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To Joseph GALLow AY, Esq. SPEAKER of the House of Assem BLY of PENN's Ylva NiA.
Repeal of act restraining the legal tender of paper money —Mr. Grenville—Mr. Townsend—The salt duty— Change of ministry predicted. DEAR SIR, London, June 13, 1767. In my last of May 20th, I mentioned my hopes that we should at length get over all obstructions to the repeal of the act restraining the legal tender of paper-money; but those hopes are now greatly lessened. The ministry had agreed to the repeal, and the notion that had possessed them that they might make a revenue from paper-money, in appropriating the interest by parliament, was pretty well removed by my assuring them, that it was my opinion no colony would make money on those terms, and that the benefits arising to the commerce of this country in America, from a plentiful currency, would therefore be lost, and the repeal answer no end, if the assemblies were not allowed to appropriate the interest themselves; that the crown might get a share upon occasional requisitions, I made no doubt, by voluntary appropriations of the assemblies; but they would never establish such funds as to make themselves unnecessary to government, &c. Those and other reasons, that were urged, seemed to satisfy them, and we began to think all would go smoothly, and the merchants prepared their petition on which the repeal was to be founded. But in the house, when the chancellor of the exchequer had gone through his proposed American revenue, viz. by duties on glass, china ware, paper, pasteboard, colors, tea, &c. Grenville stood up, and undervalued them all as trifles; and, said he, “I’ll tell the honorable gentleman of a revenue that will produce something valuable in America: make paper money for the colonies, issue it upon loan there, take the interest, and apply it as you think proper.” Mr. Townsend, finding the house listened to this, and seemed to like it, stood up again, and said, “that was a proposition of his own, which he had intended to make with the rest, but it had slipt his memory, and the gentleman, who must have heard of it, now unfairly would take advantage of that slip, and make a merit to himself of a proposition that was another's; and as a proof of it, assured the house a bill was prepared for the purpose, and would be laid before them.” This startled all our friends; and the merchants concluded to keep back their petition for a while, till things appeared a little clearer, lest their friends in America should blame them as having furnished foundation for an act that must have been disagreeable to the colonies. I found the rest of the ministry did not like this proceeding of the chancellor's ; but there was no going on with our scheme against his declaration; and as he daily talked of resigning, there being no good agreement between him and the rest, and as we found the general prejudice against the colonies so strong in the house, that any thing in the shape of a favor to them all was like to meet with great opposition, whether he was out or in, I proposed to Mr. Jackson the putting our colony foremost, as we stood in a pretty good light, and asking the favor for us alone. This he agreed might be proper in case the chancellor should go out, and undertook to bring in a bill for that purpose, provided the Philadelphia merchants would petition for it; and he wished to have such petition ready to present if an opening for it should offer. Accordingly I applied to them, and prepared a draft of a petition for them to sign, a copy of which I send you enclosed. They seemed generally for the measure; but apprehending the merchants of the other colonies, who had hitherto gone hand in hand with us in all American affairs, might take umbrage if we now separated from them, it was thought right to call a meeting of the whole to consult upon this proposal. At this meeting I represented to them, as the ground of this measure, that the colonies being generally out of favor at present, any hard clause relating to paper-money in the repealing bill, will be more easily received in parliament if the bill related to all the colonies; that Pennsylvania being in some degree of favor, might possibly alone obtain a better act than the whole could do, as it might by government be thought as good policy to show favor where there had been obedience, as resentment where there had been the reverse. That a good act obtained by Pennsylvania might another year, when the resentment against the colonies should be abated, be made use of as a precedent, &c. &c. But after a good deal of debate, it was finally concluded not to precipitate matters, it being very dangerous, by any kind of petition, to furnish the chancellor with a horse on which he could put what saddle he thought fit: the other merchants seemed rather averse to the Pennsylvania merchants proceeding alone, but said they were certainly at hberty to do as they thought proper. The conclusion of the Pennsylvania merchants was to wait awhile, holding the separate petition ready to sign and present if a proper opening should appear this session, but otherwise to reserve it to the next, when the complexion of ministers and measures may probably be changed. And as this session now draws to a conclusion, I begin to think nothing will be farther done in it this year.
Mentioning the merchants, puts me in mind of some discourse I heard among them, that was by no means agreeable. It was said that in the opposition they gave the stamp act, and their endeavors to obtain the repeal, they had spent at their meeting, and in expresses to all parts of this country, and for a vessel to carry the joyful news to North America, and in the entertainments given our friends of both houses, &c. near 1500l.; that for all this, except from the little colony of Rhode Island, they had not received so much as a thank ye. That on the contrary, the circular letters they had written with the best intentions to the merchants of the several colonies, containing their best and most friendly advice, were either answered with unkind reflections, or contemptuously left without answer; and that the captain of the vessel they sent express with the news, having met with misfortunes that obliged him to travel by land through all the colonies from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania, was everywhere treated with neglect and contempt, instead of civility and hospitality; and nowhere with more than at Philadelphia, where, though he delivered letters to
the merchants that must make him and his errand known to them, no one took the least notice of him. I own I was ashamed to hear all this, but hope there is some mistake in it. I should not have troubled you with this account, but that I think we stand in truth greatly obliged to the merchants, who are a very respectable body, and whose friendship is worth preserving, as it may greatly help us on future occasions; and therefore I wish some decent acknowledgments or thanks were sent from the assemblies of the colonies, since their correspondents have omitted it...! I have said the less of late in my letters concerning the petitions, because I hoped this summer to have an opportunity of communicating every thing viva voce; and there are particulars that cannot safely be trusted to paper. Perhaps I may be more determined, as to returning or staying another winter, when I receive my next letters from you and my other friends in Philadelphia. . . . . . . . We got the chancellor to drop his salt duty. And the merchants trading to Portugal and Spain, he says, have made such a clamor about the intention of suffering ships to go directly with wine, fruit, and oil, from those countries to America, that he has dropped that scheme, and we are, it seems, to labor a little longer under the inconveniencies of the restraint. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . to . . . . . . . It is said the bill, to suspend the legislatures of New York and Georgia, till they comply with the act of parliament for quartering soldiers, will pass this, session. I fear that imprudencies on both sides may, step by step, bring on the most mischievous consequences. It is imagined here that this act will enforce immediate compliance; and if the people should be quiet, content themselves with the laws they have, and let the matter rest till in some future war the king wanting aids from them, and finding himself restrained