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DXC: AN ACCOUNT OF THE TRANSACTIONS RELATING TO GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON’S LETTERS - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. VI Letters and Misc. Writings 1772-1775 
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. VI (Letters and Misc. Writings 1772-1775).
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AN ACCOUNT OF THE TRANSACTIONS RELATING TO GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON’S LETTERS
Having been from my youth more or less engaged in public affairs, it has often happened to me in the course of my life to be censured sharply for the part I took in them. Such censures I have generally passed over in silence, conceiving, when they were just, that I ought rather to amend than defend; and, when they were undeserved, that a little time would justify me. Much experience has confirmed my opinion of the propriety of this conduct; for, notwithstanding the frequent, and sometimes the virulent attacks which the jostlings of party interests have drawn upon me, I have had the felicity of bringing down to a good old age as fair a reputation (may I be permitted to say it?) as most public men that I have known, and have never had reason to repent my neglecting to defend it.
I should therefore (persisting, as old men ought to do, in old habits) have taken no notice of the late invective of the solicitor-general, nor of the abundant abuse in the papers, were I not urged to it by my friends, who say, that the first, being delivered by a public officer of government before a high and most respectable court, the Privy Council, and countenanced by its report, and the latter having that for its foundation, it behooves me, more especially as I am about leaving this country, to furnish them with the knowledge of such facts as may enable them to justify to others their good opinion of me. This compels me to the present undertaking; for otherwise, having for some time past been gradually losing all public connections, declining my agencies, determined on retiring to my little family, that I might enjoy the remainder of life in private repose, indifferent to the opinion of courtiers, as having nothing to seek or wish among them, and being secure that time would soon lay the dust which prejudice and party have so lately raised, I should not think of giving myself the trouble of writing, and my friends of reading, an apology for my political conduct.
That this conduct may be better understood, and its consistency more apparent, it seems necessary that I should first explain the principles on which I have acted. It has long appeared to me that the only true British policy was that which aimed at the good of the whole British empire, not that which sought the advantage of one part in the disadvantage of the others; therefore all measures of procuring gain to the mother country arising from loss to her colonies, and all of gain to the colonies arising from or occasioning loss to Britain, especially where the gain was small and the loss great, every abridgment of the power of the mother country, where that power was not prejudicial to the liberties of the colonists, and every diminution of the privileges of the colonists, where they were not prejudicial to the welfare of the mother country, I, in my own mind, condemned as improper, partial, unjust, and mischievous, tending to create dissensions, and weaken that union on which the strength, solidity, and duration of the empire greatly depended; and I opposed, as far as my little powers went, all proceedings, either here or in America, that in my opinion had such tendency. Hence it has often happened to me that while I have been thought here too much of an American, I have in America been deemed too much of an Englishman.
From a thorough inquiry (on occasion of the Stamp Act) into the nature of the connection between Britain and the colonies, I became convinced that the bond of their union is not the Parliament, but the king. That, in removing to America, a country out of the realm, they did not carry with them the statutes then existing; for, if they did, the Puritans must have been subject there to the same grievous act of conformity, tithes, spiritual courts, etc., which they meant to be free from by going thither; and in vain would they have left their native country, and all the conveniences and comforts of its improved state, to combat the hardships of a new settlement in a distant wilderness, if they had taken with them what they meant to fly from, or if they had left a power behind them, capable of sending the same chains after them to bind them in America. They took with them, however, by compact, their allegiance to the king, and a legislative power for the making a new body of laws with his assent, by which they were to be governed. Hence they became distinct states, under the same prince, united as Ireland is to the crown, but not to the realm of England, and governed each by its own laws, though with the same sovereign, and having each the right of granting its own money to that sovereign.
At the same time I considered the king’s supreme authority over all the colonies as of the greatest importance to them, affording a dernier ressort for settling all their disputes, a means of preserving peace among them with each other, and a centre in which their common force might be united against a common enemy. This authority I therefore thought, when acting within its due limits, should be ever as carefully supported by the colonists as by the inhabitants of Britain.
In conformity with these principles, and as agent for the colonies, I opposed the Stamp Act, and endeavored to obtain its repeal, as an infringement of the rights of the colonists, of no real advantage to Britain, since she might ever be sure of greater aids from our voluntary grants than she could expect from arbitrary taxes, as by losing our respect and affection, on which much of her commerce with us depended, she would lose more in that commerce than she could possibly gain by such taxes, and as it was detrimental to the harmony which had till then so happily subsisted, and which was so essential to the welfare of the whole. And to keep up, as much as in me lay, a reverence for the king and a respect for the British nation on that side the water, and, on this, some regard for the colonies (both tending to promote that harmony), I industriously, on all occasions, in my letters to America, represented the measures that were grievous to them as being neither royal nor national measures, but the schemes of an administration, which wished to recommend itself for its ingenuity in finance, or to avail itself of new revenues in creating, by places and pensions, new dependencies; for that the king was a good and gracious prince, and the people of Britain their real friends. And on this side the water, I represented the people of America as fond of Britain, concerned for its interest and its glory, and without the least desire of a separation from it. In both cases I thought, and still think, I did not exceed the bounds of truth, and I have the heartfelt satisfaction attending good intentions, even when they are not successful.
With these sentiments I could not but see with concern the sending of troops to Boston; and their behavior to the people there gave me infinite uneasiness, as I apprehended from that measure the worst of consequences, a breach between the two countries. And I was the more concerned when I found that it was considered there as a national measure (since none here opposed it), and as a proof that Britain had no longer a paternal regard for them. I myself in conversation sometimes spoke of it in this light, and I own with some resentment (being myself a native of that country), till I was, to my great surprise, assured by a gentleman of character and distinction (whom I am not at present permitted to name), that not only the measure I particularly censured so warmly, but all the other grievances we complained of, took their rise, not from the government here, but were projected, proposed to administration, solicited, and obtained, by some of the most respectable among the Americans themselves, as necessary measures for the welfare of that country. As I could not readily assent to the probability of this, he undertook to convince me, and he hoped, through me (as their agent here), my countrymen. Accordingly, he called on me some days after, and produced to me these very letters from Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson, Secretary Oliver, and others, which have since been the subject of so much discussion.
Though astonished, I could not but confess myself convinced, and I was ready, as he desired, to convince my countrymen; for I saw, I felt indeed by its effect upon myself, the tendency it must have toward a reconciliation, which for the common good I earnestly wished. It appeared, moreover, my duty to give my constituents intelligence of such importance to their affairs; but there was some difficulty, as this gentleman would not permit copies to be taken of the letters; and, if that could have been done, the authenticity of those copies might have been doubted and disputed. My simple account of them, as papers I had seen, would have been still less certain. I therefore wished to have the use of the originals for that purpose, which I at length obtained, on these express conditions: that they should not be printed; that no copies should be taken of them; that they should be shown only to a few of the leading people of the government; and that they should be carefully returned.
I accepted those conditions, and under the same transmitted the original letters to the Committee of Correspondence at Boston, without taking or reserving any copy of them for myself. I agreed the more willingly to the restraint, from an apprehension that a publication might, considering the state of irritation in which the minds of the people there had long been kept, occasion some riot of mischievous consequence. I had no other scruple in sending them, for, as they had been handed about here to injure that people, why not use them for their advantage? The writers, too, had taken the same liberty with the letters of others, transmitting hither those of Rosne and Auchmuty in confirmation of their own calumnies against the Americans; copies of some of mine, too, had been returned here by officers of government. Why, then, should theirs be exempt from the same treatment? To whom they had been directed here I could only conjecture; for I was not informed, and there was no address upon them when I received them. My letter, in which I enclosed them, expressed more fully the motives above mentioned for sending them, and I shall presently give an extract of so much of it as related to them.
But as it has, on the contrary, been roundly asserted that I did not, as agent, transmit those letters to the Assembly’s Committee of Correspondence; that I sent them to a junto, my peculiar correspondents; that, fearing to be known as the person who sent them, I had insisted on the keeping that circumstance a secret; that I had “shown the utmost solicitude to have that secret kept”; and as this has been urged as a demonstrative proof that I was conscious of guilt in the manner of obtaining them, and therefore feared a discovery so much as to have been afraid of putting my name to the letter in which I enclosed them, and which only appeared to be mine by my well-known handwriting, I would here, previous to that extract, observe, that on the same paper was first written the copy of a preceding letter, which had been first signed by me as usual; and accordingly, the letter now in question began with these words, “The above is a copy of my last”; and all the first part of it was on business transacted by me relating to the affairs of the province, and particularly to two petitions sent to me as agent by the Assembly, to be presented to the king. These circumstances must to every person there have as clearly shown me to be the writer of that letter, as my well-known hand must have done to those peculiar correspondents of my own, to whom it is said I sent it. If then I hoped to be concealed by not signing my name to such a letter, I must have been as silly as that bird, which is supposed to think itself unseen when it has hid only its head. And if I could depend on my correspondents keeping secret a letter and a transaction which they must needs know were mine, I might as well have trusted them with my name, and could have had no motive for omitting it. In truth, all I insisted on was (in pursuance of my engagement), that the letters should not be printed or copied; but I had not at the time the least thought or desire of keeping my part in that transaction a secret; and, therefore, so far from requesting it, I did not so much as give the smallest intimation even that it would be agreeable to me not to be mentioned on the occasion. And if I had had that inclination, I must have been very weak indeed to fancy that the person I wrote to, all the rest of the Committee of Correspondence, five other persons named, and “such others as the committee might think fit to show them to,” with three gentlemen here to whom I had communicated the matter, should all keep as a secret on my account what I did not state as a secret, or request should be concealed.
So much of the letters as relates to the governor’s letters is as follows.
“On this occasion I think it fit to acquaint you, that there has lately fallen into my hands part of a correspondence that I have reason to believe laid the foundation of most, if not all our present grievances. I am not at liberty to tell through what channel I received it; and I have engaged that it shall not be printed, nor copies taken of the whole, or any part of it; but I am allowed to let it be seen by some men of worth in the province, for their satisfaction only. In confidence of your preserving inviolably my engagement, I send you enclosed the original letters, to obviate every pretence of unfairness in copying, interpolation, or omission. The hands of the gentlemen will be well known. Possibly they may not like such an exposal of their conduct, however tenderly and privately it may be managed. But, if they are good men, or pretend to be such, and agree that all good men wish a good understanding and harmony to subsist between the colonies and their mother country, they ought the less to regret that, at the small expense of their reputation for sincerity and public spirit among their compatriots, so desirable an event may in some degree be forwarded. For my own part, I cannot but acknowledge that my resentment against this country, for its arbitrary measures in governing us, conducted by the late minister, has, since my conviction by these papers that those measures were projected, advised, and called for by men of character among ourselves, and whose advice must therefore be attended with all the weight that was proper to mislead, and which could therefore scarce fail of misleading; my own resentment, I say, has by this means been exceedingly abated. I think they must have the same effect with you; but I am not, as I have said, at liberty to make the letters public. I can only allow them to be seen by yourself, by the other gentlemen of the Committee of Correspondence, by Messrs. Bowdoin and Pitts of the Council, and Drs. Chauncey, Cooper, and Winthrop, with a few such other gentlemen as you may think fit to show them to. After being some months in your possession, you are requested to return them to me.
As to the writers, I can easily as well as charitably conceive it possible, that men educated in prepossessions of the unbounded authority of Parliament, etc., may think unjustifiable every opposition, even to its unconstitutional exactions, and imagine it their duty to suppress, as much as in them lies, such opposition. But, when I find them bartering away the liberties of their native country for posts, and negotiating for salaries and pensions extorted from the people; and, conscious of the odium these might be attended with, calling for troops to protect and secure the enjoyment of them; when I see them exciting jealousies in the crown, and provoking it to work against so great a part of its most faithful subjects; creating enmities between the different countries of which the empire consists; occasioning a great expense to the old country for suppressing or preventing imaginary rebellions in the new, and to the new country for the payment of needless gratifications to useless officers and enemies, I cannot but doubt their sincerity even in the political principle they profess, and deem them mere time-servers, seeking their own private emolument, through any quantity of public mischief; betrayers of the interest, not of their native country only, but of the government they pretend to serve, and of the whole English empire.
With the greatest esteem and respect, I have the honor to be, sir, your and the committee’s most obedient humble servant,
My next letter is of January 5, 1773, to the same gentleman,1 beginning with these words. “I did myself the honor of writing to you on the 2d of December past, enclosing some original letters from persons at Boston, which I hope got safe to hand”; and then it goes on with other business transacted by me as agent, and is signed with my name as usual. In truth I never sent an anonymous letter to any person in America, since my residence in London, unless where two or more letters happened to be on the same paper, the first a copy of a preceding letter, and the subsequent referring to the preceding; in that case, I may possibly have omitted signing more than one of them, as unnecessary.
The first letter acknowledging the receipt of the papers, is dated “Boston, March 24, 1773,” and begins thus: “I have just received your favor of the 2d December last, with the several papers enclosed, for which I am much obliged to you. I have communicated them to some of the gentlemen you mentioned. They are of opinion that, though it might be inconvenient to publish them, yet it might be expedient to have copies taken and left on this side the water, as there may be a necessity to make some use of them hereafter; however, I read to them what you wrote to me upon the occasion, and told them I could by no means consent copies of them or any part of them should be taken without your express leave; that I would write to you upon the subject, and strictly conform to your directions.”
The next letter, dated April 20, 1773, begins thus: “I wrote you in my last, that the gentlemen to whom I had communicated the papers you sent me under cover of yours of the 2d of December last were of opinion that they ought to be retained on this side the water, to be hereafter employed as the exigency of our affairs may require, or at least that authenticated copies ought to be taken before they are returned. I shall have, I find, a very difficult task properly to conduct this matter, unless you obtain leave for their being retained or copied. I shall wait your directions on this head, and hope they will be such as will be agreeable to all the gentlemen, who unanimously are of opinion that it can by no means answer any valuable purpose to send them here for the inspection of a few persons, barely to satisfy their curiosity.”
On the 9th of March, I wrote to the same person, not having then received the preceding letters, and mentioned my having written to him on the 2d of December and 5th of January; and, knowing what use was made against the people there, of every trifling mob, and fearing lest, if the letters should, contrary to my directions, be made public, something more serious of the kind might happen, I concluded that letter thus: “I must hope that great care will be taken to keep our people quiet, since nothing is more wished for by our enemies, than that by insurrections we should give a good pretence for increasing the military among us, and putting us under more severe restraints. And it must be evident to all, that by our rapidly increasing strength we shall soon become of so much importance, that none of our just claims and privileges will be, as heretofore, unattended to, nor any security we can wish for our rights be denied us.”
Mine of May 6th begins thus: “I have received none of your favors, since that of November 28th. I have since written to you of the following dates, December 2d, January 5th, March 9th, and April 3d, which I hope got safe to hand.” Thus in two out of three letters, subsequent to that of December 2d, which enclosed the governor’s letters, I mentioned my writing that letter, which showed I could have no intention of concealing my having written it; and that therefore the assertion of my sending it anonymously is without probability.
In mine of June 2, 1773, I acknowledge the receipt of his letter of March 24th, and, not being able to answer immediately his request of leave to copy the letters, I said nothing of them then, postponing that subject to an opportunity which was expected two days after, viz., June 4th, when my letter of that date concludes thus: “As to the letters I communicated to you, though I have not been able to obtain leave to take copies or publish them, I have permission to let the originals remain with you, as long as you may think it of any use to have the originals in possession.”
In mine of July 7th, 1773, I answer the above of April 20th as follows; “The letters communicated to you were not merely to satisfy the curiosity of any, but it was thought there might be a use in showing them to some friends of the province, and even to some of the governor’s party, for their more certain information concerning his conduct and politics, though the letters were not made quite public. I believe I have since written to you, that there was no occasion to return them speedily; and though I cannot obtain leave as yet to suffer copies to be taken of them, I am allowed to say that they may be shown and read to whom and as many as you think proper.”
The same person wrote to me June 14, 1773, in these terms: “I have endeavored inviolably to keep to your injunctions with respect to the papers you sent me; I have shown them only to such persons as you directed; no one person, except Dr. Cooper and one of the committee, knows from whom they came or to whom they were sent. I have constantly avoided mentioning your name upon the occasion, so that it need never be known (if you incline to keep it a secret) whom they came from, and to whom they were sent; and I desire, so far as I am concerned, my name may not be mentioned; for it may be a damage to me. I thought it, however, my duty to communicate them as permitted, as they contained matters of importance that very nearly affected the government. And, notwithstanding all my care and precaution, it is now publicly known that all such letters are here. Considering the number of persons who were to see them (not less than ten or fifteen), it is astonishing they did not get air before.” Then he goes on to relate how the Assembly, having heard of them, obliged him to produce them, but engaged not to print them; and that they afterwards did nevertheless print them, having got over that engagement by the appearance of copies in the House, produced by a member, who it was reported had just received them from England. This letter concludes: “I have done all in my power strictly to conform to your restrictions; but, from the circumstances above related, you must be sensible it was impossible to prevent the letters being made public, and therefore hope I shall be free from all blame respecting this matter.”
This letter accounts for its being, unexpectedly to me, made a secret in Boston, that I had sent the letters. The gentleman to whom I sent them had his reasons for desiring not to be known as the person who received and communicated them; but as this would have been suspected, if it were known that I sent them, that circumstance was to be kept a secret. Accordingly they were given to another, to be by him produced by the committee.
My answer to this was of July 25, 1773, as follows: “I am favored with yours of June 14th, containing some copies of the resolves of the committee upon the letters. I see by your account of the transaction, that you could not well prevent what was done. As to the report of other copies being come from England, I think that could not be. It was an expedient to disengage the House. I hope the possession of the originals, and the proceedings upon them, will be attended with salutary effects to the province, and then I shall be well pleased. I observe what you mention, that no person besides Dr. Cooper and one of the committee knew they came from me. I did not accompany them with any request of being myself concealed; for, believing what I did to be in the way of my duty as agent, though I had no doubt of its giving offence, not only to the parties exposed, but to administration here, I was regardless of the consequences. However, since the letters themselves are now copied and printed, contrary to the promise I made, I am glad my name has not been heard on the occasion; and, as I do not see it could be of any use to the public, I now wish it may continue unknown, though I hardly expect it. As to yours, you may rely on my never mentioning it, except that I may be obliged to show your letter in my own vindication to the person only who might otherwise think he had reason to blame me for breach of engagement.”
With the above-mentioned letter of the 14th of June I received one from another of the gentlemen1 to whom the papers had been communicated, which says: “By whom and to whom they were sent is still a secret, known only to three persons here, and may still remain so, if you desire it.” My answer to him of July 25th was: “I accompanied them with no restriction relating to myself; my duty to the province as their agent, I thought, required the communication of them so far as I could. I was sensible I should make enemies there, and perhaps might offend government here; but these apprehensions I disregarded. I did not expect, and hardly still expect, that my sending them could be kept a secret. But since it is such hitherto, I now wish it may continue so, because the publication of the letters, contrary to my engagement, has changed the circumstances.” His reply to this, of the 10th of November, is: “After all the solicitous inquiries of the governor and his friends respecting his letters, it still remains a secret from and to whom they were sent here. This is known, among us, to two only besides myself, and will remain undiscovered, unless further intelligence should come from your side the water than I have reason to think has yet been obtained. I cannot, however, but admire your honest openness in this affair, and noble negligence of any inconveniences that might arise to yourself in this essential service to our injured country.”
To another friend1 I wrote of the same date, July 25th, what will show the apprehensions I was constantly under, of the mischiefs that would attend a breach from the exasperated state of things, and the arguments I used to prevent it, viz.: “I am glad to see that you are elected into the council, and are about to take part in our public affairs. Your abilities, integrity, and sober attachment to the liberties of our country will be of great use, at this tempestuous time, in conducting our little bark into a safe harbor. By the Boston newspapers there seem to be among us some violent spirits, who are for an immediate rupture. But I trust the general prudence of our countrymen will see that by our growing strength we advance fast to a situation in which our claims must be allowed; that by a premature struggle we may be crippled and kept down another age; that, as between friends every affront is not worth a duel, and between nations every injury is not worth a war, so between the governed and the governing, every mistake in government, every encroachment on rights, is not worth a rebellion. It is, in my opinion, sufficient for the present that we hold them forth on all occasions, not giving up any of them; using, at the same time, every means to make them generally understood and valued by the people; cultivating a harmony among the colonies, that their union in the same sentiments may give them greater weight; remembering withal that this Protestant country (our mother, though of late an unkind one) is worth preserving; and that her weight in the scale of Europe, her safety, in a great degree, may depend on our union with her. Thus conducting, I am confident we may within a few years obtain every allowance of, and every security for, our inestimable privileges that we can wish or desire.”
His answer, of December 31st, is: “I concur perfectly with you in the sentiments expressed in your last. No considerate person, I should think, can approve of your desperate remedies, except in desperate cases. The people of America are extremely agitated by the repeated efforts of administration to subject them to absolute power. They have been amused with accounts of the pacific disposition of the ministry, and flattered with assurances that upon their humble petitions all their grievances would be redressed. They have petitioned from time to time; but their petitions have had no other effect than to make them feel more sensibly their own slavery. Instead of redress, every year has produced some new manœuvre, which could have no tendency but to irritate them more and more. The last measure of the East India Company’s sending their tea here, subject to a duty, seems to have given the finishing stroke to their patience. You will have heard of the steps taken at Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, to prevent the payment of this duty, by sending the tea back to its owners. But as this was found impossible at Boston, the destruction of the tea was the consequence. What the event of these commotions will be, God only knows. The people through the colonies appear immovably fixed in their resolution that the tea duty shall never be paid; and, if the ministry are determined to enforce these measures, I dread the consequences; I verily fear they will turn America into a field of blood. But I will hope for the best.”
I am told that administration is possessed of most of my letters sent or received on public affairs for some years past; copies of them having been obtained from the files of the several Assemblies, or as they passed through the post-office. I do not condemn their ministerial industry or complain of it. The foregoing extracts may be compared with those copies, and I can appeal to them with confidence that, upon such comparison, these extracts will be found faithfully made, and that the whole tenor of my letters has been to persuade patience and a careful guarding against all violence, under the grievances complained of; and this from various considerations, such as that the welfare of the empire depended upon the union of its parts; that the sovereign was well disposed towards us, and the body of his nation our friends and well-wishers; that it was the ministry only who were prejudiced against us; that the sentiments of minsters might in time be changed, or the ministers themselves be changed; or that, if those chances failed, at least time would infallibly bring redress, since the strength, weight, and importance of America were continually and rapidly increasing, and its friendship, of course, daily becoming more valuable, and more likely to be cultivated by an attention to its rights. The newspapers have announced that treason is found in some of my letters. It must then be of some new species. The invention of court lawyers has always been fruitful in the discovery of new treasons, and perhaps it is now become treason to censure the conduct of ministers. None of any other kind, I am sure, can be found in my correspondence.
The effect of the governor’s letters on the minds of the people in New England, when they came to be read there, was precisely what had been expected and proposed by sending them over. It was now seen that the grievances which had been so deeply resented as measures of the mother country, were in fact the measures of two or three of their own people. Of course, all that resentment was withdrawn from her, and fell where it was proper it should fall, on the heads of those caitiffs who were the authors of the mischief. Both Houses1 took up the matter in this light, and the House of Representatives agreed to the following resolves, reported by the committee appointed to consider the letters, viz.:
The Committee appointed to consider certain Letters laid before the House of Representatives, reported the following Resolves:
Tuesday, June 15, 1773.
Resolved, That the letters signed Tho. Hutchinson and Andw. Oliver, now under the consideration of this House, appear to be the genuine letters of the present governor and lieutenant-governor of this province, whose handwriting and signatures are well known to many of the members of this House; and that they contain aggravated accounts of facts and misrepresentations, and that one manifest design of them was to represent the matters they treat of in a light highly injurious to this province, and the persons against whom they were written.
Resolved, That though the letters aforesaid, signed Tho. Hutchinson, are said by the governor in his message to this House of June 9th to be “private letters written to a gentleman in London since deceased,” and “that all except the last were written many months before he came to the chair,” yet that they were written by the present governor when he was lieutenant-governor and chief-justice of this province, who has been represented abroad as eminent for his abilities as for his exalted station, and was under no official obligation to transmit private intelligence, and that they therefore must be considered by the person to whom they were sent as documents of solid intelligence; and that this gentleman in London to whom they were written, was then a member of the British Parliament, and one who was very active in American affairs, and therefore that these letters, however secretly written, must naturally be supposed to have, and really had, a public operation.
Resolved, That these “private letters” being written “with express confidence of secrecy” was only to prevent the contents of them being known here, as appears by said letters; and this rendered them the more injurious in their tendency, and really insidious.
Resolved, That the letters signed Tho. Hutchinson, considering the person by whom they were written, the matters they expressly contain, the express reference in some of them for “full intelligence” to Mr. Hallowell, a person deeply interested in the measures so much complained of, and recommendatory notices of divers other persons, whose emoluments arising from our public burdens must excite them to unfavorable representations of us, the measures they suggest, the temper in which they were written, the manner in which they were sent, and the person to whom they were addressed, had a natural and efficacious tendency to interrupt and alienate the affections of our most gracious sovereign King George the Third, from this his loyal and affectionate province; to destroy that harmony and good-will between Great Britain and this colony, which every friend to either would wish to establish; to excite the resentment of the British administration against this province; to defeat the endeavors of our agents and friends to serve us by a fair representation of our state of grievances; to prevent our humble and repeated petitions from reaching the royal ear of our common sovereign; and to produce the severe and destructive measures which have been taken against this province, and others still more so, which have been threatened.
Resolved, As the opinion of this House, that it clearly appears from the letters aforesaid, signed, Tho. Hutchinson and Andw. Oliver, that it was the desire and endeavor of the writers of them that certain acts of the British Parliament for raising a revenue in America might be carried into effect by military force; and, by introducing a fleet and army into this his Majesty’s loyal province to intimidate the minds of his subjects here, and prevent every constitutional measure to obtain the repeal of those acts so justly esteemed a grievance to us, and to suppress the very spirit of freedom.
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this House that, as the salaries lately appointed for the governor, lieutenant governor, and judges of this province, directly repugnant to the charter and subversive of justice, are founded on this revenue; and as these letters were written with a design, and had a tendency to promote and support that revenue, therefore there is great reason to suppose the writers of those letters were well knowing to, suggested, and promoted the enacting said revenue acts, and the establishments founded on the same.
Resolved, That, while the writer of these letters, signed Tho. Hutchinson has been thus exerting himself, by his “secret confidential correspondence,” to introduce measures destructive of our constitutional liberty, he has been practising every method among the people of this province to fix in their mind an exalted opinion of his warmest affection for them, and his unremitted endeavors to promote their best interests at the court of Great Britain.
Resolved, as the opinion of this House, That, by comparing these letters signed Tho. Hutchinson, with those signed Andw. Oliver, Cha. Paxton, and Nath. Rogers, and considering what has since in fact taken place conformable thereto, there have been for many years past measures contemplated, and a plan formed, by a set of men born and educated among us, to raise their own fortunes, and advance themselves to posts of honor and profit, not only to the destruction of the charter and constitution of this province, but at the expense of the rights and liberties of the American colonies. And it is further the opinion of this House, that the said persons have been some of the chief instruments in the introduction of a military force into the province, to carry their plans into execution; and, therefore, they have been not only greatly instrumental in disturbing the peace and harmony of the government, and causing and promoting great discord and animosities, but are justly chargeable with the great corruption of morals, and all that confusion, misery, and bloodshed, which have been the natural effects of the introduction of troops.
Whereas, for many years past, measures have been taken by the British administration very grievous to the good people of this province, which this House have now reason to suppose were promoted, if not originally suggested, by the writers of these letters; and many efforts have been made by the people to obtain the redress of their grievances;
Resolved, That it appears to this House that the writers of these letters have availed themselves of disorders that naturally arise in a free government under such oppressions, as arguments to prove that it was originally necessary such measures should have been taken, and that they should now be continued and increased.
Whereas, in the letter signed Cha. Paxton, dated Boston Harbor, June 20, 1768, it is expressly declared that, “unless we have immediately two or three regiments, it is the opinion of all the friends of government that Boston will be in open rebellion”;
Resolved, That this is a most wicked and injurious representation, designed to inflame the minds of his Majesty’s ministers and the nation; and to excite in the breast of our sovereign a jealousy of his loyal subjects of said town, without the least grounds therefor, as enemies of his Majesty’s person and government.
Whereas, certain letters by two private persons, signed T. Moffat and G. Rome, have been laid before the House, which letters contain many matters highly injurious to government and to the national peace;
Resolved, That it has been the misfortune of their government, from the earliest period of it, from time to time, to be secretly traduced and maliciously represented to the British ministry, by persons who were neither friendly to this colony nor to the English Constitution.
Resolved, That this House have just reason to complain of it as a very great grievance, that the humble petitions and remonstrances of the commons of this province are not allowed to reach the hands of our most gracious sovereign, merely because they are presented by an agent, to whose appointment the governor, with whom our chief dispute may subsist, doth not consent; while the partial and inflammatory letters of individuals, who are greatly interested in the revenue acts, and the measures taken to carry them into execution, have been laid before administration, attended to, and determined upon, not only to the injury of the reputation of the people, but to the depriving them of their invaluable rights and liberties.
Whereas, this House are humbly of opinion that his Majesty will judge it to be incompatible with the interest of his crown, and the peace and safety of the good people of this his loyal province, that persons should be continued in places of high trust and authority in it, who are known to have with great industry, though secretly, endeavored to undermine, alter, and overthrow the constitution of the province; therefore,
Resolved, That this House are bound, in duty to the king and their constituents, humbly to remonstrate to his Majesty the conduct of his Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, Esquire, Governor, and the Honorable Andrew Oliver, Esquire, Lieutenant-Governor, of this province; and to pray that his Majesty would be pleased to remove them for ever from the government thereof.1
Upon these Resolutions was founded the following petition, transmitted to me to be presented to his Majesty:
TO THE KING’S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY
Most Gracious Sovereign:
We, your Majesty’s loyal subjects, the representatives of your ancient colony of Massachusetts Bay, in general court legally assembled, by virtue of your Majesty’s writ under the hand and seal of the governor, beg leave to lay this our humble petition before your Majesty.
Nothing but the sense of duty we owe to our sovereign, and the obligation we are under to consult the peace and safety of the province, could induce us to remonstrate to your Majesty concerning the mal-conduct of persons who have heretofore had the confidence and esteem of this people, and whom your Majesty has been pleased, from the purest motives of rendering your subjects happy, to advance to the highest places of trust and authority in the province.
Your Majesty’s humble petitioners, with the deepest concern and anxiety, have seen the discords and animosities which have too long subsisted between your subjects of the parent state and those of the American colonies. And we have trembled with apprehensions that the consequences naturally arising therefrom would at length prove fatal to both countries.
Permit us humbly to suggest to your Majesty, that your subjects here have been inclined to believe that the grievances which they have suffered, and still continue to suffer, have been occasioned by your Majesty’s ministers and principal servants being, unfortunately for us, misinformed in certain facts of very interesting importance to us. It is for this reason that former assemblies have, from time to time, prepared a true state of facts to be laid before your Majesty; but their humble remonstrances and petitions, it is presumed, have by some means been prevented from reaching your royal hand.
Your Majesty’s petitioners have very lately had before them certain papers, from which they humbly conceive it is most reasonable to suppose that there has been long a conspiracy of evil men in this province, who have contemplated measures and formed a plan to advance themselves to power and raise their own fortunes by means destructive of the charter of the province, at the expense of the quiet of the nation, and to the annihilating of the rights and liberties of the American colonies.
And we do, with all due submission to your Majesty, beg leave particularly to complain of the conduct of his Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, Esquire, Governor, and the Honorable Andrew Oliver, Esquire, Lieutenant-Governor of this your Majesty’s province, as having a natural and efficacious tendency to interrupt and alienate the affections of your Majesty, our rightful sovereign, from this your royal province; to destroy that harmony and good-will between Great Britain and this colony, which every honest subject should strive to establish; to excite the resentment of the British administration against this province; to defeat the endeavors of our agents and friends to serve us by a fair representation of our state of facts; to prevent our humble and repeated petitions from reaching the ear of your Majesty, or having their desired effect. And, finally, that the said Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver have been among the chief instruments in introducing a fleet and army into this province, to establish and perpetuate their plans, whereby they have been not only greatly instrumental in disturbing the peace and harmony of the government and causing unnatural and hateful discords and animosities between the several parts of your Majesty’s extensive dominions, but are justly chargeable with all that corruption of morals, and all that confusion, misery, and bloodshed, which have been the natural effects of posting an army in a populous town.
Wherefore we most humbly pray that your Majesty would be pleased to remove from their posts in this government the said Thomas Hutchinson, Esquire, and Andrew Oliver, Esquire; who have, by their above-mentioned conduct, and otherwise, rendered themselves justly obnoxious to your loving subjects, and entirely lost their confidence; and place such good and faithful men in their stead, as your Majesty in your wisdom shall think fit.
In the name and by order of the House of Representatives.
Lord Dartmouth, Secretary of State for the colonies, being in the country when I received this petition, I transmitted it to his Lordship, enclosed in a letter, of which the following is a copy, as also of his answer.
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
London, 21 August, 1773.
I have just received, from the House of Representatives of the Massachusetts Bay, their address to the king, which I now enclose, and send to your Lordship, with my humble request, in their behalf, that you would be pleased to present it to his Majesty the first convenient opportunity.
I have the pleasure of hearing from that province by my late letters, that a sincere disposition prevails in the people there to be on good terms with the mother country; that the Assembly have declared their desire only to be put into the situation they were in before the Stamp Act. They aim at no novelties. And it is said that, having lately discovered, as they think, the authors of their grievances to be some of their own people, their resentment against Britain is thence much abated.
This good disposition of theirs (will your Lordship permit me to say) may be cultivated by a favorable answer to this address, which I therefore hope your goodness will endeavor to obtain. With the greatest respect, I have the honor to be, my Lord, etc.,
LORD DARTMOUTH’S ANSWER
Sandwell, 25 August, 1773.
I have received your letter of the 21st instant, together with an address of the House of Representatives of the Massachusetts Bay, which I shall not fail to lay before the king the next time I shall have the honor of being admitted into his presence. I cannot help expressing to you the pleasure it gives me to hear that a sincere disposition prevails in the people of that province to be on good terms with the mother country, and my earnest hope that the time is at no great distance when every ground of uneasiness will cease, and the most perfect tranquillity and happiness be restored to the breasts of that people.
I am, sir, your most obedient humble servant,
Benjamin Franklin, Esq.
No one, who knows Lord Dartmouth, can doubt the sincerity of the good wishes expressed in his letter to me; and if his Majesty’s other servants had fortunately been possessed of the same benevolent dispositions, with as much of that attention to the public interest, and dexterity in managing it, as statesmen of this country generally show in obtaining and securing their places, here was a fine opportunity put into their hands of “reestablishing the union and harmony that formerly subsisted between Great Britain and her colonies,” so necessary to the welfare of both, and upon the easy condition of only “restoring things to the state they were in at the conclusion of the late war.” This was a solemn declaration sent over from the province most aggrieved, in which they acquitted Britain of their grievances, and charged them all upon a few individuals of their own country. Upon the heads of these very mischievous men they imprecated no vengeance, though that of the whole nation was justly merited; they considered it as a hard thing for an administration to punish a governor who had acted from orders, though the orders had been procured by his misrepresentations and calumnies; they therefore only petitioned, “that his Majesty would be pleased to remove Thomas Hutchinson, Esquire, and Andrew Oliver, Esquire, from their posts in that government, and place good and faithful men in their stead.” These men might have been placed or pensioned elsewhere, as others have been; or, like the scape-goats of old, they might have carried away into the wilderness all the offences which have arisen between the two countries, with the burdens of which they, having been the authors of these mischiefs, were most justly chargeable.
But this opportunity ministers had not the wisdom to embrace; they chose rather to reject it, and abuse and punish me for giving it. A court clamor was raised against me as an incendiary; and the very action upon which I valued myself, as it appeared to me a means of lessening our differences, I was unlucky enough to find charged upon me, as a wicked attempt to increase them. Strange perversion!
I was, it seems, equally unlucky in another action, which I also intended for a good one, and which brought on the above-mentioned clamor. The news being arrived here of the publication of those letters in America, great inquiry was made who had transmitted them. Mr. Temple, a gentleman of the customs, was accused of it in the papers. He vindicated himself. A public altercation ensued upon it between him and a Mr. Whately, brother and executor to the person to whom it was supposed the letters had been originally written, and who was suspected by some of communicating them; on the supposition that by his brother’s death they might have fallen into his hands. As the gentleman to whom I sent them had, in his letter to me above recited, given an important reason for his desiring it should be concealed that he was the person who received them, and had for the same reason chosen not to let it be known I sent them, I suffered that altercation to go on without interfering, supposing it would end, as other newspaper controversies usually do, when the parties and the public should be tired of them. But this dispute unexpectedly and suddenly produced a duel. The gentlemen were parted; Mr. Whately was wounded, but not dangerously. This, however, alarmed me, and made me wish I had prevented it; but, imagining all now over between them, I still kept silence till I heard that the duel was understood to be unfinished (as having been interrupted by persons accidentally near), and that it would probably be repeated as soon as Mr. Whately, who was mending daily, had recovered his strength. I then thought it high time to interpose; and, as the quarrel was for the public opinion, I took what I thought the shortest way to settle that opinion, with regard to the parties, by publishing what follows.
To the Printer of the Public Advertiser:
Finding that two gentlemen have been unfortunately engaged in a duel about a transaction and its circumstance, of which both of them are totally ignorant and innocent, I think it incumbent upon me to declare (for the prevention of further mischief, as far as such a declaration may contribute to prevent it), that I alone am the person who obtained and transmitted to Boston the letters in question. Mr. W. could not communicate them, because they were never in his possession; and, for the same reason, they could not be taken from him by Mr. T. They were not of the nature of private letters between friends. They were written by public officers to persons in public stations, on public affairs, and intended to procure public measures; they were therefore handed to other public persons, who might be influenced by them to produce those measures. Their tendency was to incense the mother country against her colonies, and, by the steps recommended, to widen the breach, which they effected. The chief caution expressed with regard to privacy was, to keep their contents from the colony agents, who, the writers apprehended, might return them, or copies of them, to America. That apprehension was, it seems, well founded, for the first agent who laid his hands on them thought it his duty1 to transmit them to his constituents.
December 25, 1773.
This declaration of mine was at first generally approved, except that some blamed me for not having made it sooner, so as to prevent the duel, but I had not the gift of prophecy; I could not foresee that the gentlemen would fight; I did not even foresee that either of them could possibly take it ill of me. I imagined I was doing them a good office in clearing both of them from suspicion, and removing the cause of their difference. I should have thought it natural for them both to have thanked me, but I was mistaken as to one of them. His wound perhaps at first prevented him, and afterwards he was tutored probably to another kind of behavior by his court connections.
My only acquaintance with this gentleman, Mr. William Whately, was from an application he made to me to do him the favor of inquiring after some land in Pennsylvania, supposed to have been purchased anciently from the first proprietor, by a Major Thomson, his grandfather, of which they had some imperfect memorandums in the family, but knew not whether it might not have been sold or conveyed away by him in his lifetime, as there was no mention of it in his will. I took the trouble of writing, accordingly, to a friend of mine, an eminent lawyer there, well acquainted with such business, desiring him to make the inquiry. He took some pains in it at my request, and succeeded; and in a letter informed me that he had found the land, that the proprietary claimed it, but he thought the title was clear to the heir of Thomson; that he could easily recover it for him, and would undertake it if Mr. Whately should think fit to employ him; or, if he should rather choose to sell it, my friend empowered me to make him an offer of five thousand pounds sterling for it. With this letter I waited upon him about a month before the duel, at his house in Lombard Street, the first time I had ever been in it. He was pleased with the intelligence, and called upon me once or twice afterwards to concert the means of making out his title.
I mention some of these circumstances to show that it was not through any previous acquaintance with him that I came to the knowledge of the famous letters; for they had been in America near a year before I so much as knew where he lived; and the others I mention to show his gratitude. I could have excused his not thanking me for sparing him a second hazard of his life; for, though he might feel himself served, he might also apprehend that to seem pleased would look as if he was afraid of fighting again; or perhaps he did not value his life at any thing; but the addition to his fortune one would think of some value to a banker, and yet the return this worthy gentleman made me for both favors was, without the smallest previous notice, warning, complaint, or request to me, directly or indirectly, to clap upon my back a Chancery suit. His bill set forth: “That he was administrator of the goods and chattels of his late brother Thomas Whately; that some letters had been written to his said brother by the Governors Hutchinson and Oliver, that those letters had been in the custody of his said brother at the time of his death, or had been by him delivered to some other person for perusal, and to be by such person safely kept and returned to said Thomas Whately; that the same had by some means come into my hands; that, to prevent a discovery, I, or some person by my order, had erased the address of the letters to the said Thomas Whately; that, carrying on the trade of a printer. I had, by my agents or confederates, printed and published the same letters in America, and disposed of great numbers; that I threatened to print and sell the same in England; and that he had applied to me to deliver up to him the said letters, and all copies thereof, and desist from printing and publishing the same, and account with him for the profits thereof; and he was in hopes I would have complied with such request, but so it was that I had refused, etc., contrary to equity and good conscience, and to the manifest injury and oppression of him, the complainant; and praying my Lord Chancellor that I might be obliged to discover how I came by the letters, what number of copies I had printed and sold, and to account with him for the profits,” etc., etc. The gentleman himself must have known that every circumstance of this was totally false; that of his brother’s having delivered the letters to some other person for perusal excepted. Those as little acquainted with law as I was (who, indeed, never before had a lawsuit of any kind), may wonder at this as much as I did; but I have now learned that in Chancery, though the defendant must swear the truth of every point in his answer, the plaintiff is not put to his oath, or obliged to have the least regard to truth in his bill, but is allowed to lie as much as he pleases. I do not understand this, unless it be for the encouragement of business.
My answer upon oath was: “That the letters in question were given to me, and came into my hands, as agent for the House of Representatives of the provinceof Massachusetts Bay; that, when given to me, I did not know to whom they had been addressed, no address appearing upon them; nor did I know before that any such letters existed; that I had not been for many years concerned in printing; that I did not cause the letters to be printed, nor direct the doing it; that I did not erase any address that might have been on the letters, nor did I know that any other person had made such erasure; that I did, as agent to the province, transmit (as I apprehended it my duty to do) the said letters to one of the committee, with whom I had been directed to correspond, inasmuch as in my judgment they related to matters of great public importance to that province, and were put into my hands for that purpose; that I had never been applied to by the complainant, as asserted in his bill, and had made no profits of the letters, nor intended to make any,” etc.
It was about this time become evident that all thoughts of reconciliation with the colony of Massachusetts Bay, by attention to their petitions, and a redress of their grievances, was laid aside; that severity was resolved; and that the decrying and vilifying the people of that country, and me their agent, among the rest, was quite a court measure. It was the ton with all the ministerial folks to abuse them and me, in every company, and in every newspaper; and it was intimated to me, as a thing settled, long before it happened, that the petition for the removal of the governors was to be rejected, the Assembly censured, and myself, who had presented it, was to be punished by the loss of my place in the post-office.1 For all this I was therefore prepared; but the attack from Mr. Whately was, I own, a surprise to me. Under the above-mentioned circumstances of obligation, and without the slightest provocation, I could not have imagined any man base enough to commence, of his own motion, such a vexatious suit against me. But a little accidental information served to throw some light upon the business. An acquaintance2 calling on me, after having just been at the treasury, showed me what he styled a pretty thing, for a friend of his; it was an order for one hundred and fifty pounds, payable to Dr. Samuel Johnson, said to be one half of his yearly pension, and drawn by the secretary of the treasury on this same Mr. Whately. I then considered him as a banker to the treasury for the pension money, and thence as having an interested connection with the administration, that might induce him to act by direction of others in harassing me with this suit; which gave me if possible a still meaner opinion of him than if he had done it of his own accord.
What further steps he or his confederates, the ministers, will take in this cause, I know not. I do not indeed believe the banker himself, finding there are no profits to be shared, would willingly lay out a sixpence more upon the suit; but then my finances are not sufficient to cope at law with the treasury here: especially when the administration has taken care to prevent my constituents of New England from paying me any salary, or reimbursing me any expenses, by a special instruction to the governor, not to sign any warrant for that purpose on the treasury there.
The injustice of thus depriving the people there of the use of their own money, to pay an agent acting in their defence, while the governor, with a large salary out of the money extorted from them by act of Parliament, was enabled to pay plentifully Mauduit and Wedderburn to abuse and defame them and their agent, is so evident as to need no comment. But this they call government!
[1 ]This gentleman was Thomas Cushing, Speaker of the House of Representatives in Massachusetts.—Editor.
[1 ]The Reverend Dr. Cooper, of Boston.—Editor.
[1 ]Professor Winthrop, of Harvard College, a member of his Majesty’s Council in Massachusetts.—Editor.
[1 ]That is, the Council and House of Representatives of Massachusetts.—Editor.
[1 ]The House of Representatives adopted these Resolves, as here reported, by a large majority. The Council almost unanimously passed a series of Resolves, on the 25th of June, embodying similar sentiments.—Editor.
[1 ]In remarking on this word as here used, Dr. Franklin said, in a note found in his handwriting: “Governor Hutchinson, as appears by his letters, since found and published in New England, had the same idea of duty when he procured copies of Dr. Franklin’s letters to the Assembly, and sent them to the ministry of England.”
[1 ]For several years Dr. Franklin had held the office of Deputy Postmaster-General of the Colonies.—Editor.
[2 ]William Strahan, Member of Parliament, and king’s printer.—W. T. F.