Citation Nicolson C (ed.) (2015) The Papers of Francis Bernard, Governor of Colonial Massachusetts, 1760-69, Vol. 5: 1768-1769 [The Bernard Papers Volume 5, Digital Edition], Digital Edition (open access) ed. Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. Boston: The Colonial Society of Massachusetts. https://www.colonialsociety.org/node/2948
Abstract British Regulars marched into Boston at midday on Saturday 1 Oct. 1768. For weeks, there had been rumors that the landing would be resisted. But by four in the afternoon the two regiments were parading on the Common, without incident. The troops were there to deter rioters, cow radicals, and support the civil government. The British government had given Governor Francis Bernard what he wished. With the troops at his back—but not at his beck and call—he was expected to turn things around after three years of popular opposition and restore respect for imperial authority and “due Obedience to the Law” in the streets and in the debating chambers. It was a tall order. Colonists came to view the British regiments as an army of occupation, but got on with their lives and endured the tribulations and perils of having regular soldiers billeted among them. British politicians could not understand why the colonists remained so resentful of parliamentary authority, though their actions had stoked resentment. There was no revolt to crush. No one expected war in 1769, but it was no longer unthinkable to Bostonians living alongside British soldiers or to British politicians calling for investigations into Bostonians’ seditious and treasonable activities. British hostility hinged largely on what Governor Bernard had been telling ministers. The colonists rightly believed their governor had misrepresented their case, portraying them as would-be rebels in order to get the troops. But they lacked evidence. Bernard responded with a bitter counter-offensive that caught the full attention of the British government and Parliament, though he, too, lacked convincing evidence of sedition. A slow-burning campaign to expose Bernard’s machinations that began in the summer of 1768, climaxed in the spring of 1769 when Boston’s radicals obtained and published some of the governor’s correspondence. No action was taken against the printers in Boston or London who published the so-called Bernard Letters. This fifth volume of the Bernard Papers examines the political debates as they unfolded in Boston and London, and reviews the evidence gathered by the governor and his enemies. It would be foolish to dismiss the mud-slinging as irrelevant to the enlargement of the Imperial Crisis, for the stakes could scarce have been higher in peacetime. The British did not respond uncritically to Bernard’s interpretations, but on the whole it was his version of events, rather than colonists’, that prevailed with the earl of Hillsborough, the secretary of state for the Colonies. Bernard’s reputation soon waned, and he was recalled with honor, having spent nine years in the governorship. But the troops remained for another year. The Boston Massacre was Francis Bernard’s legacy.
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Keywords Bernard; Colonial; Francis Bernard; governor; Massachusetts; papers; Massachusetts; American Revolution; British policy; imperial crisis