« ZurückWeiter »
right to risk it for a fancy. I pray God this may reach you in time, and have some effect towards changing your design; being ever, my dear friend, yours affectionately, B. Franklin.
FROM FRANCIS MASERES TO B. FRANKLIN.
Policy of restoring the confiscated Estates to the Loyalists. — JVational Debt.
Inner Temple, 20 Jane, 1785.
I have this day received by the hands of M. Du Calvet the favor of your letter, which gave me a very singular pleasure after so long and so unfortunate an interruption of our correspondence. The event of the late contest has brought great misfortunes upon both countries, or, at least, upon Great Britain, by increasing the national debt to at least double its former quantity, as well as very much reducing the extent of its dominions. But, melancholy as this event is, it is less displeasing than the contrary event of a total subjugation of the revolted colonies by force of arms, and a consequent government of them by military power, by erecting forts and citadels, and altering the charters, and governing them by governors and other" officers depending entirely on the pleasure of the crown, and in a manner disagreeable to the people, which I conjecture from the Archbishop of York's sermon, of February 21st, 1777, (of which I sent you a paraphrase with the book of Annuities,) would have been the government established over them, if they had been thoroughly subdued in the year 1776.
But, if they could have been reconciled to Great Britain by fair means, and governed, as formerly, without force or soldiers, and with their own consent and good will, I own, I think it would have been for the benefit of all parties. But these views are now at an end, and the new States are, I presume, likely to continue for ever independent of, and consequently foreign to Great Britain. And I am amongst those, who wish them happy in their new condition, and feel no satisfaction from the reports that prevail here, that, from the anarchy and confusion that prevail among them, they have still more reason than we to lament the separation. On the contrary, I sincerely wish, that, as they have been founded on the purest principles of liberty, they may enjoy all the blessings that should result from those principles, and prove a refuge to mankind from the slavery which prevails in almost every part of Europe.
They seem, however, at present to be too much actuated by a spirit of revenge agajnst those of their countrymen, who adhered to their first allegiance, whom they call Tories, and we call Loyalists. After the complete attainment of their desired independence, it would surely have been more agreeable to policy, as well as justice, to have restored to those persons their estates, upon their taking the new oaths of allegiance to the several new governments, which they would have no longer scrupled to do, when the King had absolved them from their allegiance to him, by consenting to the independence of the new States.
When the Commonwealth Parliament of England had cut off King Charles's head, in the year 1649, and set up a republican government, they did not confiscate the estates of the Cavaliers, but left those, who had not been in arms for the King, in the full and quiet possession of all their property, and restored the estates of those who had been in arms for the King, upon the payment of a composition of only two years' rent, with the exception of a very few persons, whom they considered as very deep malignants (as they called them), or very great offenders, such as the Marquis of Worcester, and the Earl of Derby, and four or five persons more, whose estates they did confiscate. Nothing, I apprehend, would tend more to introduce settlement and good order in the States, than the imitation of this gentle and moderate conduct; and I suppose it would produce likewise the surrender of the posts on the lakes Ontario and Erie to the new States, agreeably to the treaty of peace, till which event, the peace can hardly be considered as firmly established; and God forbid we should have any more war about these posts, or indeed any thing
My view, in the observations on the national debt, was not so much to recommend my particular method of diminishing it, in preference to other methods, as to show, that most methods were nearly equally useful lor this purpose, provided the same sum of money was applied every year to that purpose, for the same number of years, without any interruption; and that those methods were the fittest to be adopted, which were least likely to be interrupted.
Your old friend, Mr. Jackson, is pretty well in health, but is not in Parliament; and Lord John Cavendish, and Mr. John Yorke, and many other gentlemen of respectable character and condition, are not so now. I should have been very happy to have seen you again in England, and so, I am persuaded, would have been many of your friends, notwithstanding the late unfortunate contentions. But, since that cannot be, and you are returning to America, I heartily wish you health and strength to bear the journey with ease, and to enjoy your friends and your situation in that part of the world; and I hope, that you will have the satisfaction of contributing, by your wisdom and moderation, to soften the animosities that now prevail there, and to introduce a spirit of peace, settlement, and good order, in their stead, and thereby crown the great work, to which you have so much contributed, of establishing those new States in liberty and independence. I remain, with great regard, &c.
TO FRANCIS MASERES.
Results of the American Contest. — State of Jlmerica. — The Loyalists. — Confiscation of Estates.
Passy, 86 June, 1785. SlRV
I have just received your friendly letter of the 20th instant. I agree with you perfectly in the opinion, that, though the contest has been hurtful to both our countries, yet the event, a separation, is better even for yours than success. The reducing and keeping us in subjection by an armed force would have cost you more than the dominion could be worth, and our slavery would have brought on yours. The ancient system of the British empire was a happy one, by which the colonies were allowed to govern and tax themselves. Had it been wisely continued, it is hard to imagine the degree of power and importance in the world that empire might have arrived at. All the means of growing greatness,. extent of territory, agriculture, commerce, arts, population, were within its own limits, and therefore at its command.
I used to consider that system as a large and beantiful porcelain vase; I lamented the measures that I saw likely to break it, and strove to prevent them; because, once broken, I saw no probability of its being ever repaired. My endeavours did not succeed; we are broken, and the parts must now do as well as they can for themselves. We may still do well, though separated. I have great hopes of our side, and good wishes for yours. The anarchy and confusion you mention, as supposed to prevail among us, exist only in your newspapers. I have authentic accounts, which assure me, that no people were ever better governed, or more content with their respective constitutions and governments, than the present Thirteen States of America.
A little reflection may convince any reasonable man, that a government wherein the administrators are chosen annually by the free voice of the governed, and may also be recalled at any time if their conduct displeases their constituents, cannot be a tyrannical one, as your Loyalists represent it; who at the same time inconsistently desire to return and live under it . And, among an intelligent, enlightened people, as ours is, there must always be too numerous and too strong a party for supporting good government and the laws, to suffer what is called anarchy. This better account of our situation must be pleasing to your humanity, and therefore I give it you.
But we differ a little in our sentiments respecting the Loyalists (as they call themselves), and the conduct of America towards them, which, you think, "seems actuated by a spirit of revenge; and that it would have been more agreeable to policy, as well as justice, to have restored their estates upon their taking the oaths of allegiance to the new governments." That there should still be some resentment against them in