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collection), Harvard University Library, in the annotations on which it is
described as a " remarkable letter." The committee which reported this letter
consisted of Adams, Otis, Hawley, Sheaffe, and Bowers.

1767] SAMUEL ADAMS. 115

repugnant to the Constitution & the Letter of the
Charter ; & therefore highly incumbent on them, in
the most express & publick Manner to bear their
Testimony against it. Accordingly they took Oc
casion to animadvert upon it, in their answer 1 to his
Excys Speech, which is herewith inclosd together
with all that has since passd between the Gov r &
the House upon this very interesting Subject

Upon a Perusal, you will find, that the House
observd upon his Honors taking a Seat in the
General Assembly, when conven d in one place, the
Gov* being in the Province, & present ; & accord
ingly they have treated it, in their several Messages
to the Gov r . His Excy endeavors, in his message
of Feb 2 to justify the Conduct of the L c Gov r , by
making a Claim to a Seat in one Branch of the
Assembly viz in Council. We are of Opinion that
enough is observd in our reply of Feb, 3 to show
that it is repugnant to that part of the Charter which
is designedly declarative of the Gen 1 Court ; from
the Passage we there recite, it is evident that he is
not a Member of the General Assembly. & conse
quently can have no Right to a Seat in either Branch
of it His Excy is pleasd to say, "that he has always
understood, that it was countenancd by the Charter,
for the L c Gov r to have a Seat in Council, "drithout
a Voice" & referrs the House, by a Report from
the Secretary, to several Passages in the Charter
which he apprehends to the Purpose. Let it be just

1 January 31, 1767 ; Massachusetts State Papers, pp. 103-105. See Thomas
Hutchinson, History of the Pr<nitut of Masiickuatts Bay, voL iiL, pp. 174-177.
- February 7th. 3 February i-th.


observd here that by the Claim of a Seat without a
Voice, all Pretension to a Right to act in Council,
& by fair Conclusion to a Seat there is in effect
given up. The Force of his Excys Reasoning
seems to be this, The L* Gov r is empowerd by y e
Charter equally with the Gov r , while his Excy is in
the Province to administer the Oaths to the re-
turnd Members : In order to execute that Trust,
he must necessarily meet them on the Day when
they are returnd & met to form the Gen 1 Assembly :
And, because the Duty of his Trust must bring him
amongst the Representatives, before they themselves
are qualifyd to sit & act in General Assembly, there
fore that Power or Authority gives him a Right to
a Place & Seat in Council at all times during the
Being of the Gen 1 Assembly, altho the full Exercise
of that Power must end & be determind, & the
Trust fully dischargd, before the Representatives
themselves have a Right to take a place, or do
any one Act in Gen 1 Assembly & consequently be
fore the Gen 1 Assembly exists. The Absurdity of
this way of reasoning, we think must be obvious
to every man. Is it not as rational to inferr, that
because the L* Gov r has Power equal with the Gov
ernors, in the Case mentioned, therefore he has a
Right to take the Chair, & to hold out the Gov r ,
during the whole Being of the Gen 1 Assembly ? The
latter is surely as plainly countenancd and included
in the Premises as the former. And as it is said
that, in that Paragraph, he has given to him an
immediate original & inherent Right to administer
the Oaths to the returnd Members of the House,

1767] SAMUEL ADAMS. 117

it may be Matter of curious Enquiry, why it is
chosen as a Consequence, that a Right to a Place
or Seat in Council is thereby given, rather than a
Right to a Seat in the House of Representatives.
According to this Manner of deducing Inferrences,
any one may, among the infinite Variety of Pro
positions, altogether foreign to any given Premises,
take an absolute & arbitrary Liberty, to infer some
one favorite Conclusion rather than any other, which
may not so well suit his humour or Interest. When
the Imagination is sufferd to rove at Random, &
Phantoms are made use of to establish Power &
Authority supported neither by the Charter nor
by Reason or Necessity, it is not easy to conceive,
why a Right of still higher Importance, than a Seat
zvithout a Voice, was not imagind : It was full as
easy to collect from the Charter, a Right in the
L Gov r , as such, to a Voice, in Council, or in the
House of Representatives, or in either, as should
best suit his Fancy, or in each at different times :
But perhaps it was judgd prudent to begin with
lesser Claims, & gradually to advance to greater,
as imaginary Countenances sh d become more fa

But should it be admitted that there are ever so
many Clauses in the Charter, tantamount to the
most ample Writ of Dedimus Potestatem to the L
Gov r , giving him the most extensive Authority to
administer the Gov Oaths to the Freeholders re-
turnd, & that he has by the Charter even a sole,
original, direct, immediate & permanent Power given
to him to administer, the Oaths, to the Gov r and to


the Council, & all executive Officers, & also the
Oaths of Office proper for them to take, before
they enter upon the Execution of their Trust ; and
further, even admitting that he has Power to ad
minister the Gov Oaths, to all his Majestys Sub
jects coming to & residing in the Province, with a
Power of substituting whomsoever he pleases. The
whole is but an execittive & ministerial Power, &
has not the least Connection with a Right to a Seat
or place in the Gen 1 Assembly ; nor can it have any
Affinity or Relation to a right to a Seat in the legis
lative Body or any Branch of it.

Would any one be thought in his Senses, who
sh d pretend that because a ministerial officer by
Virtue of the Kings Writ directed to him should
have Power & Authority to enter the Dwelling of
another to summon him to appear at any Court,
that thereby a Right was given to such Officer to
take a place or Seat in such house & hold & occupy
the same ? As well may it be argued, that any
Person having Authority by Writ of Dedimus to
administer the Office Oaths to any office belonging,
has a Right, by such Writ & Authority, to exercise
the Power & perform the function proper to the
Person to whom he is thus authorizd to administer
the Oaths. Surely whoever should claim such Right
& Power upon such Grounds, must appear to have
a warm Imagination, or an excessive Love of Power.

The first Passage in the Charter to which his Excy
referrs us, as we before observd, is that where the
Representatives returnd to the Gen 1 Assembly are
required to take the Oaths "before the Gov r or

1767] SAMUEL ADAMS. 119

L t or Deputy Gov r , or any two of the Councellors
or Assistants who shall be thereunto authorizd &
appointed by the GovV The Sense of which must
be, Either that the L l Gov r has a direct original
& permanent Power while the Gov r is in the Prov
ince ; Or, that he is impowrd only in the Absence
of the Gov r : or that his Power is by Dedimus from
the Gov r , like that of any two of y e Councellors or
Assistants. The first appears to be an unnecessary
& unnatural Construction. It supposes an Equality
of Persons, in every other Respect unequal : It gives
the L Gov r a Power of acting, with Authority, in
one Case, equal to that of the Gov r , while he is in
the Province. The Charter declares that he shall
have Power & Authority " to do & execute all &
every such Matters & Things which the Govern"
might or could lawfully do if he ivere present ; which
plainly intends that the L* Gov rs Power to act as
Gov r in any Case, commences & is limited, during
the Absence of the Gov r . If the Charter intends to
vest the L l Gov r , in this Instance, with Authority
equal to that of the Gov r , & the Right of giving the
Oaths & c is inherent in him, as L* Gov r , the Gov r
being present, it would be natural to expect that he
would also, be vested with the same Power of Sub
stitution, But he is not.

There is another similar Passage in the Charter,
which requires all officers elected, to take the Oaths
& c "before the Gov r the L l or Deputy Gov r , or any
two or more Councellors ; or such other Person or Per
sons as shall be appointed thereto by the Gov r ." Now
if the L Gov r hath an original Right in the one Case,


so have the two or more Councellors in the other ;
the Mode of Expression in both being the same,
which we must suppose, will be thought to prove too
much. From all which we think it most natural to
conclude, that the Power in this Case as in all others,
is vested in the L c Gov r only in the Absense of the
Gov r . And at other times it may be delegated to
him, as it may to the Councellors or any other Per
son or Persons, by Appointm t from the Gov r .

Another Passage in the Charter referrd to, is that
which requires the Gov r , before he undertakes the
Execution of his Office, to take the Oaths before the
L l Gov r . But not to mention, that the Gov r ap
pointed, is not compleatly qualifyd, till he takes the
Oaths ; & so is not Gov r , & therefore may well be
considerd as absent ; we need only observe, that the
Act of giving the Oaths to a Gov r has no Relation
to a Gen 1 Assembly : It may be done at a time when
there is really no Gen 1 Assembly existing ; and con
sequently the Person administering them, cannot be
considerd to be acting as a Member of the Gen 1

We are the more astonishd at this Attempt of
the L l Gov r as at his own Desire he has been so
lately admitted to the floor of the House, & there
publickly acknowledgd the generous Compensation
granted him for his Losses & Sufferings in the late
times of universal Distress Despair & of Course of
great Confusion : At the same time he gave the
highest Assurances of his Affection for his native
Country, & of the fresh Obligations he felt himself
under to support the Rights Liberties & Privileges-

1767] SAMUEL ADAMS. 121

of his Countrymen : After all this it is truly surpris
ing that he sh d , make an Attack upon the Charter, &
endeavor to support a Claim joyntly with his Excy
which if they attain their Ends has a manifest tend
ency very unduly to influence & alter if not totally
to subvert the free Legislative of the Province. 1

Another Clause or Part of the Charter, which
tho not taken Notice of in the Secretarys Report
before mentioned, has been chosen by the zealous
Advocates for this new vampd Claim of the L Gov
ernor, as at least countenancing, if not supporting it,
is that early Passage which ordains, that " there be
one Gov r , one L c or Deputy Gov r & one Secretary of
our Province or Territory to be from time to time
appointed & commissiond by us our Heirs & Succes
sors & Eight & twenty Assistants or Councellors to
be advising & assisting to the Gov r of our said Prov
ince or Territory for the time being as by these pres
ents is hereafter directed & appointed which said
Councellors or Assistants are to be constituted elected
& chosen in such form & manner as hereafter in these
presents is expressd." This Clause, they say, being
read without Points, as it stands in the original Char
ter, admits of the following Construction, viz, That
the L Gov r is thereby most plainly appointed ordaind
& authorizd, to be advising & assisting to the Gov r ,
as the said Councellors or Assistants ; & hence they
inferr, a strange & unnatural Consequence, that the
L e Gov r has a Right to a Seat in Council, as part of

1 In the text as printed in the Journal of the House for 1766-1767, pp. 393-
404, this paragraph is the fourth from the end, and there are certain other


the Gen 1 Court or Assembly. It would be surprising,
were it not a common thing, that for the sake of
maintaining a darling point, Men of good Sense &
Judgment should seriously contend for so unfair an
Exposition of plain Words, & such a foreign & arbi
trary Consequence from them. Does it not plainly
& beyond Question appear, Who the Persons are,
that in the aforementiond Passage, are ordaind to
be " advising & assisting " to the Gov r by the Appella
tion given to them ? Is not the Duty & Business of
" advising and assisting " clearly intimated by their
being called Counsellors or Assistants ? Is not the
office of advising & assisting, plainly appropriated &
limited to the Persons denominated Councellors &
Assistants ? And would any unprejudicd Person be
at a Loss for the Meaning, if there was Nothing else
in the Charter to determine the Sense ? But it is
evident from other parts of the Charter, who the Per
sons are, who, in this Clause, are ordaind to be advis
ing & assisting to the Gov r ; the Clause itself says,
44 they are authorizd thereto as is hereafter directed &
appointed " ; now all the matters & things, mentiond
in any succeeding parts of the Charter, wherein any of
the Persons mentiond are by the tenor thereof
to be advising & assisting the Gov r are restraind &
appropriated, to the Eight & twenty Assistants or
Councellors, or seven of them at least. The L e Gov r
is not once named : The Duty & Business is clearly
assignd & limitted to the Assistants or Councellors ;
which determins beyond Dispute, who the Persons
are, who in this Clause are designd to be advising &
assisting to the Gov r . But if the most extensive

1767] SAMUEL ADAMS. 123

Sense contended for by these Gentlemen were ad
mitted as the genuine meaning of this Clause, would
the Conclusion they are sollicitous of making, be just,
& their darling Point, viz a right in the L Gov r to
a seat & place in Council, as a Branch of the Gen 1
Court be thereby establishd ? Nothing is more evi
dent, than that none of the Persons, be they who
they may, that by the recited Clause, are ordaind to
be advising & assisting to the Gov r are thereby con
stituted to belong to the Gen 1 Assembly or any part
of it, not even the Gov r himself : There is nothing
said of the Gen 1 Assembly in the Clause, nor is the
Gen 1 Court or Assembly of the Province of the
Massachusetts Bay so much as mentiond in any pre-
ceeding part of the Charter, or any thing that has
the least Connection with it. The Gen 1 Court of the
Province is wholly created erected & ordaind in the
succeeding parts of it ; & there, the Persons of whom
the Gen 1 Court was to consist are plainly and defin
itely designated & declared, with express purpose &
design, that there might be no Doubt or Uncertainty
concerning the integral parts of the same. Even the
Gov r himself is not an integral part of that Body, by
Virtue of the above recited Clause, or any other
Clause of the Charter preceeding those Parts of it
w ch designedly erect & constitute the Gen 1 Assembly,
or are descriptive of it. It must therefore appear
absurd to attempt to support & establish the L
Gov rs Claim or Right to a Seat or place in the Coun
cil as a Part or Branch of the Gen 1 Assembly from
the recited Clause or any Words of it, because, as is
before observd neither the Clause nor any Words in

i2 4 THE WRITINGS OF [1767

it have any Relation or referrence to the General

His Excy in his message of the 21 Feb communi
cated to the House a Letter he had rec d from the L
Gov r upon this subject, a copy of which is inclosed.
His Honor begins with saying " I waited on your
Excy to Council, the first Day of the Session of the
Gen 1 Court to testify my Respect to your Person &
to do Honor to the Commission you sustain." If it
was proper for his Honor to take this Occasion to tes
tify his Respect to his Excys Person & to do honor to
his Commission, it would have been equally so, in any
other Officer holding a Commission under the Crown.
We cannot but observe that if this was the sole Reason
of his making his appearance at that time & place,
there was a great impropriety in his taking the Seat
of a Councellor and besides, if his Honor designd
only a mark of Civility & respect to the Gov r , his
Excy has mistaken the case & aims at supporting a
Claim which his Honor never designd to make. His
Honor goes on, " I had frequently been present in
Council since last Election, & not one member of
either House ever intimated to me that he was in the
least Degree dissatisfyd with it." His Honor has
sometimes been present in Council since the last
Election, when his Excy was not there, & therefore
his Appearance then we presume could not be designd
to show a respect to his Excys Person & c ; However
the House never Before the Instance referrd to knew
it in a parliamentary way : We cannot answer for the
Omission of the Hon Board; but, with pleasure, we
find that they have since unanimously resolvd that

1767] SAMUEL ADAMS. 125

the L Gov r has not a constitutional Right to a seat
in Council as by their inclosd Vote. " I supposd,
says his Honor, that there were several Parts of the
Charter which gave Countenance to it, & that there
was no part which renderd it improper." This we
have already in part taken notice of : It is astonishing
to us, that a Gentleman of his Honors acknowledgd
Abilities should adopt either of those sentiments.
There is nothing in the Charter which gives the least
Countenance to it : And if it is only considerd that
the Charter limits the number of Councellors to
twenty eight, & declares of no other Person as Coun
cellors but such as are elected by the Gen 1 Assembly &
approvd of by the Gov r , the Impropriety of any other
Person, of what Character or Station so ever taking
a seat at the Board must be obvious from the Char
ter, if what is directly repugnant to it is to be deemd
an Impropriety. His Honor says " I knew that im
mediately upon the arrival of the Charter it was the
Sense of the Gen 1 Court that the L* Gov r had a right
to be present in Council." We are utterly at a Loss
to conceive where his Honor gathers the sense of
the Gen 1 Assembly : There is no Record of it in their
Books. His Honor indeed mentions a " contempo
raneous Exposition when the Persons who sollicited
the Charter & were consulted in framing every part
of it were then in the Province, together with an un
interrupted Practice for forty years immediately upon
it, as sufficient to justify him." No Precedents can
justify against a manifest Impropriety, & a direct re
pugnancy to the Constitution & the Letter as well as
the plainest & necessary sense of the Charter. His


Honor goes on " I was not insensible that one &
but one L* Gov r , my immediate Predecessor, had not
sat in Council, & I had heard that the Gent n who
was then Gov r excluded him ; but I heard at the
same time that this was lookd upon as a mere Act of
Power, admitting or excluding a L e Gov r , whenever
the Gov r thought proper." His Honor is here under
some mistake : Coll Phips was not actually excluded,
but held out by Gov r Belcher ; by whom Coll Taylor
had been before excluded. We cannot easily con
ceive what his Honor intends by a mere Act of
Power, as we have no Idea of mere Power in the
Body politick distinct or separate from Right. If
it was an unwarrantable Act in Gov r Belcher, is
it not strange that those Gent n should submit to it,
especially as his Excy tells us they resented it ? Is it
not still more strange that Coll Phips should not
revive his claim after M r Belchers Removal, especially
as M r Shirley who succeeded him was a Gent emi
nent for his skill in Law, & the Constitution ? Sir
William Phips, the first Gov r under the present
Charter, & who brot it with him, was eminent, rather
for his Integrity & good Fortune than great Abilities.
It must be his Administration that afforded the con
temporaneous Exposition which his Honor mentions :
Doct r Mather a minister of one of our Churches,
" sollicited" the Charter in Eng d ; & livd in Sir W ms
time ; how far the minister then thought proper to
"consult "the Doct r in " framing" the Charter, we
are not able to say ; this Gent n shone as a Divine
but not as a Lawyer. Gov r Dudley succeeded Gov r
Phips : The attention of the Gov c was in his time
taken up in the Cares of the War in which the

1767] SAMUEL ADAMS. 127

Nation was then involvd after him came Govr

Shute & Burnett, both whose Administrations were
short, & unfortuneately perplexd with a Dispute of
another kind ; Gov r Belcher succeeded Gov r Bur
nett, & he excluded the L e Gov r from a seat at the
Board. It appears then that M r Belcher was the
first Gov r , who had either Knowlege, or Leisure
or Spirit enough to dispute the Right of a Deputy
Gov r to a seat in Gov fc , when he himself was in the
Province ; & it is an Evidence that it was then
thought & has been ever since till now, not an un
warrantable Act, or as his Honor expresses it u a
mere act of Power" that for near forty years past
the L e Gov re have either receded from the Claim, or
have been held out, but we rather apprehend that it
was a Practice that crept in, thro Inattention in those
times than a Right set up & claimd. It is not then
" the opinion of a single Gov r , but of three at least
namely, M r Belcher, M r Shirley & M r Pownal who
came after him all of them Gent n of Learning & one
of them, as we have observd before, eminent in the
Profession of the Law. His Honor says, that his
Excy " never signifyd to him that his Presence in
Council was disagreable to him." We are sensible
by his Excys Message that it is not : And we are the
more surprisd at it, because in our humble opinion,
the L l Gov r taking a Seat in the Gov e while his Excy
is in the Province, is by no means showing a Respect
to his Person or doing honor to his Cofnission and
it is astonishing to us that his Excy sh d appear to
vindicate a Claim, which so nearly affects his own
Honor & Right, as comissiond by his Majesty to be
Com d in Chief, as well as the Right of the other

i 2 8 THE WRITINGS OF [1767

Branches of the Gen 1 Court, & of the People, over
which he presides & governs. His Honor expresses
his very great Concern "that any thing that relates
to him, sh d occasion a Difference in Sentiment be
tween his Excy & the House of Rep ves , at a time
when every man of every order, ought to contribute
all that is in his Power to the Restoration of Har
mony & Tranquility." This might have been pre
vented, had not his Honor thought fit, at this Juncture,
to stir up a Claim, founded only on Precedents which
had slept for near forty years. Precedents alto
gether unsupportable & which were no sooner objected
to, than receded from & given up. If his Honor
means by "the restoration of Harmony & Tranquility"
a silent & supine submission to an unreasonable & un
constitutional Claim, we could not wish for it upon
terms which we think derogatory to the Honor of
our Sovereign, under whom we hold our Charter, as
well as the Cofhission which his Excy sustains under
his Majesty ; and inconsistent with the Duty we owe
to our Constituents & Posterity to preserve and main
tain the Rights of that Charter sacred & inviolate.
Neither this House nor the People are disposd to do
anything to disturb the publick Tranquility unless it
is supposed to be done by a necessary adherence to
& a manly & firm Defence of our constitutional
Rights & Privileges. His Honor is grieved that " so
respectable a Body have passd so heavy a judgm 1
upon his Conduct, without giving him an opportunity
of justifying or excusing it." If he had thot proper
to desire the Audience of the House upon the Affair,
either in person or by Proxy it w d not, he knows it

1767] SAMUEL ADAMS. 129

c d not be denyd him, And truly the House m l reason
ably have expected to have heard from him, upon a
matter of this Nature & Importance ; Neither our
Doors nor our Ears ever were or could be shut ag l
any Pet s or memorial he m* think fit to preferr. In
stead of w ch he chose to keep himself at a Distance &
leave it to be negotiated by the Gov r & the Secretary
with the House.

We cannot but think this Attempt of his Honor
the more unnatural as he has so long enjoyd every

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