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great taxes; and much of it, being paid by us, is clear tax to Britain.
6. In short, as we are not suffered to regulate our trade, and restrain the importation and consumption of British superfluities, as Britain can the consumption of foreign superfluities, our whole wealth centres finally amongst the merchants and inhabitants of Britain; and if we make them richer, and enable them better to pay their taxes, it is nearly the same as being taxed ourselves, and equally beneficial to the crown.
These kinds of secondary taxes, however, we do not complain of, though we have no share in the laying or disposing of them; but to pay immediate heavy taxes, in the laying, appropriation, and disposition of which we have no part, and which perhaps we may know to be as unnecessary as grievous, must seem
measures to Englishmen, who cannot conceive, that, by hazarding their lives and fortunes in subduing and settling new countries, extending the dominion, and increasing the commerce of the mother nation, they have forfeited the native rights of Britons; which they think ought rather to be given to them, as due to such merit, if they had been before in a state of slavery.
These, and such kinds of things as these, I apprehend, will be thought and said by the people, if the proposed alteration of the Albany plan should take
Then the administration of the board of governors and council so appointed, not having the representative body of the people to approve and unite in its measures, and conciliate the minds of the people to them, will probably become suspected and odious; dangerous animosities and feuds will arise between the governors and governed; and every thing
go into confusion.
Perhaps I am too apprehensive in this matter; but, having freely given my opinion and reasons, your Excellency can judge better than I, whether there be any weight in them; and the shortness of the time allowed me, will, I hope in some degree excuse the imperfections of this scrawl.
With the greatest respect and fidelity, I have the
honor to be
Your Excellency's most obedient,
and most humble servant,
B. FRANKLIN. *
ON THE SUBJECT OF UNITING THE COLONIES MORE INTIMATELY WITH GREAT BRITAIN, BY ALLOWING THEM REPRESENTATIVES IN PARLIAMENT.
Boston, December 22d, 1754.
Since the conversation your Excellency was pleased to honor me with, on the subject of uniting the colonies more intimately with Great Britain, by allowing them representatives in Parliament, I have something further considered that matter, and am of opinion, that such a union would be very acceptable to the
* Respecting this letter, Mr. John Adams said (in his History of the Dispute with America, first published in 1774); "Dr. Franklin, who was known to be an active and very able man, and to have great influence in the province of Pennsylvania, was in Boston in the year 1754, and Mr. Shirley communicated to him the profound secret, the great design of taxing the colonies by act of Parliament. This sa
gacious gentleman and distinguished patriot, to his lasting honor, sent the governor an answer in writing, with the following remarks on his scheme." Mr. Adams then quotes the principal parts of the above letter. EDItor.
colonies, provided they had a reasonable number of representatives allowed them; and that all the old acts of Parliament restraining the trade or cramping the manufactures of the colonies be at the same time. repealed, and the British subjects on this side the water put, in those respects, on the same footing with those in Great Britain, till the new Parliament, representing the whole, shall think it for the interest of the whole to reenact some or all of them. It is not that I imagine so many representatives will be allowed the colonies, as to have any great weight by their numbers; but I think there might be sufficient to occasion those laws to be better and more impartially considered, and perhaps to overcome the interest of a petty corporation, or of any particular set of artificers or traders in England, who heretofore seem, in some instances, to have been more regarded than all the colonies, or than was consistent with the general interest, or best national good. I think too, that government of the colonies by a Parliament, in which they are fairly represented, would be vastly more agreeable to the people, than the method lately attempted to be introduced by royal instruction, as well as more agreeable to the nature of an English constitution, and to English liberty; and that such laws as now seem to bear hard on the colonies, would (when judged by such a Parliament for the best interest of the whole) be more cheerfully submitted to, and more easily executed.
I should hope too, that by such a union, the people of Great Britain, and the people of the colonies, would learn to consider themselves, as not belonging to different communities with different interests, but to one community with one interest; which I imagine
would contribute to strengthen the whole, and greatly lessen the danger of future separations.
It is, I suppose, agreed to be the general interest of any state, that its people be numerous and rich; men enow to fight in its defence, and enow to pay sufficient taxes to defray the charge; for these circumstances tend to the security of the state, and its protection from foreign power. But it seems not of so much importance, whether the fighting be done by John or Thomas, or the tax paid by William or Charles. The iron manufacture employs and enriches British subjects, but is it of any importance to the state, whether the manufacturer lives at Birmingham, or Sheffield, or both; since they are still within its bounds, and their wealth and persons still at its command? Could the Goodwin Sands be laid dry by banks, and land equal to a large country thereby gained to England, and presently filled with English inhabitants, would it be right to deprive such inhabitants of the common privileges enjoyed by other Englishmen, the right of vending their produce in the same ports, or of making their own shoes, because a merchant or a shoemaker, living on the old land, might fancy it more for his advantage to trade or make shoes for them? Would this be right, even if the land were gained at the expense of the state? And would it not seem less right, if the charge and labor of gaining the additional territory to Britain had been borne by the settlers themselves? And would not the hardship appear yet greater, if the people of the new country should be allowed no representatives in the Parliament enacting such impositions?
Now I look on the colonies as so many countries gained to Great Britain, and more advantageous to it, than if they had been gained out of the seas around
its coasts, and joined to its lands; for, being in different climates, they afford greater variety of produce, and materials for more manufactures; and, being separated by the ocean, they increase much more its shipping and seamen; and, since they are all included in the British empire, which has only extended itself by their means, and the strength and wealth of the parts are the strength and wealth of the whole, what imports it to the general state, whether a merchant, a smith, or a hatter, grows rich in Old or New England? * And if, through increase of the people, two
*In commenting on this passage, Governor Hutchinson says; “It will be difficult, if this principle be admitted, to justify the revolt of the colonies, in which Mr. Franklin was very instrumental. He departed from his principles, and declared, fifteen years after the date of those letters, that he was of opinion Britain and the colonies were under separate legislatures, and stood related as England and Scotland stood before the union."History of Massachusetts, Vol. III. p. 24. Hutchinson alludes here to a letter from Franklin to Dr. Cooper, written in London, June 8th, 1770, in which he says; "That the colonies originally were constituted distinct States, and intended to be continued such,
Is clear to me from a thorough consideration of their original charters, and the whole conduct of the crown and nation towards them until the restoration. Since that period the Parliament here has usurped an authority of making laws for them, which before it had not. We have for some time submitted to that usurpation, partly through ignorance and inattention, and partly from our weakness and inability to contend. — The several States have equal rights and liberties, and are only conEngland and Scotland were before the union, by having one
common sovereign, the King."
In the first place it is possible, that Franklin, in the course of fif teen years' research and study, may have discovered good reasons for changing his opinion as to the just powers of Parliament, and this he might have done without any reproach upon his patriotism or his principles. But in reality there is no discordance between the sentiments contained in the text, and those in the extract from the letter to Dr. Cooper. In the former case he speaks of the colonies as belonging to British empire," but he does not say that the authority of Parliament extends with equal force to every part of this empire. On the contrary, what he says respecting Parliament is founded on the supposition, that the colonies should be represented in it. representation should exist, the people would of course be subject to
When such a