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Letter from the Earl of Dartmouth to General Gage




Whitehall, 3d Jun˙, 1774.

Since you left England the Parliament has made a very considerable progress in the American business, and I send you herewith, by the King' s command, two Acts to which is Majesty gave the royal assent a few days ago.

These Acts close the consideration of what relates to the state of your Government, and it is hoped that they will have the good effect to give vigour and activity to civil authority; to prevent those unwarrantable assemblings of the people, for factious purposes, which have been the source of so much mischief; and to secure an impartial administration of justice in all cases where the authority of this Kingdom may be in question.

The Act for the better regulation of the Government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, provides, that from the 1st of August next, all elections of the Council under the authority of the Charter, shall be void, and that, for the future, the Council shall be appointed by the King.

In consequence of that provision, his Majesty has, with the advice of the Privy Council, nominated thirty-six persons, qualified as the Act directs, to be the Council of Massachusetts Bay, from and after the time limited for the continuance of the present Council; and enclosed herewith, I send you his Majesty' s additional instruction, under the sign manual, authorizing and requiring you to assemble the said Council, and containing such further directions as are thought necessary and incident to this new establishment,


and as correspond with the provisions of the Act in relation thereto.

It would, perhaps, have been in some respects desirable that it might have been left to the King' s discretion, to have directed that, in case of the death or absence of both Governour and Lieutenant Governour, the administration of Government should have been devolved on the Seniour Counsellor, as in other Governments; but as the Act reserves to the new Council all the liberties, privileges, and immunities enjoyed by the other, except in cases provided for, it is apprehended that such direction cannot be given, and for the same reason it has appeared, at least doubtful whether the Crown could delegate to you the powers of suspension and appointment to vacancies pro tempore, exercised in the other Royal Governments. In this situation it became the more necessary that a Lieutenant Governour should be immediately appointed; and the King having, upon Mr˙ Hutchinson' s recommendation, nominated Mr˙ Oliver, of Cambridge, to that office, enclosed I send you his Majesty' s sign manual, containing his appointment.

There is little room to hope that every one of the persons whom his Majesty has appointed to be of his Council, will be induced to accept that honour, for there can be no doubt that every art will be practised to intimidate and prejudice. I trust, however, that the number of those who decline will not be so considerable as to involve you in any difficulty on that account, or to create any embarrassment in the execution of a measure upon which so much depends.

Whatever vacancies may be created by any of the present members refusing to act, ought to be filled up as soon as possible, and, therefore, you will transmit to me, by the first opportunity, the names of such persons as you think best qualified for that trust, and the most likely to give weight and authority to the measures of Government; taking care, at the same time, not to propose any from whom you have not received assurances of their readiness to accept the office.

It is to be expected that every artifice which has been hitherto used with so much success to keep alive a spirit of sedition and opposition in the people, will be exerted on the present occasion to entangle and embarrass; but the King trusts that by temper and prudence on the one hand, and by firmness and resolution on the other, you will be able to surmount all the obstacles that can be thrown in your way.

It is impossible to foresee what those obstacles may be. If the General Court should happen to be sitting at the time when the new constitution of the Council is to take place, every advantage will probably be taken that such a situation affords, to create difficulties and throw the business into perplexity; but however that may be, and whatever may be urged, there can be no doubt that a prorogation at least will become absolutely necessary, in order to put an end to any business that may be depending before the old Council. Perhaps circumstances may require a dissolution, but it is much to be wished that, if possible, such a measure may be avoided.

The letters received from Mr˙ Hutchinson since you sailed from Plymouth, contain an account of the public proceedings down to the 5th of April, at which time it does not appear that any intelligence had been received in the Province of the steps that were taking here. It was, therefore, reasonable to suppose that the conduct and measures of the faction would be, as they actually were, of the same colour and complexion with those they had before pursued.

The impeachment of the Chief Justice seems to have been the favourite object of both Council and Assembly; but as Mr˙ Hutchinson had, with equal firmness and discretion, defeated that measure by prorogation, it is not necessary for me to say more on so extravagant a proceeding than that it was altogether an unwarrantable assumption of power, to which that Government is not, I conceive, either in the nature or principles of it, in any degree competent.

To what further extravagance the people may be driven, it is difficult to say; whatever violences are committed must be resisted with firmness; the constitutional authority of this Kingdom over its Colonies must be vindicated, and its laws obeyed throughout the whole Empire.


It is not only its dignity and reputation, but its power, nay, its very existence, depends upon the present moment; for should those ideas of independence, which some dangerous and ill-designed persons here are artfully endeavouring to instil into the minds of the King' s American subjects, once take root, that relation between this Kingdom and its Colonies, which is the bond of peace and power, will soon cease to exist, and destruction must follow disunion. It is not the mere claim of exemption from the authority of Parliament in a particular case that has brought on the present crisis; it is actual disobedience and open resistance that have compelled coercive measures, and I have no longer any other confidence in the hopes I had entertained that the public peace and tranquillity would be restored, but that which I derive from your abilities, and the reliance I have on your prudence, for a wise and discreet exercise of the authorities given to you by the Acts which I now send you.

The powers contained in the Act for the more impartial administration of justice do, in particular, deserve your attention, for it is hardly possible to conceive a situation of greater difficulty and delicacy than that which a Governour would be in, if reduced to the necessity of exercising his discretion in the case provided for; but it is a case I trust that will never occur, and I will hope that, notwithstanding all the endeavours, equally flagitious and contemptible, used by a few desperate men to create in the people ideas of more general resistance, the thinking part of them will be awakened to such a sense of their true interests, and of the miseries that await a further continuance of these unhappy disputes, as to exert their best endeavours for a preservation of the public peace, and thereby give such effect and countenance to the civil authority as to render any other interposition than that of the ordinary Civil Magistrate unnecessary.

There is another American Bill, for making more effectual provision for quartering of his Majesty' s troops, that has passed both Houses, and waits for the Royal assent, which, although of general purport, is founded principally on a case that occurred in the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

You will remember what happened at Boston in 1770, respecting the quartering of the two regiments sent thither from Halifax, and the artifices used by forced constructions of the Act of Parliament to elude the execution of it, and to embarrass the King' s service. In order, therefore, to prevent the like in future, the present Bill is adopted, and enclosed I send you a printed copy of it, hoping to be able to send the Act itself by the first ship.