Front Page Titles (by Subject) CCLXXXVII: OBSERVATIONS ON PASSAGES IN A PAMPHLET ENTITLED GOOD HUMOR, OR AWAY WITH THE COLONIES 1 - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. IV Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768
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CCLXXXVII: OBSERVATIONS ON PASSAGES IN A PAMPHLET ENTITLED “GOOD HUMOR, OR AWAY WITH THE COLONIES” 1 - 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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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.
[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.