Front Page Titles (by Subject) CCCCXXIII: TO JAMES BOWDOIN - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. V Letters and Misc. Writings 1768-1772
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CCCCXXIII: TO JAMES BOWDOIN - 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 JAMES BOWDOIN
London, 13 January, 1772.
I should very readily have recommended your son to the care of my friend, Dr. Priestley, if he had continued to superintend the academy at Warrington; but he has left that charge some time since, and is now pastor of a congregation at Leeds in Yorkshire. I am much obliged to you for introducing me to the acquaintance of Mr. Erving, who appears a very intelligent, sensible man.
The governing of colonies by instruction has long been a favorite point with ministers here. About thirty years since, in a bill brought into Parliament relating to America, they inserted a clause to make the King’s instructions laws in the colonies, which, being opposed by the then agents, was thrown out. And I well remember a conversation with Lord Granville, soon after my arrival here, in which he expressed himself on that subject in the following terms: “Your American assemblies slight the King’s instructions, pretending that they are not laws. The instructions sent over to your governors are not like the pocket instructions given to ambassadors, to be observed at their discretion, as circumstances may require. They are drawn up by grave men, learned in the laws and constitutions of the realm; they are brought into Council, thoroughly weighed, well considered, and amended if necessary, by the wisdom of that body; and, when received by the governors, they are the laws of the land; for the King is the legislator of the colonies.”
I remember this the better, because, being a new doctrine to me, I put it down as soon as I returned to my lodgings. To be sure, if a governor thinks himself obliged to obey all instructions, whether consistent or inconsistent with the constitution, laws, and rights of the country he governs, and can proceed to govern in that train, there is an end of the constitution, and those rights are abolished. But I wonder, that any honest gentleman can think there is honor in being a governor on such terms. And I think the practice cannot possibly continue, especially if opposed with spirit by our assemblies. At present no attention is paid by the American ministers to any agent here, whose appointment is not ratified by the governor’s assent; and if this is persisted in, you can have none to serve you in a public character, that do not render themselves agreeable to these ministers, and those otherwise appointed can only promote your interests by conversation, as private gentlemen, or by writing.
Virginia had, as you observe, two agents, one for the Council, the other for the Assembly; but I think the latter only was considered as agent for the province. He was appointed by an act, which expired in the time of Lord Botetourt, and was not revived. The other, I apprehend, continues; but I am not well acquainted with the nature of his appointment. I only understand that he does not concern himself much with the general affairs of the colony.
It gives me great pleasure that my book afforded any to my friends. I esteem those letters of yours among its highest ornaments; and have the satisfaction to find that they add greatly to the reputation of American philosophy.
There is, in the governor’s Collection of Papers Relative to the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, published in 1769, a copy of an answer made by Randolph to several Heads of Inquiry, which I take to be the same with those I sent you.1 I shall be very glad to have an account of the present number of ratables, when you can obtain it for me.
In Ireland, among the patriots, I dined with Dr. Lucas. They are all friends of America, in which I said every thing I could think of to confirm them. Lucas gave Mr. Bowdoin, of Boston, for his toast. My best respects to Mrs. Bowdoin. With sincere and great esteem, I am, dear Sir, &c.,
[1 ]Dr. Franklin had sent to Mr. Bowdoin a set of Queries, respecting the state of affairs in New England, which were given to Edward Randolph by the ministry, when he was about to visit Massachusetts in 1676. Randolph returned answers to them the same year. The queries and answers are contained in Hutchinson’s Collection of Papers, etc., p. 477. Accompanying the queries, Randolph received an estimate, which is said to have been drawn from the best sources of information. A copy of this estimate was obtained by Dr. Franklin, and sent to Mr. Bowdoin. It is curious as an historical document, and has the merit of brevity. Its date is fifty-six years after the first settlement of Plymouth.