liberties are violated by the Mother Country, and her Trade rescinded, where is the Band of mutual Affection!

The Resolution of the Americans, which had its Rise in this Town, not to make use of foreign superfluities, I perceive by the London Prints, is disregarded there as a mere Puff, because upon Inquiry it was found that the Merchants had not stopped their Orders for such kind of Articles, and there have been the usual Exportations to America this Spring. But I wish that this Matter was considered with a little more Attention; for although it is very probable that many Persons may break through their Agreement, yet there is no Doubt in my mind but such numbers will adhere to it, as must affect the British Manufacturers. There is certainly such a Disposition among the People to furnish themselves with the American Manufactures as never was known before; and there have been late Instances of the Manufacture of a Variety of Articles much beyond Expectation. It is well known what large Quantities of the British Manufactures are annually consumed in America. Could Great Britain endure a total Stop of this Consumption! or What part of it would she be willing should be saved? Will not the making of one Piece of Woolen Cloth encourage the making of Another? And if this Spirit of manufacturing is excited by Resentment as some of your Writers alleged, is it natural to suppose it will stop short of the utmost Possibility? Can any Man in England or America ascertain the Bounds? Will it not affect the Mother Country in proportion to the Extent of it?—But there is another Consideration of great Weight; Let the Importations from Britain be ever so large, the Trade of America is so embarrassed & burdened, that it will not afford the People the Ability of wearing fine Cloths, and paying for them, so that in the Course of things the Importations must cease through Necessity.

I pray God, that those who conduct the Affairs of the Nation may be endowed with true Wisdom—that all measures destructive to the common Interest may be reserved, that Fomentors of Division on both sides the Atlantic may be detected and punished, that Great Britain and the Colonies may thoroughly understand their mutual Interest and Dependence, that Harmony may be cultivated between them, and that they may long flourish in one undivided Empire. I am with great Regard Sir

Your most humble Servant

Samuel Adams

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