J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Nicolson to Unveil Francis Bernard Papers

Colin Nicolson has sent news of the first volume of The Papers of Francis Bernard: Governor of Colonial Massachusetts, 1760-1769. It covers the years 1759 to 1763, when Bernard arrived in Boston as the new governor. The announcement says:

This 544-page book reveals much new evidence about the Town of Boston and the Province of Massachusetts at the end of the last French and Indian War. [Bernard’s] correspondence with Lord Jeffrey Amherst, his reports to the Board of Trade in London, his messages to royal officials on both sides of the ocean tell us of a maturing society and economy in a growing conflict with its mother country.
Many of these documents haven’t been published before.

When Bernard (1712-1779) arrived in Massachusetts, he came from two successful years as governor of New Jersey. His Bay Colony predecessors, William Shirley and Thomas Pownall, were both popular locally, and people appear to have seen the same potential in Bernard.

But the new governor sided with the London government in one dispute after another. Soon after he arrived, George II died, and the Boston merchant community seized on the chance to challenge the legality of writs of assistance, used for searching for smuggled goods. Bernard also alienated the rising lawyer James Otis, Jr., by passing over Otis’s father for a seat on the high court in favor of Thomas Hutchinson. Otis therefore resigned his royal post, allied himself with the merchants, and became the political leader of the Boston Whigs.

In the late 1760s, during the resistance to the Stamp Act and Townshend duties, Bernard sent his superiors many complaints about Massachusetts politics, riots, and how the colonial constitution should be changed. Whigs in London leaked those documents, causing Bostonians to view their governor as not simply a political obstacle but a back-stabber. When Bernard sailed out of Boston harbor in 1769, the town had a spontaneous public celebration. Still, Massachusetts remembers this governor in the name of Bernardston, which he modestly approved in 1762.

Nicolson, a Lecturer on U.S. History at the University of Stirling in Scotland, is author of The “Infamas Govener”: Francis Bernard and the Origins of the American Revolution. He’ll celebrate the launch of the Bernard Papers series on Thursday, 21 May 2009, at 5:30 P.M. at the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 87 Mount Vernon Street, Boston.


Robert S. Paul said...

This made me think of something, and I tried to look it up but couldn't find anything.

Where did the name "Boston" come from?

J. L. Bell said...

Boston is named after a town and port of the same name in Lincolnshire, England. A lot of Puritans came from that corner of England, and the Rev. John Cotton came from Boston itself. They re-used the name in the New World to make themselves feel at home.