Governor Burnet of Massachusetts on the governor's salary 17 September 1728


William Burnet was the son of a distinguished English clergyman, Bishop Gilbert Burnet, who partici pated in and wrote about the Glorious Revolution of 1688. As governor of New York from 1720 to 1728, William Burnet served with distinction, especially in formulating a long-range policy of diplomacy with the Indians and checking the expansion of the French. Moreover, he prepared a firm written defense of the colonial position on the issuance paper money, a novel stand for any English governor.

Burnet was appointed governor of Massachussetts in 1728 just in time to confront the constitutional issue of the governor's salary. He spoke for the imperial interest and against what he regarded as an encroachment by the colonial assembly upon royal authority. In this document, he replies specifically to the arguments presented by the Massachusetts legislature, recorded in the preceding document.

Gentlemen of the House of Representatives,

I Thought it proper to delay answering your Message of the 12th Instant, in which you desired to Rise that you might advise with your Towns, till I had seen the Draught which you had accepted as what might be necessasary to advise the Towns how far the Court had proceeded in the matter of a Salary to the Governour; for by your Vote of the 7th appointing a Committee to draw it up, you seemed to allow that your own going home would be needless since you resolved to transmit to them what might be necessary, and since upon that they might if they pleased send you Directions how to act for them.

But you have now carried the thing much further, for you conclude, that you dare neither come into an Act for fixing a Salary on the Governour for ever, nor for a limited time, what then can it signify to know the minds of your Principals and advise with your Towns since youdare not take their Advice, if it should differ from your own Opinion, all your meaning therefore can only be that you would go home to give Advice to your Towns, but that you are fully resolved to take none from them, which is not a very respectful Treatment of those who have Chosen you to represent them: You say, That the House to prevent any Misrepresentations that may be made to the several Towns in this Province have concluded upon this Account of the Proceedings in this Affair, and of the Grounds and Reasons thereof; It were to be wished you had pursued this Design impartially, instead of which you have set forth the Strength of the Argument on one side and concealed it on the other, so that your Account can only serve to misinform those who rely upon it, and this the generality of People in the Country will naturally do, if they are not warned of their Danger of being misled, for it cannot be supposed that they will have the time or take the pains to compare it with the pages of the Votes as they are cited, but will of course expect that you have taken all that is material out of them. Now as this has not been done, I thought my self obliged in Justice to the publick, to point out the defects and mistakes of this Account, and to set the matter once more in a true Light, that as you have found your selves at a loss to give any Reply to my long Message of the 3d Instant, you may have as little success in your design of filling the minds of the People with the same wrong Notions, which have already been and are so easy to be confuted. In the very beginning you omit taking any notice at all of my Speech in which I observed, That Parliaments had made it a Custom to grant the Civil List to the King for Life, and that the same Maxims that made Great Britain shine would make you flourish.

You begin with His Majesties 23d Instruction (p. 2) where you omit mentioning, That His Majesty had de clared your Compliance necessary to preserve his favour and your not shewing an immediate regard to his Pleasure therein an undutiful Behaviour, which would oblige Him to lay the Affair before the Legislature at home, but when you come to your own first Resolve (p. 6) to grant 1700 l., you insert it at length and almost word for word; then again when you come to my Message (p. 11) you only say that I informed you that I was utterly disabled from consenting to the Resolve of that Grant, it being contrary to His Majesties Instruction, but you should have men tioned my Reason,because it was the very thing against which this Instruction was levelled as done in order to keep the Governour the more dependent on the Council and Representatives; just after you give a very particular Account of your Proceedings with the Council and your second Grant, and your Message with it (p. 18, 22, 23) and then you give a short account of the Allegations of my Message (p. 28) omitting what I insisted on to support and prove them, viz.,That Gentlemen knew in their Consciences that the Allowances for the Governour's Salary had been kept back till other Bills of moment had been consented to; you had once put off this Charge with a turn as if Salarys always looked forward, but as I have smce shewn this to be plainly contrary to the proceedings of last Winter. you now very prudently say nothing at all about it, nor what gave occasion to it.

The next thing you mention is a draught of your own (p. 31, 32, 33) which was never offered to me, and consequently not answered, and therefore you find it convenient to give some account of it in this place; whereas you say but a word or two of a like Paper delivered to me, after wards (p. 52, 53) which contains much the same matter with this draught, and not one word of the Contents of my Reply to it (p. 55, 56, 57) except something of the Conclusion, which Reply was so full that you have thought fit to drop the Dispute upon it; and so that you might mention your own Arguments without being discovered to conceal my Answers, you bring them in only on this former Occasion, but I will restore them to their proper place, and go on in order to observe, that you give all the particulars of a Dispute you had with the Council at full length (p. 35, 33, 39, 41, 42, 43) and then at once grow very short again when you come to mention any thing that came from me; you just say of my Answer to your Message (p. 47) that I signified Icould not agree to a Recess 'till His Majesties 23d Instruction was complied with, without mentioning a very short and strong reason which I had given for it,because I should thereby make your immediate Regard to His Majesties Pleasure impossible; then you run over your Reply (p. 49) and my Message (p. 50) and your Message with Reasons (p. 52, 53) and my Reply (p. 55, 56, 57) with such precipitation (tho' the last were the two longest Papers that had passed between us) that one would think you were unwilling to have them read and considered, which, as it has a quite different effect with me I am willing to stop a little where you are so much in a hurry, and shew in this place that all that you mentioned before out of your draught (p. 31, 32, 33) is sufficiently answered in a few words of my Reply (p. 55, 56, 57) as follows, I cannot see why you apprehend that passing Acts pursuant to the Instruction has a direct tendency to weaken your happy Constitution especially since you now acknowledge what I had formerly observed, that each Branch of the Legislature (and consequently the Governour) ought to be enabled to support his own Dignity and Freedom, which is all that is intended by the Instruction.

After that you are got beyond this long Reply of mine, which you make so much haste to pass by, then you are at leisure to give an ample Account of your own proceed ings (p. 58) and afterwards of the latter part of my Answer (p. 59) which you insert at length, but think proper to say nothing 6f the beginning of it, where I informed you that I thought my Duty would not permit me to agree to a Recess, and where I make a kind of Appeal to you by saying that I had given you my Reasons and answered all your Objections; to which you never replied, and yet you seem not to desire that the Country should know that the Dispute remains in such a state as will incline every impartial person to believe that I have Truth and Justice on my side. You finish your Narrative with mentioning your last difference with the Council (p. 62) and then although you had already brought together every Circumstance that you thought made for you, and omitted what seemed to make most strongly against you: You seem still apprehensive that People may not be enough prejudiced in your Favour, and therefore you conclude all with four Reasons at length, which contain the substance of your former Allegations, as if they were unanswerable, or at least had never been answered, whereas in Fact I have given a sufficient Reply to every thing contained in them, and there fore it would have been no more than a piece of Justice to me to have set down the substance of my Answers as fully as the Reasons themselves, but since that is not done as I might have expected, I think it necessary to do it my self in the fairest manner, by first repeating your Grounds and Reasons word for word, from whence you say it may plainly appear, that you dare neither come into an Act for fixing a Salary on the Governour for ever, nor for a limited time.