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own account, being about to decline all public business, but for your consideration with regard to future agents.
And, now we speak of agents, I must mention my concern, that I should fall under so severe a censure of the House, as that of neglect in their business. I have submitted to the reproof without reply in my public letter, out of pure respect. It is not decent to dispute a father's admonitions. But to you in private, permit me to observe, that, as to the two things I am blamed for not giving the earliest notice of, viz. the clause in the act relating to dockyards, and the appointment of salaries for the governor and judges, the first only seems to have some foundation. I did not know, but perhaps I ought to have known, that such a clause was intended. And yet in a Parliament, that during the whole session refused admission to strangers, wherein near two hundred acts were passed, it is not so easy a matter to come at the knowledge of every clause in every act, and to give opposition to what may affect one's constituents; especially when it is not uncommon to smuggle clauses into a bill, whose title shall give no suspicion, when an opposition to such clauses is apprehended. I say this is no easy matter. But, had I known of this clause, it is not likely I could have prevented its passing in the present disposition of government towards America; nor do I see, that my giving earlier notice of its having passed could have been of much service.
As to the other, concerning the governor and judges, I should hardly have thought of sending the House an account of it, if the minister had mentioned it to me; as I understood from their first letter to me, that they had already the best intelligence “ of its being determined by administration to bestow large salaries on the attorney-general
, judges, and governor of the province.” I could not therefore possibly “ give the first notice of this impending evil.” I answered, however, “that there was no doubt of the intention of making governors, and some other officers, independent of the people for their support; and that this purpose will be persisted in, if the American revenue is found sufficient to defray the salaries.” This censure, though grievous, does not so much surprise me, as I apprehended all along from the beginning, that between the friends of an old agent, my predecessor, who thought himself hardly used in his dismission, and those of a young one impatient for the succession, my situation was not likely to be a very comfortable one, as my faults could scarce pass unobserved.*
* The young agent here mentioned, as “impatient for the succession,” was Arthur Lee. This gentleman was a brother of Richard Henry Lee, and, having studied law in the Temple, he commenced the practice of his profession in London. When Dr. Franklin was appointed agent for Massachusetts, he expected to return in a short time to America ; and, in anticipation of this event, Arthur Lee was chosen by the legislature as his successor, with instructions to act as such in case of his death or absence. Circumstances caused Dr. Franklin to remain much longer than he had proposed, and, from Mr. Lee's own testimony, it is evident that his patience was severely tried by this delay. As no man has done so much as Arthur Lee to injure the reputation of Dr. Franklin, and as his name will often occur in the course of this correspondence, it is proper that the reader should here be made acquainted with some of the means he used, at this early period, to effect an object, which he afterwards pursued with an uncommon degree of acrimony and perseverance. In a letter to Samuel Adams, dated at London, June 10th, 1771, he wrote as follows.
“ I have read lately in your papers an assurance from Dr. Franklin, that all designs against the charter of the colony are laid aside. This is just what I expected from him; and, if it be true, the Doctor is not the dupe but the instrument of Lord Hillsborough's treachery. That Lord Hillsborough gives out this assurance is certain; but, notorious as he is for ill faith and fraud, his duplicity would not impose on one possessed of half Dr. Franklin's sagacity.”
“ The possession of a profitable office at will, the having a son in a high post at pleasure, the grand purpose of his residence here being to effect a change in the government of Pennsylvania, for which admin
I think of leaving England in September. As soon as possible after my arrival in America, I purpose,
God willing, to visit Boston, when I hope to have the pleasure of paying my respects to you. I shall then give every information in my power, and offer every advice relating to our affairs, not so convenient to be written, that my situation here for so many years may enable me to suggest for the benefit of our country. Some time before my departure, I shall put your papers into the hands of Mr. Lee, and assist him with my counsel while I stay, where there may be any occasion for it. He is a gentleman of parts and ability; and, though he cannot exceed me in sincere zeal for the interest and prosperity of the province, his youth will easily enable him to serve it with more activity. I am, Sir, very respectfully, &c.
istration must be cultivated and courted, are circumstances, wnich, joined with the temporizing conduct he has always held in American affairs, preclude every rational hope, that, in an open contest between an oppressive administration and a free people, Dr. Franklin can be a faithful advocate for the latter; or oppose and expose the former with a spirit and integrity, which alone can, in times like these, be of any service. By temporizing, I mean, consulting the inclination of ministers, and acting conformably to that, not to the interests of the province. Thus, when the Rockingham administration espoused the American cause, no man was more zealous or active than Dr. Franklin; since that, he has been totally inactive ; and his particular partisans here, the Quaker merchants, were opposed to the late measure of petitioning for the repeal of the revenue act; though the exciting the merchants and manufacturers here to petition against it was the great benefit expected from the non-importation agreements with you, which the Doctor immediately after advised the Philadelphians not to violate. The artifice of this is manifest; that advice made him popular in America, his preventing the effect of it recommended him to administration here; and in consequence we see, that, though accounts of that letter were transmitted to Lord Hillsborough, the writer stands in the same place and favor as before, though it is a fixed rule of conduct with his Lordship to displace all those, who not only oppose, but who do not conform perfectly to his plan. I feel it not a little disagreeable to speak my sentiments of Dr. Franklin, as your generous confidence has placed me in the light of a rival to him. But I am so far from being influenced by selfish motives, that, were the service of the colony ten times greater, I would perform it for nothing rather than you and America, at a tir; ike this, should be betrayed by a man, who it is hardly in the nature of things to suppose can be faithful to his trust.” — Life of Arthur Lee, Vol. I. p. 216.
It is but just to add, that, at a later period, Mr. Lee said the above letter u was written in anger"; but this is no apology for the gross
insinuations it contains, and the more than suspicious end he had in view. The whole tenor of the correspondence in this work, and especially the preceding letters relating to the subjects and time of which Mr. Lee speaks, prove these insinuations (charges indeed they may almost be called) to have been utterly without foundation. In Dr. Franklin's letter to Dr. Cooper, dated February 5th, 1771, it is seen, that, so far from his being subservient to Lord Hillsborough, there was a coldness between them amounting almost to a personal quarrel. Yet these calumnies were sent across the Atlantic to poison the minds of the principal men in Massachusetts, and to inflict an injury, which it was not in Mr. Lee's power to repair. Such was the result, to a considerable extent; and we may here see the origin of the false impressions respecting the motives and character of Dr. Franklin, which long existed in Massachusetts, and which were subsequently strengthened by other means not less unfounded or unworthy.
Mr. Lee's impatience is indicated in another letter, dated June 11th, 1773, in which he says; “ Dr. Franklin frequently assures me, that he shall sail for Philadelphia in a few weeks; but I believe he will not quit is till he is gathered to his fathers.”
As an evidence of the freedom with which he spoke of other agents in England, and of his impatience to occupy their place, an extract may be quoted from a letter to his brother, dated September 18th, 1769. It relates to the agent for Virginia. He says; “ You will see our agent on the most infamous list of voters for Colonels Lutterel and Brentford, than which nothing can more demonstrate his servile dependence on administration; when applied to, he refused to draw up for the tobacco merchants a petition against the revenue acts, on a pretence, that, as they had not treated him with respect, he would not have any thing to do with them. But his vote will explain his refusal. Should this conduct have any influence in Virginia to his prejudice, as I think in truth it ought, I need not tell you I should be happy to serve in his place."
The value of his opinions of men, as well as the soundness of his judgment, may be inferred from the manner in which he speaks of the prominent men in the British government. He writes to his brother; “Grafton is the premier, profligate, arbitrary, and contemptible; Weymonth, abandoned to gaming and drinking, totally involved, but extreme
TO THOMAS CUSHING.
Parliament prorogued. The King's Answer to the
American Petitions. Proposed Means of obtain, ing Redress. — General Sentiments of the People in England respecting America. Captain Calef. Sir Francis Bernard's Project.
London, 7 July, 1773. SIR, The Parliament is at length prorogued, without meddling with the state of America. Their time was much employed in the East India business; and perhaps it was not thought prudent to lay before them the advices from New England, though some threatening in
ly clever; North, Gower, and Bristol, nothing; Hillsborough and Pownall, arbitrary, opinionated, subtile, and severe." — Life, Vol. I. p. 200.
Again; “Lord Dartmouth is too insignificant for you to regard what he says." p. 222. “He is a poor. wretch, and, though not actively bad, is yet, I believe, as capable of adopting any unjust and arbitrary measure as Lord Hillsborough. He forfeited his honor and his character in accepting the place.” p. 232.
Considering the means taken by Arthur Lee to disparage Dr. Franklin, from the beginning of the revolution to the end of his life, as will fully appear hereafter, justice requires, that the reader should be apprized beforehand of the traits of his character shown in the above extracts. But these should not detract from the real merits of Mr. Lee. He was a man of talents, a good scholar, an able writer, and a zealous defender of his country's rights. Before the war broke out, he published several papers on the colonial controversy, written with force and skill, some of which passed through various editions, and were widely circulated in Great Britain and America. They were useful in promoting the cause of his country. His integrity, patriotism, and fidelity to the trusts reposed in him, have never been suspected; but the infirmities of his temper, his jealousy, and extreme ambition led him to look upon every man as an enemy, who stood in the way of his advancement, and to employ methods, that cannot be justified, for lessening the influence of those, whom he regarded as his opponents. Further particulars, relating to this subject, may be seen in the North American Review for April, 1830, Vol. XXX, pp. 457 — 511.