Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

conduct, and, as I hear, ordered him to remain with the Indians at Amboy, and continue his protection to them, till another body of the King's forces could be sent to relieve his company, and escort their charge back in safety to Philadelphia, where his Excellency has had the goodness to direct those forces to remain for some time, under the orders of our governor, for the security of the Indians; the troops of this province being at present necessarily posted on the frontier. Such just and generous actions endear the military to the civil power, and impress the minds of all the discerning with a still greater respect for our national government. I shall conclude with observing, that cowards can handle arms, can strike where they are sure to meet with no return, can wound, mangle, and murder; but it belongs to brave men to spare and to protect; for, as the poet says,

“ Mercy still sways the brave.”

Q *

COOL THOUGHTS

ON THE

PRESENT SITUATION

OF OUR

PUBLIC AFFAIRS.

IN A LETTER TO A FRIEND IN THE COUNTRY.

FIRST PRINTED AT PHILADELPHIA, IN THE YEAR 1764.

Dr. Franklin returned from his first mission to England in 1762, having accomplished the object for which he was sent out. It was decided, that the proprietary estates in Pennsylvania should be taxed in due proportion for the defence of the colony. Thus was taken away a source of contention, which had embroiled the assembly and governors for many years. Other difficulties, however, soon after arose, in consequence of the opposition of the governor to the wishes of the assembly. The disputes grew every day more warm, and the discontents became general throughout the province. In this state of things, it was proposed to petition the King to take the government of the colony into his own hands, after making a proper remuneration to the proprietaries; or, in other words, to convert the Proprietary Government into a Royal Government. The following piece was written in defence of this measure. - Editor.

Philadelphia, April 12th, 1764. SIR, Your apology was unnecessary.

It will be no trouble, but a pleasure, if I can give you the satisfaction you desire. I shall therefore immediately communicate to you my motives for approving the proposal of

endeavouring to obtain a Royal Government, in exchange for this of the Proprietaries; with such answers to the objections you mention, as, in my opinion, fully obviate them.

I do not purpose entering into the merits of the disputes between the proprietaries and the people. I only observe it as a fact known to us all, that such disputes there are, and that they have long subsisted, greatly to the prejudice of the province, clogging and embarrassing all the wheels of government, and exceedingly obstructing the public defence, and the measures wisely concerted by our gracious Sovereign, for the common security of the colonies. I may add it as another fact, that we are all heartily tired of these disputes.

It is very remarkable, that disputes of the same kind have arisen in all proprietary governments, and subsisted till their dissolution. All were made unhappy by them, and found no relief but in recurring finally to the immediate government of the crown. Pennsylvania and Maryland are the only two of the kind remaining, and both at this instant agitated by the same contentions between proprietary interest and power,

and

popular liberty. Through these contentions the good people of that province are rendered equally unhappy with ourselves, and their proprietary, perhaps, more so than ours; for he has no Quakers in his assembly to saddle with the blame of those contentions, nor can he justify himself with the pretence, that turning to the church has made his people his enemies.

Pennsylvania had scarce been settled twenty years, when these disputes began between the first proprietor and the original settlers; they continued, with some intermissions, during his whole life; his widow took them up, and continued them after his death. Her sons resumed them very early,* and they still subsist. Mischievous and distressing as they have been found to both proprietors and people, it does not appear that there is any prospect of their being extinguished, till either the proprietary purse is unable to support them, or the spirit of the people so broken, that they shall be willing to submit to any thing, rather than continue them. The first is not very likely to happen, as that immense estate goes on increasing.

Considering all circumstances, I am at length inclined to think, that the cause of these miserable contentions is not to be sought for merely in the depravity and selfishness of human minds. For, though it is not unlikely that in these, as well as in other disputes, there are faults on both sides, every glowing coal being apt to inflame its opposite; yet I see no reason to suppose that all proprietary rulers are worse men than other rulers, nor that all people in proprietary governments are worse people than those in other governments. I suspect, therefore, that the cause is radical, interwoven in the constitution, and so become the very nature, of pro

, prietary governments; and will therefore produce its effects, as long as such governments continue. And, as some physicians say, every animal body brings into the world among its original stamina the seeds of that disease that shall finally produce its dissolution ; so the political body of a proprietary government, contains those convulsive principles that will at length destroy it. I

may not be philosopher enough to develope those principles, nor would this letter afford me room, if I had abilities, for such a discussion. The fact seems sufficient for our purpose, and the fact is notorious, that such

* See their message to the assembly, in which the right of sitting on their own adjournments is denied.

contentions have been in all proprietary governments, and have brought, or are now bringing, them all to a conclusion. I will only mention one particular common to them all. Proprietaries must have a multitude of private accounts and dealings with almost all the people of their provinces, either for purchase money or quit-rents. Dealings often occasion differences, and differences produce mutual opinions of injustice. If proprietaries do not insist on small rights, they must on the whole lose large sums; and, if they do insist on small rights, they seem to descend, their dignity suffers in the opinion of the people, and with it the respect necessary to keep up the authority of government. The people, who think themselves injured in point of property, are discontented with the government, and grow turbulent; and the proprietaries' using their powers of government to procure for themselves what they think justice in their points of property, renders those powers odious. I suspect this has had no small share in producing the confusions incident to those governments. They appear, however, to be, of all others, the most unhappy.

At present we are in a wretched situation. The government, that ought to keep all in order, is itself weak, and has scarce authority enough to keep the common peace. Mobs assemble and kill (we scarce dare say murder) numbers of innocent people in cold blood, who were under the protection of the government. Proclamations are issued to bring the rioters to justice. Those proclamations are treated with the utmost indignity and contempt. Not a magistrate dares wag a finger towards discovering or apprehending the delinquents, (we must not call them murderers.) They assemble again, and with arms in their hands approach the capital. The government truckles, condescends to

11

VOL. IV.

« ZurückWeiter »