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CCLV: PREFACE - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. IV Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768 
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. IV (Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768).
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to the speech of joseph galloway, on the subject of a petition to the king for changing the proprietary government of pennsylvania to a royal government2
It is not merely because Mr. Dickinson’s speech was ushered into the world by a preface, that one is made to this of Mr. Galloway. But, as in that preface a number of aspersions were thrown on our assemblies, and their proceedings grossly misrepresented, it was thought necessary to wipe those aspersions off by some proper animadversions, and, by a true state of facts, to rectify those misrepresentations.
The preface begins with saying, that “Governor Denny (whose administration will never be mentioned but with disgrace in the annals of this province) was induced by considerations, to which the world is now no stranger, to pass sundry acts,” &c., thus insinuating that by some unusual base bargain, secretly made but afterwards discovered, he was induced to pass them.
It is fit, therefore, without undertaking to justify all that governor’s administration, to show what those considerations were. Ever since the revenue of the quit-rents first, and after that the revenue of tavern-licenses, were settled irrevocably on our proprietors and governors, they have looked on those incomes as their proper estate, for which they were under no obligations to the people; and when they afterwards concurred in passing any useful laws, they considered them as so many jobs, for which they ought to be particularly paid. Hence arose the custom of presents twice a year to the governors, at the close of each session in which laws were passed, given at the time of passing; they usually amounted to a thousand pounds per annum. But when the governors and assemblies disagreed, so that laws were not passed, the presents were withheld. When a disposition to agree ensued, there sometimes still remained some diffidence. The governors would not pass the laws that were wanted, without being sure of the money, even all that they called their arrears; nor the assemblies give the money without being sure of the laws. Thence the necessity of some private conference, in which mutual assurances of good faith might be received and given, that the transactions should go hand in hand. What name the impartial reader will give to this kind of commerce, I cannot say. To me it appears an extortion of more money from the people, for that to which they had before an undoubted right, both by the constitution and by purchase; but there was no other shop they could go to for the commodity they wanted, and they were obliged to comply. Time established the custom, and made it seem honest; so that our governors, even those of the most undoubted honor, have practised it.
Governor Thomas, after a long misunderstanding with the assembly, went more openly to work with them in managing this commerce, and they with him. The fact is curious, as it stands recorded in the votes of 1742-3. Sundry bills sent up to the governor for his assent had lain long in his hands, without any answer. January 4th, the House “Ordered, That Thomas Leech and Edward Warner wait upon the governor, and acquaint him, that the House had long waited for his result on the bills that lie before him, and desire to know when they may expect it.” The gentlemen return and report, “That they waited upon the governor, and delivered the message of the House according to order; and that the governor was pleased to say, ‘He had had the bills long under consideration, and waited the result of the House.’ ” The House well understood this hint; and immediately resolved into a committee of the whole House, to take what was called the governor’s support into consideration, in which they made (the minutes say) some progress; and the next morning, it appears, that that progress, whatever it was, had been communicated to him, for he sent them down this message by his secretary: “Mr. Speaker, The governor commands me to acquaint you that, as he has received assurances of a good disposition in the House, he thinks it incumbent on him to show the like on his part; and therefore sends down the bills, which lay before him, without any amendment.”
As this message only showed a good disposition, but contained no promise to pass the bills, the House seem to have had their doubts; and, therefore, February 2d, when they came to resolve, on the report of the grand committee, to give the money, they guarded their resolves very cautiously, to wit: “Resolved, That, on the passage of such bills as now lie before the governor (the naturalization bill, and such other bills as may be presented to him during this sitting), there be paid him the sum of five hundred pounds. Resolved also, that, on the passage of such bills as now lie before the governor (the naturalization bill, and such other bills as may be presented to him this sitting), there be paid to the governor the further sum of one thousand pounds, for the current year’s support; and that orders be drawn on the treasurer and trustees of the loan-office, pursuant to these resolves.” The orders were accordingly drawn; with which being acquainted, he appointed a time to pass the bills; which was done with one hand, while he received the orders in the other; and then, with the utmost politeness he thanked the House for the fifteen hundred pounds, as if it had been a pure free gift, and a mere mark of their respect and affection. “I thank you, Gentlemen,” says he, “for this instance of your regard, which I am the more pleased with, as it gives an agreeable prospect of future harmony between me and the representatives of the people.”
This, reader, is an exact counterpart of the transaction with Governor Denny; except that Denny sent word to the House, that he would pass the bills before they voted the support. And yet here was no proprietary clamor about bribery, &c. And why so? Why, at that time, the proprietary family, by virtue of a secret bond they had obtained of the governor at his appointment, were to share with him the sums so obtained of the people.
This reservation of the proprietaries they were at that time a little ashamed of, and therefore such bonds were then to be secrets. But as in every kind of sinning frequent repetition lessens shame and increases boldness, we find the proprietaries ten years afterwards openly insisting on these advantages to themselves, over and above what was paid to their deputy; “Wherefore,” say they,1 “on this occasion it is necessary that we inform the people, through yourselves, their representatives, that, as by the constitution our consent is necessary to their laws, at the same time that they have an undoubted right to such as are necessary for the defence and real service of the country, so it will tend the better to facilitate the several matters, which must be transacted with us, for their representatives to show a regard to us and our interest.”
This was in their answer to the representation of the assembly (Votes, December, 1754, p. 48) on the justice of their contributing to Indian expenses, which they had refused. And on this clause the committee make the following remark: “They tell us their consent is necessary to our laws, and that it will tend the better to facilitate the matters which must be transacted with them for the representatives to show a regard to their interest; that is (as we understand it), though the proprietaries have a deputy here, supported by the province, who is, or ought to be, fully empowered to pass all laws necessary for the service of the country, yet, before we can obtain such laws, we must facilitate their passage by paying money for the proprietaries, which they ought to pay, or in some shape make it their particular interest to pass them. We hope, however, that if this practice has ever been begun it will never be continued in this province, and that since, as this very paragraph allows, we have an undoubted right to such laws, we shall always be able to obtain them from the goodness of our sovereign without going to market for them to a subject.” Time has shown that those hopes were vain; they have been obliged to go to that market ever since, directly or indirectly, or go without their laws. The practice has continued, and will continue, as long as the proprietary government subsists, intervening between the crown and the people.
Do not, my courteous reader, take pet at our proprietary constitution for these our bargain and sale proceedings in legislation. It is a happy country where justice, and what was your own before, can be had for ready money. It is another addition to the value of money, and, of course, another spur to industry. Every land is not so blessed. There are countries where the princely proprietor claims to be lord of all property, where what is your own shall not only be wrested from you, but the money you give to have it restored shall be kept with it, and your offering so much, being a sign of your being too rich, you shall be plundered of every thing that remained. These times are not come here yet. Your present proprietors have never been more unreasonable hitherto than barely to insist on your fighting in defence of their property, and paying the expense yourselves; or if their estates must, ah! must, be taxed towards it, that the best of their lands shall be taxed no higher than the worst of yours.
Pardon this digression, and I return to Governor Denny. But first let me do Governor Hamilton the justice to observe that whether from the uprightness of his own disposition, or from the odious light the practice had been set in on Denny’s account, or from both, he did not attempt these bargains, but passed such laws as he thought fit to pass without any previous stipulation of pay for them. But then, when he saw the assembly tardy in the payment he expected, and yet calling upon him still to pass more laws, he openly put them in mind of the money as a debt due to him from custom. “In the course of the present year,” says he, in his message of July 8th, 1763, “a great deal of public business hath been transacted by me, and I believe as many useful laws enacted as by any of my predecessors in the same space of time; yet I have not understood that any allowance hath hitherto been made to me for my support, as hath been customary in this province.”
The House, having then some bills in hand, took the matter into immediate consideration, and voted him five hundred pounds, for which an order or certificate was accordingly drawn; and on the same day the Speaker, after the House had been with the governor, reported, “That his Honor had been pleased to give his assent to the bills, by enacting the same into laws. And Mr. Speaker farther reported, that he had then, in behalf of the House, presented their certificate of five hundred pounds to the Governor; who was pleased to say, he was obliged to the House for the same.” Thus we see the practice of purchasing and paying for laws is interwoven with our proprietary constitution, used in the best times, and under the best governors. And yet, alas, poor assembly! how will you steer your brittle bark between these rocks? If you pay ready money for your laws, and those laws are not liked by the proprietaries, you are charged with bribery and corruption; if you wait a while before you pay, you are accused of detaining the governor’s customary right, and dunned as a negligent or dishonest debtor, that refuses to discharge a just debt.
But Governor Denny’s case, I shall be told, differs from all these; for the acts he was induced to pass were, as the Prefacer tells us, “contrary to his duty, and to every tie of honor and justice.” Such is the imperfection of our language, and perhaps of all other languages, that, notwithstanding we are furnished with dictionaries innumerable, we cannot precisely know the import of words, unless we know of what party the man is that uses them. In the mouth of an assemblyman, or true Pennsylvanian, “contrary to his duty and to every tie of honor and justice,” would mean, the governor’s long refusal to pass laws, however just and necessary, for taxing the proprietary estate; a refusal contrary to the trust reposed in the lieutenant-governor by the royal charter; to the rights of the people, whose welfare it was his duty to promote; and to the nature of the contract made between the governor and the governed, when the quit-rents and license fees were established, which confirmed what the proprietaries call our “undoubted right” to necessary laws. But, in the mouth of the proprietaries, or their creatures, “contrary to his duty, and to every tie of justice and honor,” means, his passing laws contrary to proprietary instructions and contrary to the bonds he had previously given to observe those instructions; instructions, however, that were unjust and unconstitutional; and bonds, that were illegal and void from the beginning.
Much has been said of the wickedness of Governor Denny in passing, and the assembly in prevailing with him to pass, those acts. By the Prefacer’s account of them, you would think that the laws so obtained were all bad; for he speaks of but seven, of which six, he says, were repealed, and the seventh reported to be “fundamentally wrong and unjust,” and “ought to be repealed, unless six certain amendments were made therein.”1 Whereas, in fact, there were nineteen of them; and several of those must have been good laws, for even the proprietaries did not object to them. Of the eleven that they opposed, only six were repealed; so that it seems these good gentlemen may themselves be sometimes as wrong in opposing, as the assembly in enacting, laws. But the words “fundamentally wrong and unjust” are the great fund of triumph to the proprietaries and their partisans. These their subsequent governors have unmercifully dinned in the ears of the assembly on all occasions ever since; for they make a part of near a dozen of their messages. They have rung the changes on those words, till they have worked them up to say that the law was fundamentally wrong and unjust in six several articles; (Governor’s Message, May 17th, 1764,) instead of “ought to be repealed, unless six alterations or amendments could be made therein.” A law unjust in six several articles must be an unjust law indeed. Let us therefore, once for all, examine this unjust law, article by article, in order to see whether our assemblies have been such villains as they have been represented.
The first particular in which their lordships proposed the act should be amended was, “That the real estates to be taxed be defined with precision; so as not to include the unsurveyed waste land belonging to the proprietaries.” This was, at most, but an obscurity to be cleared up; and, though the law might well appear to their lordships uncertain in that particular, with us, who better know our own customs, and that the proprietaries’ waste unsurveyed land was never here considered among estates real, subject to taxation; there was not the least doubt or supposition that such lands were included in the words “all estates real and personal.” The agents, therefore,1 knowing that the assembly had no intention to tax those lands, might well suppose that they would readily agree to remove the obscurity.
Before we go farther, let it be observed, that the main design of the proprietaries in opposing this act was, to prevent their estates being taxed at all. But, as they knew that the doctrine of the proprietary exemption, which they had endeavored to enforce here, could not be supported there, they bent their whole strength against the act on other principles to procure its repeal; pretending great willingness to submit to an equitable tax, but that the assembly (out of mere malice, because they had conscientiously quitted Quakerism for the church) were wickedly determined to ruin them, to tax all their unsurveyed wilderness lands, and at the highest rates; and by that means exempt themselves and the people, and throw the whole burden of the war on the proprietary family.
How foreign these charges were from the truth, need not be told to any man in Pennsylvania. And, as the proprietors knew, that the hundred thousand pounds of paper money, struck for the defence of their enormous estates, with others, was actually issued, spread through the country, and in the hands of thousands of poor people, who had given their labor for it, how base, cruel, and inhuman it was to endeavor, by a repeal of the act, to strike the money dead in those hands at one blow, and reduce it all to waste paper; to the utter confusion of all trade and dealings, and the ruin of multitudes, merely to avoid paying their own just tax;—words may be wanting to express, but minds will easily conceive, and never without abhorrence.
The second amendment proposed by their lordships was: “That the located uncultivated lands belonging to the proprietaries shall not be assessed higher than the lowest rate at which any located uncultivated lands belonging to the inhabitants shall be assessed.” Had there been any provision in the act, that the proprietaries’ lands and those of the people, of the same value, should be taxed differently, the one high and the other low, the act might well have been called in this particular “fundamentally wrong and unjust.” But, as there is no such clause, this cannot be one of the particulars on which the charge is founded; but, like the first, is merely a requisition to make the act clear; by express directions therein, that the proprietaries’ estate should not be, as they pretended to believe it would be, taxed higher in proportion to its value than the estates of others. As to their present claim, founded on that article, “that the best and most valuable of their lands should be taxed no higher than the worst and least valuable of the people’s,” it was not then thought of; they made no such demand; nor did any one dream that so iniquitous a claim would ever be made by men who had the least pretence to the characters of honorable and honest.
The third particular was: “That all lands, not granted by the proprietaries within boroughs and towns, be deemed located uncultivated lands, and rated accordingly, and not as lots.” The clause in the act that this relates to is: “And whereas many valuable lots of ground within the city of Philadelphia and the several boroughs and towns within this province remain unimproved; be it enacted, &c., that all such unimproved lots of ground within the city and boroughs aforesaid shall be rated and assessed according to their situation and value, for and towards raising the money hereby granted.” The reader will observe, that the word is, all unimproved lots; and that all comprehends the lots belonging to the people, as well as those of the proprietary. There were many of the former; and a number belonging even to members of the then assembly; and, considering the value, the tax must be proportionably as grievous to them, as the proprietary’s to him.
Is there among us a single man, even a proprietary relation, officer, or dependant, so insensible of the differences of right and wrong, and so confused in his notions of just and unjust, as to think and say, that the act in this particular was “fundamentally wrong and unjust”? I believe not one. What, then, could their lordships mean by the proposed amendment? Their meaning is easily explained. The proprietaries have considerable tracts of land within the bounds of boroughs and towns, that have not yet been divided into lots. They pretended to believe, that by virtue of this clause an imaginary division would be made of those lands into lots, and an extravagant value set on such imaginary lots, greatly to their prejudice. It was answered, that no such thing was intended by the act; and that by “lots” was meant only such ground as had been surveyed and divided into lots, and not the open undivided lands. If this only is intended, say their lordships, then let the act be amended, so as clearly to express what is intended. This is the full amount of the third particular. How the act was understood here, is well known by the execution of it, before the dispute came on in England, and therefore before their lordships’ opinion on the point could be given; of which full proof shall presently be made. In the meantime it appears, that the act was not on this account “fundamentally wrong and unjust.”
The fourth particular is: “That the governor’s consent and approbation be made necessary to every issue and application of the money, to be raised by virtue of such act.” The assembly intended this, and thought they had done it in the act. The words of the clause being: “That [the commissioners named], or the major part of them, or of the survivors of them, with the consent or approbation of the governor or commander-in-chief of this province for the time being, shall order and appoint the dispositions of the moneys arising by virtue of this act, for and towards paying and clothing two thousand seven hundred effective men,” &c. It was understood here, that as the power of disposing was expressly to be with the consent and approbation of the governor, the commissioners had no power to dispose of the money without that approbation. But their lordships, jealous (as their station requires) of this prerogative of the crown, and being better acquainted with the force and weakness of law expression, did not think the clause explicit enough, unless the words “and not otherwise” were added, or some other words equivalent. This particular, therefore, was no more than another requisition of greater clearness and precision, and by no means a foundation for the charge of “fundamentally wrong and unjust.”
The fifth particular was: “That provincial commissioners be named, to hear and determine appeals, brought on the part of the inhabitants, as well as the proprietaries.” There was already subsisting a provision for the appointment of county commissioners of appeal, by whom the act might be, and actually has been (as we shall presently show), justly and impartially executed with regard to the proprietaries; but provincial commissioners appointed in the act it was thought might be of use in regulating and equalizing the modes of assessment of different counties where they were unequal, and, by affording a second appeal, tend more to the satisfaction both of the proprietaries and the people. This particular was, therefore, a mere proposed improvement of the act; which could not be, and was not, in this respect, denominated “fundamentally wrong and unjust.”
We have now gone through five of the six proposed amendments, without discovering any thing on which that censure could be founded; but the sixth remains, which points at a part of the act wherein we must candidly acknowledge there is something that, in their lordships’ view of it, must justify their judgment. The words of the sixth article are: “That the payments by the tenants to the proprietaries of their rents shall be according to the term of their respective grants; as if such act had never been passed.” This relates to that clause of the act by which the paper money was made a legal tender in “discharge of all manner of debts, rents, sum and sums of money whatsoever, &c., at the rates ascertained in the act of Parliament made in the sixth of Queen Anne.”
From the great injustice frequently done to creditors, and complained of from the colonies, by the vast depreciation of paper bills, it was become a general fixed principle with the ministry, that such bills (whose value though fixed in the act, could not be kept fixed by the act) ought not to be made a legal tender in any colony at those rates. The Parliament had before passed an act to take that tender away in the four New England colonies, and have since made the act general. This was what their lordships would therefore have proposed for the amendment. But, it being represented that the chief support of the credit of the bills was the legal tender, and that without it they would become of no value, it was allowed generally to remain, with an exception to the proprietaries’ rents, where there was a special contract for payment in another coin. It cannot be denied but that this was doing justice to the proprietaries; and that had the requisition been in favor of all other creditors also, the justice had been equal, as being general. We do not therefore presume to impeach their lordship’s judgment, that the act, as it enforced the acceptance of bills for money at a value which they had only nominally, and not really, was in that respect “fundamentally wrong and unjust.”
And yet we believe the reader will not think the assembly so much to blame, when he considers that the making paper bills a legal tender had been the universal mode in America for more than threescore years; that there was scarce a colony that had not practised that mode more or less; that it had always been thought absolutely necessary, in order to give the bills a credit, and thereby obtain from them the uses of money; that the inconveniences were therefore submitted to, for the sake of the greater conveniences; that acts innumerable of the like kind had been approved by the crown; and that, if the assembly made the bills a legal tender at those rates to the proprietaries, they made them also a legal tender to themselves, and all their constituents, many of whom might suffer in their rents, &c., as much in proportion to their estates as the proprietaries.
But, if he cannot on these considerations quite excuse the assembly, what will he think of those honorable proprietaries, who, when paper money was issued in their colony for the common defence of their vast estates with those of the people, and who must therefore reap at least equal advantages from those bills with the people, could nevertheless wish to be exempted from their share of the unavoidable disadvantages. Is there upon earth a man besides, with any conception of what is honest, with any notion of honor, with the least tincture in his veins of the gentleman, but would have blushed at the thought, but would have rejected with disdain such undue preference, if it had been offered him? Much less would he have struggled for it, moved heaven and earth to obtain it, resolved to ruin thousands of his tenants by a repeal of the act, rather than miss of it,1 and enforce it afterwards by an audaciously wicked instruction; forbidding aids to his King, and exposing the province to destruction, unless it was complied with. And yet, these are honorable men.2
Here, then, we have had a full view of the assembly’s injustice, about which there has been so much insolent triumph. But let the proprietaries and their discreet deputies hereafter recollect and remember, that the same august tribunal, which censured some of the modes and circumstances of that act, did at the same time establish and confirm the grand principle of the act, namely: “That the proprietary estate ought, with other estates, to be taxed”; and thereby did, in effect, determine and pronounce, that the opposition so long made in various shapes to that just principle, by the proprietaries, was “fundamentally wrong and unjust.” An injustice they were not, like the assembly, under any necessity of committing for the public good; or any other necessity, but what was imposed on them by those base passions that act the tyrant in bad minds—their selfishness, their pride, and their avarice.
I have frequently mentioned the equitable intentions of the House in those parts of the act that were supposed obscure, and how they were understood here. A clear proof thereof is found, as I have already said, in the actual execution of the act; in the execution of it before the contest about it in England, and therefore before their lordships’ objections to it had a being. When the report came over, and was laid before the House, one year’s tax had been levied, and the assembly, conscious that no injustice had been intended to the proprietaries, and willing to rectify it if any should appear, appointed a committee of members from the several counties to examine into the state of the proprietaries’ taxes throughout the province, and nominated on that committee a gentleman of known attachment to the proprietaries, and their chief justice, Mr. Allen, to the end that the strictest inquiry might be made. Their report was as follows:
“We, the committee appointed to inquire into and consider the state of the proprietary taxation through the several counties, and report the same to the House, have, in pursuance of the said appointment, carefully examined the returns of property, and compared them with the respective assessments thereon made through the whole province, and find—
First, that no part of the unsurveyed waste lands belonging to the proprietaries, have, in any instance, been included in the estates taxed.
Secondly, that some of the located uncultivated lands belonging to the proprietaries, in several counties, remain unassessed; and are not in any county assessed higher than the lands under like circumstances belonging to the inhabitants.
Thirdly, that all lands not granted by the proprietaries, within boroughs and towns, remain untaxed, excepting in a few instances, and in those they are rated as low as the lands which are granted in the said boroughs and towns.
The whole of the proprietary tax of eighteen pence in the pound, amounts to £566 4s. 10d. And the sum of the tax on the inhabitants for the same year amounts, through the several counties, to £27,103 12s. 8d. And it is the opinion of your committee that there has not been any injustice done to the proprietaries, or attempts made to rate or assess any part of their estates higher than the estates of the like kind belonging to the inhabitants are rated and assessed; but, on the contrary, we find that their estates are rated, in many instances, below others.
The House communicated this report to Governor Hamilton, when he afterwards pressed them to make the stipulated act of amendment; acquainting him, at the same time, that, as in the execution of the act no injustice had hitherto been done to the proprietary, so, by a yearly inspection of the assessments, they would take care that none should be done him; for that, if any should appear, or the governor could at any time point out to them any that had been done, they would immediately rectify it; and therefore, as the act was shortly to expire, they did not think the amendments necessary. Thus that matter ended during that administration.
And had his successor, Governor Penn, permitted it still to sleep, we are of opinion it had been more to the honor of the family, and of his own discretion. But he was pleased to found upon it a claim manifestly unjust, and which he was totally destitute of reason to support. A claim that the proprietaries’ best and most valuable located uncultivated lands should be taxed no higher than the worst and least valuable of those belonging to the inhabitants; to enforce which, as he thought the words of one of the stipulations seemed to give some countenance to it, he insisted on using those very words as sacred; from which he could, “neither in decency or in duty,” deviate; though he had agreed to deviate from words in the same report, and therefore equally sacred in every other instance. A conduct which will (as the Prefacer says in Governor Denny’s case) for ever disgrace the annals of his administration.1
Never did any administration open with a more promising prospect than this of Governor Penn. He assured the people in his first speeches of the proprietaries’ paternal regard for them, and their sincere dispositions to do every thing that might promote their happiness. As the proprietaries had been pleased to appoint a son of the family to the government, it was thought not unlikely that there might be something in these professions; for that they would probably choose to have his administration made easy and agreeable, and to that end might think it prudent to withdraw those harsh, disagreeable, and unjust instructions with which most of his predecessors had been hampered.
The assembly, therefore, believed fully, and rejoiced sincerely. They showed the new governor every mark of respect and regard that was in their power. They readily and cheerfully went into every thing he recommended to them. And when he and his authority were insulted and endangered by a lawless, murdering mob, they and their friends took arms at his call, and formed themselves round him for his defence and the support of his government.
But when it was found that those mischievous instructions still subsisted, and were even farther extended; when the governor began, unprovoked, to send the House affronting messages, seizing every imaginable occasion of reflecting on their conduct; when every other symptom appeared of fixed, deep-rooted, family malice, which could but a little while bear the unnatural covering that had been thrown over it, what wonder is it if all the old wounds broke out and bled afresh; if all the old grievances, still unredressed, were recollected; if despair succeeded of seeing any peace with a family that could make such returns to all their overtures of kindness. And when, in the very proprietary council, composed of staunch friends of the family, and chosen for their attachment to it, it was observed that the old men (1 Kings, ch. xii.) withdrew themselves, finding their opinion slighted, and that all measures were taken by the advice of two or three young men (one of whom too denies his share in them); is it any wonder, since like causes produce like effects, if the assembly, notwithstanding all their veneration for the first proprietor, should say, with the children of Israel under the same circumstances: “What portion have we in David, or inheritance in the son of Jesse? To your tents, O Israel!”
Under these circumstances, and a conviction, that, while so many natural sources of difference subsisted between proprietaries and people, no harmony in government could long subsist (without which neither the commands of the crown could be executed, nor the public good promoted), the House resumed the consideration of a measure that had often been proposed in former assemblies; a measure that every proprietary province in America had, from the same causes, found themselves obliged to take, and had actually taken, or were about to take; and a measure that had happily succeeded wherever it was taken; I mean the recourse to an immediate royal government.
They, therefore, after a thorough debate, and making no less than twenty-five unanimous resolves, expressing the many grievances this province had long labored under, through the proprietary government, came to the following resolution, viz.: “Resolved, nemine contradicente, that this House will adjourn, in order to consult their constituents, whether an humble address should be drawn up and transmitted to his Majesty; praying that he would be graciously pleased to take the people of this province under his immediate protection and government; by completing the agreement heretofore made with the first proprietary for the sale of the government to the crown, or otherwise, as to his wisdom and goodness shall seem meet.”1
This they ordered to be made public, and it was published accordingly in all the newspapers. The House then adjourned for no less than seven weeks, to give their constituents time to consider the matter, and themselves an opportunity of taking their opinion and advice. Could any thing be more deliberate, more fair and open, or more respectful to the people that chose them? During this recess, the people in many places held little meetings with each other; the result of which was, that they would manifest their sentiments to their representatives, by petitioning the crown directly of themselves, and requesting the assembly to transmit and support those petitions. At the next meeting many of these petitions were delivered to the House with that request; they were signed by a very great number1 of the most substantial inhabitants; and not the least intimation was received by the assembly from any other of their constituents, that the method was disapproved; except in a petition from an obscure township in Lancaster county, to which there were about forty names indeed, but all evidently signed by three hands only.
What could the assembly infer from the expressed willingness of a part, and silence of the rest, but that the measure was universally agreeable? They accordingly resumed the consideration of it; and, though a small, very small opposition then appeared to it in the House, yet, as even that was founded, not on the impropriety of the thing, but on the supposed unsuitableness of the time or the manner, and a majority of nine tenths being still for it, a petition was drawn, agreeable to the former resolve, and ordered to be transmitted to his Majesty.
But the Prefacer tells us, that these petitioners for a change were a “number of rash, ignorant, and inconsiderate people,” and generally of a low rank. To be sure they were not of the proprietary officers, dependants, or expectants, and those are chiefly the people of high rank among us; but they were otherwise generally men of the best estates in the province, and men of reputation. The assembly, who come from all parts of the country, and therefore may be supposed to know them, at least as well as the Prefacer, have given that testimony of them. But what is the testimony of the assembly, who, in his opinion are equally rash, ignorant, and inconsiderate with the petitioners? And, if his judgment is right, how imprudently and contrary to their charter have his three hundred thousand souls acted in their elections of assembly men, these twenty years past; for the charter requires them to choose men of most note for virtue, wisdom, and ability.
But these are qualities engrossed it seems by the proprietary party. For, they say: “The wiser and better part of the province had far different notions of this measure; they considered that the moment they put their hands to these petitions they might be surrendering up their birthright.” I felicitate them on the honor they have thus bestowed upon themselves; on the sincere compliments thus given and accepted; and on their having with such noble freedom discarded the snivelling pretence to modesty, couched in that threadbare form of words, “Though we say it, that should not say it.” But is it not surprising that, during the seven weeks’ recess of the assembly, expressly to consult their constituents on the expediency of this measure, and during the fourteen days the House sat deliberating on it after they met again, these their wisdoms and betternesses should never be so kind as to communicate the least scrap of their prudence, their knowledge, or their consideration to their rash, ignorant, and inconsiderate representatives? Wisdom in the mind is not like money in the purse, diminished by communication to others; they might have lighted up our farthing candles for us, without lessening the blaze of their own flambeaux. But they suffered our representatives to go on in the dark till the fatal deed was done; and the petition sent to the King, praying him to take the government of this province into his immediate care; whereby, if it succeeds, “our glorious plan of public liberty and charter of privileges is to be bartered away,” and we are to be made slaves forever. Cruel parsimony! to refuse the charity of a little understanding, when God had given you so much, and the assembly begged it as an alms. O that you had but for once remembered and observed the counsel of that wise poet, Pope, where he says,
In the constitution of our government and in that of one more, there still remains a particular thing that none of the other American governments have—to wit, the appointment of a governor by the proprietors, instead of an appointment by the crown. This particular in government has been found inconvenient, attended with contentions and confusions wherever it existed, and has therefore been gradually taken away from colony after colony, and everywhere greatly to the satisfaction and happiness of the people.
Our wise first proprietor and founder was fully sensible of this; and being desirous of leaving his people happy, and preventing the mischiefs that he foresaw must in time arise from that circumstance, if it was continued; he determined to take it away, if possible, during his own lifetime. They accordingly entered into a contract for the sale of the proprietary right of government to the crown, and annually received a sum in part of the consideration. As he found himself likely to die before that contract (and with it his plan for the happiness of his people) could be completed, he carefully made it part of his last will and testament, devising the right of the government to two noble lords, in trust, that they should release it to the crown. Unfortunately for us, this has never yet been done. And this is merely what the assembly now desire to have done.
Surely he that formed our constitution, must have understood it. If he had imagined, that all our privileges depended on the proprietary government, will any one suppose that he would himself have meditated the change; that he would have taken such effectual measures as he thought them, to bring it about speedily, whether he should live or die? Will any of those who now extol him so highly, charge him at the same time with the baseness of endeavouring thus to defraud his people of all the liberties and privileges he had promised them, and by the most solemn charters and grants assured to them, when he engaged them to assist him in the settlement of his province? Surely none can be so inconsistent. And yet this proprietary right of governing or appointing a governor has all of a sudden changed its nature; and the preservation of it become of so much importance to the welfare of the province, that the assembly’s only petitioning to have their venerable founder’s will executed, and the contract he entered into for the good of his people completed, is styled an “attempt to violate the constitution for which our fathers planted a wilderness; to barter away our glorious plan of public liberty and charter privileges; a risking of the whole constitution; an offering up our whole charter rights; a wanton sporting with things sacred,” &c.
Pleasant surely it is to hear the proprietary partisans, of all men, brawling for the constitution, and affecting a terrible concern for our liberties and privileges. They, who have been these twenty years cursing our constitution, declaring that it was no constitution, or worse than none; and that things could never be well with us till it was new modelled, and made exactly conformable to the British constitution; they who have treated our distinguishing privileges as so many illegalities and absurdities; who have solemnly declared in print, that, though such privileges might be proper in the infancy of a colony to encourage its settlement, they became unfit for it in its grown state, and ought to be taken away; they who, by numberless falsehoods, propagated with infinite industry in the mother country, attempted to procure an act of Parliament for the actual depriving a very great part of the people of their privileges; they, too, who have already deprived the whole people of some of their most important rights, and are daily endeavouring to deprive them of the rest; are these become patriots and advocates of our constitution? Wonderful change! Astonishing conversion! Will the wolves then protect the sheep, if they can but persuade them to give up their dogs? Yes; the assembly would destroy all their own rights and those of the people, and the proprietary partisans are become the champions for liberty. Let those who have faith now make use of it; for, if it is rightly defined “the evidence of things not seen,” certainly never was there more occasion for such evidence, the case being totally destitute of all other.
It has been long observed that men are, with that party, angels or demons, just as they happen to concur with or oppose their measures. And I mention it for the comfort of old sinners, that in politics, as well as in religion, repentance and amendment, though late, shall obtain forgiveness and procure favor. Witness the late Speaker, Mr. Norris; a steady and constant opposer of all the proprietary encroachments, and whom, for thirty years past, they have been therefore continually abusing, allowing him no one virtue or good quality whatsoever; but now, as he showed some unwillingness to engage in this present application to the crown, he is become all at once the “faithful servant.” But let me look at the text, to avoid mistakes; and, indeed, I was mistaken; I thought it had been “faithful servant of the public,” but I find it is only “of the House.” Well chosen, that expression, and prudently guarded. The former, from a proprietary pen, would have been praise too much; only for disapproving the time of the application. Could you, much respected Sir, go but a little farther, and disapprove the application itself; could you but say the proprietary government is a good one, and ought to be continued; then might all your political offences be done away, and your scarlet sins become as snow and wool; then might you end your course with (proprietary) honor. P—— should preach your funeral sermon, and S——, the poisoner of other characters, embalm your memory. But those honors you will never receive; for, with returning health and strength, you will be found in your old post, firm for your country.
There is encouragement too for young sinners. Mr. Dickinson, whose speech our Prefacer has introduced to the world (though long hated by some, and disregarded by the rest, of the proprietary faction), is at once, for the same reason as in Mr. Norris’s case, become a sage in the law, and an oracle in matters relating to our constitution. I shall not endeavour to pluck so much as a leaf from these the young gentleman’s laurels. I would only advise him carefully to preserve the panegyrics with which they have adorned him; in time they may serve to console him, by balancing the calumny they shall load him with, when he does not go through with them in all their measures. He will not probably do the one, and they will then assuredly do the other. There are mouths that can blow hot as well as cold, and blast on your brows the bays their hands have placed there. Experto crede Roberto. Let but the proprietary favor withdraw its shine for a moment; and that “great number of the principal gentlemen of Philadelphia,” who applied to you for the copy of your speech, shall immediately despise and desert you.
“Those principal gentlemen!” what a pity it is that their names were not given us in the Preface, together with their admirable letter. We should then have known where to run for advice on all occasions. We should have known whom to choose for our future representatives; for undoubtedly these were they that are elsewhere called “the wiser and better part of the province.” None but wisdoms could have known beforehand that a speech which they never heard, and a copy of which they had never seen, but were then requesting to see, was “a spirited defence,” and “of our charter privileges”; and that “the publication of it would be of great utility, and give general satisfaction.” No inferior sagacity could discover, that the appointment of a governor by the proprietor was one of our “charter privileges”; and that those who opposed the application for a royal government were therefore patriot members appearing on the side of our privileges and our charter.
Utterly to confound the assembly, and show the excellence of proprietary government, the Prefacer has extracted from their own votes the praises they have from time to time bestowed on the first proprietor, in their addresses to his sons. And, though addresses are not generally the best repositories of historical truth, we must not in this instance deny their authority.1
That these encomiums on the father, though sincere, have occurred so frequently, was owing, however, to two causes: first, a vain hope the assemblies entertained, that the father’s example, and the honors done his character, might influence the conduct of the sons; secondly, for that, in attempting to compliment the sons on their own merits, there was always found an extreme scarcity of matter. Hence, the father, the honored and honorable father, was so often repeated, that the sons themselves grew sick of it and have been heard to say to each other with disgust, when told that A, B, and C were come to wait upon them with addresses on some public occasion, “Then I suppose we shall hear more about our father.” So that, let me tell the Prefacer, who perhaps was unacquainted with this anecdote, that if he hoped to curry more favor with the family, by the inscription he has framed for that great man’s monument, he may find himself mistaken; for there is too much in it of our father.
If, therefore, he would erect a monument to the sons, the votes of the assembly, which are of such credit with him, will furnish him with ample materials for his inscription.
To save him trouble I will essay a sketch for him, in the lapidary style, though mostly in the expressions, and everywhere in the sense and spirit, of the assembly’s resolves and messages.
Be this a Memorial
Of T——— and R——— P——,
P——— of P———,1
Who, with estates immense,
Almost beyond computation,
When their own province,
And the whole British empire,
Were engaged in a bloody and most expensive war,
Begun for the defence of those estates,
Could yet meanly desire
To have those very estates
Totally or partially
Exempted from taxation,
While their fellow-subjects all around them,
Under the universal burden.
To gain this point,
They refused the necessary laws
For the defence of their people,
And suffered their colony to welter in its blood,
Rather than abate in the least
Of these their dishonest pretensions.
The privileges granted by their father,
Wisely and benevolently
To encourage the first settlers of the province,
Foolishly and cruelly,
Taking advantage of public distress.
Have extorted from the posterity of those settlers;
And are daily endeavouring to reduce them
To the most abject slavery;
Though to the virtue and industry of those people,
In improving their country,
They owe all that they possess and enjoy.
A striking instance
Of human depravity and ingratitude;
And an irrefragable proof,
That wisdom and goodness
Do not descend with an inheritance;
But that ineffable meanness
May be connected with unbounded fortune.1
What then avails it to the honor of the present proprietors that our founder and their father gave us privileges, if they, the sons, will not permit the use of them, or forcibly rend them from us? David may have been a man after God’s own heart, and Solomon, the wisest of the proprietors and governors, but if Rehoboam will be a tyrant and a ——, who can secure him the affections of the people? The virtue and merit of his ancestors may be very great; but his presumption in depending upon these alone may be much greater.
I lamented a few pages ago that we were not acquainted with the names of those “principal gentlemen, the wiser and better part of the province.” I now rejoice that we are likely some time or other to know them; for a copy of a “Petition to the King” is now before me, which, from its similarity with their letter, must be of their inditing, and will probably be recommended to the people by their leading up the signing.
On this petition I shall take the liberty of making a few remarks, as they will save me the necessity of following farther the Preface, the sentiments of this and that being nearly the same.
It begins with a formal quotation from the petition,1 which they own they have not seen, and of words that are not in it; and, after relating very imperfectly and unfairly the fact relating to their application for a copy of it, which is of no importance, proceeds to set forth: “That, as we and all your American subjects must be governed by persons authorized and approved by your Majesty, on the best recommendation that can be obtained of them, we cannot perceive our condition in this respect to be different from our fellow-subjects around us; or that we are thereby less under your Majesty’s particular care and protection than they are; since there can be no governors of this province without your Majesty’s immediate approbation and authority.”
Such a declaration from the wiser part of the province is really a little surprising. What! when disputes concerning matters of property are daily arising between you and your proprietaries, cannot your wisdoms perceive the least difference between having the judges of those disputes appointed by a royal governor who has no interest in the cause, and having them appointed by the proprietaries themselves, the principal parties against you, and during their pleasure too? When supplies are necessary to be raised for your defence, can you perceive no difference between having a royal governor, free to promote his Majesty’s service by a ready assent to your laws, and a proprietary governor, shackled by instructions forbidding him to give that assent unless some private advantage is obtained, some profit got, or unequal exemption gained for their estate, or some privilege wrested from you? When prerogative, that in other governments is only used for the good of the people, is here strained to the extreme, and used to their prejudice and the proprietaries’ benefit, can you perceive no difference? When the direct and immediate rays of Majesty benignly and mildly shine on all around us, but are transmitted and thrown upon us through the burning-glass of proprietary government, can your sensibilities feel no difference? Sheltered perhaps in proprietary offices, or benumbed with expectations, it may be you cannot. But surely you might have known better than to tell his Majesty, “that there can be no governors of this province without his immediate approbation.” Don’t you know, who know so much, that by our blessed constitution the proprietors themselves, whenever they please, may govern us in person, without such approbation?
The petition proceeds to tell his Majesty, “That the particular mode of government which we enjoy under your Majesty, is held in the highest estimation by good men of all denominations among us; and has brought multitudes of industrious people from various parts of the world,” &c. Really, can this be from proprietary partisans? That constitution, which they were forever censuring, as defective in a legislative council, defective in government powers, too popular in many of its modes; is it now become so excellent? Perhaps, as they have been tinkering it these twenty years, till they have stripped it of some of its most valuable privileges, and almost spoiled it, they now begin to like it. But then it is not surely this present constitution that brought hither those multitudes. They came before. At least it was not that particular in our constitution (the proprietary power of appointing a governor) which attracted them; that single particular, which alone is now in question; which our venerable founder first, and now the assembly, are endeavouring to change.
As to the remaining valuable part of our constitution, the assembly have been equally full and strong in expressing their regard for it, and perhaps stronger and fuller; for their petition in that respect is in the nature of a petition of right; it lays claim, though modestly and humbly, to those privileges on the foundation of royal rights, on laws confirmed by the crown and on justice and equity; as the grants were the considerations offered to induce them to settle, and which they have in a manner purchased and paid for, by executing that settlement without putting the crown to any expense.
Whoever would know what our constitution was, when it was so much admired, let him peruse that elegant farewell speech of Mr. Hamilton, father of our late governor, when, as Speaker, he took his leave of the House, and of public business, in 1739; and then let him compare that constitution with the present. The power of appointing public officers by the representatives of the people, which he so much extols; where is it now? Even the bare naming to the governor in a bill, a trivial officer to receive a light-house duty (which could be considered as no more than a mere recommendation), is, in a late message, styled “an encroachment on the prerogative of the crown.” The sole power of raising and disposing of public money, which he says was then lodged in the assembly; that inestimable privilege, what is become of it? Inch by inch they have been wrested from us in times of public distress; and the rest are going the same way. I remember to have seen, when Governor Hamilton was engaged in a dispute with the assembly on some of those points, a copy of that speech, which then was intended to be reprinted, with a dedication to that honorable gentleman, and this motto, from John Rogers’s verses in the Primer:
Many such a little book has been sent by our assemblies to the present proprietaries; but they do not like to see their father’s face; it puts their own out of countenance.
The petition proceeds to say: “That such disagreements as have arisen in this province, we have beheld with sorrow; but, as others around us are not exempted from the like misfortunes, we can by no means conceive them incident to the nature of our government, which hath often been administered with remarkable harmony; and your Majesty, before whom our late disputes have been laid, can be at no loss, in your great wisdom to discover, whether they proceed from the above cause, or should be ascribed to some others.” The disagreements in question are proprietary disagreements in government, relating to proprietary private interests. And are not the royal governments around us exempt from these misfortunes? Can you really, Gentlemen, by no means conceive, that proprietary government disagreements are incident to the nature of proprietary governments? Can they in nature be incident to any other governments? If your wisdoms are hard to conceive, I am afraid they will never bring forth.
But then our government “hath often been administered with remarkable harmony.” Very true; as often as the assembly have been able and willing to purchase that harmony, and pay for it; the mode of which has already been shown. And yet that word often seems a little unluckily chosen; the flame that is often put out must be as often lit. If our government “hath often been administered with remarkable harmony,” it hath as often been administered with remarkable discord. One often is as numerous as the other. And his Majesty, if he should take the trouble of looking over our disputes (to which the petitioners, to save themselves a little pains, modestly and decently refer him), where will he, for twenty years past, find any but proprietary disputes concerning proprietary interests, or disputes that have been connected with and arose from them?
The petition proceeds to assure his Majesty, “that this province (except from the Indian ravages) enjoys the most perfect internal tranquillity.” Amazing! What! the most perfect tranquillity, when there have been three atrocious riots within a few months! When, in two of them, horrid murders were committed on twenty innocent persons; and, in the third, no less than one hundred and forty like murders were meditated, and declared to be intended, with as many more as should be occasioned by any opposition! When we know, that these rioters and murderers have none of them been punished, have never been prosecuted, have not even been apprehended; when we are frequently told that they intend still to execute their purposes as soon as the protection of the King’s forces is withdrawn! Is our tranquillity more perfect now than it was between the first riot and the second, or between the second and the third? And why “except the Indian ravages,” if a little intermission is to be denominated “the most perfect tranquillity”? for the Indians too have been quiet lately. Almost as well might ships in an engagement talk of the “most perfect tranquillity” between two broadsides. But “a spirit of riot and violence is foreign to the general temper of the inhabitants.” I hope and believe it is; the assembly have said nothing to the contrary. And yet is there not too much of it? Are there not pamphlets continually written, and daily sold in our streets, to justify and encourage it? Are not the mad armed mob in those writings instigated to embrue their hands in the blood of their fellow citizens, by first applauding their murder of the Indians, and then representing the assembly and their friends as worse than Indians, as having privately stirred up the Indians to murder the white people, and armed and rewarded them for that purpose? Lies, Gentlemen, villanous as ever the malice of hell invented, and which, to do you justice, not one of you believes, though you would have the mob believe them.
But your petition proceeds to say, “that where such disturbances have happened, they have been speedily quieted.” By whom were they quieted? The two first, if they can be said to be quieted, were quieted only by the rioters themselves going home quietly (that is, without any interruption), and remaining there till their next insurrection, without any pursuit or attempt to apprehend any of them. And the third, was it quieted, or was the mischief they intended prevented, or could it have been prevented, without the aid of the King’s troops, marched into the province for that purpose? “The civil powers have been supported,” in some sort. We all know how they were supported; but have they been fully supported? Has the government sufficient strength, even with all its supports, to venture on the apprehending and punishment of those notorious offenders? If it has not, why are you angry at those who would strengthen its hands by a more immediate royal authority? If it has, why is not the thing done? Why will the government, by its conduct, strengthen the suspicions (groundless no doubt), that it has come to a private understanding with those murderers, and that impunity for their past crimes is to be the reward of their future political services? Oh, but says the petition, “There are perhaps cases in all governments, where it may not be possible speedily to discover offenders.” Probably; is there any case in any government where it is not possible to endeavour such a discovery? There may be cases where it is not safe to do it. And perhaps the best thing our government can say for itself is, that that is our case. The only objection to such an apology must be, that it would justify that part of the assembly’s petition to the crown which relates to the weakness of our present government.1
Still, if there is any fault, it must be in the assembly. “For,” says the petition, “if the executive part of our government should seem in any case too weak, we conceive it is the duty of the assembly, and in their power, to strengthen it.” This weakness, however, you have just denied. “Disturbances,” you say, “have been speedily quieted, and the civil power supported”; and thereby you have deprived your insinuated charge against the assembly of its only support. But is it not a fact known to you all, that the assembly did endeavour to strengthen the hands of the government? That, at his Honor’s instance, they prepared and passed in a few hours a bill for extending hither the act of Parliament for dispersing rioters? That they also passed and presented to him a militia bill, which he refused, unless powers were thereby given him over the lives and properties of the inhabitants, which the public good did not require, and which their duty to their constituents would not permit them to trust in the hands of any proprietary governor? You know the points, Gentlemen; they have been made public. Would you have had your representatives give up those points? Do you intend to give them up, when at the next election you are made assembly-men? If so, tell it us honestly beforehand, that we may know what we are to expect, when we are about to choose you.
I come now to the last clause of your petition, where, with the same wonderful sagacity with which you in another case discovered the excellency of a speech you never heard, you undertake to characterize a petition you own you never saw; and venture to assure his Majesty, that it is “exceeding grievous in its nature; that it by no means contains a proper representation of the state of this province; and is repugnant to the general sense of his numerous and loyal subjects” in it. Are, then, his Majesty’s numerous and loyal subjects in this province all as great wizards as yourselves, and capable of knowing, without seeing it, that a petition is repugnant to their general sense?
But the inconsistence of your petition, Gentlemen, is not so much to be wondered at. The prayer of it is still more extraordinary: “We therefore most humbly pray, that your Majesty would be graciously pleased wholly to disregard the said petition of the assembly.” What! without inquiry! Without examination! without a hearing of what the assembly might say in support of it! “wholly disregard” the petition of your representatives in assembly; accompanied by other petitions signed by thousands of your fellow subjects, as loyal, if not as wise and as good as yourselves! Would you wish to see your great and amiable prince act a part that could not become a Dey of Algiers? Do you, who are Americans, pray for a precedent of such contempt in the treatment of an American assembly? Such “total disregard” of their humble applications to the throne? Surely your Wisdoms here have overshot yourselves. But as wisdom shows itself, not only in doing what is right, but in confessing and amending what is wrong, I recommend the latter particularly to your present attention, being persuaded of this consequence, that, though you have been mad enough to sign such a petition, you never will be fools enough to present it.
There is one thing mentioned in the Preface, which I find I omitted to take notice of as I came along, the refusal of the House to enter Mr. Dickinson’s protest on their minutes. This is mentioned in such a manner there and in the newspapers, as to insinuate a charge of some partiality and injustice in the assembly. But the reasons were merely these: that, though protesting may be a practice with the Lords of Parliament, there is no instance of it in the House of Commons, whose proceedings are the model followed by the assemblies of America; that there is no precedent of it in our votes, from the beginning of our present constitution; and that the introducing such a practice would be attended with inconveniences, as the representatives in assembly are not, like the Lords in Parliament, unaccountable to any constituents; and would therefore find it necessary for their own justification, if the reasons of the minority for being against a measure were admitted in the votes, to put there likewise the reasons that induced the majority to be for it; whereby the votes which were intended only as a register of propositions and determinations, would be filled with the disputes of members with members, and the public business be thereby greatly retarded, if ever brought to a period.
As that protest was a mere abstract of Mr. Dickinson’s speech, every particular of it will be found answered in the following speech of Mr. Galloway; from which it is fit that I should no longer detain the reader.
[2 ]While the petition to the king for a royal government in Pennsylvania was under discussion in the Assembly, Mr. John Dickinson made a speech against it, which was printed in a pamphlet, with a long preface by another hand. Mr. Galloway published a reply, entitled, The Speech of Joseph Galloway, One of the Members for Philadelphia County, in answer to the Speech of John Dickinson, delivered in the House of Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania, May 24th, 1764.” To this reply was prefixed this Preface, written by Dr. Franklin.—Editor.
[1 ]That is, to the assembly.—B. V.
[1 ]The act is entitled, “An Act for granting to his Majesty the sum of one hundred thousand pounds; striking the same in bills of credit, and sinking the bills by a tax on all estates real and personal.”
[1 ]The agents in England, whither the laws were sent to receive the king’s assent. Franklin was one of the agents in that country at the time the laws in question were sent out for approval.—Editor.
[1 ]This would have been done, and the money all sunk in the hands of the people, if the agents, Benjamin Franklin and Robert Charles, had not interposed, and voluntarily, without authority from the Assembly so to do, but at their own risk, undertaken that those amendments should be made, or that they themselves would indemnify the proprietaries from any damages they might sustain for want thereof. An action which, as the Prefacer says in another case, “posterity perhaps may find a name for.”
[2 ]It is not easy to guess from what source our proprietaries have drawn their principles. Those who study law and justice, as a science, have established it a maxim in equity, “Qui sentit commodum, sentire debet et onus.” And so consistent is this with the common sense of mankind, that even our lowest untaught cobblers and porters feel the force of it in their own maxim (which they are honest enough never to dispute), “Touch pot, touch penny.”
[1 ]For a fuller account of this dispute the reader is referred to the newspapers, and votes of assembly.
[1 ]These words, “by completing the agreement,” &c., are omitted by the honest Prefacer, in his account of the resolve, that they might not interfere with his insinuation of the measure’s being impracticable; “Have the proprietors, by any act of theirs, forfeited the least title of what was granted them by his Majesty’s royal ancestors? Or can they be deprived of their charter rights without their consent,” &c., sensible that these questions are impertinent, if those rights are already sold?
[1 ]The Prefacer, with great art, endeavours to represent this number as insignificant. He says the petitioners were but three thousand five hundred, and that the province contains near three hundred thousand souls. His reader is to imagine that two hundred and ninety-six thousand five hundred of them were applied to, and refused to sign it. The truth is, that his number of souls is vastly exaggerated. The dwelling-houses in the province, in 1752, did not exceed twenty thousand. Political arithmeticians reckon generally but five souls to a house, one house with another; and, therefore, allowing for houses since built, there are not probably more than a hundred and ten thousand souls in the province; that of these, scarce twenty-two thousand could with any propriety be petitioners. And, considering the scattered settlement of the province, the general inattention of mankind, especially in new countries, to public affairs, and the indefatigable pains taken by proprietaries’ new allies, the Presbyterian clergy of Philadelphia (who wrote circular letters to every congregation in the county, to deter them from petitioning, by dutiful intimations, that if we were reduced to a royal government, it would be the “ruin of the province”), it is a wonder the number (near a sixth part) was so great as it was. But if there had been no such petitions, it would not have been material to the point. The assembly went upon another foundation. They had adjourned to consult their constituents; they returned satisfied that the measure was agreeable to them, and nothing appeared to the contrary.
[1 ]In the preface to Dickinson’s speech, the following character of William Penn was inserted, every phrase in which was taken, as the writer said, from the minutes of the assembly.—Editor.
[1 ]That is, Thomas and Richard Penn, Proprietors of Pennsylvania.—Editor.
[1 ]Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1754, passim; 1755, 1756, 1757, passim; 1758, 1759, 1760, 1761, 1762, 1763, 1764, passim.
[1 ]The petition of the assembly to the King for a royal government.—Editor.
[1 ]The Assembly, being called upon by the Governor for their advice on that occasion, did, in a message, advise his sending for and examining the magistrates of Lancaster county and borough, where the murders were committed, in order to discover the actors; but neither that, nor any of the other measures recommended, were ever taken. Proclamations indeed were published, but soon discontinued.