« ZurückWeiter »
To Charles Thomson.*
Petition of the First Congress presented to the King and Parliament. — Manner in which it was received. — Lord Camden. — Lord Chatham's Speech and Plan of Conciliation.
London, 5 February, 1775.
I received duly your favors of November 1st, by Captain Falconer, and afterwards that of October 26th, both enclosing the letter from the Congress, and the petition to the King. Immediately on the receipt of the first, I wrote to every one of the other gentlemen nominated, and desired a meeting to consult on the mode of presenting the petition committed to our care. Three of them, viz. Mr. Burke,t Mr. Wentworth, and Mr. Life, declined being concerned in it, and, without consulting each other, gave the same reason, viz. that they had no instructions relating to it . It rested on Mr. Bollan, Mr. Lee, and myself. We took counsel with our best friends, and were advised to present it through Lord Dartmouth, that being the regular official method, and the only one in which we might on occasion call for an answer. %
We accordingly waited on his Lordship with it, who would not immediately undertake to deliver it, but requested it might be left with him to peruse, which was done. He found nothing in it improper for him to present, and, afterwards sending for us, he informed us, that he had presented the petition to his Majesty, who had been pleased to receive it very graciously, and to command him to tell us it contained matters of such importance, that, as soon as they met, he would lay it before his two Houses of Parliament.
• This letter was written to Mr. Thomson as Secretary of Congress.
f Mr. Burke was at this time agent for New York, in which capacity he bad acted for several years.
t It was resolved in Congress, October 25th, 1774, "That the Address to the King be enclosed in a letter to the several colony agents, in order that the same may be by them presented to his Majesty ; and that the agents be requested to call in the aid of such noblemen and gentlemen aa are esteemed firm friends to American liberty."
We then consulted on the publication, and were advised by wise and able men, friends of America, whose names it will not be proper to mention, by no means to publish it till it should be before Parliament, as it would be deemed disrespectful to the King. We flattered ourselves, from the answer given by Lord Dartmouth, that the King would have been pleased to recommend it to the consideration of Parliament by some message; but we were mistaken. It came down among a great heap of letters of intelligence from governors and officers in America, newspapers, pamphlets, handbills, &,c, from that country, the last in the list, and was laid upon the table with them, undistinguished by any particular recommendation of it to the notice of either House; and I do not find, that it has had any further notice taken of it as yet, than that it has been read as well as the other papers.
To draw it into the attention of the House, we petitioned to be heard upon it, but were not permitted; and, by the resolutions of the committee of the whole House, which I enclose, you will see that it has made little impression; and, from the constant refusal, neglect, or discouragement of American petitions, these many years past, our country will at least be convinced, that petitions are odious here, and that petitioning is far from being a probable means of obtaining redress. A firm, steady, and faithful adherence to the non-consumption agreement, is the only thing to be depended on. It begins already to work, (as you will see in the votes of the House), by producing applications from the merchants and manufacturers, and it must finally lead Parliament into reasonable measures.
At present, the ministers are encouraged to proceed by the assurance they receive from America, that the people are not unanimous; that a very great part of them disapprove the proceedings of the Congress, and would break through them, if there was in the country an army sufficient to support these friends, as they are called, of government. They rely, too, on being able to divide us still further by various means; for they seem to have no conception, that such a thing as public spirit or public virtue anywhere exists. I trust they will find themselves totally mistaken. The Congress is in high esteem here among all the friends of liberty, and their papers much admired; perhaps nothing of the kind has been more thoroughly published, or more universally read. Lord Camden spoke highly of the Americans in general, and of the Congress particularly, in the House of Lords. Lord Chatham said, that, taking the whole together, and considering the members of the Congress as the unsolicited, unbeseeched choice of a great, free, and enlightened people; their unanimity, their moderation, and their wisdom; he thought it the most honorable assembly of men, that had ever been known; that the histories of Greece and Rome gave us nothing equal to it . Lord Shelburne would not admit, that the Parliament of Britain could be comparable with it, a Parliament obeying the dictates of a ministry, who, in nine cases out of ten, were governed by their under secretaries.
You will see, among the papers herewith sent, the motion made by Lord Chatham, as preparatory to his plan, viz. that the troops should be removed from Boston. I send, also, a copy of the plan itself, which undoubtedly right. Had they ever sent their laws home,* as they ought to have done, that iniquitous one of priority of payment to residents would undoubtedly have been repealed. But the end of all these things is nigh; at least, it seems to be so.
The spiking of the guns was an audacious piece of villany, by whomsoever done. It shows the necessity of a regular enclosed place of defence, with a constant guard to take care of what belongs to it, which, when the country can afford it, will, I hope, be provided.
Depend upon it, my good neighbour, I took every step in my power to prevent the passing of the Stamp Act. Nobody could be more concerned and interested than myself, to oppose it sincerely and heartily. But the tide was too strong against us. The nation was provoked by American claims of independence^ and all parties joined in resolving by this act to settle the point . We might as well have hindered the sun's setting. That we could not do. But since it is down, my friend, and it may be long before it rises again, let us make as good a night of it as we can. We may still light candles. Frugality and industry will go a great way towards indemnifying us. Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand than kings and parliaments. If we can get rid of the former, we may easily get rid of the latter.
My best respects to Mrs. Thomson. Adieu, my dear friend, and believe me ever yours affectionately,
* By home here is meant England, a common use of the word before the Revolution.
t Claims to an independence of Parliament, in regard to the power of taxing the colonists without their consent.
TO CHARLES THOMSON.
Expected Repeal of the Stamp Act.
London, 27 February, 1766.
My Good Friend And Neighbour, I forgot whether I before acknowledged the receipt of your kind letter of September 24th. I gave an extract from it to a friend, with an extract from mine to which it was an answer, and he printed both in the London Chronicle, with an introduction of his own; and I have reprinted every thing from America, that I thought might help our common cause.
We at length, after a long and hard struggle, have gained so much ground, that there is now little doubt the Stamp Act will be repealed, and reasonable relief given us besides, in our commercial grievances, and those relating to our currency.* I trust the behaviour of the Americans on the occasion will be so prudent, decent, and grateful, as that their friends here will have no reason to be ashamed, and that our enemies, who predict that the indulgence of Parliament will only make us more insolent and ungovernable, may find themselves, and be found, false prophets.
My respects to Mrs. Thomson. I have not had the pleasure of hearing from you by any of the late opportunities, but am so bad a correspondent myself, that I have no right to take exceptions, and am, nevertheless, your affectionate friend and very humble servant, B. Franklin.
* It was but a few days before writing this letter, that Dr. Franklin was examined in Parliament concerning the Stamp Act . See Vol. IV. p. 161