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CCCXCIX: TO SAMUEL COOPER - 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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TO SAMUEL COOPER
London, 5 February, 1771.
I have just received your kind favor of January 1st by Mr. Bowdoin, to whom I should be glad to render any service here. I wrote to you some weeks since in answer to yours of July and November, expressing my sentiments without the least reserve on points that require free discussion, as I know I can confide in your prudence not to hurt my usefulness here by making me more obnoxious than I must necessarily be from that known attachment to the American interest, which my duty as well as inclination demands of me.
In the same confidence I send you the enclosed extract from my Journal, containing a late conference between the Secretary1 and your friend, in which you will see a little of his temper. It is one of the many instances of his behaviour and conduct that have given me the very mean opinion I entertain of his abilities and fitness for his station. His character is conceit, wrongheadedness, obstinacy, and passion. Those who would speak most favorably of him allow all this; they only add that he is an honest man and means well. If that be true, as perhaps it may, I wish him a better place, where only honesty and well-meaning are required, and where his other qualities can do no harm. Had the war taken place, I have reason to believe he would have been removed. He had, I think, some apprehensions of it himself at the time I was with him. I hope, however, that our affairs will not much longer be perplexed and embarrassed by his perverse and senseless management. I have since heard that his Lordship took great offence at some of my last words, which he calls extremely rude and abusive. He assured a friend of mine that they were equivalent to telling him to his face that the colonies could expect neither favor nor justice during his administration. I find he did not mistake me.
It is true, as you have heard, that some of my letters to America have been echoed back thither; but that has not been the case with any that were written to you. Great umbrage was taken, but chiefly by Lord Hillsborough, who was disposed before to be angry with me, and therefore the inconvenience was the less; and, whatever the consequences are of his displeasure, putting all my offences together, I must bear them as well as I can. Not but that if there is to be war between us I shall do my best to defend myself and annoy my adversary, little regarding the story of the Earthen Pot and Brazen Pitcher. One encouragement I have, the knowledge that he is not a whit better liked by his colleagues in the ministry than he is by me; that he cannot probably continue where he is much longer, and that he can scarce be succeeded by anybody who will not like me the better for his having been at variance with me.
Pray continue writing to me, as you find opportunity. Your candid, clear, and well-written letters, be assured, are of great use. With the highest esteem, I am, my dear friend, &c.,
[Minutes of the Conference mentioned in the preceding Letter.]
Wednesday, 16 January, 1771.
I went this morning to wait on Lord Hillsborough. The porter at first denied his Lordship, on which I left my name, and drove off. But before the coach got out of the square the coachman heard a call, turned, and went back to the door, when the porter came and said: “His Lordship will see you, Sir.” I was shown into the levee room, where I found Governor Bernard, who, I understand, attends there constantly. Several other gentlemen were there attending, with whom I sat down a few minutes, when Secretary Pownall1 came out to us, and said his Lordship desired I would come in.
I was pleased with this ready admission and preference, having sometimes waited three or four hours for my turn; and, being pleased, I could more easily put on the open, cheerful countenance that my friends advised me to wear. His Lordship came towards me, and said: “I was dressing in order to go to court; but, hearing that you were at the door, who are a man of business, I determined to see you immediately.” I thanked his Lordship, and said that my business at present was not much; it was only to pay my respects to his Lordship and to acquaint him with my appointment by the House of Representatives of Massachusetts Bay to be their agent here, in which station if I could be of any service—(I was going on to say—“to the public I should be very happy”; but his Lordship, whose countenance changed at my naming that province, cut me short by saying with something between a smile and a sneer):
I must set you right there, Mr. Franklin, you are not agent.
Why, my Lord?
You are not appointed.
I do not understand your Lordship; I have the appointment in my pocket.
You are mistaken; I have later and better advices. I have a letter from Governor Hutchinson; he would not give his assent to the bill.
There was no bill, my Lord; it was a vote of the House.
There was a bill presented to the governor for the purpose of appointing you and another, one Dr. Lee, I think he is called, to which the governor refused his assent.
I cannot understand this, my Lord; I think there must be some mistake in it. Is your Lordship quite sure that you have such a letter?
I will convince you of it directly. (Rings the bell.) Mr. Pownall will come in and satisfy you.
It is not necessary, that I should now detain your Lordship from dressing. You are going to court. I will wait on your Lordship another time.
No, stay; he will come immediately. (To the servant.) Tell Mr. Pownall I want him. (Mr. Pownall comes in.)
Have not you at hand Governor Hutchinson’s letter, mentioning his refusing his assent to the bill for appointing Dr. Franklin agent?
Is there not such a letter?
No, my Lord; there is a letter relating to some bill for the payment of a salary to Mr. De Berdt, and I think to some other agent, to which the governor had refused his assent.
And is there nothing in the letter to the purpose I mention?
No, my Lord.
I thought it could not well be, my Lord; as my letters are by the last ships, and they mention no such thing. Here is the authentic copy of the vote of the House appointing me, in which there is no mention of any act intended. Will your Lordship please to look at it? (With seeming unwillingness he takes it, but does not look into it.)
An information of this kind is not properly brought to me as Secretary of State. The Board of Trade is the proper place.
I will leave the paper then with Mr. Pownall to be—
L. H. (Hastily)—
To what end would you leave it with him?
To be entered on the minutes of that Board, as usual.
L. H. (Angrily)—
It shall not be entered there. No such paper shall be entered there while I have any thing to do with the business of that Board. The House of Representatives has no right to appoint an agent. We shall take no notice of any agents, but such as are appointed by acts of Assembly, to which the governor gives his assent. We have had confusion enough already. Here is one agent appointed by the Council, another by the House of Representatives. Which of these is agent for the province? Who are we to hear in provincial affairs? An agent appointed by act of Assembly we can understand. No other will be attended to for the future, I can assure you.
I cannot conceive, my Lord, why the consent of the governor should be thought necessary to the appointment of an agent for the people. It seems to me that——.
L. H. (With a mixed look of anger and contempt)—
I shall not enter into a dispute with you, Sir, upon this subject.
I beg your Lordship’s pardon; I do not presume to dispute with your Lordship. I would only say that it seems to me that every body of men who cannot appear in person where business relating to them may be transacted, should have a right to appear by an agent. The concurrence of the governor does not seem to be necessary. It is the business of the people that is to be done; he is not one of them; he is himself an agent.
L. H. (Hastily)—
Whose agent is he?
The King’s, my Lord.
No such matter. He is one of the corporation by the province charter. No agent can be appointed but by an act, nor any act pass without his assent. Besides, this proceeding is directly contrary to express instructions.
I did not know there had been such instructions. I am not concerned in any offence against them, and——.
Yes, your offering such a paper to be entered is an offence against them. (Folding it up again without having read a word of it.) No such appointment shall be entered. When I came into the administration of American affairs I found them in great disorder. By my firmness they are now something mended; and while I have the honor to hold the seals I shall continue the same conduct, the same firmness. I think my duty to the master I serve, and to the government of this nation, requires it of me. If that conduct is not approved, they may take my office from me when they please. I shall make them a bow, and thank them; I shall resign with pleasure. That gentleman knows it (pointing to Mr. Pownall); but while I continue in it I shall resolutely persevere in the same firmness. (Spoken with great warmth, and turning pale in his discourse, as if he was angry at something or somebody besides the agent, and of more consequence to himself.)
B. F. (Reaching out his hand for the paper, which his Lordship returned to him)—
I beg your Lordship’s pardon for taking up so much of your time. It is, I believe, of no great importance whether the appointment is acknowledged or not, for I have not the least conception that an agent can at present be of any use to any of the colonies. I shall therefore give your Lordship no further trouble. (Withdrew.)
[1 ]Lord Hillsborough.
[1 ]John Pownall, Secretary to the Board of Trade, and brother to Governor Pownall.