Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

shown; and it will greatly advance the interest of the proprietor. It will be an advantage to every industrious tradesman, &c., because his business will be carried on more freely, and trade be universally enlivened by it . And as more business in all manufactures will be done, by so much as the labor and time spent in exchange is saved, the country in general will grow so much the richer.

It is nothing to the purpose to object the wretched fall of the bills in New England and South Carolina, unless it might be made evident that their currency was emitted with the same prudence, and on such good security, as ours is; and it certainly was not.

As this essay is wrote and published in haste, and the subject in itself intricate, I hope I shall be censured with candor, if, for want of time carefully to revise what I have written, in some places I should appear to have expressed myself too obscurely, and in others am liable to objections I did not foresee. I sincerely desire to be acquainted with the truth, and on that account shall think myself obliged to any one, who will take the pains to show me, or the public, where I am mistaken in my conclusions. And as we all know there are among us several gentlemen of acute parts and profound learning, who are very much against any addition to our money, it were to be wished that they would favor the country with their sentiments on this head in print; which, supported with truth and good reasoning, may probably be very convincing. And this is to be desired the rather because many people, knowing the abilities of those gentlemen to manage a good cause, are apt to construe their silence in this, as an argument of a bad one. Had any thing of that kind ever yet appeared, perhaps I should not have given the public this trouble. But, as those ingenious gentlemen have not yet (and I doubt never will) think it worth their concern to enlighten the minds of their erring countrymen in this particular, I think it would be highly commendable in every one of us, more fully to bend our minds to the study of what is the true interest of Pennsylvania; whereby we may be enabled, not only to reason pertinently with one another; but, if occasion requires, to transmit home such clear representations, as must inevitably convince our superiors of the reasonableness and integrity of our designs.*

Philadelphia, April 3, 1729.

* Soon after this pamphlet was written, the measure proposed in it was adopted by the Assembly of Pennsylvania; and subsequently another bill for a similar object was passed, the principal features of which were published by Governor Pownall. They were understood to have been communicated to him by Franklin, with other remarks on paper money. The proceedings of the Assembly on the subject are described in the extract below.

"As the paper-money act made and passed in Pennsylvania, in 1739, was the completest of the kind, containing all the improvements which experience had from time to time suggested, in the execution of preceding acts; an account of that act will best explain and recommend the measure contained in the following proposal.

"The sum of the notes, by that act directed to be printed, was eighty thousand pounds proclamation money. This money was to be emitted to the several borrowers, from a loan-office established for that purpose.

"Five persons were nominated trustees of the loan-office, under whose care and direction, the bills or notes were to be printed and emitted.

"To suit the bills for a common currency, they were of small and various denominations, from twenty shillings downwards to one shilling.

"Various precautions were taken, to prevent counterfeits, by peculiarities in the paper, character, manner of printing, signing, numbering, &c.

"The trustees took an oath, and gave security for the due and faithful execution of their office.

"They were to lend out the bills on real security of at least double the value, for a term of sixteen years, to be repaid in yearly quotas or instalments, with interest. Thus one sixteenth part of the principal was yearly paid back into the office, which made the payment easy to the borrower. The interest was applied to public services, the principal, during the first ten years, let out again to fresh borrowers.

"The new borrowers, from year to year, were to have the money only

[graphic]

ON GOVERNMENT. —No.I.*

FROM THE PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE, APRIL I, 1736.

Government is aptly compared to architecture; if the superstructure is too heavy for the foundation, the building totters, though assisted by outward props of art . But leaving it to everybody to mould the similitude according to his particular fancy, I shall only observe, that the people have made the most considerable part of the legislature in every free state; which has been more or less so, in proportion to the share they have had in the administration of affairs. The English constitution is fixed on the strongest basis; we choose whomsoever we please for our representatives, and thus we have all the advantages of a democracy, without any of its inconveniences.

for the remaining part of the term of sixteen years, repaying, by fewer and, of course, proportionably larger instalments, and during the last six years of the sixteen, the sums paid in were not to be remitted, but the notes burnt and destroyed; so that, at the end of the sixteen years, the whole might be called in and burnt, and the accounts completely settled.

"The trustees were taken from all the different counties of the province, their residence in different parts giving them better opportunities of being acquainted with the value and circumstances of estates offered in mortgage.

"They were to continue but four years in office; were to account annually to committees of Assembly; and, at the expiration of that term, they were to deliver up all moneys and securities in their hands, to their successors, before their bonds and securities could be discharged. '"Lest a few wealthy persons should engross the money, which was intended for more general benefit, no one person, whatever security he might offer, could borrow more than one hundred pounds.

"Thus, numbers of poor new settlers were accommodated and assist ed with money to carry on their settlements, to be repaid in easy portions yearly, as the yearly produce of their lands should enable them." — Pownall's Administration of the Colonics, 4th edit. pp. 234- 236. — Editor.

* What proof there is, that the two essays on Government were written by Franklin, except that they appeared in his Gazette, I have no means of determining. The internal evidence does not appear very strong. They are included in Duane's edition.—Editor.

Popular governments have not been framed without the wisest reasons. It seemed highly fitting, that the conduct of magistrates, created by and for the good of the whole, should be made liable to the inspection and animadversion of the whole. Besides, there could not be a more potent counterpoise to the designs of ambitious men, than a multitude that hated and feared ambition. Moreover, the power they possessed, though great collectively, yet, being distributed among a vast number, the share of each individual was too inconsiderable to lay him under any temptations of turning it to a wrong use. Again, a body of people thus circumstanced cannot be supposed to judge amiss on any essential points; for, if they decide in favor of themselves, which is extremely natural, their decision is just, inasmuch, as whatever contributes to their benefit is a general benefit, and advances the real public good. Hence we have an easy solution of the sophism, so often proposed by the abettors of tyranny, who tell us, that, when differences arise between a prince and his subjects, the latter are incapable of being judges of the controversy, for that would be setting up judge and party in the same person.

Some foreigners, have had a truer idea of our constitution. We read in the Memoirs of the late archbishop of Cambray, Fenelon, the celebrated author of Telemachus, a conversation which he had with the Pretender, (son of James the Second, of England.) "If ever you come to the crown of England," says the bishop, "you will be a happy prince; with an unlimited power to do good, and only restrained from doing evil." A blunt Briton, perhaps, would have said, in plain English, "You '11 be at liberty to do as much good as you please, but, by G—, you shall do us no hurt." The bishop sweetened the pill; for such it would appear in its simple form, to a mind fraught with notions of arbitrary power, and educated among a people, who, with the utmost simplicity, boast of their slavery.

What can be more ridiculous than to hear them frequently object to the English gentlemen that travel in their country, "What is your king 1 Commend me to our grand monarch, who can do whatever he pleases." * But, begging pardon of these facetious gentlemen, whom it is not my intention to disturb, in their many notions of government, I shall go on to examine what were the sentiments of the ancient Romans on this head.

We find that their dictator, a magistrate never created but in cases of great extremity, vested with power as absolute during his office (which never exceeded six months) as the greatest kings were never possessed of; this great ruler was liable to be called to an account by any of the tribunes of the people, f whose persons were at the same time rendered sacred by the most solemn laws.

This is evident proof, that the Romans were of opinion, that the people could not in any sense divest themselves of the supreme authority, by conferring the most extensive power they possibly could imagine, on one or more persons acting as magistrates.

This appears still more evident, in remarking that the people sat as umpire of the differences which had

* Qu'est ce que votre roi? Parlez-moi de notre grand monarque, morbleu! qui peut faire tout ce qu'il veut.

f Si antiquus animus plebi Romans esset, (says one of the tribunes,) audaciter se laturum fuisse de abrogando Q.. Fabii [dictatoris] imperio. — T. Liv. lib. xxii. cap. 25.

« ZurückWeiter »