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Several friends now came to me, and advised me to retain Mr. DunI ning, formerly solicitor-general, and very able in his profession wished first to consult with Mr. Lee, supposing he might rather be for his friend, Mr. Sergeant Glynn. I found Mr. Lee was expected in town about the latter end of the week, and thought to wait his coming; in the mean time I was urged to take Mr. Dunning's advice as to my own conduct, if such questions should be asked me. I did so, and he was clear that I was not and could not be obliged to answer them, if I did not choose it, which I informed him was the case, being under a He said he promise not to divulge from whom I received the letters would attend however, if I desired it, and object in my behalf to their putting such questions.
A report now prevailed through the town, that I had been grossly abused by the solicitor-general, at the council board. But this was premature. He had only intended it, and mentioned that intention. I heard too, from all quarters, that the ministry and all the courtiers were highly enraged against me for transmitting those letters. I was called an incendiary, and the papers were filled with invectives against me. Hints were given me, that there were some thoughts of apprehending me, seizing my papers, and sending me to Newgate. I was well informed that a resolution was taken to deprive me of my place; it was only thought best to defer it till after the hearing: I suppose, because I was there to be so blackened, that nobody should think it injustice. Many knew too how the petition was to be treated; and I was told, even before the first hearing, that it was to be rejected with some epithets, the assembly to be censured, and some honour done the governours. How this could be known, one cannot say It might be only conjecture. The transactions relating to the tea had increased and strengthened the torrent of clamour against us. Not one had the least expectation of success to the petition; and though I had asked leave to use counsel, I was half inclined to wave it, and save you the expense; but Mr. Bollan was now strongly for it, as they had refused to hear him. And though, fortified by his opinion, as he had long experience in your affairs, I would at first have ventured to deviate from the instructions you sent me in that particular, supposing you to allow some discretionary liberty to your agents, yet now that he urged it as necessary, I employed a solicitor, and furnished him with what materials I could for framing a brief; and Mr. Lee coming to town, entered heartily into the business, and undertook to engage Sergeant Glynn, who would readily have served us, but being in a fit of the gout which made his attendance uncertain, the solicitor retained Mr. Dunning and Mr. John Lee, another able man of the profession.
While my mind was taken up with this business, I was harassed with a subpoena from the chancellor, to attend his court the next day, at the suit of Mr. W. Whateley, concerning the letters. This man was under personal obligations to me, such as would have made it base
in him to commence such a suit of his own motion against me, without any previous notice, claim, or demand; but if he was capable of doing it at the instance of the ministry (whose banker he is for some pension money) he must be still baser.
The briefs being prepared and perused by our counsel, we had a consultation at Mr. Dunning's chambers in Lincoln's inn. I introduced Mr. A. Lee as my friend and successor in the agency The brief, as you will see by a copy I send you, pointed out the passages of the letters, which were applicable in support of the particular charges contained in the resolutions and petition. But the counsel observed, we wanted evidence to prove those passages false; the counsel on the other side would say they were true representations of the state of the country; and as to the political reflections of the writers, and their sentiments of government, their aims to extend and enforce the power of parliament, and diminish the privileges of their countrymen, though these might appear in the letters and need no other proof, yet they would never be considered here as offences, but as virtues and merits. The counsel therefore thought it would answer no good end to insist on those particulars; and that it was more advisable to state as facts the general discontent of the people, that the governours had lost all credit with them, and were become odious, &c. Facts of which the petition was itself full proof, because otherwise it could not have existed; and then show that it must in such a situation be necessary for his majesty's service, as well as the peace of the province, to remove them. By this opinion, great part of the brief became unnecessary.
Notwithstanding the intimations I had received, I could not believe that the solicitor-general would be permitted to wander from the question before their lordships, into a new case, the accusation of another person for another matter, not cognizable before them, who could not expect to be there so accused, and therefore could not be prepared for his defence. And yet all this happened, and in all probability was preconcerted; for all the courtiers were invited as to an entertainment, and there never was such an appearance of privy counsellors on any occasion, not less than thirty-five, besides an immense crowd of other auditors.
The hearing began by reading my letter to Lord Dartmouth, enclos ing the petition, then the petition itself, the resolves, and lastly the letters, the solicitor-general making no objections, nor asking any of the questions he had talked of at the preceding board. Our counsel then opened the matter, upon their general plan, and acquitted themselves very handsomely; only Mr. Dunning, having a disorder on his lungs that weakened his voice exceedingly, was not so perfectly heard as one could have wished. The solicitor-general then went into what he called a history of the province for the last ten years, and bestowed plenty of abuse upon it, mingled with encomium on the governours : But the favourite part of his discourse was levelled at your agent, who stood there the butt of his invective and ribaldry for near an hour, not a single lord adverting to the impropriety and indecency of treating a VOL. III.
publick messenger in so ignominious a manner, who was present only as the person delivering your petition, with the consideration of which no part of his conduct had any concern. If he had done a wrong, in obtaining and transmitting the letters, that was not the tribunal where he was to be accused and tried: The cause was already before the chancellor. Not one of their lordships checked and recalled the orator to the business before them, but on the contrary (a very few excepted) they seemed to enjoy highly the entertainment, and frequently burst out in loud applauses. This part of his speech was thought so good, that they have since printed it, in order to defame me every where, and particularly to destroy my reputation on your side the water; but the grosser parts of the abuse are omitted, appearing, I suppose, in their own eyes, too foul to be seen on paper; so that the speech, compared to what it was, is now perfectly deceit. I send you one of the copies. My friends advise me to write an answer, which I purpose immediately.
The reply of Mr. Dunning concluded. Being very ill, and much incommoded by standing so long, his voice was so feeble, as to be scarce audible. What little I heard was very well said, but appeared to have little effect.
Their lordships' report, which I send you, is dated the same day. It contains a severe censure, as you will see, on the petition and the petitioners; and, as I think, a very unfair conclusion from my silence, that the charge of surreptitiously obtaining the letters was a true one; though the solicitor, as appears in the printed speech, had acquainted them that that matter was before the chancellor; and my counsel had stated the impropriety of my answering there, to charges then trying in another Court In truth I came by them honourably, and my intention in sending them was virtuous, if an endeavour to lessen the breach between two states of the same empire be such, by showing that the injuries complained of by one of them did not proceed from the other, but from traitors among themselves.
It may be supposed that I am very angry on this occasion, and therefore I did purpose to add no reflections of mine on the treatment the assembly and their agent have received, lest they should be thought the effects of resentment and a desire of exasperating. But indeed what I feel on my own account is half lost in what I feel for the publick. When I see that all petitions and complaints of grievances are so odious to government, that even the mere pipe which conveys them becomes obnoxious, I am at a loss to know how peace and union is to be maintained or restored between the different parts of the empire. Grievances cannot be redressed uniess they are known; and they cannot be known but through complaints and petitions : If these are deemed affronts, and the messengers punished as offenders, who will henceforth send petitions? and who will deliver them?It has been thought a dangerous thing in any state to stop up
the vent of griefs. Wise governments have therefore generally received petitions with some indulgence, even when but slightly founded. Those who think themselves injured by their rulers, are sometimes, by a mild and prudent answer, convinced of their errour. where complaining is a crime, hope becomes despair.
The day following I received a written notice from the secretary of the general post-office, that his majesty's post-master general found it necessary to dismiss me from my office of deputy post-master general in North America. The expression was well chosen, for in truth they were under a necessity of doing it; it was not their own inclination; they had no fault to find with my conduce in the office; they knew my merit in it, and that if it was now an office of value, it had become such chiefly through my care and good management; that it was worth nothing, when given to me; it would not then pay the salary allowed me, and unless it did, I was not to expect it; and that it now produces near £3000 a year clear to the treasury here: They had beside a personal regard for me. But as the post-offices in all the principal towns are growing daily more and more valuable by the increase of correspondence (the officers being paid commissions instead of salaries) the ministers seem to intend by directing me to be displaced on this occasion, to hold out to them all an example, that if they are not corrupted by their office to promote the measures of administration, though against the interest and rights of the colonies, they must not expect to be continued. This is the first act for extending the influence of government in this branch: But as orders have been some time since given to the American post-master general, who used to have the disposition of all places under them, not to fill vacancies of value, till notice of such vacancies had been sent hither, and instructions thereupon received from hence, it is plain that such influence is to be a part of the system, and probable that those vacancies will for the future be filled by officers from this country. How safe the correspondence of your Assemblycommittees along the continent will be through the hands of such of ficers, may now be worth consideration, especially as the post-office act of parliament, allows a post-master to open letters, if warranted so to do by the order of a secretary of state, and every provincial secretary may be deemed a secretary of state in his own province.
It is not yet known what steps will be taken by government with regard to the colonies, or to our province in particular. But as inquiries are making of all who come from thence, concerning the late riot, and the meetings that preceded it, and who were speakers and movers at those meetings, &c. I suspect there is some intention of seizing persons, and perhaps of sending them hither. But of this I have no certainty. No motion has yet been made in the house of commons concerning our affairs; and that made in the house of lords was withdrawn for the present. It is not likely however that the session will pass over without some proceeding relating to us, though perhaps it is not yet settled what the measures shall be.
With my best wisnes for the prosperity of the province, I have the honour to be,
Sir, your most obedient,
and most humble servant,
Hon. Thomas Cushing, Esq. Speaker.
London, April 2, 1774.
Y last was of the 22d past, since which I have received none of your favours.
I mentioned that the bill brought into parliament, for punishing Boston, met with no opposition. It did however meet with a little before it got through, some few of the members speaking against it in the house of commons, and more in the house of lords. It passed however by a very great majority in both, and received the royal assent on Thursday the 31st past. You will have a copy of it from Mr. Lee. In mine of February 2d, I informed you that after the treatment I had received at the council board, it was not possible for me to act longer as your agent, apprehending I could as such be of no farther use to the province: I have nevertheless given what assistance I could as a private man, by speaking to members of both houses, and by joining in the petitions of the natives of America now happening to be in London, which were ably drawn by Mr. Lee, to be presented separately to the several branches of the legislature. They serve, though without other effect, to show our sentiments, and that we did not look on and let the act pass, without bearing our testimony against it. And indeed, though called petitions (for under another name they would not have been received) they are rather remonstrances and protests.
By the enclosed extract of a letter from Wakefield in Yorkshire to a friend of mine, you will see that the manufacturers begin to take the alarm Another general non-importation agreement is apprehended by them, which would complete their ruin. But great pains are taken to quiet them with the idea, that Boston must immediately submit and acknowledge the clains of parliament, for that none of the other colonies will adhere to them. A number of the
principal manufacturers from different parts of the kingdom are now in town, to oppose the new duty on foreign linens, which they fear may provoke the Germans to lay discouragements on British manufactures: They have desired me to meet and dine with them on Wednesday next, where I shall have an opportunity of learning their sentiments more fully, and communicating my own.
Some alterations of the constitution of the Massachusetts are now hotly talked of, though what they are to be seems hardly yet settled. One thing mentioned is the appointment of the council by mandamus.