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Letter from Mr. Bollan, Agent, to the Hon. John Erving, and Others, Committee of the Council of Massachusetts



Covent Garden, March 11, 1774.

GENTLEMEN: Late in the evening of Saturday, the 5th instant, I received certain information that on Monday a Message from the King would be sent to the two Houses of Parliament, respecting the late proceedings in North America, and at Boston in particular, accompanied with papers of correspondence; and Lord North, on that day, presented the following Message to the House of Commons: "His Majesty upon information of the unwarrantable practices which have been lately concerted and carried on in North America, and particularly of the violent and outrageous proceedings at the town and port of Boston, in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, with a view of obstructing the Commerce of this Kingdom, and upon grounds and pretences immediately subversive of the Constitution thereof, has thought fit to lay the whole matter before his two Houses of Parliament, fully confiding as well in their zeal for the maintenance of his Majesty' s authority, as in their attachment to the common interest and welfare of all his dominions, that they will not only enable his Majesty effectually to take such measures as may be most likely to put an immediate stop to the present disorders, but will also take into their, most serious consideration what further regulations and permanent provisions may be necessary to be established for better securing the execution of the laws, and the just dependence of the Colonies upon the Crown and Parliament of Great Britain."

In consequence of my information, after doubting some time on Sunday what was the best step now to be taken, and being sensible that Ministers, after taking as much time to prepare their own measures as they think fit, sometimes so far hurry on execution as to distress their oponents; for this and other reasons, to check in some measure, if I could, the torrent in this case, I resolved to prepare, and publish with all possible despatch, my late Petition to the King, with illustrations; and thereupon went into the city to the printer, who, during some time past, had been employed in my intended vindication of the Colonies, a laborious work, requiring great care; after collecting numerous proper materials, told him he must lay that aside for the present, and prepare for printing a short pamphlet, with all speed, promising to make proper allowance to the men who should work out of common hours, directing him to send the next morning for part of the copy; when, going about it, and attending to it without intermission, the copy was completed on Tuesday, before dinner; and, by my Clerk' s attendance, and my going to the printer' s in person, several times, and afterwards going late farther into the city, to two of the principal publishers, in consequence of Mr˙ Almon' s telling me at the printer' s it was too late for the next day' s publication, I prevailed on them to publish it on Wednesday morning, and now send herewith enclosed two copies of it.


On Tuesday evening, having before heard of nothing but hostile intentions, I was informed that American affairs would come on in the House of Commons to day, wherefore on Wednesday I resolved to prepare, as far as the uncertain state of the affair would then permit, for petitioning that House, my chief intent being to ascertain the rights of the Colonies, a point the least objectionable, though in its nature efficacious; and for that purpose gain admittance at least to lay before the House authentic copies from the records of many letters, patent royal, passed for acquiring and settling new dominion in America, never yet laid before them, thereby proving that the several Princes, numerous Nobles, and other worthy persons who were concerned in the settlement of the Plantations, as well as the actual Settlers, were very far from understanding that they who by their merits should enlarge the public dominion, should thereby, contrary to natural justice, lessen their own liberties; and, after preparing a few general articles that might, possibly serve on the occasion, in order to have my Petition presented when ready, and proper in point of time, I waited yesterday morning on General Conway, who had in the House denied the authority of Parliament to tax America. On proposing the presentation to him, he answered it would be more proper for him to support the petition, expressing clearly his readiness to do it; at the same time complaining that violence and disorders in the Colonies laid difficulties in the way of their friends obtaining the relief they wanted. Waiting upon Sir George Savile, he declined the presentation because he was in honour obliged various ways to apply himself closely to another business. He told me Lord North had put such an insidious question to him respecting the measures proper for the House to take, that after giving him a suitable answer, he directly went out of the House, out of resentment, as I understand. From him I went directly to the mansion house, where the Lord Mayor very readily and kindly promised to present my Petition. From him, pursuant to his recommendation, I went to Mr˙ Alderman Oliver, whom I found very intelligent and candid, and who satisfied me that my Petition might be presented at a more distant day than I had supposed, when a certain object of opposition would have arisen. He told me the West India merchants had agreed to meet on Thursday next, in order to oppose any injurious measures; agreeing with me that this was one common cause of all the Colonies. I had the pleasure of being informed by the Lord Mayor that the spirit of resentment in their House was abated, and he seemed to think in no small degree, several of the members to whom he had spoke having changed their minds.

I had, since being refused to be heard before the Lords of the Committee, made as great progress in my examination and observations on the most material parts of the Governor' s letters, with intent to complete and publish them with my petition, as the time and avocations would permit, when the late proceedings in Parliament began, which obliged me to change my measures, and publish the Petition as you will find it, which I understand, has not been unserviceable, and the affair of the letters, you are


sensible, must give way to others more important during their continuance. It is no easy matter to prepare a Petition in efficacious terms for the Province service, and agreeable to the different sentiments of those who are to support it, and, moreover, least liable to objection from your adversaries; wherefore to this, and the other difficulties attending this important business, I must now go on with my preparations.

I am, gentlemen, with the greatest respect, for you, and the other members of the Council, your most obedient and most humble servant, W˙ BOLLAN.

The Hon˙ John Erving, Wm˙ Brattle, James Bowdoin, and James Pitts, Esqrs.