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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Character and Rule of Governor Burnet

By Thomas Hutchinson (1711–1780)

[From The History of Massachusetts. 3d edition. 1795.]

THE RESENTMENT which had been raised ceased, with people in general, upon his death. Many amiable parts of his character revived in their minds. He had been steady and inflexible in his adherence to his instructions, but discovered nothing of a grasping, avaricious mind; it was the mode, more than the quantum, of his salary upon which he insisted. The naval office had generally been a post for some relation or favorite of the governor, but Colonel Tailer having been lieutenant-governor, and in circumstances far from affluent, he generously gave the post to him, without any reserve of the issues or profits. The only instance of his undue exacting money, by some, was thought to be palliated by the established custom of the government he had quitted. This did not justify it. In his disposal of public offices, he gave the preference to such as were disposed to favor his cause, and displaced some for not favoring it, and in some instances he went further than good policy would allow. He did not know the temper of the people of New England. They have a strong sense of liberty, and are more easily drawn than driven. He disobliged many of his friends by removing from his post Mr. Lynde, a gentleman of the house, esteemed by both sides for his integrity and other valuable qualities, and he acknowledged that he could assign no other reason except that the gentleman had not voted for a compliance with the instruction. However, an immoral or unfair character was a bar to office, and he gave his negative to an election of a counsellor, in one instance, upon that principle only. His superior talents and free and easy manner of communicating his sentiments made him the delight of men of sense and learning. His right of precedence in all companies facilitated the exercise of his natural disposition to a great share in the conversation, and at the same time “caused it to appear more excusable.” His own account of his genius was, that it was late before it budded, and that, until he was nearly twenty years of age, his father despaired of his ever making any figure in life. This, perhaps, might proceed from the exact, severe discipline of the bishop’s family, not calculated for every temper alike, and might damp and discourage his. To long and frequent religious services at home in his youth he would sometimes pleasantly attribute his indisposition to a very scrupulous exact attendance upon public worship; but this might really be owing to an abhorrence of ostentation and mere formality in religion, to avoid which, as most of the grave, serious people of the province thought, he approached too near the other extreme. A little more caution, and conformity to the different ages, manners, customs, and even prejudices of different companies, would have been more politic, but his open, undisguised mind could not submit to it. Being asked to dine with an old charter senator who retained the custom of saying grace sitting, the grave gentleman desired to know which would be more agreeable to his excellency, that grace should be said standing or sitting. The governor replied, “Standing or sitting, any way or no way, just as you please.” He sometimes wore a cloth coat lined with velvet. It was said to be expressive of his character. He was a firm believer of the truth of revealed religion, but a bigot to no particular profession among Christians, and laid little stress upon modes and forms. By a clause in his last will he ordered his body to be buried, if he died at New York, by his wife; if in any other part of the world, in the nearest church-yard or burying-ground, all places being alike to God’s all-seeing eye.

The assembly ordered a very honorable funeral at the public charge. A motion at another time was made in the house for a grant to a governor to bear the expense of his lady’s funeral. A dry old representative objected to a grant for a governor’s lady: had the motion been for a grant to bury the governor, he should have thought the money well laid out.