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1775: DXCIII: TO THOMAS CUSHING - 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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TO THOMAS CUSHING
London, 28 January, 1775.
It gives my mind some ease to learn that such good care is taken both by the general and the town to prevent mischief. I hope that care will continue and be effectual, and that people will be persuaded to wait with patience the event of the application of the Congress to the king, and the subsequent result of the ensuing Congress thereupon.
Lord Chatham moved last week in the House of Lords that an address be presented to his Majesty, humbly beseeching him to withdraw the troops from Boston, as a step towards opening the way to conciliatory measures; but, after a long and warm debate, the motion was rejected by a majority of seventy-seven to eighteen; and open declarations were made, by the ministerial side, of the intention to enforce the late acts. To this end, three more regiments of foot and one of dragoons, seven hundred marines, six sloops of war, and two frigates, are now under orders for America.
Petitions, however, are thronging into the House from all quarters, praying that healing measures may be taken to restore the commerce. The petition from the Congress was brought into each House, among other papers by the ministers, without any particular recommendations from his Majesty that they should be considered.
General Gage’s letters being read in the House of Commons, it appears from one of them that it had been recommended to him by Lord Dartmouth to disarm some of the colonies; which he seems to approve, if it had been practicable, but says it is not, till he is master of the country.
It is impossible to say what turn the Parliament may take before the session is over. All depends on the ministers, who possibly may change their minds when they find the merchants and manufacturers universally dissatisfied with their present conduct; but you cannot rely upon this, and your chief dependence must be on your own virtue and unanimity, which, under God, will in time bring you through all difficulties. I am with great respect, sir, etc.,
TO CHARLES THOMSON1
London, 5 February, 1775.
I received duly your favors of November 1st, by Captain Falconer, and afterwards that of October 26th, both enclosing the letter from the Congress, and the petition to the king. Immediately on the receipt of the first, I wrote to every one of the other gentlemen nominated, and desired a meeting to consult on the mode of presenting the petition committed to our care. Three of them, viz., Mr. Burke,2 Mr. Wentworth, and Mr. Life, declined being concerned in it, and without consulting each other, gave the same reason, viz., that they had no instructions relating to it. It rested on Mr. Bollan, Mr. Lee, and myself. We took counsel with our best friends, and were advised to present it through Lord Dartmouth, that being the regular official method, and the only one in which we might on occasion call for an answer.3
We accordingly waited on his lordship with it, who would not immediately undertake to deliver it, but requested it might be left with him to peruse, which was done. He found nothing in it improper for him to present, and, afterwards sending for us, he informed us that he had presented the petition to his Majesty, who had been pleased to receive it very graciously, and to command him to tell us it contained matters of such importance that, as soon as they met, he would lay it before his two Houses of Parliament.
We then consulted on the publication, and were advised by wise and able men, friends of America, whose names it will not be proper to mention, by no means to publish it till it should be before Parliament, as it would be deemed disrespectful to the king. We flattered ourselves, from the answer given by Lord Dartmouth, that the king would have been pleased to recommend it to the consideration of Parliament by some message; but we were mistaken. It came down among a great heap of letters of intelligence from governors and officers in America, newspapers, pamphlets, handbills, etc., from that country, the last in the list, and was laid upon the table with them, undistinguished by any particular recommendation of it to the notice of either House; and I do not find that it had any further notice taken of it as yet than that it has been read as well as the other papers.
To draw it into the attention of the House, we petitioned to be heard upon it, but were not permitted; and, by the resolutions of the Committee of the Whole House, which I enclose, you will see that it has made little impression; and from the constant refusal, neglect, or discouragement of American petitions, these many years past, our country will at least be convinced that petitions are odious here, and that petitioning is far from being a profitable means of obtaining redress. A firm, steady, and faithful adherence to the non-consumptive agreement is the only thing to be depended on. It begins already to work (as you will see in the votes of the House), by producing applications from the merchants and manufacturers, and it must finally lead Parliament into reasonable measures.
At present the ministers are encouraged to proceed by the assurance they receive from America that the people are not unanimous; that a very great part of them disapprove the proceedings of the Congress, and would break through them, if there was in the country an army sufficient to support these friends, as they are called, of government. They rely, too, on being able to divide us still further by various means; for they seem to have no conception that such a thing as public spirit or public virtue anywhere exists. I trust they will find themselves totally mistaken. The Congress is in high esteem here among all the friends of liberty, and their papers much admired; perhaps nothing of the kind has been more thoroughly published, or more universally read. Lord Camden spoke highly of the Americans in general, and of the Congress particularly, in the House of Lords. Lord Chatham said that, taking the whole together, and considering the members of the Congress as the unsolicited, unbeseeched choice of a great, free, and enlightened people, their unanimity, their moderation, and their wisdom, he thought it the most honorable assembly of men that had ever been known; that the histories of Greece and Rome gave us nothing equal to it. Lord Shelburne would not admit that the Parliament of Britain could be comparable with it, a Parliament obeying the dictates of a ministry who, in nine cases out of ten, were governed by their under-secretaries.
You will see, among the papers herewith sent, the motion made by Lord Chatham, as preparatory to his plan, viz., that the troops should be removed from Boston. I send, also, a copy of the plan itself, which you may be assured is genuine. The speeches hitherto published as his, during the session, are spurious. The Duke of Richmond and the Duke of Manchester appeared for us also in the debate, and spoke extremely well. Lord Chatham’s bill, though on so important a subject, and offered by so great a character, and supported by such able and learned speakers as Camden, etc., etc., was treated with as much contempt as they could have shown to a ballad offered by a drunken porter. It was rejected on a slight reading, without being suffered even to lie on the table for the perusal of the members.
The House of Commons, too, have shown an equal rashness and precipitation in matters requiring the most weighty deliberation, refusing to hear, and entering hastily into violent measures; and yet this is the government, by whose supreme authority, we are to have our throats cut, if we do not acknowledge, and whose dictates we are implicitly to obey, while their conduct hardly entitles them to common respect.
The agents have not time to make so many copies of the papers sent with this, and, indeed, of our letter to the Speakers of the several Assemblies, as would be necessary to send one for each; we therefore send only two, one by Falconer, and the other by Lawrence to New York, requesting that you will get them copied at Philadelphia, and forward them northward and southward, one to each speaker, at the earliest conveyance. It is thought by our friends that Lord Chatham’s plan, if it had been enacted here, would have prevented present mischief, and might have been the foundation of a lasting good agreement; for, though in some points it might not perfectly coincide with our ideas and wishes, we should have proposed modifications or variations where we should judge them necessary; in fine, the two countries might have met in perfect union. I hope, therefore, it will be treated with respect by our writers, and its author honored for the attempt; for, though he has put some particulars into it, as I think, by way of complying a little with the general prejudices here, and to make more material parts go better down, yet I am persuaded he would not otherwise be tenacious of those parts, meaning sincerely to make us contented and happy, as far as consistent with the general welfare.
I need not caution you to let no part of this letter be copied or printed. With great esteem, I am, sir, your affectionate friend and humble servant.1
TO JAMES BOWDOIN
London, 25 February, 1775.
I received your kind letter of September 6th by Mr. Quincy. I thought it might be of use to publish a part of it, which was done accordingly. But the measures it so justly censures are still persisted in, and will, I trust, continue to produce effects directly contrary to those intended. They will unite, instead of dividing us, strengthen and make us more resolute, instead of intimidating us, and work our honor and advantage, instead of the disgrace and ruin designed for us.
A bill is now in hand to confine the trade of the four New England colonies to Britain and the West Indies only, and to prohibit their fishery. Other provinces have done as offensive things, but Whiggism is thought to be more thoroughly the principle in New England, and that is now an unpardonable sin. The rest, however, are to have their punishment in their turn, though perhaps less severe. That is, if this Tory ministry continues in power; but though they have by the late deceptive motion amused many people here, so as to give an appearance as if they intended pacific measures, on which the stocks, which were falling apace, have risen again; yet, when this deceit is understood, and time proves the intended offer to America futile and ineffectual, the redoubled clamor of the trading, manufacturing, and Whig interests here will infallibly overthrow all the enemies of America, and produce an acknowledgment of her rights and satisfaction for her injuries.
If we continue firm and united, and resolutely persist in the non-consumption agreement, this adverse ministry cannot possibly stand another year. And surely the great body of our people, the farmers and artificers, will not find it hard to keep an agreement by which they both save and gain. The traders only can suffer, and where they do really suffer, some compensation should, if possible, be made them. Hitherto the conduct of the colonies has given them great reputation all over Europe. By a brave perseverance, with prudence and moderation, not forward in acting offensively, but resolute in defence when necessary, they will establish a respectable character both for wisdom and courage, and then they will find friends everywhere. The eyes of all Christendom are now upon us, and our honor as a people is become a matter of the utmost consequence to be taken care of. If we tamely give up our rights in this contest, a century to come will not restore us in the opinion of the world; we shall be stamped with the character of dastards, poltroons, and fools, and be despised and trampled upon, not by this haughty, insolent nation only, but by all mankind. Present inconveniences are therefore to be borne with fortitude, and better times expected.
I am much pleased with Mr. Quincy. It is a thousand pities his strength of body is not equal to his strength of mind. His zeal for the public, like that of David for God’s house, will, I fear, eat him up.
I hope Mrs. Bowdoin’s health is fully established. Make my respectful compliments acceptable to her; and believe me ever, with sincere and great esteem, dear sir, etc.,
P. S.—I never could learn the cause of Mr. Temple’s being displaced. The ministry refused to give any reason for it. I have imagined that it was a suspicion of his being the author of some pieces in the papers reflecting on their measures.
TO JOSEPH GALLOWAY
London, 25 February, 1775.
In my last I mentioned to you my showing your plan of union to Lords Chatham and Camden. I now hear that you had sent it to Lord Dartmouth. Lord Gower, I believe, alluded to it when in the House he censured the Congress severely as first resolving to receive a plan for uniting the colonies to the mother country, and afterwards rejecting it, and ordering their first resolution to be erased out of their minutes. Permit me to hint to you that it is whispered here by ministerial people that yourself and Mr. Jay, of New York, are friends to their measures, and give them private intelligence of the views of the popular or country part in America. I do not believe this; but I thought it a duty of friendship to acquaint you with the report.1
I have not heard what objections were made to the plan in the Congress, nor would I make more than this one, that, when I consider the extreme corruption prevalent among all orders of men in this old, rotten state, and the glorious public virtue so predominant in our rising country, I cannot but apprehend more mischief than benefit from a closer union. I fear they will drag us after them in all the plundering wars which their desperate circumstances, injustice, and rapacity may prompt them to undertake; and their wide-wasting prodigality and profusion is a gulf that will swallow up every aid we may distress ourselves to afford them.
Here numberless and needless places, enormous salaries, pensions, perquisites, bribes, groundless quarrels, foolish expeditions, false accounts or no accounts, contracts and jobs, devour all revenue, and produce continual necessity in the midst of natural plenty. I apprehend, therefore, that to unite us intimately will only be to corrupt and poison us also. It seems like Mezentius’ coupling and binding together the dead and the living.
However, I would try any thing, and bear any thing that can be borne with safety to our just liberties, rather than engage in a war with such relations, unless compelled to it by dire necessity in our own defence.
But, should that plan be again brought forward, I imagine that before establishing the union, it would be necessary to agree on the following preliminary articles.
1. The Declaratory Act of Parliament to be repealed.
2. All acts of Parliament, or parts of acts, laying duties on the colonies to be repealed.
3. All acts of Parliament altering the charters, or constitutions, or laws of any colony, to be repealed.
4. All acts of Parliament restraining manufactures to be repealed.
5. Those parts of the navigation acts, which are for the good of the whole empire, such as require that ships in the trade should be British or Plantation built, and navigated by three fourths British subjects, with the duties necessary for regulating commerce, to be reënacted by both Parliaments.
6. Then, to induce the Americans to see the regulating acts faithfully executed, it would be well to give the duties collected in each colony to the treasury of that colony, and let the governor and Assembly appoint the officers to collect them, and proportion their salaries. Thus the business will be cheaper and better done, and the misunderstandings between the two countries, now created and fomented by the unprincipled wretches, generally appointed from England, be entirely prevented.
These are hasty thoughts submitted to your consideration.
You will see the new proposal of Lord North, made on Monday last, which I have sent to the committee.1 Those in administration, who are for violent measures, are said to dislike it. The others rely upon it as a means of dividing, and by that means subduing us. But I cannot conceive that any colony will undertake to grant a revenue to a government that holds a sword over their heads with a threat to strike the moment they cease to give or do not give so much as it is pleased to expect. In such a situation, where is the right of giving our own property freely or the right to judge of our own ability to give? It seems to me the language of a highwayman, who, with a pistol in your face, says: “Give me your purse, and then I will not put my hand into your pocket. But give me all your money, or I will shoot you through the head.” With great and sincere esteem, I am, etc.,
TO JOSIAH QUINCY
London, 26 February, 1775.
I received and perused with great pleasure the letter you honored me with by your amiable and valuable son. I thank you for introducing me to the acquaintance of a person so deserving of esteem for his public and private virtues. I hope for your sake and that of his friends and country, that his present indisposition may wear off and his health be established. His coming over has been of great service to our cause, and would have been much greater if his constitution would have borne the fatigues of being more frequently in company. He can acquaint you so fully with the state of things here that my enlarging upon them will be unnecessary. I most sincerely wish him a prosperous voyage and a happy meeting with his friends and family; and to you, my old dear friend, and the rest of those you love, every kind of felicity; being, with the truest esteem and affection, yours,
AN ACCOUNT OF NEGOTIATIONS IN LONDON FOR EFFECTING A RECONCILIATION BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND THE AMERICAN COLONIES1
Philadelphia, 22 March, 1775.}
Having now a little leisure for writing, I will endeavor, as I promised you, to recollect what particulars I can of the negotiations I have lately been concerned in, with regard to the misunderstandings between Great Britain and America.
During the recess of the last Parliament, which had passed the severe acts against the province of the Massachusetts Bay, the minority having been sensible of their weakness, as an effect of their want of union among themselves, began to think seriously of a coalition. For they saw in the violence of these American measures, if persisted in, a hazard of dismembering, weakening, and perhaps ruining the British empire. This inclined some of them to propose such an union with each other, as might be more respectable in the ensuing session, have more weight in opposition, and be a body out of which a new ministry might easily be formed, should the ill success of the late measures, and the firmness of the colonies in resisting them, make a change appear necessary to the king.
I took some pains to promote this disposition, in conversations with several of the principal among the minority of both Houses, whom I besought and conjured most earnestly not to suffer, by their little misunderstandings, so glorious a fabric as the present British empire to be demolished by these blunderers; and for their encouragement assured them, as far as my opinions could give any assurance, of the firmness and unanimity of America, the continuance of which was what they had frequent doubts of, and appeared extremely apprehensive and anxious concerning it.
From the time of the affront given me at the Council Board, in January, 1774, I had never attended the levee of any minister. I made no justification of myself from the charges brought against me; I made no return of the injury by abusing my adversaries, but held a cool, sullen silence, reserving myself to some future opportunity; for which conduct I had several reasons not necessary here to specify. Now and then I heard it said, that the reasonable part of the administration was ashamed of the treatment they had given me. I suspected that some who told me this, did it to draw from me my sentiments concerning it, and perhaps my purposes; but I said little or nothing upon the subject. In the meantime, their measures with regard to New England failing of the success that had been confidently expected, and finding themselves more and more embarrassed, they began, as it seems, to think of making use of me, if they could, to assist in disengaging them. But it was too humiliating to think of applying to me openly and directly, and therefore it was contrived to obtain what they could of my sentiments through others.
The accounts from America during the recess all manifested that the measures of administration had neither divided nor intimidated the people there; that, on the contrary, they were more and more united and determined; and that a non-importation agreement was likely to take place. The ministry thence apprehending that this, by distressing the trading and manufacturing towns, might influence votes against the court in the elections for a new Parliament (which were in course to come on the succeeding year), suddenly and unexpectedly dissolved the old one, and ordered the choice of a new one within the shortest time admitted by law, before the inconveniences of that agreement could begin to be felt, or produce any such effect.
When I came to England in 1757, you may remember I made several attempts to be introduced to Lord Chatham (at that time first minister), on account of my Pennsylvania business, but without success. He was then too great a man, or too much occupied in affairs of greater moment. I was therefore obliged to content myself with a kind of non-apparent and unacknowledged communication through Mr. Potter and Mr. Wood, his secretaries, who seemed to cultivate an acquaintance with me by their civilities, and drew from me what information I could give relative to the American war, with my sentiments occasionally on measures that were proposed or advised by others, which gave me the opportunity of recommending and enforcing the utility of conquering Canada. I afterwards considered Mr. Pitt as an inaccessible. I admired him at a distance, and made no more attempts for a nearer acquaintance. I had only once or twice the satisfaction of hearing through Lord Shelburne, and I think Lord Stanhope, that he did me the honor of mentioning me sometimes as a person of respectable character.
But towards the end of August last, returning from Brighthelmstone, I called to visit my friend Mr. Sargent, at his seat, Halsted, in Kent, agreeable to a former engagement. He let me know that he had promised to conduct me to Lord Stanhope’s at Chevening, who expected I would call on him when I came into that neighborhood. We accordingly waited on Lord Stanhope that evening, who told me that Lord Chatham desired to see me, and that Mr. Sargent’s house, where I was to lodge, being in the way, he would call for me there the next morning, and carry me to Hayes. This was done accordingly. That truly great man received me with abundance of civility, inquired particularly into the situation of affairs in America, spoke feelingly of the severity of the late laws against the Massachusetts, gave me some account of his speech in opposing them, and expressed great regard and esteem for the people of that country, who he hoped would continue firm and united in defending by all peaceable and legal means their constitutional rights. I assured him that I made no doubt they would do so; which he said he was pleased to hear from me, as he was sensible I must be well acquainted with them.
I then took occasion to remark to him that in former cases great empires had crumbled first at their extremities from this cause; that countries remote from the seat and eye of government, which therefore could not well understand their affairs for want of full and true information, had never been well governed, but had been oppressed by bad governors, on presumption that complaint was difficult to be made and supported against them at such a distance. Hence, such governors had been encouraged to go on till their oppressions became intolerable. But that this empire had happily found, and long been in the practice of, a method, whereby every province was well governed, being trusted in a great measure with the government of itself; and that hence had arisen such satisfaction in the subjects, and such encouragement to new settlements, that, had it not been for the late wrong politics (which would have Parliament to be omnipotent, though it ought not to be so unless it could at the same time be omniscient), we might have gone on extending our western empire, adding province to province, as far as the South Sea. That I lamented the ruin which seemed impending over so fine a plan, so well adapted to make all the subjects of the greatest empire happy; and I hoped that if his lordship, with the other great and wise men of the British nation, would unite and exert themselves, it might yet be rescued out of the mangling hands of the present set of blundering ministers; and that the union and harmony between Britain and her colonies, so necessary to the welfare of both, might be restored.
He replied, with great politeness, that my idea of extending our empire in that manner was a sound one, worthy of a great, benevolent, and comprehensive mind. He wished with me for a good understanding among the different parts of the opposition here, as a means of restoring the ancient harmony of the two countries, which he most earnestly desired; but he spoke of the coalition of our domestic parties as attended with difficulty, and rather to be desired than expected. He mentioned an opinion prevailing here: that America aimed at setting up for itself as an independent State; or, at least, to get rid of the Navigation Acts. I assured him that, having more than once travelled almost from one end of the continent to the other, and kept a great variety of company, eating, drinking, and conversing with them freely, I never had heard in any conversation from any person, drunk or sober, the least expression of a wish for a separation, or hint that such a thing would be advantageous to America. And as to the Navigation Act, the main, material part of it, that of carrying on trade in British or plantation bottoms, excluding foreign ships from our ports, and navigating with three quarters British seamen, was as acceptable as it could be to Britain. That we were even not against regulations of the general commerce by Parliament, provided such regulations were bonâ fide for the benefit of the whole empire, not for the small advantage of one part to the great injury of another, such as the obliging our ships to call in England with our wine and fruit from Portugal or Spain, the restraints on our manufactures in the woollen and hat-making branches, the prohibiting of slitting-mills, steel-works, etc. He allowed that some amendment might be made in those acts; but said those relating to the slitting-mills, trip-hammers, and steel-works were agreed to by our agents, on a compromise on the opposition made here to abating the duty.
In fine, he expressed much satisfaction in my having called upon him, and particularly in the assurances I had given him that America did not aim at independence; adding that he should be glad to see me again as often as might be. I said I should not fail to avail myself of the permission he was pleased to give me of waiting upon his lordship occasionally, being very sensible of the honor, and of the great advantages and improvement I should reap from his instructive conversation; which indeed was not a mere compliment.
The new Parliament was to meet the 29th of November, 1774. About the beginning of that month, being at the Royal Society, Mr. Raper, one of our members, told me there was a certain lady who had a desire of playing with me at chess, fancying she could beat me, and had requested him to bring me to her. It was, he said, a lady with whose acquaintance he was sure I should be pleased, a sister of Lord Howe, and he hoped I would not refuse the challenge. I said I had been long out of practice, but would wait upon the lady when he and she should think fit. He told me where her house was, and would have me call soon, and, without further introduction, which I undertook to do; but, thinking it a little awkward, I postponed it; and on the 30th, meeting him again at the feast of the Society election, being the day after the Parliament met, he put me in mind of my promise, and that I had not kept it, and would have me name a day when he said he would call for me, and conduct me. I named the Friday following. He called accordingly. I went with him, played a few games with the lady, whom I found of very sensible conversation and pleasing behavior, which induced me to agree most readily to an appointment for another meeting a few days afterwards; though I had not the least apprehension that any political business could have any connection with this new acquaintance.
On the Thursday preceding this chess party, Mr. David Barclay called on me to have some discourse concerning the meeting of merchants to petition Parliament. When that was over, he spoke of the dangerous situation of American affairs, the hazard that a civil war might be brought on by the present measures, and the great merit that person would have who could contrive some means of preventing so terrible a calamity, and bring about a reconciliation. He was then pleased to add that he was persuaded, from my knowledge of both countries, my character and influence in one of them, and my abilities in business, no man had so much in his power as myself. I naturally answered that I should be very happy if I could in any degree be instrumental in so good a work, but that I saw no prospect of it; for, though I was sure the Americans were always willing and ready to agree upon any equitable terms, yet I thought an accommodation impracticable, unless both sides wished it; and, by what I could judge from the proceedings of the ministry, I did not believe they had the least disposition towards it; that they rather wished to provoke the North American people into an open rebellion, which might justify a military execution, and thereby gratify a grounded malice, which I conceived to exist here against the Whigs and Dissenters of that country. Mr. Barclay apprehended I judged too harshly of the ministers; he was persuaded they were not all of that temper, and he fancied they would be very glad to get out of their present embarrassment on any terms, only saving the honor and dignity of the government. He wished, therefore, that I would think of the matter, and he would call again and converse with me further upon it. I said I would do so, as he requested it, but I had no opinion of its answering any purpose. We parted upon this. But two days after I received a letter from him, enclosed in a note from Dr. Fothergill, both of which follow:
Youngsbury, near Ware, 3d, 12th Month, 1774.
After we parted on Thursday last, I accidentally met our mutual friend, Dr. Fothergill, in my way home, and intimated to him the subject of our discourse; in consequence of which, I have received from him an invitation to a further conference on this momentous affair, and I intend to be in town to-morrow accordingly to meet at his house between four and five o’clock; and we unite in the request of thy company. We are neither of us insensible that the affair is of that magnitude as should almost deter private persons from meddling with it; at the same time we are respectively such well-wishers to the cause, that nothing in our power ought to be left undone, though the utmost of our efforts may be unavailable. I am thy respectful friend,
Dr. Fothergill presents his respects to Dr. Franklin, and hopes for the favor of his company in Harpur Street, to-morrow evening, to meet their mutual friend, David Barclay, to confer on American affairs. As near five o’clock as may be convenient.
Harpur Street, 3d inst.1
The time thus appointed was the evening of the day on which I was to have my second chess party with the agreeable Mrs. Howe, whom I met accordingly. After playing as long as we liked, we fell into a little chat, partly on a mathematical problem,1 and partly about the new Parliament, then just met, when she said: “And what is to be done with this dispute between Great Britain and the colonies? I hope we are not to have a civil war.” “They should kiss and be friends,” said I; “what can they do better? Quarrelling can be of service to neither, but is ruin to both.” “I have often said,” replied she, “that I wished government would employ you to settle the dispute for them; I am sure nobody could do it so well. Do not you think that the thing is practicable?” “Undoubtedly, madam, if the parties are disposed to reconciliation; for the two countries have really no clashing interests to differ about. It is rather a matter of punctilio, which two or three reasonable people might settle in half an hour. I thank you for the good opinion you are pleased to express of me; but the ministers will never think of employing me in that good work; for they choose rather to abuse me.” “Aye,” said she, “they have behaved shamefully to you. And indeed some of them are now ashamed of it themselves.” I looked upon this as accidental conversation, thought no more of it, and went in the evening to the appointed meeting at Dr. Fothergill’s, where I found Mr. Barclay with him.
The doctor expatiated feelingly on the mischiefs likely to ensue from the present difference, the necessity of accommodating it, and the great merit of being instrumental in so good a work, concluding with some compliments to me: that nobody understood the subject so thoroughly, and had a better head for business of the kind; that it seemed therefore a duty incumbent on me, to do every thing I could to accomplish a reconciliation; and that, as he had with pleasure heard from David Barclay, that I had promised to think of it, he hoped I had put pen to paper, and formed some plan for consideration, and brought it with me. I answered, that I had formed no plan, as the more I thought of the proceedings against the colonies the more satisfied I was that there did not exist the least disposition in the ministry to an accommodation; that therefore all plans must be useless. He said I might be mistaken; that, whatever was the violence of some, he had reason, good reason, to believe others were differently disposed; and that, if I would draw a plan, which we three upon considering should judge reasonable, it might be made use of, and answer some good purpose, since he believed that either himself or David Barclay could get it communicated to some of the most moderate among the ministers, who would consider it with attention; and what appeared reasonable to us, two of us being Englishmen, might appear so to them.
As they both urged this with great earnestness, and when I mentioned the impropriety of my doing any thing of the kind at the time we were in daily expectation of hearing from the Congress, who undoubtedly would be explicit on the means of restoring a good understanding, they seemed impatient, alleging that it was uncertain when we should receive the result of the Congress, and what it would be; that the least delay might be dangerous; that additional punishments for New England were in contemplation, and accidents might widen the breach and make it irreparable; therefore something preventive could not be too soon thought of and applied. I was therefore finally prevailed with to promise doing what they desired, and to meet them again on Tuesday evening at the same place, and bring with me something for their consideration.
Accordingly, at the time, I met with them and produced the following paper.
Hints for Conversationupon the Subject of Terms that Might Probably Produce a Durable Union between Britain and the Colonies
1. The tea destroyed to be paid for.
2. The Tea-duty Act to be repealed, and all the duties that have been received upon it to be repaid into the treasuries of the several provinces from which they have been collected.
3. The Acts of Navigation to be all reënacted in the colonies.
4. A naval officer, appointed by the crown, to reside in each colony, to see that those acts are observed.
5. All the acts restraining manufactures in the colonies to be repealed.
6. All duties arising on the acts for regulating trade with the colonies, to be for the public use of the respective colonies, and paid into their treasuries. The collectors and custom-house officers to be appointed by each governor, and not sent from England.
7. In consideration of the Americans maintaining their own peace establishment, and the monopoly Britain is to have of their commerce, no requisition to be made from them in time of peace.
8. No troops to enter and quarter in any colony, but with the consent of its legislature.
9. In time of war, on requisition made by the king, with the consent of Parliament, every colony shall raise money by the following rules or proportions, viz.: If Britain, on account of the war, raises three shillings in the pound to its land tax, then the colonies to add to their last general provincial peace tax a sum equal to one fourth thereof; and if Britain, on the same account, pays four shillings in the pound, then the colonies to add to their said last peace tax a sum equal to half thereof, which additional tax is to be granted to his Majesty, and to be employed in raising and paying men for land or sea service, furnishing provisions, transports, or for such other purposes as the king shall require and direct. And, though no colony may contribute less, each may add as much by voluntary grant as they shall think proper.
10. Castle William to be restored to the province of the Massachusetts Bay, and no fortress built by the crown in any province, but with the consent of its legislature.
11. The late Massachusetts and Quebec Acts to be repealed, and a free government granted to Canada.
12. All judges to be appointed during good behavior, with equally permanent salaries, to be paid out of the province revenues by appointment of the Assemblies. Or, if the judges are to be appointed during the pleasure of the crown, let the salaries be during the pleasure of the Assemblies, as heretofore.
13. Governors to be supported by the Assemblies of each province.
14. If Britain will give up its monopoly of the American commerce, then the aid above mentioned to be given by America in time of peace as well as in time of war.
15. The extension of the act of Henry the Eighth, concerning treasons to the colonies, to be formally disowned by Parliament.
16. The American admiralty courts reduced to the same powers they have in England, and the acts establishing them to be reënacted in America.
17. All powers of internal legislation in the colonies to be disclaimed by Parliament.
In reading this paper a second time, I gave my reasons at length for each article.
On the 1st I observed that, when the injury was done, Britain had a right to reparation, and would certainly have had it on demand, as was the case when injury was done by mobs in the time of the Stamp Act; or she might have a right to return an equal injury, if she rather chose to do that; but she could not have a right both to reparation and to return an equal injury; much less had she a right to return the injury ten or twenty-fold, as she had done by blocking up the port of Boston. All which extra injury ought, in my judgment, to be repaired by Britain. That, therefore, if paying for the tea was agreed to by me, as an article fit to be proposed, it was merely from a desire of peace, and in compliance with their opinion expressed at our first meeting; that this was a sine quâ non, that the dignity of Britain required it, and that, if this was agreed to, every thing else would be easy. This reasoning was allowed to be just; but still the article was thought necessary to stand as it did.
On the 2d, That the act should be repealed, as having never answered any good purpose, as having been the cause of the present mischief, and never likely to be executed. That, the act being considered as unconstitutional by the Americans, and what the Parliament had no right to make, they must consider all the money extorted by it as so much wrongfully taken, and of which therefore restitution ought to be made; and the rather, as it would furnish a fund out of which the payment for the tea destroyed might best be defrayed. The gentlemen were of opinion that the first part of this article, viz., the repeal, might be obtained, but not the refunding part, and therefore advised striking that out; but, as I thought it just and right, I insisted on its standing.
On the 3d and 4th articles, I observed we were frequently charged with views of abolishing the Navigation Act. That, in truth, those parts of it which were of most importance to Britain, as tending to increase its naval strength, viz., those restraining the trade to be carried on only in ships belonging to British subjects, navigated by at least three quarters British or colony seamen, etc., were as acceptable to us as they could be to Britain, since we wished to employ our own ships in preference to foreigners, and had no desire to see foreign ships enter our ports. That indeed the obliging us to land some of our commodities in England before we could carry them to foreign markets, and forbidding our importation of some goods directly from foreign countries, we thought a hardship, and a greater loss to us than gain to Britain, and therefore proper to be repealed. But, as Britain had deemed it an equivalent for her protection, we had never applied, or proposed to apply, for such a repeal. And, if they must be continued, I thought it best (since the power of Parliament to make them was now disputed) that they should be reënacted in all the colonies which would demonstrate their consent to them. And then, if, as in the sixth article, all the duties arising on them were to be collected by officers appointed and salaried in the respective governments, and the produce paid into their treasuries, I was sure the acts would be better and more faithfully executed, and at much less expense, and one great source of misunderstanding removed between the two countries, viz., the calumnies of low officers appointed from home, who were for ever abusing the people of the country to government, to magnify their own zeal, and recommend themselves to promotion. That the extension of the admiralty jurisdiction, so much complained of, would then no longer be necessary; and that, besides its being the interest of the colonies to execute those acts, which is the best security, government might be satisfied of its being done, from accounts to be sent home by the naval officers of the fourth article. The gentlemen were satisfied with these reasons, and approved the 3d and 4th articles; so they were to stand.
The 5th they apprehended would meet with difficulty. They said that restraining manufactures in the colonies was a favorite idea here; and therefore they wished that article to be omitted, as the proposing it would alarm and hinder perhaps the considering and granting others of more importance; but, as I insisted on the equity of allowing all subjects in every country to make the most of their natural advantages, they desired I would at least alter the last word from repealed to reconsidered, which I complied with.
In maintaining the 7th article (which was at first objected to, on the principle that all under the care of government should pay towards the supporting of it), my reasons were that, if every distinct part of the king’s dominions supported its own government in time of peace, it was all that could be justly required of it; that all the old or confederate colonies had done so from the beginning; that their taxes for that purpose were very considerable; that new countries had many public expenses, which old ones were free from, the works being done to their hands by their ancestors, such as making roads and bridges, erecting churches, court-houses, forts, quays, and other public buildings, founding schools and places of education, hospitals and alms-houses, etc., etc.; that the voluntary and the legal subscriptions and taxes for such purposes, taken together, amounted to more than was paid by equal estates in Britain. That it would be best for Britain, on two accounts, not to take money from us, as contribution to its public expense, in time of peace; first, for that just so much less would be got from us in commerce, since all we could spare was already gained from us by Britain in that way; and secondly, that coming into the hands of British ministers, accustomed to prodigality of public money, it would be squandered and dissipated, answering no good general purpose. That if we were to be taxed towards the support of government in Britain, as Scotland has been since the union, we ought to be allowed the same privileges in trade here as she has been allowed. That if we are called upon to give to the sinking fund, or the national debt, Ireland ought to be likewise called upon; and both they and we, if we gave, ought to have some means established of inquiring into the application, and securing a compliance with the terms on which we should grant. The British ministers would perhaps not like our meddling with such matters; and that hence might arise new causes of misunderstanding. That upon the whole, therefore, I thought it best on all sides, that no aids shall be asked or accepted from the colonies in time of peace; that it would then be their interest to grant bountifully and exert themselves vigorously in time of war, the sooner to put an end to it. That specie was not to be had to send to England in supplies, but the colonies could carry on war with their own paper money; which would pay troops, and for provisions, transports, carriages, clothing, arms, etc. So this 7th article was at length agreed to without further objection.
The 8th the gentlemen were confident would never be granted. For the whole world would be of opinion that the king, who is to defend all parts of his dominions, should have of course a right to place his troops where they might best answer that purpose. I supported the article upon principles equally important, in my opinion, to Britain as to the colonies; for that if the king could bring into one part of his dominions troops raised in any other part of them, without the consent of the legislatures of the part to which they were brought, he might bring armies raised in America into England without consent of Parliament, which probably would not like it, as a few years since they had not liked the introduction of the Hessians and Hanoverians, though justified by the supposition of its being a time of danger. That, if there should be at any time real occasion for British troops in America, there was no doubt of obtaining the consent of the Assemblies there; and I was so far from being willing to drop this article, that I thought I ought to add another, requiring all the present troops to be withdrawn before America could be expected to treat or agree upon any terms of accommodation; as what they should now do of that kind might be deemed the effect of compulsion, the appearance of which ought as much as possible to be avoided, since those reasonable things might be agreed to, where the parties seemed at least to act freely, which would be strongly refused under threats or the semblance of force. That the withdrawing the troops was therefore necessary to make any treaty durably binding on the part of the Americans, since proof of having acted under force would invalidate any agreement. And it could be no wonder that we should insist on the crown’s having no right to bring a standing army among us in time of peace, when we saw now before our eyes a striking instance of the ill use to be made of it, viz., to distress the king’s subjects in different parts of his dominions, one part after the other, into a submission to arbitrary power, which was the avowed design of the army and fleet now placed at Boston. Finding me obstinate the gentlemen consented to let this stand, but did not seem quite to approve of it. They wished, they said, to have this a paper or plan which they might show as containing the sentiments of considerate, impartial persons, and such as they might as Englishmen support, which they thought could not well be the case with this article.
end of volume vi
[1 ]This letter was written to Mr. Thomson as Secretary of Congress.
[2 ]Mr. Burke at this time had been agent for New York for several years, but to what effect or extent we have no evidence, as no letters from him to his principals have been yet discovered, if any were written.—Editor.
[3 ]It was resolved in Congress, October 25, 1774: “That the Address to the King be enclosed in a letter to the several colony agents, in order that the same may be by them presented to his Majesty; and that the agents be requested to call in the aid of such noblemen and gentlemen as are esteemed firm friends to American liberty.”
[1 ]The writer’s signature is not affixed to the original letter.
[1 ]Galloway was one of the delegates to the first Congress from Pennsylvania. Neither his sentiments nor his aims accorded with those of the prominent patriots who were assembled on that occasion. He proposed a plan of reconciliation, which was disapproved and rejected. Dr. Gordon relates the circumstances as follows: “Mr. Galloway became a member at the earnest solicitation of the Assembly, and refused compliance till they had given him instructions agreeable to his own mind, as the rule of his conduct. These instructions they suffered him to draw up. They were briefly to state the rights and the grievances of America, and to propose a plan of amicable accommodation of the differences between Great Britain and the colonies, and of a perpetual union. On the 28th of September a plan was proposed by him, which was debated a whole day, when the question was carried, six colonies to five, that it should be resumed and further considered; but it at length fell through.”—History, etc., Vol. I., p. 490.
[1 ]This proposal, which was introduced into Parliament by Lord North on the 20th of February, is as follows: “That when the Governor, Council, and Assembly, or General Court of his Majesty’s provinces, or colonies, shall propose to make provision according to their respective conditions, circumstances, and situations, for contributing their proportion to the common defence, such proportion to be raised under the authorities of the General Court, or General Assembly, of such province or colony, and disposable by Parliament; and shall engage to make provision also for the support of the civil government, and the administration of justice in such province or colony, it will be proper, if such proposal shall be approved by his Majesty in Parliament, and for so long as such provision shall be made accordingly, to forbear in respect of such province or colony, to levy any duties, tax, or assessment, or to impose any further duty, tax, or assessment, except only such duties as it may be expedient to impose for the regulation of commerce; the net produce of the duties last mentioned to be carried to the account of such province, colony, or plantation respectively.”—Almon’s Parliamentary Register, Vol. I., p. 169.
[1 ]Franklin remained in London several months after he announced his purpose to surrender the agency of the colonies, in the hope that something useful might result from negotiations which Lord Chatham and others had opened with him. They came to nothing except to demonstrate, what was already apparent to many of the leading statesmen in America, that the union of England with her transatlantic possessions could not endure. Penetrated at last himself with this conviction, Franklin placed his London agencies in the hands of Arthur Lee, and sailed in the Pennsylvania Packet for America about the 20th of March, 1775. From a letter dated March 17th, and written to a friend on the continent, whose name is not mentioned in the draft from which an extract is here taken, it appears that he thought of returning in a few months:
[1 ]David Barclay was a member of Parliament, and a person of great note among the Quakers of that day. Dr. Fothergill, also a Quaker, was a physician in high repute in London at this time. In 1775 and 1776 when an influenza prevailed, he numbered on an average sixty patients a day, and his practice was supposed to be worth $40,000 annually. But for his religion, the king would have appointed him Physician Extraordinary to the royal family. See Letters to Lord North, Vol. I., p. 202. The Doctor died in 1783. Dr. Franklin wrote of him about that time that “if we may estimate the goodness of a man by his disposition to do good and his constant endeavor and success in doing it, I can hardly conceive that a better man has ever existed.”—Editor.
[1 ]This lady (which is a little unusual in ladies) has a good deal of mathematical knowledge.—B. F.