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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Friday, August 02, 2019

The Departure of Sir Francis Bernard

On 2 Aug 1769, two hundred fifty years ago today, the leadership of the royal government of Massachusetts changed hands.

That leadership had also changed hands exactly nine years before, on 2 Aug 1760. That was when Francis Bernard (shown here) rode in from his previous posting in New Jersey with his new commission to be royal governor of Massachusetts.

Officially, Bernard remained governor after August 1769, but he was no longer in Massachusetts exercising that authority. He had no credibility after the publication of his letters to his superiors in London, described back here. The Massachusetts General Court had requested his removal.

The royal government in London had thought Bernard did a good enough job to warrant making him a baronet (a hereditary knight) in April. But he asked for leave to come home to England, both to contest the legislature’s charges and to seek a more lucrative post in colonial administration, possibly on one of the Caribbean islands.

On Monday, 31 July, the next week’s Boston Evening-Post reported, Gov. Bernard “left his Seat at Roxbury and went to Castle William. The next Morning about Nine o’Clock he embarked on board His Majesty’s Ship Rippon, then lying in King-Road.” That route allowed him to depart without traveling through Boston.

The next day, the Massachusetts Council witnessed the formal transfer of authority, as reported in its records:
His Excellency Sir Francis Bernard Bart Governor of this Province having embarked for Great Britain, His Honor the Lieutenant Governor came into the Council Chamber, and in the presence of the Council took the Oaths appointed by Act of Parliament to be taken, instead of the Oaths of Allegiance & Supremacy, repeated and subscribed the Test or Declaration therein contained, together with the Oath of Abjuration, as also an Oath that he would do his utmost that all clauses matters and things contained in the Acts of Parliament passed as well since as before the enacting of the Act of the 7th and 8th of William the Third and at this time in force, relating to the Colonies and Plantations, and that all and every the clauses contained in the said Act intitled “An Act for preventing Frauds and regulating Abuses in the Plantation Trade” be punctually and bona fide observed, according to the true intent and meaning thereof: And that he would faithfully perform the duties of his Office of Commander in chief of said Province, according to the best of his judgment and skill. After which His Honor took the chair.
Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson was formally only the acting governor, the same role he had played a decade earlier before Bernard arrived. He felt bound to carry out the orders and policies of the London government.

Meanwhile, the Rippon had run into unfavorable winds and had come to stop after traveling only a mile or two.

TOMORROW: The grand send-off.

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