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And yet such is our Insensibility to justice in this Particular, that nothing is more common than to see, even in reputable Company, a very honest Gentleman or Lady declare his or her Intention to cheat the Nation of Three pence by a Frank, and without Blushing apply to one of the very Legislators themselves, with a modest Request, that he would please to become an Accomplice in the Crime, and assist in the Perpetration of it. <
There are those who by these Practices take a great deal in a Year out of the Publick Purse, and put the Money into their own private Pockets. If, passing thro' a Room where Publick Treasure is deposited, a Man takes the Opportunity of clandestinely pocketing and carrying off a Guinea, is he not truly and properly a Thief? And if another evades paying into the Treasury a Guinea that he ought to pay in, and Applys it to his own use, when he knows it belongs to the Publick as much as that which has been paid in, what Difference is there in the Nature of the Crime, or the Baseness of committing it?
Some Laws make the Receiving of stolen Goods equally penal with Stealing, and upon this Principle, that if there were no Receivers, there would be few Thieves. Our Proverb says truly, that the Receiver is as bad as the Thief.
By the same Reasoning, as there would be few Smugglers, if there were none who knowingly encourage them by buying their Goods, we may say, that the Encouragers of Smuggling are as bad as the Smugglers; and that, as Smugglers are Thieves, both equally deserve the Punishment of Thievery.
In this view of wronging the Revenue, what must we think of great Officers in the N—y, who eat their Country's Bread, if such should run Goods by Boatfulls vi et armis, in open Day, with Threats of immediate Death to an Officer of the Customs who desired Leave to do his Duty in searching the Boat if he did not instantly withdraw. What must we think of Sen—rs who can evade paying for their Wheels' or their Plate, in Defiance of Law and Justice, and yet declaim against Corruption, as if their own Hearts and Hands were pure and unsullied? The Americans offend us grievously, when, contrary to our Laws, they smuggle Goods into their own Country; and yet they had no hand in making those Laws. I do not however pretend from thence to justify them. But I think the Offence much greater in those, who either directly or indirectly have been concern'd in making the very Laws they break. And when I hear them exclaim'g against the Americans, and for [every little infringement on the acts of trade, or obstruction given by a petty mob to an officer of our customs in that country, calling for vengeance against the whole people as Rebels and Traitors, I cannot help thinking there are still those in the world who can see a mote in their brother's eye, while they do not discern a beam in their own; and that the old saying is as true now as ever it was, One man may better steal a horse, than another look over the hedge.] B. F.
444. TO WILLIAM FRANKLIN2
London, November 25, 1767.
Dear Son, I think the New Yorkers have been very discreet in forbearing to write and publish against the late act of Parlia1 Alluding to the British taxes on carriage-wheels and on plate. — Duane. ment. I wish the Boston people had been as quiet, since Governor Bernard has sent over all their violent papers to the ministry, and wrote them word that he daily expected a rebellion. He did indeed afterwards correct this extravagance, by writing again, that he now understood those papers were approved but by few, and disliked by all the sober, sensible people of the province. A certain noble Lord expressed himself to me with some disgust and contempt of Bernard on this occasion, saying he ought to have known his people better, than to impute to the whole country sentiments, that perhaps are only scribbled by some madman in a garret; that he appeared to be too fond of contention, and mistook the matter greatly, in supposing such letters as he wrote were acceptable to the ministry. I have heard nothing of the appointment of General Clark to New York; but I know he is a friend of Lord Shelburne's, and the same that recommended Mr. M'Lean to be his secretary. Perhaps it might be talked of in my absence.
2 From "The Works of Dr. Benjamin Franklin" (Duane), Phila., 1817, Vol. VI, p. 255. —Ed.
VOL. V — F
The commissioners for the American Board, went hence while I was in France; you know before this time who they are and how they are received, which I want to hear.1 Mr. Williams, who is gone in some office with them, is brother to our cousin Williams of Boston; but I assure you I had not the least share in his appointment; having, as I told you before, carefully kept out of the way of that whole affair.2
1 This was the new Board of Commissioners of Customs established by a late act of Parliament for the colonies. The board was fixed at Boston, and was particularly odious to the colonists, as it seemed to be a part of the system of parliamentary taxation. The commissioners were Charles Paxton, Henry Hutton, William Burch, John Temple, and John Robinson. The three first arrived at Boston in the beginning of November; the two last were already there. S.
2 John Williams was inspector-general of the customs. — Ed.
As soon as I received Mr. Galloway's, Mr. T. Wharton's, and Mr. Croghan's letters on the subject of the boundary, I communicated them immediately to Lord Shelburne. He invited me the next day to dine with him. Lord Clare was to have been there, but did not come. There was nobody but Mr. M'Lean. My Lord knew nothing of the boundary's having ever been agreed on by Sir William, had sent the letters to the Board of Trade, desiring search to be made there for Sir William's letters, and ordered Mr. M'Lean to search the secretary's office, who found nothing. We had much discourse about it, and I pressed the importance of despatching orders immediately to Sir William to complete the affair. His Lordship asked who was to make the purchase, that is, be at the expense? I said that if the line included any lands within the grants of the charter colonies, they should pay the purchase money of such proportion. If any within the proprietary grants, they should pay their proportion; but that what was within royal governments, where the King granted the lands, the crown should pay for that proportion. His Lordship was pleased to say he thought this reasonable. He finally desired me to go to Lord Clare, as from him, and urge the business there, which I undertook to do.
Among other things at this conversation, we talked of the new settlement; his Lordship told me he had himself drawn up a paper of reasons for those settlements, which he laid before the King in Council, acquainting them that he did not offer them merely as his own sentiments; they were what he had collected from General Amherst, Dr. Franklin, and Mr. Jackson, three gentlemen that were allowed to be the best authorities for any thing that related to America. I think he added that the Council seemed to approve of the design. I know it was referred to the Board of Trade, who I believe have not yet reported on it, and I doubt will report against it. My Lord told me one pleasant circumstance, viz. that he had shown his paper to the Dean of Gloucester (Tucker), to hear his opinion of the matter; who very sagaciously remarked, that he was sure that paper was drawn up by Dr. Franklin; he saw him in every paragraph; adding that Dr. Franklin wanted to remove the seat of government to America; that, says he, is his constant plan.
I waited next morning upon Lord Clare, and pressed the matter of the boundary closely upon him. He said they could not find they had ever received any letters from Sir William concerning this boundary, but were searching farther: agreed to the necessity of settling it; but thought there would be some difficulty about who should pay the purchase money; for that this country was already so loaded, it could bear no more. We then talked of the new colonies. I found he was inclined to think one near the mouth of the Ohio might be of use in securing the country, but did not much approve that at Detroit. And as to the trade, he imagined it would be of little consequence, if we had all the peltry to be purchased there, but supposed our traders would sell it chiefly to the French and Spaniards, at New Orleans, as he heard they had hitherto done. At the same time that we Americans wish not to be judged of, in the gross, by particular papers written by anonymous scribblers and published in the colonies, it would be well if we could avoid falling into the same mistake in America, in judging of ministers here by the libels printed against them. The inclosed is a very abusive one, in which if there is any foundation of truth, it can only be in the insinuation contained