Nicolson C (ed.) (2015) The Papers of Francis Bernard, Governor of Colonial Massachusetts, 1760-69, Vol. 4: 1768. Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 86. Boston: The Colonial Society of Massachusetts; distributed by the Univ. of Virginia Press. http://www.colonialsociety.org/publications.html#online
Governor Francis Bernard’s historical reputation rests on his role in pushing the American colonists toward revolution. Bernard was the kind of government official without whom revolutions might not occur: a thwarted modernizer, despairing of metropolitan inertia and resentful of local power shifts that undermined his own authority, he sought and found retribution in a hostile portrayal of his opponents and critics. In 1768, the colonists and their governor vied to control information flowing to London. Bernard’s detailed reports of riots and demonstrations in Boston proved so alarming to British ministers in London that they believed a revolt was near certain in the Massachusetts capital. Bernard triumphed in the war of information, convincing the British government to send regular troops to Boston to avert a possible insurrection and support the civil government. The Bernard Papers is not just the story of a beleaguered English colonialist, but also touches upon the lives of the men and women caught up in the events of the prerevolutionary years. In this volume we see Bostonians’ participation the Liberty riot and nonimportation movement through the governor’s eyes. His letters reveal the rambunctious, noisy, and self-confident crowds that sustained the colonial protest movement and the leaders whom the British supposed were intoxicated by radical notions of rights and liberties. The colonists, meanwhile, struggled to find evidence that their governor had misrepresented their cause. While Bernard’s letters were discussed by the cabinet, the king, and Parliament, Americans never had the opportunity to read them. That evidence is presented in full for the first time, in this fourth volume of the Bernard Papers series. Reading the history of the Imperial Crisis requires scholars to delve beyond state papers, to explore the private papers of individuals and the newspapers of the day, and to construct representations of that past from the materials available. The editorial commentaries in the Bernard Papers cross-reference the transcripts of the governor’s letters to accounts by the governor’s critics, notably James Otis and Samuel Adams, the House of Representatives, the Boston town meeting, and the province Council. That process is complex and intricate, but it helps to explain why the British government chose to believe Bernard’s version of events over that of the Americans’. Otis and Adams were right: Bernard did indeed misrepresent their cause to the British.
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Bernard; Colonial; Francis Bernard; governor; Massachusetts; papers; Massachusetts; American Revolution; British policy; imperial crisis