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will at least let the word go before the blow, and reason with them.
To do this clearly, and with the most probability of success, by removing their prejudices and rectifying their misapprehensions (if they are such), it will be necessary to learn what those prejudices and misapprehensions are; and before we can either refute or admit their reasons or arguments, we should certainly know them.
It is to that end I have handed the following Letters (lately published in America) to the press here. They were occasioned by the act made (since the repeal of the Stamp Act) for raising a revenue in America by duties on glass, paper, &c.
The author is a gentleman of repute in that country for his knowledge of its affairs, and, it is said, speaks the general sentiments of the inhabitants. How far those sentiments are right or wrong, I do not pretend at present to judge. I wish to see first what can be said on the other side of the question. I hope this publication will produce a full answer, if we can make one. If it does, this publication will have had its use. No offence to government is intended by it; and it is hoped none will be taken.
N. N. London, May 8th, 1768.
BY MR. STRAHAN,
RESPECTING AMERICAN AFFAIRS,
DR. FRANKLIN'S ANSWERS.
Mr. Strahan was printer to the King, in which station he acquired wealth and consideration, which, added to his respectable talents and character, raised him to political rank and eminence. In the year 1775, he was elected to Parliament from the borough of Malmsbury, as a colleague with Mr. Fox. An intimacy of long standing subsisted between him and Dr. Franklin, which may perhaps have been strengthened by the similarity of their early pursuits. — EDITOR.
W. STRAHAN TO B. FRANKLIN.
November 21st, 1769. DEAR SIR, In the many conversations we have had together about our present disputes with North America, we perfectly agreed in wishing they may be brought to a speedy and happy conclusion. How this is to be done is not so easily ascertained.
Two objects, I humbly apprehend, his Majesty's servants have now in contemplation. First, To relieve the colonies from the taxes complained of, which they certainly had no hand in imposing. Secondly, To preserve the honor, the dignity, and the supremacy of the British legislature over all his Majesty's dominions.
As I know your singular knowledge of the subject in question, and am as fully convinced of your cordial attachment to his Majesty, and your sincere desire to promote the happiness equally of all his subjects, I beg you would, in your own clear, brief, and explicit manner, send me an answer to the following questions. I make this request now, because this matter is of the utmost importance, and must very quickly be agitated. And I do it with the more freedom, as you know me and my motives too well, to entertain the most remote suspicion that I will make an improper use of any information you shall hereby convey to me.
1. Will not a repeal of all the duties (that on tea excepted, which was before paid here on exportation, and of course no new imposition,) fully satisfy the colonists ?* If you answer in the negative,
2. Your reasons for that opinion?
3. Do you think the only effectual way of composing the present differences, is to put the Americans precisely in the situation they were in before the passing of the late Stamp Act? If that is your opinion,
* In the year 1767, for the express purpose of raising a revenue in America, glass, red lead, white lead, painters' colors, paper, and tca, (which last article was subject to various home impositions,) became charged by act of Parliament, with new permanent duties payable in the American ports. Soon after, in the same sessions, (the East India Company promising indemnification for the experiment,) a temporary alteration was made with respect to the home customs or excise upon certain teas; in the hope, that a deduction in the nominal imposition, by producing a more extended consumption, would give an increased sum to the exchequer. Mr. Strahan, comparing only the amounts of the imposed American duty, and the deducted home duty, determines that the Americans had suffered no new imposition. The Americans, it seems, thought otherwise. Had we established this precedent for a revenue, we thought we had every thing to hope; yet we affect surprise, when the colonies avoided an acquiescence, which by parity of reasoning gave them every thing to fear. – B. V.
4. Your reasons for that opinion ?
5. If this last method is deemed by the legislature and his Majesty's ministers to be repugnant to their duty, as guardians of the just rights of the crown and of their fellow subjects, can you suggest any other way of terminating these disputes, consistent with the ideas of justice and propriety conceived by the King's subjects on both sides of the Atlantic?
6. And, if this method was actually followed, do you not think it would actually encourage the violent and factious part of the colonists to aim at still farther concessions from the mother country?
7. If they are relieved in part only, what do you, as a reasonable and dispassionate man, and an equal friend to both sides, imagine will be the probable consequences ?
The answers to these questions, I humbly conceive, will include all the information I want, and I beg you will favor me with them as soon as may be. Every well-wisher to the peace and prosperity of the British empire, and every friend to our truly happy constitution, must be desirous of seeing even the most trivial causes of dissension among our fellow subjects removed. Our domestic squabbles, in my mind, are nothing to what I am speaking of. This you know much better than I do, and therefore I need add nothing farther to recommend this subject to your serious consideration. I am, with the most cordial esteem and attachment, dear Sir, your faithful and affectionate humble servant,
Craven Street, November 29th, 1769. DEAR SIR, Being just returned to town from a little excursion, I find yours of the 21st, containing a number of queries, that would require a pamphlet to answer them fully. You, however, desire only brief answers, which I shall endeavour to give.
Previous to your queries, you tell me that you apprehend his Majesty's servants have now “in contemplation, First, to relieve the colonists from the taxes complained of; Secondly, to preserve the honor, the dignity, and the supremacy of the British legislature over all his Majesty's dominions.” I hope your information is good, and that what you suppose to be in contemplation, will be carried into execution, by repealing all the laws that have been made for raising a revenue in America, by authority of Parliament, without the consent of the people there. The honor and dignity of the British legislature will not be hurt by such an act of justice and wisdom. The wisest councils are liable to be misled, especially in matters remote from their inspection. It is the persisting in an error, not the correcting it, that lessens the honor of any man or body
The supremacy of that legislature, I believe, will be best preserved by making a very sparing use of it; never but for the evident good of the colonies themselves, or of the whole British empire; never for the partial advantage of Britain, to their prejudice. By such prudent conduct, I imagine that supremacy may be gradually strengthened, and in time fully established; but otherwise, I apprehend it will be disputed, and lost in the dispute. At present the colonies consent and