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CCCCX: FROM SAMUEL COOPER TO B. FRANKLIN - 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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FROM SAMUEL COOPER TO B. FRANKLIN
Boston, 10 July, 1771.
My thanks are due to you for writing to me with so much freedom, and I endeavour to make the best use of what you communicate. Your interposition in favor of the charter was kind, and must endear you to every true friend of the province. But what shall we say of those who were capable of forming or promoting such a design? Can we suppose them possessed of such ideas and principles, as entitle them to influence the councils of a great nation?
I could not but regard with pleasure the figure which the Secretary made in his conversation with my friend. He must have been uneasy, not only from an apprehension of losing his place, but from feeling also his own littleness; and his self-sufficiency, for a moment at least, must have been suspended amidst all the pomp and parade of his office. His measures respecting this province exactly answer the picture you have given of him; and, while we have in the American department a man, of a size and temper to be a tool of Sir Francis Bernard, his Majesty’s service will be perpetually embarrassed.
The project, for making governors independent for their salaries upon the grants of the people they govern, gives great uneasiness to the most considerate friends of the constitution. The reasons you mention against it are unanswerable. It was taken for granted, when the charter was received here, that the governor was to be supported by the free gift of the province, and this was doubtless one reason for acquiescing in a compact that gave so great a power and influence to the crown; and, accordingly, this has been the manner in which the representatives of the crown have constantly been supported. It is a strong connexion between the ruler and the people, tending in every view to promote the great end of government, and the want of which no expedient can supply. The civil list is the free grant of a British Parliament, and is augmented from time to time at their pleasure, but the American revenue is not the gift of the American assemblies; it is extorted from them by mere power, contrary to their just remonstrances and humble petitions. And, though the Assembly may make a grant to a good governor, at the close of his administration, yet it is in the power of the crown to cut off from the people this very small resource of influence, by obliging its representative not to accept such a grant, while, by its absolute appointment of him, it is absolute master of his conduct.
Nor can there be any pretence for this threatening innovation from the conduct of our provincial Assembly upon this point. For even in the highest political contest with Sir Francis Bernard, so sensible were the House of the importance of supporting the King’s governor, while he remained in office, that they never once proposed to diminish or delay, much less to deny, his salary; and surely it is to be hoped that the Assembly will never meet with a stronger provocation to such a measure than they did in him.
I cannot forbear to add, though writing to one who has a much more thorough comprehension of the subject than myself, that this proposed, and, I am afraid, determined independence, is impolitic on the part of the crown, and tends to prejudice its interest, even considered separately from that of the people; as it will prove a strong temptation to governors to hold a conduct that will greatly lessen their esteem and influence in the province, and consequently their power to promote the service of the King. Caution and watchfulness in governors, and some regard to the interest, and even the inclinations and humors, of the people, must, I think, be a security to the prerogative; but independence will take off this guard, and lead them to be inattentive to, if not directly to encourage and promote, such things as will still further weaken the political connexion between the parent country and the colonies; so that I hope the ministry, upon cool consideration, may be induced to lay aside this measure, as they wish the continuance of the constitutional powers of the crown, and that it may long retain the peaceful and happy government of America.
I doubt not of your exerting your abilities and influence for so good a purpose; and, should you succeed, you will do a most important and obliging service to the province. But what are we to expect, when the means of self-defence upon such great points are to be taken from us, and no public moneys are allowed for the support of an agent, unless he be under the control of the governor?
You will no doubt be particularly informed of a new point that has alarmed us as much as any thing, and is regarded almost universally as an undisguised violation of a fundamental principle of the charter. I mean the governor’s refusing to sign the supply bill, because the Commissioners1 were not exempted by it from taxes. The crown grants by charter, that the General Assembly shall have full power and authority to impose rates and taxes upon all and every the proprietors and inhabitants of the province. No persons, however related to the crown, are excepted. The King now says, by his instructions, no supply bill shall be passed, unless the Commissioners are exempted. Is not this to claim a right to rescind by instruction what was solemnly ceded by charter and compact? The governor may indeed refuse his assent to a supply bill; but can he do it upon a declared principle subversive of the capital privileges of the charter, and only because they exercise the power and authority granted them in it? If the crown can exempt five persons, it may with equal right five hundred; not only the Commissioners, but all judges, justices, clerks of courts, constables, and all friends to government, as men of slavish principles affect to be called, and leave the whole burden of taxes upon those who wish well to the rights of their country.
In this manner people reason here. “But out of the eater cometh forth meat.” Good may arise from this. It is bold and open, and strikes every description of men. It is not a point confined to trade; it regards in itself, and much more in its tendency, the pocket of the farmer, and the farmer will regard his pocket. It shows the disposition of the Commissioners, who, for such a trifle as the tax they pay, and which, perhaps, affects their pride much more than their purse, have started a new and important subject of contention; and how fit they are for that influence in governmental measures, which they have so long and so mysteriously possessed.
I long to see your treatise, showing that every lady of Genoa is not Queen of Corsica. I doubt not you will be able to prove your point. But though I believe you capable of confuting a whole island of queens, I fear whether you could persuade them silently to renounce their crowns and sceptres. I am, Sir, with the greatest esteem, &c.,
[1 ]Commissioners appointed by the government to collect the customs in America.