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THREE LETTERS TO GOVERNOR SHIRLEY.
It is stated by Mr. Vaughan, that these letters first appeared in the London Chronicle for February 6th and 8th, 1766, with prefatory remarks signed "A LOVER OF BRITAIN."
"The Albany Plan of Union," says this writer, was sent to the government here for approbation. Had it been approved and established by the authority from hence, English America thought itself sufficiently able to cope with the French, without other assistance; several of the colonies having alone, in former wars, withstood the whole power of the enemy, unassisted not only by the mother country, but by any of the neighbouring provinces. The plan, however, was not approved here; but a new one was formed instead of it; by which it was proposed, that the governors of all the colonies, attended by one or two members of their respective councils, should assemble, and concert measures for the defence of the whole, erect forts where they judged proper, and raise what troops they thought necessary, with power to draw on the treasury here for the sums that should be wanted, and the treasury to be reimbursed by a tax laid on the colonies by act of Parliament.'· This new plan, being communicated by Governor Shirley to a gentleman of Philadelphia (Dr. Franklin) then in Boston (who has very eminently distinguished himself, before and since that time, in the literary world, and whose judgment, penetration, and candor, as well as his readiness and ability to suggest, forward, or carry into execution, every scheme of public utility, hath most deservedly endeared him, not only to our fellow-subjects throughout the continent of North America, but to his numberless friends on this side the Atlantic), occasioned the following remarks from him, which perhaps may contribute in some degree to its being laid aside. As they very particularly show the then sentiments of the Americans on the subject of a parliamentary tax, before the French power in that country was subjected, and before the late restraints on their commerce; they satisfy me, and I hope they will convince your readers, contrary to what has been advanced by some of your correspondents, that those particulars have had no share in producing the present opposition to such a tax, nor in disturbances occasioned by it, which these papers indeed do almost prophetically foretell.”
In the beginning of the year 1776, these letters were republished in Almon's Remembrancer, preceded by a long introductory article, in which it is said, "that the great importance of the subject, the arguments of the letters, the wisdom of the writer, the correspondence of facts with his conjectures, and the early time at which they appeared," were the inducements for then bringing them to the notice of the government. It is true, indeed, that the principles of colonial taxation, so much insisted on eleven years afterwards in the affair of the Stamp Act, are most clearly and ably stated in these letters, as also the reasons for a colonial representation in Parliament. They afford convincing proof, that, even at so early a day, the author had thought profoundly on the political condition of his country, and the relations in which it stood to the government of Great Britain; and that he had examined with an almost prophetic sagacity the habits, wants, temper, and other characteristics of the people. Governor Hutchinson, says; "This correspondence was carried on with great privacy." Although he does not approve the sentiments advanced in the Letters, yet he allows they are very ingenious." What impression they made on Governor Shirley, is not known; but he was so strong an advocate for the prerogative of the King and the power of Parliament, that it cannot be supposed his mind was in a state to be easily influenced by arguments of a contrary tendency. It is probable, however, that he was not particularly hostile to the Albany Plan, for he was looked upon by many persons, if that plan should go into operation, as the most prominent candidate for the high post of President-General. He soon discovered that the Massachusetts legislature was not inclined to favor the plan, and he kept aloof from all public measures in regard to it.-EDITOR.
CONCERNING THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE IN CHOOSING THE
Tuesday Morning, (December 17th, 1754.)
I return you the loose sheets of the plan, with thanks to your Excellency for communicating them.
I apprehend, that excluding the people of the colo
nies from all share in the choice of the grand council will give extreme dissatisfaction; as well as the taxing them by act of Parliament, where they have no representation. It is very possible, that this general government might be as well and faithfully administered without the people, as with them; but where heavy burthens are to be laid upon them, it has been found useful to make it as much as possible their own act; for they bear better, when they have, or think they have, some share in the direction; and when any public measures are generally grievous, or even distasteful, to the people, the wheels of government move more heavily.
ON THE IMPOSITION OF DIRECT TAXES UPON THE COLONIES WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.
Wednesday Morning, (December 18th, 1754.)
I mentioned it yesterday to your Excellency as my opinion, that excluding the people of the colonies from all share in the choice of the grand council would probably give extreme dissatisfaction, as well as the taxing them by act of Parliament, where they.have no representation. In matters of general concern to the people, and especially where burthens are to be laid upon them, it is of use to consider, as well what they will be apt to think and say, as what they ought to think. I shall therefore, as your Excellency requires it of me, briefly mention what of either kind occurs to me on this occasion.
First, they will say, and perhaps with justice, that the body of the people in the colonies are as loyal,
and as firmly attached to the present constitution and reigning family, as any subjects in the King's dominions.
That there is no reason to doubt the readiness and willingness of the representatives they may choose to grant from time to time such supplies for the defence of the country, as shall be judged necessary, so far as their abilities will allow.
That the people in the colonies, who are to feel the immediate mischiefs of invasion and conquest by an enemy, in the loss of their estates, lives, and liberties, are likely to be better judges of the quantity of forces necessary to be raised and maintained, forts to be built and supported, and of their own abilities to bear the expense, than the Parliament of England, at so great a distance.
That governors often come to the colonies merely to make fortunes, with which they intend to return to Britain; are not always men of the best abilities or integrity; have many of them no estates here, nor any natural connexion with us, that should make them heartily concerned for our welfare; and might possibly be fond of raising and keeping up more forces than necessary, from the profits accruing to themselves, and to make provision for their friends and dependents.
That the counsellors in most of the colonies being appointed by the crown, on the recommendation of governors, are often persons of small estates, frequently dependent on the governors for offices, and therefore too much under influence.
That there is therefore great reason to be jealous of a power in such governors and councils to raise such sums, as they shall judge necessary, by drafts on the Lords of the Treasury, to be afterwards laid
on the colonies by act of Parliament, and paid by the people here; since they might abuse it, by projecting useless expeditions, harassing the people, and taking them from their labor to execute such projects, merely to create offices and employments, and gratify their dependents, and divide profits.
That the Parliament of England is at a great distance, subject to be misinformed and misled by such governors and councils, whose united interests might probably secure them against the effect of any complaint from hence.
That it is supposed an undoubted right of Englishmen not to be taxed but by their own consent, given through their representatives.
That the colonies have no representatives in Parliament.
That to propose taxing them by Parliament, and refuse them the liberty of choosing a representative council to meet in the colonies, and consider and judge of the necessity of any general tax and the quantum, shows a suspicion of their loyalty to the crown, or of their regard for their country, or of their common sense and understanding, which they have not deserved.
That compelling the colonies to pay money without their consent, would be rather like raising contributions in an enemy's country, than taxing of Englishmen for their own public benefit.
That it would be treating them as a conquered people, and not as true British subjects.
That a tax laid by the representatives of the colonies might be easily lessened as the occasions should lessen; but, being once laid by Parliament under the influence of the representations made by governors, would probably be kept up and continued for the