Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

cession of lands. Disputes ensued on these controverted claims between the General Assembly and the Governor, who was the nominee of the Proprietaries, and the representative of their interests. The ready pen and clear judgment of Franklin were frequently called into requisition in drawing up reports and representations in reply to the Proprietaries and their advocates; and, at last, having showed himself more than a match for the writers on the other side, the Assembly sent him as their agent, as already mentioned, to represent their case to the king. On his arrival in England he found that the newspapers were mostly in the Proprietary interest, and that “intelligence from Pennsylvania,” evidently manufactured with a view to prejudicing public opinion, represented the inhabitants of the province as actuated by a selfish and refractory spirit; although they merely withstood the claim of the Proprietaries to an exemption from a taxation which was as necessary to the defence of their own estates as to the general safety. One of Franklin's first steps was to reform an erroneous public opinion, through the same medium by which it had been created,—namely, the press. It having been stated in a newspaper called The Citizen, or General Advertiser, that ravages had been committed by the Indians on the inhabitants of the western part of the province, and that the Assembly's pertinacious disputes with the Governor prevented anything being done for the public protection, Franklin caused a reply to be inserted in the same newspaper. over the signature of his son, William Franklin, and dated from the “Pennsylvania Coffee-house, London, Sept. 16, 1757.” In this communication a circumstantial denial is given to the charges brought against the Assembly, and more especially the Quaker portion of that body. With a view to enlightening public opinion still further in regard to the rights of the people of Pennsylvania, as opposed to the claims of the two sons of William Penn, in the beginning of 1759 an anonymous work was published, entitled “An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania from its origin.” The motto was as follows: “Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little * safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The authorship of this work was at once charged upon Franklin, although by some it was attributed to his old comrade, James Ralph, then resident in London. The volume was dedicated to Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons; and, in his dedication, the writer says, “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.”

Following the dedicatory epistle is an “Introduction,” in which Thomas Penn is referred to as “an assuming landlord, strongly disposed to convert free tenants into abject vassals, and to reap what he did not sow.” As an excuse for bringing before the British public “the transactions of a Colony till of late hardly mentioned in our annals,” the author remarks: “But then, as there are some eyes which can find nothing marvellous but what is marvellously great, so there are others which are equally disposed to marvel at what is marvellously little, and who can derive as much entertainment from their microscope, in examining a mite, as Dr. in ascertaining the geography of the moon, or measuring the tail of a comet.” The author does not presume that “such as have long been accustomed to consider the Colonies in general as only so many dependencies on the Council-board, the Board of Trade, and the Board of Customs, or as a hot-bed for causes, jobs, and other pecuniary emoluments, and as bound as effectually by instructions as by laws, can be prevailed upon to consider these patriot rustics with any degree of respect. Derision, on the contrary, must be the lot of him who imagines it in the power of the pen to set any lustre upon them.” And he eloquently concludes in these words: “But how contempt— ibly soever these gentlemen may talk of the Colonies, how cheap soever they may hold their Assemblies, or how insignificant the planters and traders who compose them, truth will be truth, and principle principle, notwithstanding. Courage, wisdom, integrity, and honor, are not to be 7measured by the sphere assigned them to act in, but by the trials they undergo, and the vouchers they furnish; and, if so manifested, need neither robes nor titles to set them off.”

The Proprietaries were much incensed by the language applied to them in this work. The belief that it was from the pen of Franklin was so fixed and general, that he made no public disavowal of the authorship, partly, perhaps, through a willingness to incur all the odium of it, and partly because he was really responsible for the publication and for many of the facts. In the Philadelphia edition of his works, published as late as 1840, the “Historical Review'' is inserted entire, as from his pen. It appears, however, from a letter to David Hume, dated September 27, 1760, that the work was incorrectly attributed to him. In this letter (first published by Mr. Sparks) he says: “I am obliged to you for the favorable sentiments you express of the pieces sent to you; though the volume relating to our Pennsylvania affairs was not written by me, nor any part of it, except the remarks on the proprietor's estimate of his estate, and some of the inserted messages and reports of the Assembly, which I wrote when at home, as a member of committees appointed by the House for that purpose. The rest was by another hand.” The “Historical Review,” though anonymous, appears to have been of considerable service in gaining friends for the Assembly, in opposition to the Proprietaries.

In conformity with directions from the Assembly, Franklin had an interview with the Proprietaries, resident in England, and discussed the points of difference. The Messrs. Penn would not relax in their arbitrary claims. They seemed ambitious of holding the whole population of the province in a state of vassalage. Not only did they claim political privileges, insisting on giving such instructions to their deputy governor as made him a mere puppet in their hands, and trammelled him in a manner to render him powerless for good to the people, but they looked sharply after their pecuniary interests, and continued to chaffer with the Assembly for an exemption of their princely domains from taxation.

While the quarrel was pending, the Assembly passed a law taxing the proprietary estates, which law was approved by Governor Denny. This and several other laws, having a similar sanction, were so displeasing to the Proprietaries, that they removed the Governor from office. The laws being sent over to England for the King's approval, the Penns petitioned for a veto on them; and the whole question being brought before the Board of Trade, was at length decided in June, 1760, Franklin having been detained some three years in the prosecution of his mission. By this decision the right of the Assembly to tax the proprietary estates was admitted, and their suit, so far as related to the main point of the controversy, was triumphantly terminated. The Board of Trade, however, in their decision, commented in severe terms on an inferred collusion between the Assembly and Governor Denny, evinced by a grant to the latter of a distinct sum of money for consenting to the several acts objected to by the Proprietaries. Some modifications of the act taxing the Proprietaries were also required; and, as these were not important, Franklin readily concurred in them, and the controversy for the time was settled, much to his reputation as a prudent and faithful negotiator. The powerful influence of Lord Mansfield had been given in favor of the Assembly's demand that the lands of the Proprietaries should be taxed. The war with France, in which Great Britain was at this time involved, occupied much of Franklin's concern, and he was, at an early period, convinced of the policy of changing the theatre of hostilities from Europe to Canada. His views on this subject were drawn from him by Messrs. Potter and Wood, secretaries of Lord Chatham, then prime minister, and probably had some weight in determining the enterprise which resulted in Wolfe's brilliant victory, and the final retention of the Canadian provinces. About the year 1760, Franklin, assisted by his friend Richard Jackson, wrote a pamphlet entitled “The Interest of Great Britain considered with regard to the Colonies, and the Acquisition of Canada and Guadaloupe.” In this work he demonstrated in a clear and forcible manner the advantages that would accrue to Great Britain from the proposed addition to her provincial territory. His prediction that “there can never be manufactures to any amount or value in America ’” did not look to the possibility of a protective tariff, “Manufactures,” he says, “are founded in poverty: it is the multitude of poor without land in a country, and who must work for others at low

MANUFACTURES — coloniaL JEALOUSY, ETC. 29

wages or starve, that enables undertakers to carry on a manufacture, and afford it cheap enough to prevent the importation of the same kind from abroad, and to bear the expense of its own exportation. But no man, who can have a piece of land of his own, sufficient by his labor to subsist his family in plenty, is poor enough to be a manufacturer, and work for a master. Hence, while there is land enough in America for our people, there can never be manufactures to any amount or value.” Could the writer have looked a century into the future, he would have been startled at the contradiction which time would give to these speculations. The idea of the independence of the American Colonies does not appear to have been seriously entertained by him at this time. He alludes to it as “a visionary danger.” Of these Colonies, which American Independence and the American Constitution subsequently united in a harmonious system, he says: “Their jealousy of each other is so great, that, however necessary an union of the Colonies has long been for their common defence and security against their enemies, and how sensible soever each Colony has been of that necessity, yet they have never been able to effect such an union among themselves, nor even to agree in requesting the mother country to establish it for them.” He repudiates the idea of a union of the Colonies against the mother country, but prudently adds a qualification in these words: “When I say such an union is impossible, I mean, without the most grievous tyranny and oppression.” The Proprietaries appear to have found in him a steady and vigilant antagonist. When the annual share of the Parliamentary grant due for military and other expenses to Pennsylvania and the Delaware Colonies, and amounting to about thirty thousand pounds, became payable, he was employed by the Assembly to receive and invest the amount. The Fo interfered to prevent this disposition of the money, claiming that their deputy, the Governor, ought to have a hand in the management of the fund. Here they were again baffled by Franklin; for the ministry took his view of the matter, and decided that the money ought to be paid to the Assembly's agent. Notwithstanding Franklin's opposition to the usurpations of the Proprietaries, the latter were forced to admit that his

« ZurückWeiter »