Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1766: CCLXVIII: LETTER CONCERNING THE GRATITUDE OF AMERICA AND THE PROBABILITY AND EFFECTS OF A UNION WITH GREAT BRITAIN; AND CONCERNING THE REPEAL OR SUSPENSION OF THE STAMP ACT - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. IV Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768
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1766: CCLXVIII: LETTER CONCERNING THE GRATITUDE OF AMERICA AND THE PROBABILITY AND EFFECTS OF A UNION WITH GREAT BRITAIN; AND CONCERNING THE REPEAL OR SUSPENSION OF THE STAMP ACT - 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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LETTER CONCERNING THE GRATITUDE OF AMERICA
[London,] January 6, 1766.
I have attentively perused the paper you sent me, and am of opinion that the measure it proposes, of an union with the colonies, is a wise one; but I doubt it will hardly be thought so here, till it is too late to attempt it. The time has been, when the colonies would have esteemed it a great advantage, as well as honor, to be permitted to send members to Parliament; and would have asked for that privilege, if they could have had the least hopes of obtaining it. The time is now come when they are indifferent about it, and will probably not ask it, though they might accept it if offered them; and the time will come, when they will certainly refuse it. But if such an union were now established (which methinks it highly imports this country to establish) it would probably subsist as long as Britain shall continue a nation. This people, however, is too proud, and too much despises the Americans, to bear the thought of admitting them to such an equitable participation in the government of the whole.
Then the next best thing seems to be, leaving them in the quiet enjoyment of their respective constitutions; and when money is wanted for any public service, in which they ought to bear a part, calling upon them by requisitorial letters from the crown (according to the long-established custom) to grant such aids as their loyalty shall dictate, and their abilities permit. The very sensible and benevolent author of that paper seems not to have known, that such a constitutional custom subsists, and has always hitherto been practised in America; or he would not have expressed himself in this manner: “It is evident, beyond a doubt, to the intelligent and impartial, that after the very extraordinary efforts, which were effectually made by Great Britain in the late war to save the colonists from destruction, and attended of necessity with an enormous load of debts in consequence, that the same colonists, now firmly secured from foreign enemies, should be somehow induced to contribute some proportion towards the exigencies of state in future.” This looks as if he conceived the war had been carried on at the sole expense of Great Britain, and the colonies only reaped the benefit, without hitherto sharing the burden, and were therefore now indebted to Britain on that account. And this is the same kind of argument that is used by those who would fix on the colonies the heavy charge of unreasonableness and ingratitude, which I think your friend did not intend.
Please to acquaint him, then, that the fact is not so; that, every year during the war, requisitions were made by the crown on the colonies for raising money and men; that accordingly they made more extraordinary efforts, in proportion to their abilities, than Britain did; that they raised, paid, and clothed, for five or six years, near twenty-five thousand men, besides providing for other services, as building forts, equipping guard-ships, paying transports, &c. And that this was more than their fair proportion is not merely an opinion of mine, but was the judgment of government here, in full knowledge of all the facts; for the then ministry, to make the burden more equal, recommended the case to Parliament, and obtained a reimbursement to the Americans of about two hundred thousand pounds sterling every year; which amounted only to about two fifths of their expense; and great part of the rest lies still a load of debt upon them; heavy taxes on all their estates, real and personal, being laid by acts of their assemblies to discharge it, and yet will not discharge it in many years.
While, then, these burdens continue; while Britain restrains the colonies in every branch of commerce and manufactures that she thinks interferes with her own; while she drains the colonies, by her trade with them, of all the cash they can procure by every art and industry in any part of the world, and thus keeps them always in her debt (for they can make no law to discourage the importation of your to them ruinous superfluities, as you do the superfluities of France; since such a law would immediately be reported against by your Board of Trade, and repealed by the crown); I say while these circumstances continue, and while there subsists the established method of royal requisitions for raising money on them by their own assemblies on every proper occasion; can it be necessary or prudent to distress and vex them by taxes laid here, in a Parliament wherein they have no representative, and in a manner which they look upon to be unconstitutional and subversive of their most valuable rights? And are they to be thought unreasonable and ungrateful if they oppose such taxes?
Wherewith, they say, shall we show our loyalty to our gracious King, if our money is to be given by others, without asking our consent? And, if the Parliament has a right thus to take from us a penny in the pound, where is the line drawn that bounds that right, and what shall hinder their calling, whenever they please, for the other nineteen shillings and eleven pence? Have we then any thing that we can call our own? It is more than probable, that bringing representatives from the colonies to sit and act here as members of Parliament, thus uniting and consolidating your dominions, would in a little time remove these objections and difficulties, and make the future government of the colonies easy; but, till some such thing is done, I apprehend no taxes, laid there by Parliament here, will ever be collected, but such as must be stained with blood; and I am sure the profit of such taxes will never answer the expense of collecting them, and that the respect and affection of the Americans to this country will in the struggle be totally lost, perhaps never to be recovered; and therewith all the commercial and political advantages, that might have attended the continuance of this respect and this affection.
In my own private judgment, I think an immediate repeal of the Stamp Act would be the best measure for this country; but a suspension of it for three years the best for that. The repeal would fill them with joy and gratitude, reëstablish their respect and veneration for Parliament, restore at once their ancient and natural love for this country, and their regard for every thing that comes from it; hence the trade would be renewed in all its branches; they would again indulge in all the expensive superfluities you supply them with, and their new-assumed home industry would languish. But the suspension, though it might continue their fears and anxieties, would at the same time keep up their resolutions of industry and frugality; which in two or three years would grow into habits, to their lasting advantage. However, as the repeal will probably not be now agreed to,1 from what I think a mistaken opinion, that the honor and dignity of government is better supported by persisting in a wrong measure once entered into, than by rectifying an error as soon as it is discovered; we must allow the next best thing for the advantage of both countries is the suspension; for, as to executing the act by force, it is madness, and will be ruin to the whole.
The rest of your friend’s reasonings and propositions appear to me truly just and judicious. I will therefore only add, that I am as desirous of his acquaintance and intimacy as he was of my opinion.
I am, with much esteem,
|By the Speaker||Nos. 1, 2, inclusive.|
|By Mr. Huske||Nos. 3 to 42, inclusive.|
|By Lord Clare||Nos. 43 to 49, 98 to 103, inclusive.|
|By Mr. Townshend||Nos. 50 to 77, inclusive.|
|By Mr. Bourke||Nos. 78 to 89, 106, 107, inclusive.|
|By Mr. Greenwille||Nos. 90 to 97, 122 to 148, inclusive.|
|By Marquis of Granby||Nos. 104, 105, inclusive.|
|By Lord North||Nos. 108 to 121, 149 to 156, inclusive.|
|By Mr. Thurloe, King’s counsel-at-law||157 to 162, inclusive.|
|By Mr. Cooper, Secretary of the Treasury,||163 to 173, inclusive.|
In this list we do not find the names of Nugent, Ellis, Bacon, Saville, or Prescott, while in the other list we do not find the names of Lord Clare, Burke, Marquis of Granby, Lord North, or Thurlow.—Editor.
TO MRS. DEBORAH FRANKLIN
London, 22 February, 1766.
My Dear Child:—
I am excessively hurried, being, every hour that I am awake, either abroad to speak with members of Parliament, or taken up with people coming to me at home concerning our American affairs, so that I am much behindhand in answering my friends’ letters. But though I cannot by this opportunity write to others, I must not omit a line to you, who kindly write me so many. I am well. It is all I can say at present, except that I am just made very happy by a vote of the Commons for the repeal of the Stamp Act. Your ever loving husband,
TO MRS. DEBORAH FRANKLIN
London, 27 February, 1766.
My Dear Child:—
I wrote you a few days ago by Mr. Penrose, by way of Maryland, when I wrote also to the Speaker, to Mr. Galloway, Mr. Hughes, and Mr. Hall. I have now as little time as then to enlarge, having wrote besides to-day so much, that I am almost blind. But, by the March packet, I shall freely answer your late letters. Let the vaults alone till my return. As you have a woodyard, perhaps they may not be necessary. I send you some curious beans for your garden. Love to Sally, and all relations, and to all the ladies that do me the honor to inquire after me. I congratulate you on the soon expected repeal of the Stamp Act, and on the great share of health we both enjoy, though now going in fourscore, that is, in the fourth score. Mr. Whitefield called to-day, and tells me a surprising piece of news. Mr. Dunlap is come here from Barbadoes, was ordained deacon on Saturday last, and priest on Sunday. In haste, but very well. I am, my dear girl, your ever loving husband,
TO HUGH ROBERTS
London, 27 February, 1766.
I received your kind letter of November 27th. You cannot conceive how much good the cordial salutations of an old friend do the heart of a man so far from home, and hearing frequently of the abuses thrown on him in his absence by the enemies that party has raised against him. In the meantime, I hope I have done even those enemies some service in our late struggle for America. It has been a hard one, and we have been often between hope and despair; but now the day begins to clear. The ministry are fixed for us, and we have obtained a majority in the House of Commons for repealing the Stamp Act, and giving us ease in every commercial grievance. God grant that no bad news of farther excesses in America may arrive to strengthen our adversaries, and weaken the hands of our friends, before this good work is quite completed.
The partisans of the late ministry have been strongly crying out rebellion, and calling for force to be sent against America. The consequence might have been terrible; but milder measures have prevailed. I hope, nay, I am confident, America will show itself grateful to Britain on the occasion, and behave prudently and decently.
I have got a seal done for four guineas, which I shall send by a friend. My respects to good Mrs. Roberts and to your valuable son. Remember me affectionately to the Junto, and to all inquiring friends. Adieu, my dear friend. Your integrity will always make you happy. Believe me ever yours affectionately,
TO CHARLES THOMSON
London, 27 February, 1766.
My Good Friend and Neighbour:
I forgot whether I before acknowledged the receipt of your kind letter of September 24th. I gave an extract from it to a friend, with an extract from mine to which it was an answer, and he printed both in the London Chronicle, with an introduction of his own; and I have reprinted every thing from America that I thought might help our common cause.
We at length, after a long and hard struggle, have gained so much ground, that there is now little doubt the Stamp Act will be repealed, and reasonable relief given us besides, in our commercial grievances, and those relating to our currency. I trust the behaviour of the Americans on the occasion will be so prudent, decent, and grateful, as that their friends here will have no reason to be ashamed, and that our enemies, who predict that the indulgence of Parliament will only make us more insolent and ungovernable, may find themselves, and be found, false prophets.
My respects to Mrs. Thomson. I have not had the pleasure of hearing from you by any of the late opportunities, but am so bad a correspondent myself that I have no right to take exceptions, and am, nevertheless, your affectionate friend and very humble servant,
TO MRS. DEBORAH FRANKLIN
London, 6 April, 1766.
My Dear Child:—
As the Stamp Act is at length repealed, I am willing you should have a new gown, which you may suppose I did not send sooner, as I knew you would not like to be finer than your neighbors, unless in a gown of your own spinning. Had the trade between the two countries totally ceased, it was a comfort to me to recollect, that I had once been clothed from head to foot in woollen and linen of my wife’s manufacture, that I never was prouder of any dress in my life, and that she and her daughter might do it again if it was necessary. I told the Parliament that it was my opinion, before the old clothes of the Americans were worn out, they might have new ones of their own making. I have sent you a fine piece of Pompadour satin, fourteen yards, cost eleven shillings a yard; a silk negligée and petticoat of brocaded lutestring for my dear Sally, with two dozen gloves, four bottles of lavender water, and two little reels. The reels are to screw on the edge of the table, when she would wind silk or thread. The skein is to be put over them, and winds better than if held in two hands. There is also a gimcrack corkscrew, which you must get some brother gimcrack to show you the use of. In the chest is a parcel of books for my friend Mr. Coleman, and another for cousin Colbert. Pray did he receive those I sent him before? I send you also a box with three fine cheeses. Perhaps a bit of them may be left when I come home. Mrs. Stevenson has been very diligent and serviceable in getting these things together for you, and presents her best respects, as does her daughter, to both you and Sally. There are two boxes included in your bill of lading for Billy.
I received your kind letter of February 20th. It gives me great pleasure to hear, that our good old friend Mrs. Smith is on the recovery. I hope she has yet many happy years to live. My love to her. I fear, from the account you give of brother Peter, that he cannot hold out long. If it should please God that he leaves us before my return, I would have the post-office remain under the management of their son, till Mr. Foxcroft and I agree how to settle it.1
There are some droll prints in the box, which were given me by the painter, and, being sent when I was not at home, were packed up without my knowledge. I think he was wrong to put in Lord Bute, who had nothing to do with the Stamp Act. But it is the fashion to abuse that nobleman, as the author of all mischief. Love to Sally and all friends. I am, my dear Debby, your affectionate husband,
TO THOMAS RONAYNE, AT CORK1
London, 20 April, 1766.
I have received your very obliging and very ingenious letter by Captain Kearney. Your observations upon the electricity of fogs and the air in Ireland, and upon different circumstances of storms, appear to me very curious, and I thank you for them. There is not, in my opinion, any part of the earth whatever which is, or can be, naturally in a state of negative electricity; and, though different circumstances may occasion an inequality in the distribution of the fluid, the equilibrium is immediately restored by means of its extreme subtilty, and of the excellent conductors with which the humid earth is amply provided. I am of opinion, however, that when a cloud, well charged positively, passes near the earth, it repels and forces down into the earth that natural portion of electricity which exists near its surface and in buildings, trees, &c., so as actually to reduce them to a negative state before it strikes them. I am of opinion, too, that the negative state in which you have frequently found the balls which are suspended from your apparatus, is not always occasioned by clouds in a negative state; but more commonly by clouds positively electrified, which have passed over them, and which in their passage have repelled and driven off a part of the electrical matter which naturally existed in the apparatus; so that, what remained after the passing of the clouds diffusing itself uniformly through the apparatus, the whole became reduced to a negative state.
If you have read my experiments made in continuation of those of Mr. Canton, you will readily understand this; but you may easily make a few experiments, which will clearly demonstrate it. Let a common glass be warmed before the fire, that it may continue very dry for some time; set it upon a table, and place upon it the small box made use of by Mr. Canton, so that the balls may hang a little beyond the edge of the table. Rub another glass, which has previously been warmed in a similar manner, with a piece of black silk, or a silk handkerchief, in order to electrify it. Hold then the glass above the little box, at about the distance of three or four inches from that part which is most distant from the balls, and you will see the balls separate from each other; being positively electrified by the natural portion of electricity which was in the box, and which is driven to the farther part of it by the repulsive power of the atmosphere in the excited glass. Touch the box near the little balls (the excited glass continuing in the same state), and the balls will again unite; the quantity of electricity which had been driven to this part being drawn off by your finger. Withdraw then both your finger and the glass, at the same instant, and the quantity of electricity which had remained in the box, uniformly diffusing itself, the balls will again be separated, being now in a negative state. While things are in this situation, begin once more to excite your glass, and hold it above the box, but not too near, and you will find that, when it is brought within a certain distance, the balls will at first approach each other, being then in a natural state. In proportion as the glass is brought nearer, they will again separate, being positive. When the glass is moved beyond them, and at some little farther distance, they will unite again, being in a natural state. When it is entirely removed, they will separate again, being then negative. The excited glass in this experiment may represent a cloud positively charged, which you see is capable of producing in this manner all the different changes in the apparatus, without the least necessity for supposing any negative cloud.
I am nevertheless fully convinced, that there are negative clouds; because they sometimes absorb, through the medium of the apparatus, the positive electricity of a large jar, the hundreth part of which the apparatus itself would have not been able to receive or contain at once. In fact, it is not difficult to conceive that a large cloud, highly charged positively, may reduce smaller clouds to a negative state, when it passes above or near them, by forcing a part of their natural portion of the fluid either to their inferior surfaces, whence it may strike into the earth, or to the opposite side, whence it may strike into the adjacent clouds; so that, when the large cloud has passed off to a distance, the small clouds shall remain in a negative state, exactly like the apparatus; the former (like the latter) being frequently insulated bodies, having communication neither with the earth nor with other clouds. Upon the same principle it may easily be conceived in what manner a large negative cloud may render others positive.
The experiment which you mention, of filing your glass, is analogous to one which I made in 1751, or 1752. I had supposed in my preceding letters, that the pores of glass were smaller in the interior parts than near the surface, and that on this account they prevented the passage of the electrical fluid. To prove whether this was actually the case or not, I ground one of my phials in a part where it was extremely thin, grinding it considerably beyond the middle, and very near to the opposite superficies, as I found, upon breaking it after the experiment. It was charged nevertheless after being ground, equally well as before, which convinced me that my hypothesis on this subject was erroneous. It is difficult to conceive where the immense superfluous quantity of electricity on the charged side of a glass is deposited.
I send you my paper concerning Meteors, which was lately published here in the Philosophical Transactions, immediately after a paper by Mr. Hamilton on the same subject. I am, Sir, &c.,
TO JONATHAN WILLIAMS
London, 28 April, 1766.
I have received several of your kind favors since my arrival in England, the last by your good brother, the subject not in the least disagreeable, as you apprehend, but in truth it has not been at all in my power to do what you desired; if for no other reason, yet for this, that there has been no vacancy.
I congratulate you on the repeal of that mother of mischiefs, the Stamp Act, and on the ease we are likely to obtain in our commerce. My time has been extremely taken up, as you may imagine, in these general affairs of America, as well as in the particular one of our province. Yet I did not forget the Armonica for cousin Josiah; but, with all my endeavours, I have not been yet able to procure one. Here is only one man that makes them well; his price no less than thirty-four guineas, and he asks forty. I bid him one hundred guineas for three; he refused it. I then agreed to give him the thirty-four guineas for one. He promised to make it, now a twelve-month since. I have called on him often, till I am tired, and do not find that he has yet done a glass of it. If I could have got this, Josiah should have had it, or mine. But I fear it will not be got at all. . . .
TO CADWALLADER EVANS
London, 9 May, 1766.
I received your kind letter of March 3d, and thank you for the intelligence and hints it contained. I wonder at the complaint you mention. I always considered writing to the Speaker as writing to the Committee. But if it is more to their satisfaction that I should write to them jointly, it shall be done in the future.
My private opinion concerning a union in Parliament between the two countries is, that it would be best for the whole. But I think it will never be done. For though I believe that, if we had no more representatives than Scotland has, we should be sufficiently strong in the House to prevent, as they do for Scotland, any thing ever passing to our disadvantage, yet we are not able at present to furnish and maintain such a number, and, when we are more able, we shall be less willing than we are now. The Parliament here do at present think too highly of themselves to admit representatives from us, if we should ask it; and, when they will be desirous of granting it, we shall think too highly of ourselves to accept of it. It would certainly contribute to the strength of the whole, if Ireland and all the dominions were united and consolidated under one common council for general purposes, each retaining its particular council or parliament for its domestic concerns. But this should have been early provided for. In the infancy of our foreign establishments it was neglected, or was not thought of. And now the affair is nearly in the situation of Friar Bacon’s project of making a brazen wall round England for its eternal security. His servant, Friar Bungey, slept while the brazen head, which was to dictate how it might be done, said Time is, and Time was. He only waked to hear it say, Time is past. An explosion followed, that tumbled their house about the conjuror’s ears.
I hope, with you, that my being here at this juncture has been of some service to the colonies. I am sure I have spared no pains. And as to our particular affair, I am not in the least doubtful of obtaining what we so justly desire, if we continue to desire it; though the late confused state of affairs on both sides of the water has delayed our proceeding. With great esteem, I am, dear friend, yours affectionately,
Mode of ascertaining whether the Power, giving a Shock to those who touch either the Surinam Eel or the Torpedo, be Electrical.
1. Touch the fish with a dry stick of sealing-wax, or a glass rod, and observe if the shock be communicated by means of those bodies.
Touch the same fish with an iron, or other metal-line rod.
If the shock be communicated by the latter body, and not by the others, it is probably not the mechanical effects, as has been supposed, of some muscular action in the fish, but of a subtile fluid, in this respect analogous at least to the electric fluid.
2. Observe farther, whether the shock can be conveyed without the metal being actually in contact with the fish, and, if it can, whether, in the space between, any light appear, and a slight noise or crackling be heard.
If so, these also are properties common to the electric fluid.
3. Lastly, touch the fish with the wire of a small Leyden bottle, and, if the shock can be received across, observe whether the wire will attract and repel light bodies, and you feel a shock, while holding the bottle in one hand, and touching the wire with the other.
If so, the fluid, capable of producing such effects, seems to have all the known properties of the electric fluid.
addition, 12 august, 1772
In Consequence of the Experiments and Discoveries made in France by Mr. Walsh, and communicated by him to Dr. Franklin.
Let several persons, standing on the floor, hold hands, and let one of them touch the fish, so as to receive a shock. If the shock be felt by all, place the fish flat on a plate of metal, and let one of the persons holding hands touch this plate, while the person farthest from the plate touches the upper part of the fish with a metal rod; then observe, if the force of the shock be the same as to all the persons forming the circle, or is stronger than before.
Repeat this experiment with this difference; let two or three of the persons forming the circle, instead of holding by the hand, hold each an uncharged electrical bottle, so that the little balls and the end of the wires may touch, and observe, after the shock, if these wires will attract and repel light bodies, and if a ball of cork, suspended by a long silk string between the wires, a little distance from the bottles, will be alternately attracted and repelled by them.
TO MRS. DEBORAH FRANKLIN
London, 13 June, 1766.
My Dear Child:—
Mrs. Stevenson has made up a parcel of haberdashery for you, which will go by Captain Robinson. She will also send you another cloak, in the room of that we suppose is lost. I wrote to you that I had been very ill lately. I am now nearly well again, but feeble. To-morrow I set out with my friend Dr. Pringle (now Sir John), on a journey to Pyrmont, where he goes to drink the waters; but I hope more from the air and exercise, having been used, as you know, to have a journey once a year, the want of which last year has, I believe, hurt me, so that, though I was not quite to say sick, I was often ailing last winter and through the spring. We must be back at farthest in eight weeks, as my fellow traveller is the Queen’s physician, and has leave for no longer, as her Majesty will then be near her time. I purpose to leave him at Pyrmont, and visit some of the principal cities nearest to it, and call for him again when the time for our return draws nigh. I am, my dear Debby, your ever loving husband,
[It is much to be deplored that we have no journal or any satisfactory account of Dr. Franklin’s visit to the Continent this summer. He seems to have made no notes, and to have written no letters during his absence, which are calculated in the least to satisfy our curiosity. We have, however, a glimpse of him and of his companion while at Göttingen, which illustrates the very distinct and durable impression Franklin always made in whatever society he appeared. In the Biography of Joh. D. Michaelis, p. 102, occurs the following statement, which was translated from the fly-leaf of a volume in the Huntington Collection of Frankliniana in the Metropolitan Museum.
“In the summer of 1766 I had the opportunity of making two agreeable acquaintances. Pringle and Franklin came to Göttingen, and were presented to me by Student Münchausen, I once had a curious conversation with Franklin at the table. When he dined with me, we talked much about America, about the savages, the rapid growth of the English colonies, the growth of the population, its duplication in 25 years, etc., and I said: ‘that when I was in London in 1741 I might have learned more about the condition of the colonies by English books and pamphlets, had I then thought seriously of what I had even then expressed to others: that they would one day release themselves from England. People laughed at me; still I believed it.’ He answered me with his earnest, expressive, and intelligent face: ‘Then you were mistaken. The Americans have too much love for their mother country.’ I said: ‘I believe it; but almighty interest would soon outweigh that love or even extinguish it altogether.’ He could not deny that this was possible, but secession was impossible, for all the American towns of importance, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, were exposed to the English navy. Boston could be destroyed by bombardment. This was unanswerable; I did not then suspect that I was speaking to the man who, a few years later, outraged in England, would take such an active part in the accomplishment of my contradicted prophecy.
Meanwhile when the disturbances broke out, I always expected that the commencement would be the bombardment of Boston, but things took quite another turn.”
To this was appended the following note, presumedly by Student Münchausen.
“At that time I was studying in Göttingen and had the opportunity of knowing both men. I remember well that Franklin, and I know not wherefor, was much more interesting to me than Pringle. Just in that summer Lessing also came to Göttingen, and Student Diety presented him to me in the library. He our otherwise great countryman was far from pleasing me as well as both those Englishmen. These Britons, decried for their pride, were very sociable and well informed. The German on the contrary was very haughty and controversial in his conversation, which placed good-hearted Diety in constant embarrassment. Yet I may be mistaken. I never saw the man again, nor spoke to him, and in a single interview may have been deceived.”
Sir John Pringle, who accompanied Franklin on this trip, and who had been his companion the preceding year on a tour through France, was a man of considerable repute as a man of science in his day, and in 1772, was chosen President of the Royal Society, which he surrendered for an odd reason, which as it happens connects with Franklin, and is thus described by the Messrs Hale in their captivating monograph on Franklin in France.
“George III., in the heat of his animosity against the Americans, had determined that the lightning-conductors on Kew Palace should have blunt knobs instead of sharp points. Franklin, the inventor of conductors, had directed that the points should be sharp, so that an overcharge of electricity might be dispersed silently and without explosion. As we shall have occasion to see, the question of blunt and sharp conductors became a court question, the courtiers siding with the King, and their opponents with Franklin. The King asked Sir John Pringle to take his side, and give him an opinion in favor of the knobs. To which Pringle replied by hinting that the laws of nature were not changeable at royal pleasure. It was then intimated to him by the King’s authority that a President of the Royal Society entertaining such an opinion ought to resign, and he resigned accordingly.”
It was this controversy that gave rise to the following well-known epigram:
- “While you, great George, for safety hunt,
- And sharp conductors change for blunt,
- The nation’s out of joint.
- Franklin a wiser course pursues,
- And all your thunder fearless views,
- By keeping to the point.”
Pringle was not only the physician of the King, but of Lord Bute, and to this clinical influence it has been usual to attribute William Franklin’s appointment as Governor of New Jersey. Nothing is more likely than that Pringle recommended it; but the appointment was, no doubt, made on public, not on private, grounds, and to place the father under obligations, not to oblige the son or any subject or sovereign’s family physician.
Only three days before the above letter to his wife was written, Dr. Franklin wrote a letter, asking the leave of the House of Assembly of Pennsylvania to return. The only notice the Assembly appears to have taken of his application was on the first day of the succeeding session to renew his appointment.—Ed.]
FROM WILLIAM FRANKLIN
I have just retd from Amboy, & have recd your letter & the Packet of May 10. Mr. Wharton’s Clerk has this Moment call’d on me to let me know he is going Express to N. Y. in hopes of overtaking the Pacquet. I have stopt him that I might send you an extract of Sr Wm’s last Letter relative to the Colony.
I before sent you an Answer to the Enquiry made by S. Alexr Dick. Mr. Pennington informs me that he has sent Mr. Penn an Acct of the Land he enquird about in N. Jersey, nor can I obtain any other Acct of it but the same Mr. Pennington has recd. He is afraid of young Penn’s selling the Manor to the proprs for much less than it could be sold for here, & wishes you wd caution him against it.
There has been lately several Murders of Indians in the different Provinces. Those committed in this Province will be duely enquired into, & the Murderers executed as soon as found guilty. They are all apprehended & secured in Gaol.
I congratulate you on the Resolutions of Parlt relative to Commerce. They are in general much approved, & I am in hopes that the people of the Colonies, particularly Persons of Property, will conduct themselves so as to give great satisfaction to the present Ministry. In New York there has been some Riots on Acct of Lands on the Great Manors; but they are now quelled, & their Chief, one Pendergrass, taken Prisoner.
All the Provinces seem in quiet, except Virga & Massachusett’s Bay. The Govr of the first won’t let his Assy meet, as he understands they are disposed to pass a Bill of Rights & act otherwise in such a Manner as to keep up the Spirit which they kindled before. In the latter, the Assy, by the Influence of that Firebrand Otis, has imprudently turned out all the Crown & other officers out of the Council.
I have come off with flying Colours in the Brush I had with the Assembly. In order to get the better in the Dispute, they asserted a Number of downright Falsehoods, & finding themselves embarras’d by this means, & that they had given me great Advantage, they fairly yielded & desired me to proceed no further in the affair. I had them, to be sure, prodigiously in my Power, but, however, like a generous Enemy, upon their crying out, They had got enough, I withheld my hand. For the future I believe they will be more cautious. I have just heard that Lord Hope is coming here Tomorrow on a Visit to me.
Before this reaches you, you will probably hear of Uncle Peter’s Death. We are very much concern’d at it, particularly as it happen’d so unxpectedly, he having lately been better to all Appearances than for many Months before. I have not heard how the Post-Office is dispos’d of, but I wish Coz. Davenport had it.
The Propry Party give out that Col. Wm Skinner (Bror to our Attorney Genl) is coming over Govr of the Province. He has an Interest with Col. Fitzroy, the D. of Grafton’s Brother, who married his relation Miss Warren. The Govr of Barbadoes has Leave to return Home for a 12month, when he expects to resign. In Haste. Your dutiful Son,
TO MRS. MARY FRANKLIN
London, 26 August, 1766.
It has pleased God at length to to take from us my only remaining brother, and your affectionate husband, with whom you have lived in uninterrupted harmony and love near half a century.
Considering the many dangers and hardships his way of life led him into, and the weakness of his constitution, it is wonderful that he lasted so long. It was God’s goodness that spared him to us. Let us, instead of repining at what we have lost, be thankful for what we have enjoyed.
Before this can reach you, every thing that can be said to you by way of consolation, will have been said to you by your friends, or will have occurred to your own good understanding. It is therefore needless for me to enlarge on that head. But as you may be under some apprehensions for your future subsistence, I am desirous of making you as easy and comfortable in that respect as I can. Your adopted son, Mr. Brown, has wrote to me, very properly, “that he shall always think it his duty to stand by and assist you to the utmost of his power.” He is yet young; but I hope he has solidity enough to conduct a printing-house with prudence and to advantage. I shall, therefore, put one into his hands, to be carried on in partnership with you; and if he manages well, I shall hereafter farther encourage him. I have not time to write to him now, but shall by the packet. I have, however, desired my wife to deliver to you and him the press and letters that were B. Mecom’s, which Mr. Parker used at Burlington; and to let you go into the house where I suppose they are, as the rent of that you are now in is heavy. I can now only add that I am, as ever,
Your affectionate brother,
TO CHARLES THOMSON
London, 27 September, 1766.
Dear Friend and Neighbour:
I received your very kind letter of May 20th, which came here while I was absent in Germany. The favorable sentiments you express of my conduct, with regard to the repeal of the Stamp Act, give me real pleasure; and I hope, in every other matter of public concern, so to behave myself as to stand fair in the opinion of the wise and good, and what the rest think and say of me will then give me less concern.
That part of your letter which relates to the situation of people’s minds in America before and after the repeal, was so well expressed, and in my opinion so proper to be generally read and understood here, that I had it printed in the London Chronicle. I had the pleasure to find, that it did good in several instances within my knowledge.
There are claimers enough of merit in obtaining the repeal. But, if I live to see you, I will let you know what an escape we had in the beginning of the affair, and how much we were obliged to what the profane would call luck, and the pious, Providence.
You will give an old man leave to say, “My love to Mrs. Thomson.” With sincere regard, I am your affectionate friend,
TO MRS. DEBORAH FRANKLIN
London, 11 October, 1766.
My Dear Child:—
I received your kind little letter of August 26th, by the packet. Scarce any one else wrote to me by that opportunity. I suppose they imagined I should not be returned from Germany. Pray did you ever get the letters and cambric I sent you by Mr. Yates? You told me he had lost them, but hoped to find them again. You do not say in any of your subsequent letters whether he found them, or whether our generous adversaries have got them, and keep them for their own amusement, as you know they did some of my former letters. I wish you would always mention the dates of the letters you receive from me; for then, as I generally keep copies, I should know what get to hand, and what miscarry.
I grieve for the loss of dear Miss Ross. She was indeed an amiable girl. It must be a great affliction to her parents and friends. In my last I desired you to get Mr. Rhoads to send me a little sketch of the lot and wall; but I have since found one he sent me before; so it is not necessary; only tell me whether it takes in part of the late controverted lot, and how high it comes on both sides, and whereabouts the wall is. By the way, you never have told me what the award was. I wish I could see a copy of it.
There are but two Franklins remaining in England, descended from my grandfather; to wit, my uncle John’s grandson, Thomas Franklin, who is a dyer at Lutterworth, in Leicestershire, and has a daughter about thirteen years of age, named Sally. He brought her to town to see me in the spring, and Mrs. Stevenson persuaded him to leave the child under her care for a little schooling and improvement while I went abroad. When I returned, I found her indeed much improved, and grown a fine girl. She is sensible, and of a sweet, obliging temper, but is now ill of a violent fever, and I doubt we shall lose her, which particularly afflicts Mrs. Stevenson, not only as she has contracted a great affection for the child, but as it was she that persuaded her father to leave her here. Mrs. Stevenson presents her best respects. Polly is gone home to her aunt’s at Kensington. My love to our children and all inquiring friends. I am your ever loving husband,
REMARKS ON A PLAN FOR THE FUTURE MANAGEMENT OF INDIAN AFFAIRS1
The regulations in this Plan seem to me to be in general very good; but some few appear to want explanation, or farther consideration.
Clause 3. Is it intended by this clause to prevent the trade that Indians, living near the frontiers, may choose to carry on with the inhabitants, by bringing their skins into the settlements? This prevention is hardly practicable; as such trade may be carried on in many places out of the observation of government, the frontier being of great extent, and the inhabitants thinly settled in the woods, and remote from each other. The Indians, too, do not everywhere live in towns sufficiently numerous to encourage traders to reside among them; but in scattered families, here and there, often shifting their situation for the sake of better hunting; and if they are near the English settlements, it would seem to them very hard to be obliged to carry their skins for sale to remote towns or posts, when they could dispose of them to their neighbours, with less trouble and to greater advantage; as the goods they want for them, are and must be dearer at such remote posts.
4. The colony “laws for regulating Indian affairs or commerce” are the result of long experience, made by people on the spot, interested to make them good; and it would be well to consider the matter thoroughly, before they are repealed, to make way for new and untried schemes.
By whom are they to be repealed? By the colony assemblies, or by Parliament? Some difficulty will arise here.
13. The districts seem too large for this. The Indians under the care of the northern superintendent, by this plan, border on the colonies of Nova Scotia, Quebec, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia; the superintendent’s situation, remote from many of these, may occasion great inconvenience, if his consent is always to be necessary in such cases.
14. This seems too much to be done when the vastness of the district is considered. If there were more districts and smaller, it might be more practicable.
15 and 16. Are these agents or commissaries to try causes where life is concerned? Would it not be better to send the criminals into some civil, well-settled government or colony, for trial, where good juries can be had?
18. “Chief for the whole tribe; who shall constantly reside with the commissary,” &c. Provision must then be made for his maintenance, as particular Indians have no estates, but live by hunting; and their public has no funds or revenues. Being used to rambling, it would perhaps not be easy to find one, who would be obliged to this constant residence; but it may be tried.
22. If the agent and his deputies, and the commissaries, are not to trade, should it not be a part of their oath, that they will have no concern in such trade, directly or indirectly? Private agreements between them and the traders, for share of profits, should be guarded against; and the same care taken to prevent, if possible, private agreements between them and the purchasers of Indian lands.
31. —— “or trading at any other post,” &c. This should be so expressed as to make the master liable for the offence of the servant; otherwise it will have no effect.
33. I doubt the settling of tariffs will be a matter of difficulty. There may be differences of fineness, goodness, and value, in the goods of different traders, that cannot be properly allowed for by general tariffs. And it seems contrary to the nature of commerce, for government to interfere in the prices of commodities. Trade is a voluntary thing between buyer and seller; in every article of which each exercises his own judgment, and is to please himself. Suppose either Indian or trader is dissatisfied with the tariff, and refuses barter on those terms; are the refusers to be compelled? If not, why should an Indian be forbidden to take more goods for his skins than your tariff allows, if the trader is willing to give them; or a trader more skins for his goods, if the Indian is willing to give them? Where there are a number of traders, the separate desire of each to get more custom will operate in bringing down their goods to a reasonable price. It therefore seems to me, that trade will best find and make its own rates; and that government cannot well interfere, unless it will take the whole trade into its own hands (as in some colonies it does), and manage it by its own servants, at its own risk.
38. I apprehend that if the Indians cannot get rum of fair traders, it will be a great means of defeating all these regulations that direct the trade to be carried on at certain posts. The countries and forests are so very large, it is scarce possible to guard every part, so as to prevent unlicensed traders drawing the Indians and the trade to themselves, by rum and other spirituous liquors, which all savage people are so fond of. I think they will generally trade where they can get rum, preferably to where it is refused them; and the proposed prohibition will therefore be a great encouragement to unlicensed traders, and promote such trade. If the commissaries, or officers at the posts, can prevent the selling of rum during the barter for other goods, and until the Indians are about going away, it is perhaps all that is practicable or necessary. The missionaries will, among other things, endeavour to prevail with them to live soberly and avoid drunkenness.
39. The Indian trade, so far as credit is concerned, has hitherto been carried on wholly upon honor. They have among themselves no such thing as prisons or confinement for debt. This article seems to imply, that an Indian may be compelled by law to pay a debt of fifty shillings or under. Our legal method of compulsion is by imprisonment. The Indians cannot and will not imprison one another; and, if we attempt to imprison them, I apprehend it would be generally disliked by the nations, and occasion breaches. They have such high ideas of the value of personal liberty, and such slight ones of the value of personal property, that they would think the disproportion monstrous between the liberty of a man and a debt of a few shillings; and that it would be excessively inequitable and unjust, to take away the one for a default in payment of the other. It seems to me, therefore, best to leave that matter on its present footing; the debts under fifty shillings as irrecoverable by law, as this article proposes for the debts above fifty shillings. Debts of honor are generally as well paid as other debts. Where no compulsion can be used, it is more disgraceful to be dishonest. If the trader thinks his risk greater in trusting any particular Indian, he will either not do it, or proportion his price to his risk.
44. As the goods for the Indian trade all come from England, and the peltry is chiefly brought to England, perhaps it will be best to lay the duty here on the exportation of the one and the importation of the other, to avoid meddling with the question of the right to lay duties in America by Parliament here.
If it is thought proper to carry the trading part of this plan into execution, would it not be well to try it first in a few posts, to which the present colony laws for regulating the Indian trade do not reach; that by experience its utility may be ascertained, or its defects discovered and amended before it is made general, and those laws repealed to make way for it? If the Indians find by experience that they are better used in their trade at the posts under these regulations than at other places, may it not make them desirous of having the regulations extended to other places, and when extended better satisfied with them upon reflection and comparison?
HINTS FOR A REPLY TO THE PROTESTS OF CERTAIN MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS AGAINST THE REPEAL OF THE STAMP ACT.
The following “Hints” were found in the margin of Dr. Franklin’s printed copy of the protests written at the time (1766), from which it would appear that it was his intention to make a formal answer to these Protests. This purpose does not yet appear to have been executed.—Editor.
We have submitted to your laws; no proof of our acknowledgment of your power to make them; rather an acknowledgment of their reasonableness, or of our own weakness. Post-office came as a matter of utility; was aided by the legislature. Mean to take advantage of our ignorance. Children should not be imposed on; are not, even by honest shopkeepers. A great and magnanimous nation should disdain to govern by tricks and traps, that would disgrace a pettifogging attorney.
Settlement of the colonies stated. Parliament not consulted; not till after the Restoration, except by rebel Parliament. Anxious about preserving the sovereignty of this country? Rather be so about preserving the liberty. We shall be so about the liberty of America, that your posterity may have a free country to come to, where they will be received with open arms.
King, the sovereign, cannot take in his Parliament; at least, can give no greater power than he had himself.
Compliment the Lords. Not a wiser or better body of men on earth. The deep respect impressed on me by the instance I have been witness to of their justice. They have been misled by misinformation. Proof of my opinion of their goodness, in the freedom with which I propose to examine their Protests.
The trust of taxing America was never reposed by the people of America in the legislature of Great Britain. They had one kind of confidence, indeed, in that legislature; that it would never attempt to tax them without their consent. The law was destructive of that confidence among them.
Other advantages of colonies besides commerce. Selfishness of commercial views.
The sovereignty of the crown I understand. The sovereignty of the British legislature out of Britain I do not understand.
The fear of being thought weak is a timidity and weakness of the worst sort, as it betrays into a persisting in errors that may be much more mischievous than the appearance of weakness. A great and powerful state like this has no cause for such timidity.
Acknowledging and correcting an error shows great magnanimity. Small states and small republics cannot afford to do so.
America not in the realm of England or Great Britain? No man in America thinks himself exempt from the jurisdiction of the crown, and of the assemblies, or has any such private judgment.
The agitation of the question of rights makes it now necessary to settle a constitution for the colonies. Restrictions should be only for the general good. Endeavour to convince reasonable creatures by reason. Try your hands with me.
Never think of it. They are reasonable creatures. Reasonable laws will not require force.
I observe two or three Scotch Lords protest. Many more voted against the repeal. Colonies settled before the union. Query: If the Parliament had a jurisdiction over the colonies by the first settlement, had they a right to introduce new legislators? Could they sell or commute the right with other nations? Can they introduce the Peers of Ireland and Commons, and the States of Holland, and make them legislators of the colonies? How could Scotland acquire a right to legislation over English colonies, but by consent of the colonies themselves?
I am a subject of the crown of Great Britain; have ever been a loyal one; have partaken of its favors. I write here with freedom, relying on the magnanimity of the Parliament. I say nothing to your Lordships, that I have not been indulged to say to the Commons. Your Lordships’ names are to your Protest, therefore I think I ought to put mine to the answer. Desire what I have said may not be imputed to the colonies. I am a private person and do not write by their direction. I am over here to solicit, in behalf of my colony, a closer communication with the crown.
Talk with Bollan on this head. Query: Courts of common law? Particular colonies drained; all drained, as it would all come home. Those that would pay most of the tax would have least of it spent at home. It must go to the conquered colonies. The view of maps deceives.
All breach of the constitution. Juries better to be trusted. Have rather an interest in suppressing smugglers. Nature of smuggling. It is picking of pockets. All oppressions take their rise from some plea of utility; often in appearance only.
The clamor of multitudes. It is good to attend to it. It is wiser to foresee and avoid it. It is wise, when neither foreseen nor avoided, to correct the measures that give occasion to it. Glad the majority have that wisdom.
Wish your Lordships had attended to that other great article of the palladium: “Taxes shall not be laid but by common consent in Parliament.” We Americans were not here to give our consent.
My duty to the King, and justice to my country, will, I hope, justify me if I likewise protest which I now do with all humility in behalf of myself and of every American, and of our posterity, against your declaratory bill, that the Parliament of Great Britain has not, never had, and of right never can have, without consent given either before or after, power to make laws of sufficient force to bind the subjects in America in any case whatever, and particularly in taxation.
I can only judge of others by myself. I have some little property in America. I will freely spend nineteen shillings in the pound to defend my right of giving or refusing the other shilling, and, after all, if I cannot defend that right, I can retire cheerfully with my little family into the boundless woods of America, which are sure to afford freedom and subsistence to any man who can bait a hook or pull a trigger.
ON PASSAGES IN “A LETTER FROM A MERCHANT IN LONDON TO HIS NEPHEW IN NORTH AMERICA”
Extract. “The honest indignation you express against those artifices and frauds, those robberies and insults, which lost us the hearts and affections of the Indians, is particularly to be commended; for these were the things, as you justly observed, which involved us in the most bloody and expensive war that ever was known.”
Observation. This is wickedly intended by the author, Dean Tucker, to represent the North Americans as the cause of the war. Whereas it was in fact begun by the French, who seized the goods and persons of the English traders on the Ohio who encroached on the King’s land in Nova Scotia, and took a fort from the Ohio Company by force of arms, which induced England to make reprisals at sea, and to send Braddock to recover the fort on the Ohio, whence came on the war.
“By the spirit of Magna Charta all taxes laid on by Parliament are constitutional, legal taxes.”
“But then it is to be further observed that this same method of arguing is equally favorable to governors as governed, and to the mother country as the colonies.”
Here is the old mistake of all these writers. The people of the mother country are subjects, not governors. The King only is sovereign in both countries.
“The colonies will no longer think it equitable to insist upon immunities which the people of Great Britain do not enjoy.”
Why not, if they have a right to them?
“To claim a right of being taxed by their assemblies only, appears to have too much the air of independence, and though they are not represented here, would give them an immunity beyond the inhabitants of this island.”
It is a right, however; what signifies what air it has? The inhabitants being freeholders ought to have the same. If they have it not, they are injured. Then rectify what is amiss among yourselves; and do not make it a justification of more wrong.
“Or could they hope to procure any advantages from one hundred representatives? Common sense answers all this in the negative.”
Why not, as well as Scotland from forty-five, or rather sixty-one? Common sense, on the contrary, says, that a body of one hundred votes in Parliament, will always be worth the attention of any ministry; and the fear of offending them will make every minister cautions of injuring the rights of their country, lest they join with his opposers in Parliament.
“Therefore the interest of Great Britain and that of the colonies is the same.”
All this argument of the interest of Britain and the colonies being the same is fallacious and unsatisfactory. Partners in trade have a common interest, which is the same, the flourishing of the partnership business; but they may, moreover, have each a separate interest, and, in pursuit of that separate interest, one of them may endeavour to impose on the other, may cheat him in the accounts, may draw to himself more than his share of the profits, may put upon the other more than an equal share of the expense and burden. Their having a common interest is no security against such injustice. The landholders of Great Britain have a common interest, and yet they injure one another in the inequality of the land tax. The majority in Parliament, being favored in the proportions, will never consent to do justice to the minority by a more equal assessment.
“But what reasonable ground of apprehension can there be, that the British Parliament should be ignorant of so plain a matter, as that the interests of Britain and the colonies are the same?”
If the Parliament is so knowing and so just, how comes it to restrain Ireland in its manufactures, America in its trade? Why may not an Irishman or an American make the same manufactures, and carry them to the same ports, as an Englishman? In many instances Britain shows a selfish regard to her own interest, in prejudice to the colonies. America, therefore, has no confidence in her equity.
“But I can conceive no earthly security better, none indeed so good, as that which depends upon the wisdom and integrity of a British King and Parliament.”
Suppose seats in your House of Commons hereditary, as those of the House of Lords; or suppose the Commons to be nominated by the King, or chosen by the Lords; could you then rely upon them? If your members were to be chosen by the people of Ireland, could you then rely upon them? Could you depend upon their wisdom and integrity as a security, the best possible, for your rights? And wherein is our case different, if the people of England choose legislators for the people of America?
“If they have a spark of virtue left, they will blush to be found in a posture of hostility against Great Britain.”
There was no posture of hostility in America, but Britain put herself in a posture of hostility against America. Witness the landing of the troops in Boston, 1768.
ON PASSAGES IN A PAMPHLET ENTITLED “GOOD HUMOR, OR AWAY WITH THE COLONIES”1
Extract. “The reply of the governor of Massachusetts to the assembly’s answer is in the same consistent style; and affords still a stronger proof, as well of his own ingenuity, honor, and integrity, as of the furious and enthusiastic spirit of the province.”
Observation. They knew the governor to be, as it afterwards turned out, their enemy and calumniator in private letters to government here.
“It had been more becoming the state of the colonies, always dear to Britain, and ever cherished and defended by it, to have remonstrated in terms of filial duty and obedience.”
How ignorant is this writer of facts! How many of their remonstrances were rejected!
“They must give us leave, in our turn, to except against their demonstration of legal exemption.”
There never was any occasion of legal exemption from what they never had been subject to.
There is no doubt but taxes laid by Parliament, where the Parliament has jurisdiction, are legal taxes; but does it follow that taxes laid by the Parliament of England on Scotland before the union, on Guernsey, Jersey, Ireland, Hanover, or any other dominions of the crown not within the realm, are therefore legal? These writers against the colonies all bewilder themselves by supposing the colonies within the realm, which is not the case, nor ever was. This then is the spirit of the constitution, that taxes shall not be laid without the consent of those to be taxed. The colonies were not then in being, and therefore nothing relating to them could be literally expressed. As the Americans are now without the realm, and not of the jurisdiction of Parliament, the spirit of the British constitution dictates that they should be taxed only by their own representatives, as the English are by theirs.
“Now the first emigrants who settled in America were certainly English subjects, subject to the laws and jurisdiction of Parliament, and consequently to parliamentary taxes, before the emigration, and therefore subject afterwards, unless some legal constitutional exemption can be produced.”
This position supposes that Englishmen can never be out of the jurisdiction of Parliament. It may as well be said that wherever an Englishman resides, that country is England. While an Englishman resides in England, he is undoubtedly subject to its laws. If he goes into a foreign country, he is subject to the laws and government he finds there. If he finds no government or laws there, he is subject there to none, till he and his companions, if he has any, make laws for themselves; and this was the case of the first settlers in America. Otherwise, and if they carried the English laws and power of Parliament with them, what advantage could the Puritans propose to themselves by going, since they would have been as subject to bishops, spiritual courts, tithes, and statutes relating to the church, in America as in England? Can the Dean, on his principles, tell how it happens that those laws, the game acts, the statutes for laborers, and an infinity of others, made before and since the emigration, are not in force in America, nor ever were?
“Now, upon the first settling of an English colony, and before ever you Americans could have chosen any representatives, and therefore before any assembly of such representatives could have possibly met, to whose laws and to what legislative power were you then subject? To the English, most undoubtedly; for you could have been subject to no other.”
The author here appears quite ignorant of the fact. The colonies carried no law with them; they carried only a power of making laws, or adopting such parts of the English law, or of any other law, as they should think suitable to their circumstances. The first settlers of Connecticut, for instance, at their first meeting in that country, finding themselves out of all jurisdiction of other governments, resolved and enacted, that, till a code of laws should be prepared and agreed to, they would be governed by the law of Moses, as contained in the Old Testament.
If the first settlers had no right to expect a better constitution than the English, what fools were they for going over, to encounter all the hardships and perils of new settlements in a wilderness! For these were so many additions to what they suffered at home, from tyrannical and oppressive institutions in church and state; with a subtraction of all their old enjoyments of the conveniences and comforts of an old-settled country, friends, neighbours, relations, and homes.
“Suppose, therefore, that the crown had been so ill advised as to have granted a charter to any city or county here in England, pretending to exempt them from the power and jurisdiction of an English Parliament. Is it possible for you to believe an absurdity so gross and glaring?”
The American settlers needed no exemption from the power of Parliament; they were necessarily exempted, as soon as they landed out of its jurisdiction. Therefore, all this rhetorical paragraph is founded on a mistake of the author, and the absurdity he talks of is of his own making.
“Good heavens! What a sudden alteration is this! An American pleading for the extension of the prerogative of the crown! Yes, if it could make for his cause; and for extending it, too, beyond all the bounds of law, of reason, and of common sense!”
What stuff! Why may not an American plead for the just prerogatives of the crown? And is it not a just prerogative of the crown to give the subjects leave to settle in a foreign country, if they think it necessary to ask such leave? Was the Parliament at all considered, or consulted, in making those first settlements? Or did any lawyer then think it necessary?
“Now this clause, which is nothing more than the renunciation of absolute prerogative, is quoted in our newspapers as if it was a renunciation of the rights of Parliament to raise taxes.”
It was not a renunciation of the rights of Parliament. There was no need of such a renunciation, for Parliament had not even pretended to such a right. But since the royal faith was pledged by the King for himself and his successors, how can any succeeding King, without violating that faith, ever give his assent to an act of Parliament for such taxation?
“Nay, many of your colony charters assert quite the contrary, by containing the express reservations of parliamentary rights, particularly that great one of levying taxes.”
A fib, Mr. Dean. In one charter only, and that a late one, is the Parliament mentioned; and the right reserved is only that of laying duties on commodities imported into England from the colony, or exported to it.
“And those charters, which do not make such provisions in express terms, must be supposed virtually to imply them; because the law and constitution will not allow that the King can do more, either at home or abroad, by the prerogative royal, than the law and constitution authorize him to do.”
Suppositions and implications will not weigh in these important cases. No law or constitution forbade the King’s doing what he did in granting those charters.
“Confuted, most undoubtedly, you are beyond the possibility of a reply, as far as the law and constitution of the realm are concerned in this question.”
This is hallooing before you are out of the wood.
“Strange, that though the British Parliament has been, from the beginning, thus unreasonable, thus unjust and cruel towards you, by levying taxes on many commodities outwards and inwards”—
False! Never before the Restoration. The Parliament, it is acknowledged, have made many oppressive laws relating to America, which have passed without opposition, partly through the weakness of the colonies, partly through the inattention to the full extent of their rights, while employed in labor to procure the necessaries of life. But that is a wicked guardian, and a shameless one, who first takes advantage of the weakness incident to minority, cheats and imposes on his pupil, and, when the pupil comes of age, urges those very impositions as precedents to justify continuing them and adding others.
“But surely you will not dare to say that we refuse your votes when you come hither to offer them, and choose to poll. You cannot have the face to assert, on an election-day any difference is put between the vote of a man born in America and of one born here in England.”
This is all banter and insult, when you know the impossibility of a million of freeholders coming over sea to vote here. If their freeholds in America are within the realm, why have they not, in virtue of these freeholds, a right to vote in your elections, as well as an English freeholder? Sometimes we are told, that our estates are by our charters all in the manor of East Greenwich, and therefore all in England; and yet have we any right to vote among the voters of East Greenwich? Can we trade to the same ports? In this very paragraph, you suppose that we cannot vote in England, if we come hither, till we have by purchase acquired a right; therefore neither we nor our estates are represented in England.
“The cause of your complaint is this; that you live at too great a distance from the mother country to be present at our English elections; and that, in consequence of this distance, the freedom of our towns, or the freeholds in our counties, as far as voting is concerned, are not worth attending to. It may be so; but pray consider, if you yourselves choose to make it inconvenient for you to come and vote, by retiring into distant countries, what is that to us?”
This is all beside the mark. The Americans are by their constitutions provided with a representation, and therefore neither need nor desire any in the British Parliament. They have never asked any such thing. They only say: Since we have a right to grant our own money to the King, since we have assemblies where we are represented for such purposes, why will you meddle, out of your sphere, take the money that is ours, and give us yours, without our consent?
“Yes, it is, and you demand it too with a loud voice, full of anger, of defiance, and denunciation.”
An absolute falsehood! We never demanded in any manner, much less in the manner you mention, that the mother country should change her constitution.
“In the great metropolis, and in many other cities, landed property itself hath no representative in Parliament. Copy-holds and lease-holds of various kinds have none likewise, though of ever so great a value.”
Copy-holds and lease-holds are supposed to be represented in the original landlord of whom they are held. Thus all the land in England is in fact represented, notwithstanding what he here says. As to those who have no landed property in a county, the allowing them to vote for legislators is an impropriety. They are transient inhabitants, and not so connected with the welfare of the state, which they may quit when they please, as to qualify them properly for such privilege.
“And, besides all this, it is well known that the East India Company, which have such vast settlements, and which dispose of the fate of kings and kingdoms abroad, have not so much as a single member, or even a single vote, quatenus a company, to watch over their interests at home. And may not their property, perhaps a little short of one hundred millions sterling, as much deserve to be represented in Parliament, as the scattered townships or straggling houses of some of your provinces in America?”
By this argument it may be proved, that no man in England has a vote. The clergy have none as clergymen; the lawyers, none as lawyers; the physicians, none as physicians; and so on. But if they have votes as freeholders, that is sufficient; and that, no freeholder in America has for a representative in the British Parliament. The stockholders are many of them foreigners, and all may be so when they please, as nothing is more easy than the transferring of stock and conveying property beyond sea by bills of exchange. Such uncertain subjects are, therefore, not properly vested with rights relating to government.
“Yet we raise no commotions; we neither ring the alarm-bell, nor sound the trumpet, and submit to be taxed without being represented; and taxed, let me tell you, for your sakes. All was granted when you cried for help.”
This is wickedly false. While the colonies were weak and poor, not a penny or a single soldier was ever spared by Britain for their defence. But as soon as the trade with them became an object, and a fear arose, that the French would seize that trade and deprive her of it, she sent troops to America unasked. And she now brings this account of the expense against us, which should be rather carried to her own merchants and manufacturers. We joined our troops and treasure with hers to help her in this war. Of this no notice is taken. To refuse to pay a just debt is knavish; not to return an obligation is ingratitude; but to demand payment of a debt where none has been contracted, to forge a bond or an obligation in order to demand what was never due, is villany. Every year both King and Parliament, during the war, acknowledged that we had done more than our part, and made us some return, which is equivalent to a receipt in full, and entirely sets aside this monstrous claim.
By all means redress your own grievances. If you are not just to your own people, how can we trust you? We ask no representation among you; but, if you have any thing wrong among yourselves, rectify it, and do not make one injustice a precedent and plea for doing another. That would be increasing evil in the world instead of diminishing it.
You need not be concerned about the number to be added from America. We do not desire to come among you; but you may make some room for your own additional members, by removing those that are sent by the rotten boroughs.
“I must now tell you, that every member of Parliament represents you and me, and our interests in all essential points, just as much as if we had voted for him. For, although one place or one set of men may elect and send him up to Parliament, yet, when once he becomes a member, he is the equal guardian of all.”
In the same manner, Mr. Dean, are the Pope and Cardinals representatives of the whole Christian church. Why don’t you obey them?
“This, then, being the case, it therefore follows, that our Birminghams, Manchesters, Leedses, Halifaxes, &c., and your Bostons, New Yorks, and Philadelphias, are as really, though not so nominally, represented, as any part whatsoever of the British empire; and that each of these places has in fact, instead of one or two, not less than five hundred and fifty-eight guardians in the British Senate.”
What occasion is there then, my dear Sir, of being at the trouble of election? The Peers alone would do as well for our guardians, though chosen by the King, or born such. If their present number is too small, his Majesty may be good enough to add five hundred and fifty-eight, or make the present House of Commons and their heirs-male Peers for ever. If having a vote in elections would be of no use to us, how is it of any to you? Elections are the cause of much tumult, riot, contention, and mischief. Get rid of them at once and for ever.
“It proves that no man ought to pay any tax, but that only to which the member of his own town, city, or county hath particularly assented.”
You seem to take your nephew for a simpleton, Mr. Dean. Every one who votes for a representative knows and intends that the majority is to govern, and that the consent of the majority is to be understood as the consent of the whole; that being ever the case in all deliberative assemblies.
“The doctrine of implication is the very thing to which you object, and against which you have raised so many batteries of popular noise and clamor.”
How far, my dear Sir, would you yourself carry the doctrine of implication? If important positions are to be implied when not expressed, I suppose you can have no objection to their being implied where some expression countenances the implication. If you should say to a friend, “I am your humble servant, Sir,” ought he to imply from thence, that you will clean his shoes?
“And consequently you must maintain, that all those in your several provinces, who have no votes,” &c.
No freeholder in North America is without a vote. Many, who have no freeholds, have nevertheless a vote; which, indeed, I don’t think was necessary to be allowed.
“You have your choice, whether you will accept of my price for your tobacco; or, after bringing it here, whether you will carry it away, and try your fortune at another market.”
A great kindness this, to oblige me first to bring it here, that the expense of another voyage and freight may deter me from carrying it away, and oblige me to take the price you are pleased to offer.
“But I have no alternative allowed, being obliged to buy yours at your own price, or else to pay such a duty for the tobacco of other countries as must amount to a prohibition. Nay, in order to favor your plantations, I am not permitted to plant this herb on my own estate, though the soil should be ever so proper for it.”
You lay a duty on the tobacco of other countries, because you must pay money for that, but get ours in exchange for your manufactures.
Tobacco is not permitted to be planted in England, lest it should interfere with corn necessary for your subsistence. Rice you cannot raise. It requires eleven months. Your summer is too short. Nature, not the laws, denies you this product.
“And what will you say in relation to hemp? The Parliament now gives you a bounty of eight pounds per ton for exporting your hemp from North America, but will allow me nothing for growing it here in England.”
Did ever any North-American bring his hemp to England for this bounty? We have not yet enough for our own consumption. We begin to make our own cordage. You want to suppress that manufacture, and would do it by getting the raw material from us. You want to be supplied with hemp for your manufactures and Russia demands money. These were the motives for giving what you are pleased to call a bounty to us. We thank you for your bounties. We love you, and therefore must be obliged to you for being good to yourselves. You do not encourage raising hemp in England, because you know it impoverishes the richest grounds; your landholders are all against it. What you call bounties given by Parliament and the Society, are nothing more than inducements offered us, to persuade us to leave employments that are more profitable, and engage in such as would be less so without your bounty; to quit a business profitable to ourselves, and engage in one that shall be profitable to you. This is the true spirit of all your bounties.
Your duties on foreign articles are from the same motives. Pitch, tar, and turpentine used to cost you five pounds a barrel, when you had them from foreigners, who used you ill into the bargain, thinking you could not do without them. You gave a bounty of five shillings a barrel to the colonies, and they have brought you such plenty as to reduce the price to ten shillings a barrel. Take back your bounties, when you please, since you upbraid us with them. Buy your indigo, pitch, silk, tobacco where you please, and let us buy our manufactures where we please. I fancy we shall be gainers. As to the great kindness of these five hundred and fifty-eight parliamentary guardians of American privileges, who can forbear smiling, that has seen the Navigation Act, the Hatters’ Act, the Steel-Hammer and Slit-Iron Act, and numberless others, restraining our trade, obstructing our manufactures, and forbidding us the use of the gifts of God and nature. Hopeful guardians, truly! Can it be imagined that, if we had a reasonable share in electing them from time to time, they would thus have used us?
“And must have seen abundant reason before this time, to have altered your former hasty and rash opinion.”
We see in you abundance of self-conceit, but no convincing argument.
“Have you no concerts or assemblies, no playhouses or gaming-houses, now subsisting? Have you put down your horse-races and other such like sports and diversions? And is the luxury of your tables, and the variety and profusion of your wines and liquors, quite banished from among you?”
This should be a caution to Americans how they indulge for the future in British luxuries. See here British generosity! The people, who have made you poor by their worthless, I mean useless, commodities, would now make you poorer by taxing you; and from the very inability you have brought on yourselves, by a partiality for their fashions and modes of living, of which they have had the whole profit, would now urge your ability to pay the taxes they are pleased to impose. Reject, then, their commerce, as well as their pretended power of taxing. Be frugal and industrious, and you will be free. The luxury of your tables, which could be known to the English only by your hospitably entertaining them, is by these grateful guests now made a charge against you, and given as a reason for taxing you.
“Be it also allowed, as it is commonly asserted, that the public debt of the several provinces amounts to eight hundred thousand pounds sterling.”
I have heard, Mr. Dean, that you have studied political arithmetic more than divinity, but from this sample of it I fear to very little purpose. If personal service were the matter in question, out of so many millions of souls so many men might be expected, whether here or in America. But when raising money is the question, it is not the number of souls, but the wealth in possession that shows the ability. If we were twice as numerous as the people of England, it would not follow that we are half as able. There are numbers of single estates in England, each worth a hundred of the best of ours in North America. The city of London alone is worth all the provinces of North America.
“When each of us pays, one with another, twenty shillings per head, we expect that each of you should pay the sum of one shilling! Blush, blush, for shame at your perverse and scandalous behaviour!”
Blush for shame at your own ignorance, Mr. Dean, who do not know that the colonies have taxes, and heavy ones, of their own to pay, to support their own civil and military establishments, and that the shillings should not be reckoned upon heads, but upon pounds. There never was a sillier argument.
“Witness our county taxes, militia taxes, poor taxes, vagrant taxes, bridge taxes, high-road and turnpike taxes, watch taxes, lamp and scavenger taxes, &c., &c., &c.”
And have we not all these taxes, too, as well as you, and our provincial or public taxes besides? And over and above, have we not new roads to make, new bridges to build, churches and colleges to found, and a number of other things to do that your fathers have done for you, and which you inherit from them, but which we are obliged to pay for out of our present labor?
“We require of you to contribute only one shilling to every twenty from each of us. Yes, and this shilling, too, to be spent in your own country for the support of your own civil and military establishments.”
How fond he is of this one shilling and twenty. Who has desired this of you, and who can trust you to lay it out? If you are thus to provide for our civil and military establishments, what use will there afterwards be for our assemblies?
“And yet, small and inconsiderable as this share is, you will not pay it. No, you will not! and it is at your peril if we demand it.”
No! we will pay nothing on compulsion.
“For how, and in what manner, do you prove your allegations? Why, truly, by breaking forth into riots and insurrections, and by committing every kind of violence that can cause trade to stagnate, and industry to cease.”
The Americans never brought riots as arguments. It is unjust to charge two or three riots in particular places upon all America. Look for arguments in the petitions and remonstrances of the assemblies, who detest riots, of which there are ten in England for one in America.
“Perhaps you meant to insinuate (though it was prudence in you not to speak out) that the late act was ill-contrived and ill-timed, because it was made at a juncture when neither the French were in your rear to frighten, nor the English fleets and armies on your front to force, you to a compliance.”
It seems a prevailing opinion in England, that fear of their French neighbours would have kept the colonies in obedience to the Parliament, and that, if the French power had not been subdued, no opposition would have been made to the Stamp Act. A very groundless notion. On the contrary, had the French power continued, to which the Americans might have had recourse in the case of oppression from Parliament, Parliament would not have dared to oppress them. It was the employment of fifty thousand men by land, and a fleet on the coast, for five years, to subdue the French only. Half the land army was provincial. Suppose the British twenty-five thousand had acted by themselves, with all the colonies against them, what time would it have taken to subdue the whole?
“Or shall we give you entirely up, unless you will submit to be governed by the same laws as we are, and pay something towards maintaining yourselves?”
The impudence of this language to colonies who have ever maintained themselves, is astonishing! Except the late attempted colonies of Nova Scotia and Georgia, no colony ever received maintenance in any shape from Britain; and the grants to those colonies were mere jobs for the benefit of ministerial favorites, English or Scotchmen.
“Whether we are to give you entirely up, and, after having obliged you to pay your debts, whether we are to have no further connexion with you as a dependent state or colony”—
Throughout all America English debts are more easily recovered than in England, the process being shorter and less expensive, and land subject to execution for the payment of debts. Evidence, taken ex parte in England, to prove a debt, is allowed in their courts, and during the whole dispute there was not one single instance of any English merchant’s meeting with the least obstruction in any process or suit commenced there for that purpose.
“Externally, by being severed from the British empire, you will be excluded from cutting logwood in the Bays of Campeachy and Honduras, from fishing on the banks of Newfoundland, on the coast of Labrador, or in the bay of St. Lawrence, &c.”
We have no use for logwood, but to remit it for your refineries. We joined in conquering the Bay of St. Lawrence and its dependencies. As to the Sugar Islands, if you won’t allow us to trade with them, perhaps you will allow them to trade with us; or do you intend to starve them? Pray keep your bounties, and let us hear no more of them; and your troops, who never protected us against the savages, nor are fit for such a service; and the three hundred thousand pounds, which you seem to think so much clear profit to us, when, in fact, they never spend a penny among us, but they have for it from us a penny’s worth. The manufactures they buy are bought from you; the provisions we could, as we always did, sell elsewhere for as much money. Holland, France, and Spain would all be glad of our custom, and pleased to see the separation.
“And, after all, and in spite of any thing you can do, we in Britain shall still retain the greatest part of your European trade, because we shall give a better price for many of your commodities than you can have anywhere else, and we shall sell to you several of our manufactures, especially in the woollen-stuff and metal way, on cheaper terms.”
Oho! Then you will still trade with us! But can that be without our trading with you? And how can you buy our oil, if we catch no whales?
“The leaders of your party will then be setting all their engines to work, to make fools become the dupes of fools.”
Just as they do in England.
“And instead of having troops to defend them, and those troops paid by Great Britain, they must defend themselves, and pay themselves.”
To defend them! To oppress, insult, and murder them, as at Boston?
“Not to mention that the expenses of your civil governments will be necessarily increased; and that a fleet more or less must belong to each province for guarding their coasts, ensuring the payment of duties, and the like.”
These evils are all imaginations of the author. The same were predicted to the Netherlands, but have never yet happened. But suppose all of them together, and many more, it would be better to bear them than submit to parliamentary taxation. We might still have something we could call our own. But, under the power claimed by Parliament, we have not a single sixpence.
The author of this pamphlet, Dean Tucker, has always been haunted with the fear of the seat of government being soon to be removed to America. He has, in his Tracts on Commerce, some just notions in matters of trade and police, mixed with many wild and chimerical fancies totally impracticable. He once proposed, as a defence of the colonies, to clear the woods for the width of a mile all along behind them, that the Indians might not be able to cross the cleared part without being seen; forgetting that there is a night in every twenty-four hours.
FROM WILLIAM FRANKLIN
* * * * * * * * * *
It is now generally said to be Debert, & not Ray, who wrote that scandalous Aspersion of the Agents, presented in the New York & other Papers.
I really think it not at all unlikely that Mr. Allen is in some Degree out of his Senses. Upon finding that Williamson’s Essay, published in Bradford’s Supplement, did not take with the People, he cried out against it in the House as much as any Body. And yet at the last Session, when the Assembly were about appointing their Agents, he made that Piece the Foundation of a great deal of Abuse he threw out against you, & spoke from it as if it had been his Brief.
I have heard nothing further about Mr. Skinner, but perhaps I may now the Duke of Grafton is again in the Ministry.
I long to have your copy of the Examination.
Our friends have been a considerable Time greatly distressed with Mr. Hall,1 but his late conduct to Mr. Galloway has determined them to throw him off entirely. I have been above a year fully convinced that he had a greater Attachment to Mr. Allen than to you; and he treated me very insolently in a Letter he wrote to me on a supposition that I was the Author of Jack Retor. I have ever since dropt all kind of Intercourse with him. I wrote you a Letter at the Time, with a full Account of the whole Affair, but as I thought it would not be long before you return’d I did not send it, thinking it best not to trouble you till your Return, when you would have an opportunity of hearing both sides & enquiring into the Truth of the accusations against him. I really had a Friendship for Mr. Hall and have frequently endeavor’d to remove the Prejudices our Friends had conceived against him, but I am now quite satisfied that he has no Friendship for you, & is as great an Enemy to your side of the Question as ever Smith was. All the Difference is that Smith is so openly, & the other covertly—a mere Snake in the Grass. The Consequence is that your Friends (who would have set up a Press above a year ago, but that they did not know but you might chuse to be concerned in the Printing Business on your Return) have at length engaged Goddard, who served his Apprenticeship with Mr. Parker, to get up a Printing Office in Philada & publish a Newspaper. Mr. Galloway, & Mr. Thos. Wharton, for his encouragement have entered into Partnership with him & have agreed to advance what Money may be necessary. But as their Motive for doing this is not merely for the Sake of Profit, but principally to have a Press henceforth as open & safe to them, as Hall’s & Bradford’s are to the other Party, they have put it into their Agreement as I understand, that when you return you shall have it in your power to be concern’d, if you chuse it, in the place of one of them. The young man has brought several good Founts of Letters with him, but his Press he was obliged to leave with his Mother, who carries on the Business at Providence. They therefore desired me to ask my Mother to lend them the old Press which Parker used here, & they would either buy it of you, or pay you what you thought reasonable for the Hire. My Mother told me she had no objection to my letting them have it, but she did not chuse to do it of herself, lest Mr. Hall might be displeased with her for it. At the same Time she said she should be glad that the Printer would take the old House in which it was, as it stood empty & had not brought in any Rent for a great while. I accordingly let them have the Press, & they have agreed with my Mother to take your old House in Market Street. There is a new Mahogany Press there, which they seem Desirous to purchase if you incline to part with it, but I suppose they will write to you on the subject. What I have done is for the best, & I hope it will prove agreeable to you. There is, indeed, really a Necessity for their having a Press of their own, while their publick Affairs continue in their present critical situation, for it is with great difficulty they can get Hall or Bradford to consent to print any thing for them, & when they do, some of the Propry Party are sure to have it communicated to them before it is published. Hugh Roberts, and many more of your old Friends, have determined to encourage the new Printer all in their Power, & to go about the several Wards to get subscriptions to the Newspaper. The Members of Assembly will do the same in their respective Counties, & let him have all the Publick Work. So that I am in hopes that by the time you return they will lay the Foundation of a very valuable Business, worth your while to be concerned in, if you should think it proper or convenient. But I am likewise in hopes that when you do return you will have something far better worth your Acceptance than that can possibly be made. However, as all Things in this Life are uncertain, it may not perhaps be amiss for you to have it in your Power to engage in this affair.
I am, Honrd Sir,
[1 ]It was, however, agreed to in the same year, viz., in 1766.—B. V.
[2 ]The name of the person to whom this letter is addressed is not known. The letter, to which it is a reply, appears to have contained the letter of some third person equally unknown.—B. V.
[1 ]As soon as the Stamp Act was promulgated in the colonies, a cloud of petitions from their various assemblies was showered upon the Parliament for its repeal. The stamped paper was rejected as if it were poisoned; vessels were forbidden to land it; the distributors were compelled to resign their commissions; Hughes dared not show himself on the streets, nor did Franklin entirely escape. A caricature of the period represents the Devil whispering in his ear: “Ben, you shall be my agent throughout my dominions.” His house and family even were supposed at one time to be in peril from the mob, as appears by the following extract from a letter written him by his wife on the 22d September:
“You will see by the papers what work has happened in other places, and something has been said relative to raising a mob in this place. I was for nine days kept in a continual hurry by people to remove; and Sally was persuaded to go to Burlington [the residence of her brother, the governor] for safety; but, on Monday last, we had very great rejoicing on account of the change in the ministry, and a preparation for bonfires at night, and several houses threatened to be pulled down.
Cousin Davenport came and told me that more than twenty people had told him it was his duty to be with us. I said I was pleased to receive civility from any body, so he staid with me some time. Towards night I said he should fetch a gun or two, as we had none. I sent to ask my brother to come, and bring his gun also, so we [turned] one room into a magazine; I ordered some sort of defence up-stairs, such as I could manage myself. I said when I was advised to remove, that I was very sure you had done nothing to anybody, nor had I given any offence to any person at all, nor would I be uneasy by anybody, nor would I stir or show the least uneasiness, but if any one came to disturb me, I should show a proper resentment, and I should be very much affronted with anybody.
Sally was gone with Miss Rose to see Captain Real’s daughter, and heard the report there, and came home to be with me; but I had sent her word not to come. I was told there were eight hundred men ready to assist any one that should be molested.
Billy [the Governor of New Jersey] came down to ask us up to Burlington. I consented to Sally’s going, but I will not stir, as I really don’t think it would be right for me to show the least uneasiness at all.
It is Mr. Samuel Smith that is setting the people mad by telling them it was you that had planned the Stamp Act, and that you are endeavoring to get the Test Act brought over here.”
Such was the state of affairs in America when the subject was again brought before Parliament in the beginning of ’66, the Marquis of Rockingham having displaced Mr. Grenville.
The new ministers resolved to recommend a repeal of the Stamp Act. While the question was under debate in Parliament, a motion which probably originated with the ministers who were not striving to effect a repeal of the act, was adopted, that Franklin be called before the House, and examined respecting the state of affairs in America. This is the report of his examination.—Editor.
[1 ]The Stamp Act said: “that the Americans shall have no commerce, make no exchange of property with each other, neither purchase, nor grant, nor recover debts; they shall neither marry nor make their wills, unless they pay such and such sums” in specie for the stamps which must give validity to the proceedings. The operation of such a tax, had it obtained the consent of the people, appeared inevitable; and its annual productiveness, on its introduction, was estimated, by its proposer in the House of Commons at the committee for supplies, at one hundred thousand pounds sterling. The colonies being already reduced to the necessity of having paper money, by sending to Britain the specie they collected in foreign trade, in order to make up for the deficiency of their other returns for British manufactures, there were doubts whether there could remain specie sufficient to answer the tax.—B. V.
[1 ]The Stamp Act provided that a double duty should be laid “where the instrument, proceedings, &c., shall be engrossed, written, or printed within the said colonies and plantations, in any other than the English language.” This measure, it is presumed, appeared to be suggested by motives of convenience, and the policy of assimilating persons of foreign to those of British descent, and preventing their interference in the conduct of law business till this change should be affected. It seems, however, to have been deemed too precipitate, immediately to extend this clause to newly conquered countries. An exemption therefore was granted, in this particular, with respect to Canada and Grenada, for the space of five years, to be reckoned from the commencement of the duty. See the Stamp Act.—B. V.
[1 ]Strangers excluded, some parts of the northern colonies doubled their numbers in fifteen or sixteen years; to the southward they were longer; but, taking one with another, they had doubled, by natural generation only, once in twenty-five years. Pennsylvania, including strangers, had doubled in about sixteen years.—B. V.
[1 ]In the year 1733, “for the welfare and prosperity of our sugar colonies in America,” and “for remedying discouragement of planters,” duties were “given and granted” to George the Second upon all rum, spirits, molasses, syrups, sugar, and paneles of foreign growth, produce, and manufacture, imported into the colonies. This regulation of trade, for the benefit of the general empire was acquiesced in, notwithstanding the introduction of the novel terms “give and grant.” But the act, which was made only for the term of five years, and had been several times renewed in the reign of George the Second, and once in the reign of George the Third, was renewed again in the year 1763, in the reign of George the Third, and extended to other articles upon new and altered grounds. It was stated in the preamble to this act, “that it was expedient that new provisions and regulations should be established for improving the revenue of this kingdom”; that it “was just and necessary that a revenue should be raised in America for defending, protecting, and securing the same”; and that the Commons of Great Britain, desirous of making some provision towards raising the said revenue in America, have resolved to give and grant to his Majesty the several rates and duties,” &c. Mr. Mauduit, agent for Massachusetts Bay, tells us, that he was instructed in the following terms to oppose Mr. Grenville’s taxing system. “You are to remonstrate against these measures, and, if possible, to obtain a repeal of the Sugar Act, and prevent the imposition of any further duties or taxes on the colonies. Measures will be taken that you may be joined by all the other agents. Boston, June 14th, 1764.”
The question proposed to Dr. Franklin alludes to this sugar act in 1763. Dr. Franklin’s answer particularly merits the attention of the historian and politician.—B. V.
[1 ]Afterwards expressed in the Declaratory Act.—B. V.
[1 ]See “Remarks and Facts Relative to the American Paper Money,” in Spark’s Works of Franklin, vol. ii., p. 340.
[1 ]When this army was in the utmost distress, from the want of wagons, &c., our author and his son voluntarily traversed the country, in order to collect a sufficient quantity; and they had zeal and address enough to effect their purpose, upon pledging themselves, to the amount of many thousand pounds, for payment. It was just before Dr. Franklin’s last return from England to America, that the accounts in this transaction were passed at the British treasury.—B. V.
[1 ]I take the following to be the history of this transaction. Until 1763, and the years following, whenever Great Britain wanted supplies directly from the colonies, the Secretary of State, in his Majesty’s name, sent them a letter of requisition, in which the occasion for supplies was expressed; and the colonies returned a free gift, the mode of levying which they wholly prescribed. At this period, a chancellor of the exchequer (Mr. George Grenville) steps forth, and says to the House of Commons: “We must call for money from the colonies in the way of a tax”; and to the colony agents: “Write to your several colonies, and tell them if they dislike a duty upon stamps, and prefer any other method of raising the money themselves, I shall be content, provided the amount be but raised.” “That is,” observed the colonies, when commenting upon his terms, “if we do not tax ourselves, as we may be directed, the Parliament will tax us.” Dr. Franklin’s instructions, spoken of above, related to this gracious option. As the colonies could not choose “another tax,” while they disclaimed every tax, the Parliament passed the Stamp Act.
It seems that the only part of the offer which bore a show of favor, was the grant of the mode of levying; and this was the only circumstance which was not new.
See Mr. Mauduit’s account of Mr. Grenville’s conference with the agents, confirmed by the agents for Georgia and Virginia; and Mr. Burke’s Speech, in 1774, p. 55.—B. V.
[1 ]Dr. Franklin’s examination before Parliament, concerning the Stamp Act, was closed on the 13th of February, and contributed essentially towards effecting the repeal. The bill for the repeal of the Stamp Act received the royal assent on the 8th of March.
[1 ]Peter Franklin, the last surviving brother of Dr. Franklin, died July 1, 1766, in the seventy-fourth year of his age. He had formerly resided at Newport, Rhode Island; but at the time of his death he was deputy postmaster in Philadelphia.
[1 ]Translated from M. Dubourg’s French edition of the author’s work (Tome I., p. 265).—Sparks.
[1 ]The Plan remarked upon was under the consideration of the ministry before the close of the year 1766, and, as I am inclined to think, after the commencement of 1765. I can go no nearer as to its date. It is needless to enter into the particulars of it, as the Remarks explain themselves; except perhaps as to the following points:
The trade was to be open; there were to be two superintendents to it; in the northern district, the trade was to be carried on at fixed posts; in the southern, within the Indian towns; the military were to have no power over the superintendents or the Indian trade, even in war times, unless with the superintendents’ assent, or in great exigencies; the superintendents, by themselves or deputies, were to make annual visitations among the Indians, and their proceedings were to be very summary; and no credit was to be given to the Indians beyond fifty shillings, for no higher debt was to be made recoverable.—B. V.
[1 ]Marginal notes in Franklin’s pamphlets.
[1 ]The passages included within quotation marks are extracts from the pamphlet, and the sentence following each contains Dr. Franklin’s observations, which were copied from Franklin’s pamphlets.
[1 ]Franklin’s old partner in the printing business.