Front Page Titles (by Subject) CCLXXXVIII: FROM WILLIAM FRANKLIN - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. IV Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768
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CCLXXXVIII: FROM WILLIAM FRANKLIN - 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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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,
TO LORD KAMES
London, 11 April, 1767.
My Dear Lord:—
I received your obliging favor of January the 19th. You have kindly relieved me from the pain I had long been under. You are goodness itself. I ought to have answered yours of December 25th, 1765. I never received a letter that contained sentiments more suitable to my own. It found me under much agitation of mind on the very important subject it treated. It fortified me greatly in the judgment I was inclined to form, though contrary to the general vogue, on the then delicate and critical situation of affairs between Great Britain and the colonies, and on that weighty point, their union. You guessed aright in supposing that I would not be a mute in that play. I was extremely busy, attending members of both Houses, informing, explaining, consulting, disputing, in a continual hurry from morning till night, till the affair was happily ended. During the course of its being called before the House of Commons, I spoke my mind pretty freely. Enclosed I send you the imperfect account that was taken of that examination.1 You will there see how entirely we agree, except in a point of fact, of which you could not but be misinformed; the papers at that time being full of mistaken assertions, that the colonies had been the cause of the war, and had ungratefully refused to bear any part of the expenses of it.
I send it you now, because I apprehend some late accidents are likely to revive the contest between the two countries. I fear it will be a mischievous one. It becomes a matter of great importance, that clear idea, should be formed on solid principles, both in Britain and America, of the true political relation between them, and the mutual duties belonging to that relation. Till this is done, they will be often jarring. I know none whose knowledge, sagacity, and impartiality qualify him so thoroughly for such a service as yours do you. I wish, therefore, you would consider it. You may thereby be the happy instrument of great good to the nation, and of preventing much mischief and bloodshed. I am fully persuaded with you, that a consolidating union, by a fair and equal representation of all the parts of this empire in Parliament, is the only firm basis on which its political grandeur and prosperity can be founded. Ireland once wished it, but now rejects it. The time has been, when the colonies might have been pleased with it; they are now indifferent about it; and, if it is much longer delayed, they too will refuse it. But the pride of this people cannot bear the thought of it, and therefore it will be delayed. Every man in England seems to consider himself as a piece of a sovereign over America; seems to jostle himself into the throne with the King, and talks of our subjects in the colonies. The Parliament cannot well and wisely make laws suited to the colonies, without being properly and truly informed of their circumstances, abilities, temper, &c. This it cannot be without representatives from thence; and yet it is fond of this power, and averse to the only means of acquiring the necessary knowledge for exercising it; which is desiring to be omnipotent, without being omniscient.1
I have mentioned that the contest is likely to be revived. It is on this occasion. In the same session with the Stamp Act, an act was passed to regulate the quartering of soldiers in America; when the bill was first brought in, it contained a clause, empowering the officers to quarter their soldiers in private houses; this we warmly opposed, and got it omitted. The bill passed, however, with a clause that empty houses, barns, &c., should be hired for them; and that the respective provinces, where they were, should pay the expense and furnish firing, bedding, drink, and some other articles to the soldiers, gratis. There is no way for any province to do this but by the Assembly’s making a law to raise the money. The Pennsylvania Assembly has made such a law; the New York Assembly has refused to do it; and now all the talk here is of sending a force to compel them.
The reasons given by the Assembly to the governor for the refusal are, that they understand the act to mean the furnishing such things to soldiers, only while on their march through the country, and not to great bodies of soldiers, to be fixed, as at present, in the province, the burden in the latter case being greater than the inhabitants can bear; that it would put it in the power of the captain-general to oppress the province at pleasure, &c. But there is supposed to be another reason at bottom, which they intimate, though they do not plainly express it; to wit, that it is of the nature of an internal tax laid on them by Parliament, which has no right so to do. Their refusal is here called rebellion, and punishment is thought of.
Now waiving that point of right, and supposing the legislatures in America subordinate to the legislature of Great Britain, one might conceive, I think, a power in the superior legislature to forbid the inferior legislatures making particular laws; but to enjoin it to make a particular law, contrary to its own judgment, seems improper; an Assembly or Parliament not being an executive officer of government, whose duty it is, in law-making, to obey orders, but a deliberative body, who are to consider what comes before them, its propriety, practicability, or possibility, and to determine accordingly. The very nature of a Parliament seems to be destroyed by supposing it may be bounded and compelled, by a law of a superior Parliament, to make a law contrary to its own judgment.
Indeed, the act of Parliament in question has not, as in other acts when a duty is enjoined, directed a penalty on neglect or refusal, and a mode of recovering that penalty. It seems, therefore, to the people in America, as a mere requisition, which they are at liberty to comply with or not, as it may suit or not suit the different circumstances of the different provinces. Pennsylvania has therefore voluntarily complied. New York, as I said before, has refused. The ministry that made the act, and all their adherents, call for vengeance. The present ministry are perplexed, and the measures they will finally take on the occasion are yet unknown. But sure I am, that, if force is used, great mischief will ensue; the affections of the people of America to this country will be alienated; your commerce will be diminished; and a total separation of interests will be the final consequence.
It is a common but mistaken notion here, that the colonies were planted at the expense of Parliament, and that therefore the Parliament has a right to tax them, &c. The truth is, they were planted at the expense of private adventurers, who went over there to settle, with leave of the King, given by charter. On receiving this leave, and those charters, the adventurers voluntarily engaged to remain the King’s subjects, though in a foreign country; a country which had not been conquered by either King or Parliament, but was possessed by a free people.
When our planters arrived, they purchased the lands of the natives, without putting King or Parliament to any expense. Parliament had no hand in their settlement, was never so much as consulted about their constitution, and took no kind of notice of them till many years after they were established. I except only the two modern colonies, or rather attempts to make colonies (for they succeed but poorly, and as yet hardly deserve the name of colonies), I mean Georgia and Nova Scotia, which have hitherto been little better than Parliamentary jobs. Thus all the colonies acknowledge the King as their sovereign; his governors there represent his person; laws are made by their Assemblies or little parliaments, with the governor’s assent, subject still to the King’s pleasure to affirm or annul them. Suits arising in the colonies, and between colony and colony, are determined by the King in Council. In this view, they seem so many little states, subject to the same prince. The sovereignty of the King is therefore easily understood. But nothing is more common here than to talk of the sovereignty of parliament, and the sovereignty of this nation over the colonies; a kind of sovereignty, the idea of which is not so clear, nor does it clearly appear on what foundation it is established. On the other hand, it seems necessary for the common good of the empire, that a power be lodged somewhere, to regulate its general commerce; this can be placed nowhere so properly as in the Parliament of Great Britain; and therefore, though that power has in some instances been executed with great partiality to Britain and prejudice to the colonies, they have nevertheless always submitted to it. Custom-houses are established in all of them, by virtue of laws made here, and the duties instantly paid, except by a few smugglers, such as, are here and in all countries; but internal taxes laid on them by Parliament are still and ever will be objected to, for the reason that you will see in the mentioned examination.
Upon the whole, I have lived so great a part of my life in Britain, and have formed so many friendships in it, that I love it, and sincerely wish it prosperity; and therefore wish to see that union, on which alone I think it can be secured and established. As to America, the advantages of such a union to her are not so apparent. She may suffer at present under the arbitrary power of this country; she may suffer for a while in a separation from it; but these are temporary evils which she will outgrow. Scotland and Ireland are differently circumstanced. Confined by the sea, they can scarcely increase in numbers, wealth, and strength, so as to overbalance England. But America, an immense territory, favored by nature with all advantages of climate, soils, great navigable rivers, lakes, &c., must become a great country, populous and mighty; and will, in less time than is generally conceived, be able to shake off any shackles that may be imposed upon her, and perhaps place them on the imposers. In the meantime every act of oppression will sour their tempers, lessen greatly, if not annihilate, the profits of your commerce with them, and hasten their final revolt; for the seeds of liberty are universally found there, and nothing can eradicate them. And yet there remains among that people so much respect, veneration, and affection for Britain, that, if cultivated prudently, with a kind usage and tenderness for their privileges, they might be easily governed still for ages, without force or any considerable expense. But I do not see here a sufficient quantity of the wisdom that is necessary to produce such a conduct, and I lament the want of it.1
I borrowed at Millar’s the new edition of your Principles of Equity, and have read with great pleasure the preliminary discourse on the principles of morality. I have never before met with any thing so satisfactory on the subject. While reading it, I made a few remarks as I went along. They are not of much importance, but I send you the paper.
I know the lady you mention (Mrs. Montague); having, when in England before, met her once or twice at Lord Bath’s. I remember I then entertained the same opinion of her that you express. On the strength of your recommendation, I purpose soon to wait on her.
This is unexpectedly grown a long letter. The visit to Scotland, and the Art of Virtue, we will talk of hereafter. It is now time to say that I am, with increasing esteem and affection, my dear friend, yours ever,
[1 ]Franklin’s old partner in the printing business.
[1 ]Examination of Dr. Franklin in the British House of Commons. See vol. iv., p. 171.
[1 ]Among Dr. Franklin’s manuscripts is a paper, entitled “A Plan of Union by Admitting Representatives from the American Colonies and from Ireland into the British Parliament.” It is not in his handwriting, and it appears to have been communicated to him by some other person. The following is an outline of the scheme:
The mode of election in the colonies was to be left to the Assemblies. Provision was to be made, also, that neither the colonies nor Ireland should be taxed for protection and defence separately or apart from England; and that the revenue arising from the regulations of colonial trade should be exclusively appropriated to the particular uses of the colonies, for the purpose of defraying the expenses of civil government and other colonial charges.—See infra, Letter to John Ross, Dec. 13th.
[1 ]Mr. Tytler, in a note on this letter, after stating the views of Lord Kames on the controversy between Great Britain and the colonies, says: “But, if such were the sentiments of Lord Kames on the question of right between Britain and her colonies, it appears that, on viewing the matter in the light of expediency, he had very early formed an opinion that, in the relative situation of the two countries, and looking to the probable chance of increasing animosities, and matters being driven to extremity, either by the erring policy or factious views of some of the leaders in both, it would be a wise measure in the British government to waive the question of strict right, and to consent freely to a consolidating union with America, by giving that country a full representation in Parliament. On this subject he had written to Dr. Franklin as early as the end of the year 1765, at the time when the first intelligence arrived in this country of the disorders occasioned by the attempts to carry the Stamp Act into execution; and he had written a second letter to him on the same subject, in the beginning of 1767. Dr. Franklin’s answer to these letters is extremely interesting, and affords a striking specimen of the profound sagacity and foresight of that extraordinary man.”