Sir Francis Bernard (1712-1779) was a British colonial administrator who served as Governor in New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Francis was born in Brightwell, Oxfordshire, England to the Rev. Francis and Margery Bernard and was christened on July 12, 1712. He was first educated at St. Peter's College and then spent seven years at Oxford, where Christ Church College granted him a master of arts in 1736. A man on considerable intelligence, it was reported that he could recite entire plays of Shakespeare from memory. He read law and was admitted to the bar in 1737.
Francis married Amelia Offley in 1741 and the couple raised a large family. They had at least 9 surviving children, and more who died as infants. Indeed John Adams later described governor Bernard as "... avaricious to a most infamous degree; needy at the same time, having a numerous family to provide for."
He was appointed governor of New Jersey in 1758, and arrived at Perth Amboy on June 14. He won a good reputation and some popularity here by promoting mutual defense activities with other colonies. He also negotiated treaties to bring an end to Indian raids on the colony's frontiers on the upper Delaware River valley. His efforts did much to gain New Jersey's active support during the latter part of the French and Indian War. His work was rewarded by appointment to the more important post of Governor of Massachusetts.
Bernard was appointed governor in late 1759, but delays in communications and travel were such that he didn't arrive in Boston until August 2, 1760. Although initially well received, his tenure in Massachusetts was less satisfactory, where he was responsible for enforcing unpopular laws and taxes. His difficulties started when he issued Writs of Assistance in 1760 to custom's tax collectors. They continued through other tax measures, including the Stamp Act. By November of 1768 he was burned in effigy by a mob in New York City. Finally, the turbulence increased to the point where the colonial assembly petitioned the crown that "he might be forever removed from the Government of the Province." In 1769 he was replaced by Thomas Hutchinson and recalled to England. When he left Boston on August 1, the town held an impromptu celebration, decorated the Liberty Tree and ringing church bells.
Among his accomplishments in Massachusetts was the design of Harvard Hall at Harvard University, and the completion of a governor's mansion named Jamaica Plains on May Street in Boston. The plat for Bernardstown, Massachusetts was laid out during his administration and is named for him.
On his return to England, he was made a baronet for his services and later served the British government as a commissioner on the Board of Revenue for Ireland. He died on June 16, 1779 at Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, England