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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 2

Justices of the Peace of Bristol County to Governor Francis Bernard
Justices of the Peace of Bristol County Bernard, Francis
Taunton, May 27, 1765 To his Exclly. Francis Bernard Esqr. in Council

We Timothy Fales & Saml. White, James Williams Esqrs., Ezra Richmond & Jerath. Bowers1being three of the Justices for the County of Bristol who were notified ordered to give in their answer to yr. Exclly. in Council on this first Wednesday of June to the Complaints of John Robinson Esqr. Collector for the Port of Newport, do now in obedience to yr. Exclly. Injunction present our Answer to sd. Complaints & in order to avoid prolixity & repetition we have taken the Liberty to join in that our answer as there are some parts of our answer it Common to all of us we ask liberty to join in this one answer the same & to point out the some things therein that belong to us respectively.

May it please yr. Exclly. we are not in the least conscious of having been remiss or negligent in the Execution of that Power which yr. Exclly. hath been pleas'd to confer on us as Justices of the Peace, but as our Scituation is such as hath afforded no perticular Opportunity of being acquainted with the Acts of Trade nor gives us the least Occasion or Necessity of being as understanding enquiring into the Exection of them we trust yr. Exclly. will not construe any hesitation or enquiry into our Duty or any error of Judgmt. concerning the same as a fine? token of Negligence or wilful refusal of Dutys it. Yet we do not mean to throw our selves on the plea of Ignorance for Nevertheless with the most decent submission we trust we conducted with judgment in this matter & beg leave to state the facts in order to illustrate the same.

Yr. Exclly's Respondt. Ezra Richmond & Jerathmeel Bowers beg leave to observe that when Mr. Robinson apply'd to them them yr. Excellency's & presentd the comp written request as set forth, yr. Respondant Ezra Richmond was accidentally at Swanzy four miles from home then yr. Exclly's Respondants beg leave to observe that that the appl Mr. Robinson's application was unexpected & new, & the authoritative & threatning manner in which it was made & persisted in, naturally made us the more wary in our Conduct therein. After consulting the matter we told Him that we were unacquainted with the nature of the thing knew337of no Law to authorize us in such a proceeding & choose to consult some Lawyer before we acted. Mr. Robinson then offered to tell us what the Law was, but the indecent rude manner in which he expressed himself concerning all Lawyers gave us reason to suspect he knew nothing of the Law himself & thereupon for the same general Reasons as are hereafter given by us jointly with your Excellency's other Respondants herein we declined giving him the warrant, considering at the same time that he must go to Taunton to search Smith's Stores, where we suppos'd he might be assisted find such Justices as were acquainted with the Law & where we supposed he purposed to proceed.

Yr. Exclly's Respondants Timo. Fales James Williams & Samll. White beg leave to observe that when Mr. Robinson applied to them respectively us seperately on the Saturday he mentions, we respectively his person & office were unknown to them us. We therefore respectively desired him to shew his Commission. He produced a Parchment which had the general appearance of a Comission but did not suffer either of us to inspect it long enough to see his Name office or authority; & then immediately demanded a Warrant to search the Stores of Job Smith & all other suspected places without offering prefering any written complaint or offering to make oath to this well founded his suspicion of the facts whereupon told him that we really believed Capt. Smith would his Store to be searched, but as for granting Smith a warrant as he demanded whereby we might justify our proceedings; whereupon we respectively told him it was a new matter & that we doubted of our power to grant such a Warrant as he demanded and chose to consider of its matter & under those Circumstances we suspended the matter for consideration Consultation.

May it please yr. Exclly. we jointly beg leave to observe that Mr. Robinson doth not pretend that he had any Writ of Assistance, or if he had that he ever shewed it to any of us. Hereupon we considered whether as Justices of Peace we were obliged to to break up the house of any person especially all supposed houses grant a general Warrant to break up all suspected Houses or even any perticular house to search for goods taken away as these were especially to a person who shew'd us no power he had to demand one & who presented us no regular Complaint tho requested. We thought it contrary it not incumbent on us by the Reasons the Common Law if not repugnant to it & if there is any Act of Parliament injoining it upon us it had not come to our knowledge. We 338 Supposed thought it our duty to attend ance to the Observance of all Laws & not to take such steps in the Execution of any supposed one as to infringe on others that were known but may it please yr. Exclly. these doubts whether well grounded or not we apprehended did not influence us to neglect Mr. Robinsons application nor operate to his disadvantage in his office. we respectively He was ask'd him if he had desired Capt. or demanded of Capt. Smith admission into his Stores or of any other person . Mr. Robinson answerd us that he had nothing to do with them , but were Justices he demanded insisted on having the Warrant above described.

James Williams yr. Exclly's Respondant herein begs leave to observe that when Mr. Robinson demanded of him the Warrant above described he was in the high Way by said Smiths stores & sd. Smith was then near by in hearing & that yr. Respondant after considering of the Propriety Legallity of the sd. Warrant call'd to sd. Smith & ask'd him if he would suffer his stores & house to be searched without a Warrant to which sd. Smith readily reply'd they might do it & welcome but Mr. Robinson sd. he had nothing to do with him & would persisted in his demand request for the Warrant which facts yr. Respondant trusts are sufficiently establish'd by the Testimonys herewith presented.

Yr. Respondts. beg leave to observe that Mr. Robinson having had leave from Capt. Smith to search his stores on the very day that he applied to all of us at Taunton for the sd. Warrant & at the very time that he applied to one of us, & when he was at the very door of the stores & had nothing to hinder his entring & searching immediately, will take of all pretence of his suffering in his office for want of the sd. Warrant, or for his suggesting in his Complaint that Smith stores were not search'd for twenty four hours after, & these facts we imagine afford us an full answer ample reason join'd with what we have above advanced for not granting the Warrant for as Capt. Smith submitted his stores to be search'd the design of the Warrant was answered as to Smith & the occasion of it gone for we don't find that Smith ever often? refused, & then as Mr. Robinson pointed out no perticular place beside that he suspected we imagine we could not grant Such a general Warrant are not blameable for doubting whether we could grant such a general Warrant.

Yr. Exclly. will give us leave further to observe that by Mr. Robinson's own shewing it was on Thursday when he applyd to Col. Richmond & Col. Bowers for such a Warrant & that they refused it the manner339of its being demanded & the reasons of their conduct therein we expect they can given a satisfactory acct. of but their distance would not admit of their joining with us in this answer. Mr. Robinson doth not pretend that he made any further application till Saturday at which time he bethought himself of applying to yr. Respondants who live in the Neighbourhood of Smiths store & where he must have come to have prosecuted his search if he had intended it & yet he complains that Smiths stores were not search'd till 24 hours after application to your Respondants; at the End of 24 he acknowledges he garn'd procured admission by the assistance of Justice Leonard who "shewed great readiness & zeal in the service." We do not mean to denegrate diminish the good Conduct of Mr. Leonard on this occasion of which we were all Witnesses but can't avoid taking Notice of the intended reflection so artfully couch'd in this compliment.

The fact really was this. It was on the Sunday morning noon yr. Respondants Recd. yr. Excllys. Proclamation & letter of directions from the Jury & immediately consulted proper measures for obeying them being the next day that Mr. Robinson apply'd to Justice Leonard for sd. Warrant not having seen him before, but was delayed in the same manner & for the same reasons as yr. Respondants have asserted & in perticular because he supposed Smith would permit him to search without a Warrant; after requests several applications to Mr. Leonard Mr. Robinson at last condescended to search Smiths stores without a Warrant & Mr. Leonard walk'd with him in the afternoon & gain'd a ready admission & Mr. Robinson express'd himself satisfy'd with searching there. Being better reconcild to this peaceable method of searching Mr. Robinson thus apply'd to all yr. Respondants (except Col. Bowers) who with Col. Richmond & Mr. Paine were consulting for his benefit & desired a Warrant to search the Houses round the Green (so call'd). We told him we were satisfy'd he would not be deny'd by the owners & desired him to make the Demand accompanied by the Dpty. Sherriff who we listed to . Mr. Robinson found a ready admission into every house except but one, for the owner of which we sent & went so far as to tell him that unless he submitted that his store to be search'd we should grant a Warrant, upon which he opened his store & abt. 10 cask of Mollosses was there found & seized being the only house where any was found & afterwards they some days after by the same method he searched another house & found nothing of the kind they required no further assistance of that kind and were only kept on Monday Morning he was supply'd with a Warrant from yr.340Respondants to impress Carts & Lighters & a Pilot to transport the said seiz'd Mollosses to the Kings Custom house store & also with a proper officer to execute the same and with all other assistance which they required of any of us from all which we think it appears that Mr. Robinson after complaining of us for not granting such a Warrant as he demanded should might truly have taken Notice of our great zeal & readiness in procuring him admission into every house he desired & into the only one which proved successful to him, which and as conduct of the like kind in Justice Leonard seem'd sufficient with Mr. Robinson to obviate the Report neglect of a Warrant why it should not operate the same with regard to us we cant concieve so that the inadvertant notice he takes of Mr. Leonard's good Conduct very undesignedly redounds to our advantage.

May it please yr. Exclly. we think it very hard that our good Conduct good behaviour in office should be call'd in question by one whose very peculiar conduct in his office occasioned all the Evils which followed & who would with Reluctancy consented to any methods of executing his Office but those of the forceable kind.

We hope the above acct. will be sufficient to satisfy yr. Exclly. that our conduct in the premisses hath not been faulty & that Mr. Robinsons Complaint is groundless. We stand ready to support any facts we have alledged tho' we suppose them notorious. Mean while we wait yr. Exclly. further directions & beg leave to subscribe as is all duty bound yr. Exclly's most obliged & most obedient humble

No signatures 2

Dft ; addressed: "To his Exclly Francis Bernard Esq. in Council"; endorsed: "Answer of the Justices of the Peace of Bristol Co to Complaints against them to Gov. Bernard & the Council." This draft of the answer of the Justices of the Peace of Bristol County to a complaint of John Robinson, collector of customs at Newport, R.I., and filed at the governor's request, was written by RTP who notes in shorthand in his diary entry for May 27, 1765 "wrote an answer for the Justices' complaint of Ben John Robinson."


Richmond and Bowers were inserted in the reworking of this draft.


A full account of this episode is given in Josiah Quincy, Jr., Reports of Cases argued and adjudged in the Superior Court of indications of the Province of Massachusetts Bay between 1761 and 1772 (Boston, 1865), 437–440. An opinion submitted by Thomas Hutchinson and Edmund Trowbridge on July 31, 1765, found for the position of the Justices.