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CCCCLXIV: PREFACE BY THE BRITISH EDITOR - 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 “the votes and proceedings of the freeholders and other inhabitants of the town of boston”1
All accounts of the discontent so general in our colonies, have of late years been industriously smothered and concealed here; it seeming to suit the views of the American minister,1 to have it understood, that by his great abilities all faction was subdued, all opposition suppressed, and the whole country quieted. That the true state of affairs there may be known, and the true causes of that discontent well understood the following piece (not the production of a private writer, but the unanimous act of a large American city) lately printed in New England, is republished here. This nation, and the other nations of Europe, may thereby learn, with more certainty, the grounds of a dissension that possibly may, sooner or later, have consequences interesting to them all.
The colonies had from their first settlement been governed with more ease than perhaps can be equalled by any instance in history of dominions so distant. Their affection and respect for this country, while they were treated with kindness, produced an almost implicit obedience to the instructions of the Prince, and even to acts of the British Parliament; though the right of binding them by a legislature in which they were unrepresented, was never clearly understood. That respect and affection produced a partiality in favor of every thing that was English; whence their preference of English modes and manufactures; their submission to restraints on the importation of foreign goods, which they had but little desire to use; and the monopoly we so long enjoyed of their commerce, to the great enriching of our merchants and artificers.
The mistaken policy of the Stamp Act first disturbed this happy situation; but the flame thereby raised was soon extinguished by its repeal, and the old harmony restored, with all its concomitant advantage to our commerce. The subsequent act of another administration, which, not content with an established exclusion of foreign manufactures, began to make our own merchandise dearer to the consumers there, by heavy duties, revived it again; and combinations were entered into throughout the continent to stop trading with Britain till those duties should be repealed. All were accordingly repealed but one, the duty on tea. This was reserved (professedly so) as a standing claim and exercise of the right assumed by Parliament of laying such duties.1
The colonies, on this repeal, retracted their agreement, so far as related to all other goods, except that on which the duty was retained. This was trumpeted here by the minister for the colonies as a triumph; there it was considered only as a decent and equitable measure, showing a willingness to meet the mother country in every advance towards a reconciliation, and a disposition to a good understanding so prevalent that possibly they might soon have relaxed in the article of tea also. But the system of commissioners of customs, officers without end, with fleets and armies for collecting and enforcing those duties, being continued, and these acting with much indiscretion and rashness (giving great and unnecessary trouble and obstruction to business, commencing unjust and vexatious suits, and harassing commerce in all its branches, while that the minister kept the people in a constant state of irritation by instructions which appeared to have no other end than the gratifying his private resentments1 ), occasioned a persevering adherence to their resolutions in that particular; and the event should be a lesson to ministers not to risk through pique the obstructing any one branch of trade; since the course and connexion of general business may be thereby disturbed to a degree impossible to be foreseen or imagined. For it appears that the colonies finding their humble petitions to have this duty repealed were rejected and treated with contempt, and that the produce of the duty was applied to the rewarding with undeserved salaries and pensions every one of their enemies, the duty itself became more odious, and their resolution to share it more vigorous and obstinate.
The Dutch, the Danes, and French took this opportunity thus offered them by our imprudence, and began to smuggle their teas into the plantations. At first this was something difficult; but at length, as all business is improved by practice, it became easy. A coast fifteen hundred miles in length could not in all parts be guarded, even by the whole navy of England; especially where their restraining authority was by all the inhabitants deemed unconstitutional, the smuggling of course considered as patriotism. The needy wretches, too, who, with small salaries, were trusted to watch the ports, day and night, in all weathers, found it easier and more profitable not only to wink, but to sleep in their beds; the merchant’s pay being more generous than the King’s. Other India goods, also, which, by themselves, would not have made a smuggling voyage sufficiently profitable, accompanied tea to advantage; and it is feared the cheap French silks, formerly rejected, as not to the tastes of the colonies, may have found their way with the wares of India, and now established themselves in the popular use and opinion.
It is supposed that at least a million of Americans drink tea twice a day, which, at the first cost here, can scarce be reckoned at less than half a guinea a head per annum. This market, that in the five years which have run on since the act passed, would have paid two million five hundred thousand guineas for tea alone, into the coffers of the Company, we have wantonly lost to foreigners.
Meanwhile, it is said the duties have so diminished, that the whole remittance of the last year amounted to no more than the pitiful sum of eighty-five pounds,1 for the expense of some hundred thousands, in armed ships and soldiers, to support the officers. Hence the tea, and other India goods, which might have been sold in America, remain rotting in the Company’s warehouses2 ; while those of foreign ports are known to be cleared by the American demand. Hence, in some degree, the Company’s inability to pay their bills; the sinking of their stock, by which millions of property have been annihilated; the lowering of their dividend, whereby so many must be distressed; the loss to government of the stipulated four hundred thousand pounds a year,3 which must make a proportionable reduction in our savings towards the discharge of our enormous debt; and hence, in part, the severe blow suffered by credit in general,4 to the ruin of many families; the stagnation of business in Spitalfields and Manchester, through want of vent for their goods; with other future evils, which, as they cannot, from the numerous and secret connexions in general commerce, easily be foreseen, can hardly be avoided.
[1 ]On the 20th of November, 1772, there was a meeting of the inhabitants of Boston, at which was read a report of a committee, who had been appointed at a previous meeting. This report contained a view of the state of public affairs, touching largely on the rights of the colonists, and the infringement and violations of those rights by the British government. It was the boldest exposition of the American grievances, which had hitherto been made public, and was drawn up with as much ability as freedom.
[1 ]Lord Hillsborough. This nobleman, already first Lord of Trade, was introduced in 1768 into the new-titled office of Secretary of State for the Colonies.—B. V.
[1 ]Mr. Burke says (in his speech in 1774), that this preambulary tax had lost us at once the benefit of the west and of the east; had thrown open the folding-doors to contraband; and would be the means of giving the profits of the colony trade to every nation but ourselves. He adds, in the same place: “It is indeed a tax of sophistry, a tax of pedantry, a tax of disputation, a tax of war and rebellion, a tax for any thing but benefit to the imposers, or satisfaction to the subject.”—B. V.
[1 ]Some of his circular-letters had been criticized and exposed by one or two of the American assemblies.—B. V.
[1 ]“Eighty-five pounds, I am assured, my Lords, is the whole equivalent we have received for all the hatred and mischief, and all the infinite losses this kingdom has suffered during that year, in her disputes with North America.” See the Bishop of St. Asaph’s “Speech, intended to have been spoken.”—B. V.
[2 ]At this time they contained many millions of pounds of tea, including the usual stock on hand. Mr. Burke, in his Speech in 1774, supposes that America might have given a vent for ten millions of pounds. This seems to have been the greater part of the whole quantity.—B. V.
[3 ]On account of a temporary compromise of certain disputes with government.—B. V.
[4 ]Seen in certain memorable mercantile failures in the year 1772.