Published Volumes

Colin Nicolson. ed., The Papers of Francis Bernard, Governor of Colonial Massachusetts, 1760-69, 6 vols. (The Colonial Society of Massachusetts: Boston, 2007-).

Volume 1 (1759-63) was published in 2007, covered the early years of Bernard’s administration, 1760 to 1763, with letters ranging over the salient problems attendant to the governance of empire as the French and Indian War drew to a close. Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts Vol. 73. ContentsSample.

A critical edition “equal to the best of those compiled by the various projects that have brought the papers of John Adams, George Washington, and other founding fathers to light.”  Prof. William Pencak in The New England Quarterly 82 (Mar. 2009), 175-178.

Volume 2 (1764-65), published in 2012, reveals in considerable detail how far imperial administration and colonial government in the post-war period were shaped by the onset of American opposition to British taxation, which climaxed in violent resistance to the Stamp Act during 1765. ContentsSample.

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"The edition itself is organized precisely the way a researcher would want it.  . . . Nicolson has allowed scholars to better understand the radicalization of colonists through the pen of a bewildered
man who not only observed events but also shaped their course." Andrew M. Wehrman in The New England Quarterly 83 (Aug. 2013)

Volume 3 (1766-67), published in 2013, examines the governor's response to the revitalization of colonial opposition in 1766 and its escalation following the introduction of the Townshend Acts in 1767.

"Fifteen years ago the Francis Bernard biographer Colin Nicolson and John Tyler, the
publications editor of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, undertook publication of a
full selection of the papers of the man who became known as the Bay Colony’s “Infamas
Governor.” The first volume, which appeared in 2007, set the tone for the series: handsome
production values, exemplary editorial method, and impeccable scholarly annotation. This
third volume . . .  more than maintains the high standards. . . . The
fascination of these papers, and their value for teachers and researchers, is that Bernard was a
player, and he demanded to be taken as such. Nicolson’s great achievement in this project . . . and beautifully edited selection offers readers  . .  a blow-by-blow account of a clash between competing
systems of political rationality, moral authority, and, ultimately, national identity. Peter Thompson in The Journal of American History 102 (Mar. 2016)

Volume 4 (1768) published in 2015 covered the waning years of Bernard’s administration, when the governor controversially persuaded the British government to intervene by sending regular troops to Boston to keep the peace. The ebook version is available via Open Access at http://www.colonialsociety.org/publications.html#online

Volume 5 (1768-69) published in 2015 reveals how the climax to the colonial campaign to remove Gov. Bernard from office. It examines the political debates as they unfolded in Boston and London, and reviews the evidence gathered by the governor and his enemies in the spring of 1769 when Boston’s radicals obtained and published some of the governor’s correspondence.
The ebook version is available via Open Access at http://www.colonialsociety.org/publications.html#online

Volume 6 (1770-74) covers mainly the period 1769-72 and Bernard's correspondence with his successor as governor, Thomas Hutchinson. While Hutchinson reported on events in Massachusetts, Bernard responded with advice and suggestions, and generally kept Hutchinson up to date on British politics. Bernard prepared several papers for the British government that had some bearing on policymaking in the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party of 1773.

Volume 7: The Calendar. The last volume, as planned, will be a calendar of documents spanning Bernard’s life and career and will make a full report of all extant and nonextant texts.

Francis Bernard

Colin Nicolson, The "Infamas Govener": Francis Bernard and the Origins of the American Revolution (Northeastern Univ. Press: Boston, 2001), ISBN-13: 978-1555534639


"In its erudite detail, this study continues the high standard of scholarship set in previous biographies of the royal governors William Shirley, Benning Wentworth, and Thomas Hutchinson. Collectively, however, these biographies reveal that the imperial innovations of 1764–1767 made the position of royal governor, already much maligned, near untenable." Prof. David Conroy, The Journal of American History 89 (2002): 203-204.

Francis Bernard (1712-1779) was one of the most controversial figures in American colonial history. Based on extensive documentary research, The "Infamas Govener is the first modern political biography of Bernard. It reexamines his relations with colonial factions and the imperial elite, his attempts to enforce Parliamentary authority, and his influence on British government policy-making. It shows how Bernard undermined British-colonial relations on the eve of the Revolution and effectively set the stage for war.