Front Page Titles (by Subject) CCCLXXIV: OBSERVATIONS ON PASSAGES IN A PAMPHLET, ENTITLED THE TRUE CONSTITUTIONAL MEANS FOR PUTTING AN END TO THE DISPUTES BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND THE AMERICAN COLONIES. - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. V Letters and Misc. Writings 1768-1772
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CCCLXXIV: OBSERVATIONS ON PASSAGES IN A PAMPHLET, ENTITLED “THE TRUE CONSTITUTIONAL MEANS FOR PUTTING AN END TO THE DISPUTES BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND THE AMERICAN COLONIES.” - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. V Letters and Misc. Writings 1768-1772 
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. V (Letters and Misc. Writings 1768-1772).
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OBSERVATIONS ON PASSAGES IN A PAMPHLET, ENTITLED “THE TRUE CONSTITUTIONAL MEANS FOR PUTTING AN END TO THE DISPUTES BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND THE AMERICAN COLONIES.”
Extract. Every British subject must acknowledge that the directive influence of the British state remains with the British legislature, who are the only proper judges of what concerns the general welfare of the whole empire.
Observation. The British state is only the Island of Great Britain; the British legislature are undoubtedly the only proper judges of what concerns the welfare of that state; but the Irish legislature are the proper judges of what concerns the Irish state, and the American legislature of what concerns the American states respectively. By “the whole empire” does this writer mean all the King’s dominions? If so, the British Parliament should also govern the Isles of Jersey and Guernsey, and Hanover; but this is not so.
But the land tax, which I have proposed, is in its very nature unoppressive, and is equally well suited to the poorest as to the richest province of the British empire.
This writer seems ignorant that every colony has its own civil and military establishment to provide for, new roads and bridges to make, churches and all public edifices to erect; and would he separately tax them, moreover, with a tax on lands equal to what is paid in Britain?
The colonists must possess a luxuriant abundance to be able to double their inhabitants in so short a space.
How does this appear? Is not a mere competence sufficient for this purpose? If America will consent to pay thus its proportion of British taxes, will Britain pay out of the whole all the American taxes? Or is America to pay both?
The produce of the planters purchases for them what others buy with gold and silver; but even several of the colonists of the rank of good livers have often been seen to pay the price of a negro with gold. As instances of Virginian luxury, I have been assured that there are few families there without some plate; and at some entertainments the attendants have appeared almost as numerous as the guests.
Was not the gold first purchased by the produce of his land, obtained by hard labor? Does gold drop from the clouds in Virginia into the laps of the indolent. Their very purchasing plate and other superfluities from England is one means of disabling them from paying taxes to England. Would you have it both in meal and malt? It has been a great folly in the Americans to entertain English gentlemen with a splendid hospitality ill suited to their circumstances; by which they excited no other grateful sentiments in their guests than that of a desire to tax the landlord.
It cannot be deemed exorbitant, considering their traffic with the French sugar islands, as well as with our own; and this will make the whole of their importations four millions per annum.
This is arguing the riches of a people from their extravagance—the very thing that keeps them poor.
The inhabitants of Great Britain pay above thirteen millions sterling every year, including turnpikes and the poor’s rates, two articles which the colonists are exempt from.
A turnpike tax is no burden, as the turnpike gives more benefit than it takes. And ought the rich in Britain, who have made such numbers of poor by engrossing all the small divisions of land, and who keep the laborers and working people poor by limiting their wages,—ought those gentry to complain of the burden of maintaining the poor that have worked for them at unreasonably low rates all their lives? As well might the planter complain of being obliged to maintain his poor negroes when they grow old, or sick, or lame, and unable to provide for themselves.
For though all pay by the same law, yet none can be required to pay beyond his ability; and the fund from whence the tax is raised is, in the colonies that are least inhabited, just as able to bear the burden imposed, as in the most populous county of Great Britain.
The colonies are almost always considered by these ignorant, flimsy writers, as unwilling to contribute to the general exigencies of the state; which is not true. They are always willing, but will have the granting of their own money themselves; in which they are right for various reasons.
They would be content to take land from us gratuitously.
What land have they ever taken from you? The lands did not belong to the crown, but to the Indians, of whom the colonists either purchased them at their own expense, or conquered them without assistance from Britain. The engagement to settle the American lands, and the expense of settlement, are more than equivalent for what was of no value to Britain without a first settlement.
The rental of the lands in Great Britain and Ireland amounts to about twenty-two millions; but the rental of the same extent of lands in America is not probably one million sterling.
What signifies extent of unsettled lands, that produce nothing?
I beg to know if the returns of any traffic on earth ever produced so many per cent. as the returns of agriculture in a fertile soil and favorable climate.
How little this politician knows of agriculture! Is there any country where ten bushels of grain are generally got in for one sown? And are all the charges and advances for labor to be nothing? No farmer of America in fact makes five per cent. of his money. His profit is only being paid for his own labor and that of his children. The opulence of one English or Dutch merchant would make the opulence of a hundred American farmers.
It may, I think, be safely concluded that the riches of the colonists would not increase so fast, were the inhabitants to leave off enlarging their settlements and plantations, and run eagerly upon manufactures.
There is no necessity of leaving their plantations; they can manufacture in their families at spare times. Depend upon it, the Americans are not so impolitic as to neglect settlements for unprofitable manufactures; but some manufactures may be more advantageous to some persons than the cultivation of land, and these will prosecute such manufactures notwithstanding your oratory.
TO M. DUBOURG1
. . . I am persuaded, as well as you, that the sea coal has a vegetable origin, and that it has been formed near the surface of the earth; but, as preceding convulsions of nature had served to bring it very deep in many places, and covered it with many different strata, we are indebted to subsequent convulsions for having brought within our view the extremities of its veins, so as to lead us to penetrate the earth in search of it. I visited last summer a large coal mine at Whitehaven, in Cumberland; and in following the vein and descending by degrees towards the sea, I penetrated below the ocean, where the level of its surface was more than eight hundred fathoms above my head, and the miners assured me that their works extended some miles beyond the place where I then was, continually and gradually descending under the sea. The slate, which forms the roof of this coal mine, is impressed in many places with the figures of leaves and branches of fern, which undoubtedly grew at the surface when the slate was in the state of sand on the banks of the sea. Thus it appears that this vein of coal has suffered a prodigious settlement. . . .
[1 ]James Barbeu Dubourg, the first French editor of Franklin’s works, was an accomplished scholar and naturalist. In 1761, he published a medical periodical; in 1767, he published the Botaniste Francaise in two volumes, judged in its day to be “one of the most agreeable elementary books in the language.” He translated Bolingbroke’s Letters on History into French, and held at one time intimate relation with their author. He dedicated his Petit Code de la Raison Humaine to Franklin. He was one of the Society of Economistes in France.