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CONSTITUTION AND GOVERNMENT
FROM ITS ORIGIN;
SO FAR AS REGARDS THE SEVERAL POINTS OF CONTROVERSY, WHICH HAVE FROM TIME TO TIME ARISEN
BETWEEN THE SEVERAL GOVERNORS OF PENNSYLVANIA AND THEIR SEVERAL ASSEMBLIES.
FOUNDED ON AUTHENTIC DOCUMENTS.
Those, who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
First Published in London, 1759.
The controversies, which existed for many years between the Proprietary Governors and the Assemblies of Pennsylvania, are not without interest as an important branch of the general history of the country, and as showing the determined spirit of the people in their struggles for liberty. The following treatise relates to that subject. As a member of the Assembly for several years, and one of the leaders, Franklin had taken a conspicuous part against the Proprietaries; and, when it was at last resolved by the popular party to apply to the King in Council for a redress of their grievances, he was appointed their agent to manage the affair. He went to England for that purpose in the summer of 1757. To aid the object of his mission, to counteract the powerful efforts made against
the petition by the friends of the Proprietaries, and to remove the prejudices then existing in England unfavorable to the people of Pennsylvania, he caused the "Historical Review" to be published in London. It produced a strong impression, and called forth elaborate answers. It was the subject of a commendatory article in the Monthly Review for July, 1759. In his remarks upon it the writer says; "It must be confessed that the Pennsylvanians have, in our author, a most zealous and able advocate. His sentiments are manly, liberal, and spirited; his style close, nervous, and thetorical. His Introduction is well calculated to warm his readers in behalf of liberty, of which he boasts his clients to have been the brave assertors. By a forcible display of the oppressions they have sustained, he inclines us to pity their condition; by an enumeration of their virtues, he endeavours to remove the idea, which many have conceived of their unimportance."
In the Critical Review, for August of the same year, the book fell into the hands of the opposite party; and, although it is treated with respect, yet it is censured for the tone it assumes in regard to the demands of the Pennsylvanians. "Nay," says the reviewer,
our author seems to carry his notions of liberty and independence so high, as to admit of no check or control from the government of his mother country."
As the work appeared at first anonymously, and the authorship was kept secret, it was for a long time supposed to have been written by Franklin. His grandson, who ought to have known the truth of what he affirmed, says, in the Memoirs he published, that Franklin was the author. The Monthly Review, for 1790, asserts the same, with a confidence that seems to imply positive knowledge. The following quotation is taken from an article on the Bibliotheca Americana. "The compiler, noticing the HISTORICAL REVIEW, cautiously adds, said to be written by Dr. Franklin.' We add, certainly was written by that great man." The testimony of Dr. Franklin himself was also supposed to favor this opinion. In the part of the Memoirs left by him, and published after his death, where he speaks of a conversation with Governor Denny, and of the Governor's instructions, he says; "On this head he did not explain himself; but, when he afterwards came to do business with the Assembly, the disputes were renewed, and I was as active as ever in the opposition, being the penman, first of the request to have a communication of the instructions, and then of the remarks on them, which may be found in the Votes of the times, and in the HISTORICAL REVIEW I afterwards published." It has recently been ascertained, however, that he was not in fact the author,
although it was written under his direction, and doubtless from copious materials furnished by him. (See his letter to David Hume, Vol. VII. p. 208.)
The value of the work, as an historical composition, will be estimated differently according to the bias of the reader's mind in regard to the disputed points on which it treats. It was professedly written to promote the aims of a party, and in this light it cannot be looked upon as free from partiality. A large portion of the work, however, consists of facts, stated with precision, and with such minuteness of citation as to verify their accuracy. These facts cannot be controverted. The reasonings and deductions from them would of course take a direction in conformity with the author's personal convictions and designs. The sentiments are everywhere favorable to liberty and justice. The style is clear and forcible. Some passages are powerfully written, and a peculiar felicity of thought and expression shines out in many others. The Dedication and Introduction are distinguished for beauty and vigor of language, and dignity of sentiment. The author is accused of having touched the name of the great founder of Pennsylvania with too rude a hand. If it be so, time has repaired the injury. Facts must have their own weight, because they are unchangeable and everduring; but the memory of William Penn cannot be tarnished by unfounded imputations, nor his character wounded by the misdirected darts of party zeal.
In its original form, this treatise was printed as one continued essay, without any divisions from beginning to end. For the convenience of readers it is now broken into chapters.-EDI
To the Right Honorable Arthur Onslow, Esquire, Speaker of the Honorable House of Commons.
Sir; the subject of the following sheets is an unhappy one; the controversy between the Proprietaries and successive Assemblies of Pennsylvania; a controversy which has often embarrassed, if not endangered, the public service; a controversy which has been long
depending, and which still seems to be as far from an issue as ever.
Our blessed Saviour reproaches the Pharisees with laying heavy burdens on men's shoulders, which they themselves would not stir with a single finger.
Our proprietaries, Sir, have done the same; and, for the sake of the commonwealth, the province has hitherto submitted to the imposition. Not, indeed, without the most strenuous endeavours to lay the load equally, the fullest manifestations of their right to do so, and the strongest protestations against the violence put upon them.
Having been most injuriously misrepresented and traduced in print by the known agents and dependents of these gentlemen, their fellow-subjects, they at last find themselves obliged to set forth an historical state of their case, and to make their appeal to the public upon it.
With the public opinion in their favor, they may with the more confidence lift up their eyes to the wisdom of Parliament and the majesty of the crown, from whence alone they can derive an effectual remedy.
To your hands, Sir, these papers are most humbly presented, for considerations so obvious, that they scarce need any explanation.
The Roman provinces did not stand more in need of patronage than ours; and such clients as we are would have preferred the integrity of Cato to the fortune of Cæsar.
The cause we bring is in fact the cause of all the provinces in one; it is the cause of every British subject in every part of the British dominions; it is the cause of every man who deserves to be free, everywhere.
The propriety, therefore, of addressing these papers