Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ticn was issued, but it had no effect. A detachment marched down to Philadelphia, for the express purpose of murdering some friendly Indians, who had been removed to the city for safety. A number of citizens armed in their defence. Thequakers, whose principles are opposed to fighting, even in their own defence, were most active upon this occasion. The rioters came to Germantown. The Governor fled for safety to the house of Dr. Franklin, who, with some others, advanced to meet the Paxton boys, a they were called, and had influence enough to prevail upon them to relinquish their undertaking, and return to their homes.

The disputes between the proprietaries and the Assembly, which, for a time had subsided, were again revived. The proprietaries were dissatisfied with the concessions made in favour of the people, and made great struggles To recover the privilege of exempting their estates from taxation, which they had been induced to give up.

In 1763, the Assembly passed a militia bill, to which the Governor refused to give his assent, unless the Assembly would agree to certain amendments which he proposed. These consisted in increasing the fines; and in some cases, substituting death for fines. He wished too, that the officers should be appointed altogether by himself, and not be nominated by the people, as the bill had proposed. These amendments the Assembly considered as inconsistent with the spirit of liberty. They would not adopt them; the Governor was obstinate, and the bill was lost.

These, and various other circumstances, increased the uneasiness which subsisted between the proprietaries and the Assembly, to such a degree, tha m I764, a petition to the King was agreed to by the house, praying an alteration from a proprietary to a regal government. Great opposition was made to this measure, not only in the house, but in the pub. lie prints. A speech of Mr. Dickenson, on the subject, was published, with a preface by Dr. Smith, m which great pains were taken to shuw the impropriety and impolicy of this proceeding. A speech of Mr. Dickenson, on the subject, was published, with a preface by Dr. Smith, in which great pains were taken to show the impropriety and impolicy of this proceeding. A speech of Mr. Galloway, in reply to Mr. Dickenson, was published, accompanied with a preface by Dr. Franklin; in which he ably opposed the principles laid down in the preface to Mr. Dickenson's speech. This application to the throne produced no effect. The proprietary government was still continued.

At the election for a new Assembly, in the fall of 1764, the friends of the proprietaries made great ex- jertions to exclude those of the adverse party; and they obtained a small majority in the city ol Philadelphia. Franklin now lost his seat in the house, which he had held for fourteen years. On the meeting of the Assembly, it appeared that there was stdl n decided majority of Franklin's friends. He was immediately appointed provincial agent, to the great chagrin of his enemies,who made a solemn protest against his appointment; which was refused admission upon the mmutes, as-bemg unprecedented, h was, however, published in the papers, and produced a spirited reply from him, just before his departure for England.

The disturbances produced in America by Mr. Granville's stamp act, and the opposition made to it, are well known. Under the Marquis of Rockingham's administration, it appeared expedient to endeavour to calm the minds of the colonists; and the repeal of the odious tax was contemplated. Amongst other means of collecting information on the disposition of the people to submit to it, Dr. Franklin was called to the bar of the House of Commons. The examination which he here underwent was published, and contains a striking proof of the extent and accuracy of his information, and the facility with which he communicated his sentiments. He represented facts in so strong a point of view, that the inexpediency of the act must have appeared clear to every unprejudiced mind. The act, after some opposition, was repealed, about a year after it was euacted, and before it had ever been carried into execution.

In the year I776, he made a visit to Holland and Germany, and received the greatest marks of attention from men of science. In his passage through Holland, he learned from the watermen the effect which a diminution of the quantity of water in canals has, in impeding the progress of boats. Upon his return to England, he was led to make a number of experiments, all of which tended to confirm the observation. These, with an explanation of the phe nomenon, be communicated in a letter to his friend, Sir John Pringle, which is among his philosophical pieces.

In the following year he travelled into France, where he met with a no less favorable reception than he had experienced in Germany. He was introduced to a number of literary characters, and to the king, Louis XV.

Several letters written by Hutchinson, Oliver, and others, to persons in eminent stations in Great Britain, came into the hands of Dr. Franklin. These contained the most violent invectives against the leading characters of the state of Massachusetts, and strenuously advised the prosecution of vigorous measures, to compel the people to obedience to the measures of the ministry. These he transmitted to the legislature, by whom they were published. Attested copies of them were sent to Great Britain, with an address, praying the King to discharge from office persons who bad rendered themselves so obnoxious to the people, and who had shown them so unfriendly to their interests. The publication of these letters produced a duel between Mr. Whately and Mr. Temple: each of whom was suspected of haw mg been instrumental in procuring them. To prevent any further disputes on this subject, Dr. Franklin, in one of the public papers, declared that he had sent them to America, but would give no information concerning the manner in which he had obtained them; nor was this ever discovered.

Shortly after, the petition of the Massachusetts assembly was taken up for examination, before th• privy-council. Dr. Franklin attended as agent for the Assembly; and here a torrent of the most violent and unwarranted abuse was poured upon him by the solicitor-general, Wedderburne, who was engaged as counsel for Oliver and Hutchinson. The petition was declared to be scandalous and vexatious, and the prayer of it refused. Although the parliament of Great Britain had repealed the stamp-act, it was only upon the principalf expediency. They still insisted upon their righo tax the colonies; and, at the same time the stampact was repealed, an act was passed, declaring the right of parliament to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever. This language was used even by the most strenuous opposers of the stamp-act: and, amongst others, by Mr. Pitt. This right was never recognized by the colonists; but, as they flattered themselves that it would not be exercised, they were not very active in remonstrating against it. Had this pretended right been suffered to remain dormant, the colonists would cheerfully have furnished their quota of supplies, in the mode to which they had been accustomed; that is, by acts of their own assemblies, in consequence of requisitions from the Secretary of State. If this practice had been pursued, such was the disposition of the colonies towards their mother country, that, notwithstanding the disadvantages under which they laboured, from restraints upon their trade, calculated solely for the benefit of the commercial and manufacturing interests of Great Britain, a separation of the two countries might have been a far distant event. The Americans, from their earliest infancy, were taught to venerate a people from whom they were descended; whose language, laws, and manners, were the same as their own. They looked up to them as models of perfection; and, in their prejudiced minds, the most enlightened nations of Europe were considered as almost barbarians, in comparison with Englishmen. The name of an Englishman conveyed to an American the idea of everything good and great. Such sentiments instilled into (hem iu early life, what but a repetition of unjust treatment could have induced them to entertain tlw most distant thought of separation! The duties on glass, paper, leather, painters' colours, &c. the disfranchisement of some of the colonies; the obstruction to the measures of the legislature in others, by the king's governors; the contemptuous treatment of their humble remonstrances, stating their grievances, and praying a redress of them, and other violent and oppressive measures, at length excited an ardent spirit of opposition. Instead ol eiuesvouring to allay this by a more lenient con toci, ine ministry seemed resolutely bent on reducmg the colonies to the most slavish obedience to their decrees. But this only tended to aggravate. Vain were all the efforts made use of to prevail upon them to lay aside their designs, to convince them of the impossibility of carrying them into effect, and of the mischievous consequences which must ensue from a continuance of the attempt. They persevered with a degree of inflexibility scarcely paralleled.

The advantages which Great Britain derived from her colonies were so great, that nothing but a degree of infatuation, little short of madness, could have produced a continuance of measures calculated to keep up a spirit of uneasiness, which might occasion the slightest wish for a separation. When we consider the great improvements in the science of government, the general diffusion of the principles of liberty amongst the people of Europe, the effects which these have already produced in France, and the pro. ,bable consequences which will result from them elsewhere, all of which are the offspring of the American revolution, it cannot but appear strange, that events of so great moment to the happiness of mankind, should have been ultimately occasioned by the wickedness or ignorance of a British ministry. 1 Or. Fiauklin left nothing untried to prevail upon the ministiy tc consent to a change of measures. In private conversations, and in letters to persons in government, he continually expatiated upon the impolicy and injustice of their conduct towards America; and stated, that, notwithstanding the attach' mnut to the mother country, a repetition of ill treatment must ultimately alienate their affections. They

« ZurückWeiter »