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I ask, my Lords, whether the revengeful temper attributed, by poetic fiction only, to the bloody African, is not surpassed by the coolness and apathy of the wily American 2" Mr. Vaughan adds; “Unfortunately for Mr. Wedderburn, the events of the war did not correspond with his systems. Unfortunately too for his “irrefragable argument, Dr. Franklin afterwards took an oath in chancery, that, at the time that he transmitted the letters, he was ignorant of the party to whom they had been addressed; having himself received them from a third person, and for the express purpose of their being conveyed to America. Unfortunately also for Mr. Wedderburn's 'worthy governor, that governor himself, before the arrival of Dr. Franklin's packet in Boston, sent over one of Dr. Franklin's own ‘private' letters to England; expressing some little coyness indeed upon the occasion, but desiring secrecy, lest he should be prevented from procuring more useful intelligence from the same source. Whether Mr. Wedderburn, in his speech, intended to draw a particular case and portraiture, for the purpose only of injuring Dr. Franklin, or meant that his language and epithets should apply generally to all, whether friends or foes, whose practice should be found similar to it, is a matter that must be left to be adjusted between Governor Hutchinson and Mr. Wedderburn. “It was not singular, perhaps, that, as a man of honor, Dr. Franklin should surrender his name to public scrutiny in order to prevent mischief to others, and yet not betray his coadjutor (even to the present moment) to relieve his own fame from the severest obloquy ; but perhaps it belonged to few besides Dr. Franklin, to possess mildness and magnanimity enough, to refrain from intemperate expressions and measures against Mr. Wedderburn and his supporters, after all that had passed." Dr. Priestley gave the following account of Wedderburn's speech, which he heard, in a communication to the editor of the Monthly Magazine, dated at Northumberland, November Ioth, 1802. “On the morning of the day on which the cause was to be heard, I met Mr. Burke in Parliament Street, accompanied by Dr. Douglas, afterwards Bishop of Carlisle; and after introducing us to each other, as men of letters, he asked me whither I was going; I said, I could tell him whither I wished to go. He then asked me where that was; I said, to the Privy Council, but that I was afraid I could not get admission. He then desired me to go along with him. Accordingly I did; but, when we got to the anteroom, we found it quite filled with persons as desirous of getting admission as ourselves. Seeing this, I said, we should never get through the crowd. He said, ‘Give me your arm, and, locking it fast in his, he soon made his way to the door
of the Privy Council. I then said, ‘Mr. Burke, you are an excellent leader;" he replied, ‘I wish other persons thought so too." “After waiting a short time, the door of the Privy Council opened, and we entered the first ; when Mr. Burke took his stand behind the first chair next to the President, and I behind that next to his. When the business was opened, it was sufficiently evident, from the speech of Mr. Wedderburn, who was counsel for the governor, that the real object of the court was to insult Dr. Franklin. All this time, he stood in a corner of the room, not far from me, without the least apparent emotion. “Mr. Dunning, who was the leading counsel on the part of the colony, was so hoarse that he could hardly make himself heard; and Mr. Lee, who was the second, spoke but feebly in reply; so that Mr. Wedderburn had a complete triumph. At the sallies of his sarcastic wit, all the members of the Council, the president himself (Lord Gower) not excepted, frequently laughed outright. No person belonging to the Council behaved with decent gravity, except Lord North, who, coming late, took his stand behind the chair opposite to me. “When the business was over, Dr. Franklin, in going out, took me by the hand in a manner that indicated some feeling. I soon followed him, and, going through the anteroom, saw Mr. Wedderburn there, surrounded by a circle of his friends and admirers. Being known to him, he stepped forward, as if to speak to me; but I turned aside, and made what haste I could out of the place. “The next morning, I breakfasted with the Doctor, when he said, 'He had never before been so sensible of the power of a good conscience; for that, if he had not considered the thing for which he had been so much insulted, as one of the best actions of his life, and what he should certainly do again in the same circumstances, he could not have supported it.' He was accused of clandestinely procuring certain letters, containing complaints against the governor, and sending them to America, with a view to excite their animosity against him, and thus to embroil the two countries; but he assured me, that he did not even know that such letters existed, until they were brought to him as agent for the colony, in order to be sent to his constituents; and the cover of the letters, on which the direction had been written, being lost, he only guessed at the person to whom they were addressed by the contents. “That Dr. Franklin, notwithstanding he did not show it at the time, was much impressed by the business of the Privy Council, appeared from this circumstance. When he attended there, he was dressed in a suit of Manchester velvet; and Silas Deane told me, that, when they met at Paris to sign the treaty between France and America, he purposely put on that suit." In reference to this account, after it appeared in print, the following particulars were communicated to William Temple Franklin by Dr. Bancroft:
“Dr. Franklin did not 'stand in a corner of the room,” says Dr. Bancroft, who was for many years one of Dr. Franklin's intimate friends, and was present during the whole transaction before the Privy Council; “he stood close to the fireplace, on that side which was at the right hand of those, who were looking toward the fire; in the front of which, though at some distance, the members of the Privy Council were seated at a table. I obtained a place on the opposite side of the fireplace, a little further from the fire; but Dr. Franklin's face was directed towards me, and I had a full, uninterrupted view of it, and his person, during the whole time in which Mr. Wedderburn spoke. The Doctor was dressed in a full dress suit of spotted Manchester velvet, and stood conspicuously erect, without the smallest movement of any part of his body. The muscles of his face had been previously composed, so as to afford a placid, tranquil expression of countenance, and he did not suffer the slightest alteration of it to appear during the continuance of the speech, in which he was so harshly and improperly treated. In short, to quote the words which he employed concerning himself on another occasion, he kept his ‘countenance as immovable as if his features had been made of wood.' This was late on Saturday afternoon. I called on him in Craven Street, at an early hour on Monday morning, and, immediately after the usual salutation, he put into my hands a letter, which had just been delivered to him. It was from the postmastergeneral, and informed him, that the King had no further occasion for his (Dr. Franklin's) services, as deputy postmaster-general in America.
“It is a fact, that he, as Dr. Priestley mentions, signed the treaties of commerce and eventual alliance with France, in the clothes which he had worn at the Cockpit, when the preceding transaction occurred. It had been intended, as you may recollect, that these treaties should be signed on the evening of Thursday, the 5th of February; and when Dr. Franklin had dressed himself for the day, I observed that he wore the suit in question; which I thought the more extraordinary, as it had been laid aside for many months. This I noticed to Mr. Deane; and soon after, when a messenger came from Versailles, with a letter from Mr. Gerard the French plenipotentiary, stating that he was so unwell, from a cold, that he wished to defer coming to Paris to sign the treaties, until the next evening, I said to Mr. Deane, ‘Let us see whether the Doctor will wear the same suit of clothes to-morrow; if he does, I shall suspect that he is influenced by a recollection of the treatment which he received at the Cockpit.' The morrow came, and the same clothes were again worn, and the treaties signed. Aster which, these clothes were laid aside, and, so far as my knowledge extends, never worn afterwards. I once intimated to Dr. Franklin the suspicion, which his wearing these clothes on that occasion had excited in my mind, when he smiled, without telling me whether it was well or ill founded. I have heard him sometimes say, that he was not insensible to injuries, but that he never put himself to any trouble or inconvenience to retaliate.”
The report of the Privy Council Committee concludes as follows: “The Lords of the Committee cannot but express their astonishment, that a charge of so serious and extensive a nature against the persons, whom the said House of Representatives acknowledge by their said petition to have heretofore had the confidence and esteem of the people, and to have been advanced by your Majesty, from the purest motives of rendering your subjects happy, to the highest places of trust and authority in that province, should have no other evidence to support it but inflammatory and precipitate resolutions, founded only on certain letters, written respectively by them (and all but one before they were appointed to the posts they now hold) in the years 1767, 1768, and 1769, to a gentleman then in no office under the government, in the course of familiar correspondence, and in the confidence of private friendship, and which it was said (and it was not denied by Mr. Franklin) were surreptitiously obtained after his death, and sent over to America, and laid before the Assembly of the Massachusetts Bay; and which letters appear to us to contain nothing reprehensible or unworthy of the situation they were in ; and we presume, that it was from this impropriety, that the Council did disclaim on behalf of the Assembly any intention of bringing a criminal charge against the governor and lieutenant-governor; but said, that the petition was founded solely on the ground of the governor and lieutenant-governor being, as they alleged, now become obnoxious to the people of the province; and that it was in this light only that the said petition was presented to your Majesty. And there being no other evidence now produced, than the said resolutions and letters, together with resolutions of a similar import by the Council of the said province, founded, as it was said, on the same letters; “The Lords of the Committee do agree humbly to report, as their opinion, to your Majesty, that the said petition is founded upon resolutions formed upon false and erroneous allegations; and that the same is groundless, vexatious, and scandalous; and calculated only for the seditious purposes of keeping up a spirit of clamor and discontent in the said province. And the Lords of the Committee do further humbly report to your Majesty, that nothing has been laid before them which does or can, in their opinion, in any manner, or in any degree, impeach the honor, integrity, or conduct of the said governor or lieutenant-governor; and their Lordships are humbly of opinion, that the said petition ought to be dismissed." “February 7th. His Majesty, taking the said report into consideration, was pleased, with the advice of his Privy Council, to approve thereof; and to order, that the said petition of the House of Representatives of the Province of Massachusetts Bay be dismissed the Board, 'as groundless, vexatious, and scandalous; and calculated only for the seditious purpose of keeping up a spirit of clamor and discontent in the said province.' "
CHA PTE R V III.
AN ACCOUNT* OF THE TRANSACTIONS RELATING TO GOVERNOR HUTCH INSON'S LETTERS.
HAVING been from my youth more or less engaged in public affairs, it has often happened to me in the course of my life to be censured sharply for the part I took in them. Such censures I have generally passed over in silence, conceiving, when they were just, that I ought rather to amend than defend; and, when they were undeserved, that a little time would justify me. Much experience has confirmed
* The profound sensation produced by the publication of the Hutchinson letters, and the unmerited obloquy which his part in the matter brought upon Dr. Franklin, decided him, before leaving England, to prepare the detailed account of his connection with these letters which is here given. He does not reveal the source from whence the letters came to him, but Mr. C. Francis Adams, upon the authority of his grandfather, President John Adams, says, “Scarcely a doubt can remain that Sir John Temple was the man who procured the Hutchinson letters and had them delivered to Franklin.” This account was not published till it appeared in William Temple Franklin's edition of his grandfather's works, in 1817. Franklin probably found it would do no good to make any such defence in the fury of the storm; and before it had subsided he had left England, the rupture between the countries had become complete, and the press of England was closed against anything he might write in vindication of himself or the colonies until after time and events had given him a far more effective . vindication than any he could have penned.—Ed.
• The Life and Works of John Adams, vol. ii. p. 319, note 1.