Front Page Titles (by Subject) CL: REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF AGGRIEVANCES OF THE ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. III Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763
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CL: REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF AGGRIEVANCES OF THE ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. III Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. III (Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763).
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DatedFebruary 22d, 1757.1
In obedience to the order of the House, we have drawn up the heads of the most important aggrievances that occur to us, which the people of this province with great difficulty labor under; the many infractions of the constitution (in manifest violation of the royal grant, the proprietary charter, the laws of this province, and of the laws, usages, and customs of our mother country), and other matters, which we apprehend call aloud for redress.
They are as follows:
First. By the royal charter (which has ever been, ought to be, and truly is, the principal and invariable fundamental of this constitution), King Charles the Second did give and grant unto William Penn, his heirs and assigns, the province of Pennsylvania; and also to him and his heirs, and his or their deputies or lieutenants, free, full, and absolute power for the good and happy government thereof, to make and enact any laws, “according to their best discretion, by and with the advice, assent, and approbation of the freemen of the said country, or of their delegates or deputies”, for the raising of money, or any other end appertaining to the public state, peace, or safety of the said country. By the words of this grant, it is evident that full powers are granted to the deputies and lieutenants of William Penn and his heirs, to concur with the people in framing laws for their protection and the safety of the province, according to their best discretion; independent of any instructions or directions they should receive from their principals. And it is equally obvious to your committee, that the people of this province and their representatives were interested in this royal grant; and by virtue thereof have an original right of legislation inherent in them, which neither the proprietors nor any other person whatsoever can divest them of, restrain or abridge, without manifestly violating and destroying the letter, spirit, and design of this grant.
Nevertheless we unfortunately find, that the proprietaries of this province, regardless of this sacred fundamental of all our rights and liberties, have so abridged and restricted their late and present governor’s discretion in matters of legislation, by their illegal, impracticable, and unconstitutional instructions and prohibitions, that no bill for granting aids and supplies to our most gracious Sovereign (be it ever so reasonable, expedient, and necessary for the defence of his Majesty’s colony, and safety of his people), unless it be agreeable thereto, can meet with its approbation; by means whereof the many considerable sums of money, which have been offered for those purposes by the Assemblies of this province (ever anxious to maintain his honor and rights), have been rejected; to the great encouragement of his Majesty’s enemies, and the imminent danger of the loss of this his colony.
Secondly. The representatives of the people in General Assembly met, by virtue of the said royal grant, and the charter and privileges granted by the said William Penn, and a law of this province, have right to, and ought to enjoy, all the powers and privileges of an Assembly, according to the rights of the free-born subjects of England, and as is usual in any of the plantations of America. It is an indubitable and now an uncontested right of the Commons of England to grant aids and supplies to his Majesty in any manner they think most easy to themselves and the people; and they are the sole judges of the measure, manner, and time of granting and raising the same.
Nevertheless the proprietaries of this province, in contempt of the said royal grant, proprietary charter, and law of their colony; designing to subvert the fundamentals of this constitution, to deprive the Assembly and people of their grants and privileges, and to assume an arbitrary and tyrannical power over the liberties and properties of his Majesty’s liege subjects; have so restrained their governors by the despotic instructions (which are not to be varied from, and are particularly directory in the framing and passing of money bills and supplies to his Majesty, as to the mode, measure, and time), that it is impossible for the Assembly, should they loose all sense of their most essential rights, and comply with those instructions, to grant sufficient aids for the defence of this his Majesty’s province from the common enemy.
Thirdly. In pursuance of sundry acts of General Assembly, approved of by the crown, and a natural right inherent in every man antecedent to all laws, the Assemblies of this province have had the power of disposing of the public moneys, that have been raised for the encouragement of trade and support of government by the interest money arising by the loans of the bills of credit and the excise. No part of these moneys was ever paid by the proprietaries, or ever raised on their estates; and therefore they can have no pretence of right to a voice in the disposition of them. They have even been applied with prudent frugality to the honor and advantage of the public and the King’s immediate service, to the general approbation of the people; the credit of the government has been preserved, and the debts of the public punctually discharged. In short, no inconveniences, but great and many advantages, have accrued from the Assembly’s prudent care and management of these funds.
Yet the proprietaries resolved to deprive the Assemblies of the power and means of supporting an agent in England, and of prosecuting their complaints and remonstrating their aggrievances, when injured and oppressed, to his Majesty and his Parliament; and, to rob them of this natural right (which has been so often approved of by their gracious Sovereign), have, by their said instructions, prohibited their governor from giving his assent to any laws emitting or reémitting any paper currency or bills of credit, or for raising money by excise or any other method; unless the governor or commander-in-chief for the time being, by clauses to be inserted therein, have a negative in the disposition of the moneys arising thereby; let the languishing circumstances of our trade be ever so great, and a further or greater medium be ever so necessary for its support.
Fourthly. By the laws and statues of England, the chief rents, honors, and castles of the crown are taxed, and pay their proportion to the supplies that are granted to the King for the defence of the realm and support of government. His Majesty, the nobility of the realm, and all the British subjects do now actually contribute their proportion towards the defence of America in general, and this province in particular; and it is in a more especial manner the duty of the proprietaries to pay their proportion of a tax for the immediate preservation of their own estates in this province. To exempt, therefore, any part of their estates from their reasonable part of this necessary burthen, is as unjust as it is illegal, and as new as it is arbitrary.
Yet the proprietaries, notwithstanding the general danger to which the nation and its colonies are exposed, and great distress of this province in particular, by their said instructions have prohibited their governors from passing laws for the raising supplies for its defence; unless all their located, unimproved, and unoccupied lands, quit-rents, fines, and purchase moneys on interest (the much greater part of their enormous estates in this colony) are expressly exempted from paying any part of the tax.
Fifthly. By virtue of the said royal charter, the proprietaries are invested with a power of doing all things, “which unto a complete establishment of justice, unto courts and tribunals, forms of judicature, and manner of proceedings, do belong.” It was certainly the import and design of this grant, that the courts of judicature should be formed, and the judges and officers thereof hold their commissions, in a manner not repugnant, but agreeable, to the laws and customs of England; that thereby they might remain free from the influence of persons in power, the rights of the people might be preserved, and their properties effectually secured. That the grantee, William Penn (understanding the said grant in this light), did, by his original frame of government, covenant and grant with the people, that the judges and other officers should hold their commissions during their good behaviour, and no longer.
Notwithstanding which, the governors of this province have, for many years past, granted all the commissions to the judges of the King’s Bench or supreme court of this province, and to the judges of the court of Common Pleas of the several counties, to be held during their will and pleasure; by means whereof the said judges being subject to the influence and direction of the proprietaries and their governors, their favorites and creatures, the laws may not be duly administered or executed, but often wrested from their true sense to serve particular purposes; the foundation of justice may be liable to be destroyed; and the lives, laws, liberties, privileges, and properties of the people thereby rendered precarious and altogether insecure; to the great disgrace of our laws, and the inconceivable injury of his Majesty’s subjects.
Your committee further beg leave to add, that, besides these aggrievances, there are other hardships the people of this province have experienced, that call for redress. The enlistment of servants without the least satisfaction being made to the masters, has not only prevented the cultivation of our lands, and diminished the trade and commerce of the province, but is a burthen extremely unequal and oppressive to individuals. And should the practice continue, the consequence must prove very discouraging to the further settlement of this colony, and prejudicial to his Majesty’s future service. Justice, therefore, demands that satisfaction should be made to the masters of such enlisted servants, and that the right of masters to their servants be confirmed and settled. But as those servants have been enlisted into his Majesty’s service for the general defence of America, and not of this province only, but all the colonies, and the nation in general, have and will receive equal benefit from their service, this satisfaction should be made at the expense of the nation, and not of the province only.
That the people now labor under a burthen of taxes almost insupportable by so young a colony, for the defence of its long-extended frontier, of about two hundred miles from New Jersey to Maryland; without either of these colonies, or the three lower counties on Deleware, contributing their proportion thereto; though their frontiers are in a great measure covered and protected by our forts. And should the war continue, and with it this unequal burthen, many of his Majesty’s subjects in this province will be reduced to want; and the province, if not lost to the enemy, involved in debt and sunk under its load.
That, notwithstanding this weight of taxes, the Assemblies of this province have given to the general service of the nation five thousand pounds to purchase provisions for the troops under General Braddock; £2,985. 0s. 11d. for clearing a road by his orders; £10,514. 10s. 1d. to General Shirley, for the purchasing provisions for the New England forces; and expended the sum of £2,385. 0s. 2½d. in supporting the inhabitants of Nova Scotia; which likewise we conceive ought to be a national expense.
And that his Majesty’s subjects, the merchants and insurers in England, as well as the merchants here and elsewhere, did during the last and will during the present war greatly suffer in their property, trade, and commerce, by the enemy’s privateers on this coast, and at our capes, unless some method be fallen on to prevent it.
Wherefore your committee are of opinion, that the commissioners, intended to be sent to England to solicit a memorial and redress of the many infractions and violations of the constitution, should also have it in charge, and be instructed, to represent to our most gracious Sovereign and his Parliaments the several unequal burthens and hardships before mentioned; and endeavour to procure satisfaction to the masters of such servants as have been enlisted, and the right of masters to their servants established and confirmed; and obtain a repayment of the said several sums of money, some assistance towards defending our extensive frontier, and a vessel of war to protect the trade and commerce of this province.
Submitted to the correction of the House.
[1 ]The English colonial governments were of three sorts. First, Provincial governments; where the constitution originally depends on the King’s commission and instructions, given to his governors, and the Assemblies, held under that authority, have their share in making local ordinances not repugnant to English law. Next, Proprietary governments; where a district of country is given by the crown to individuals, attended with certain legislative powers in the nature of a fief, with a provision for the sovereignty at home, and also for the fulfilment of the terms and end of the grant. Lastly, Charter governments, where the fundamentals of the government are previously prescribed and made known to the settlers, being in no degree left subject to a governor’s commission or proprietor’s will. (See Blackstone, Vol. I. Introd § 4.) Good faith, however, to mankind, seemed to require that the constitutions, once begun under the provincial or proprietary governments, should remain unaltered (except for improvement) to the respective settlers, equally as in charter governments.