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swer 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 governors 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, enclosing the petition, then the petition itself, the resolves, and lastly the letters, the solicitorgeneral 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 governors. But the favorite part of his discourse was levelled at your agent, who stood there the butt of his invective ribaldry for near an hour, not a single Lord adverting to the impropriety and indecency of treating a public 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 everywhere, and particularly to destroy my reputation on your side of 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 decent. 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 honorably, 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 public. 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 are to be maintained or restored between the different parts of the empire. Grievances cannot be redressed unless 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
* For other particulars relating to this affair, see Vol. IV. pp.-447 – 455,
themselves injured by their rulers, are sometimes, by a mild and prudent answer, convinced of their error, But where complaining is a crime, hope becomes despair.
The day following I received a written notice from the secretary of the general postoffice, that his Majesty's postmaster-general found it necessary to dismiss me from my office of deputy postmaster-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 conduct 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 three thousand pounds a year clear to the treasury here. They had beside a personal regard for me. But, as the postoffices 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 minis. ters 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 interests 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 postmaster-general, who used to have the disposition of all places under him, 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 Assembly committees along the continent will be through the hands of such officers may now be worth consideration, especially as the postoffice act of Parliament allows a postmaster 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 proyince 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 these meetings, 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 wishes for the prosperity of the province, I have the honor to be, Sir, &c.