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not at present, on examination of my continually added, further to exasperate the science, charge myself with any immorality colonies, render them desperate, and drive of that kind, it becomes me to suspect, that them into open rebellion. what has long appeared to you, may have In a paper written by Dr. Franklin, “ On some foundation. You are so good as to add, the rise and progress of the differences bethat . if it can be proved you have unjustly tween Great Britain and her American suspected me, you shall have a satisfaction in colonies,” and supposed to have been publishacknowledging the error. It is often a thing 'ed about this time (1774,) he states, that soon hard to prove, that suspicions are unjust, even after the late war, it became an object with when we know what they are; and harder the British ministers to draw a revenue from when we are unacquainted with them. I America : the first attempt was by a stamp must presume, therefore, that in mentioning act. It soon appeared, that this step had not them, you had an intention of communicating been well considered; and that the rights, the grounds of them to me, if I should request the ability, the opinions, and temper of that it, which I now do, and, I assure you, with a great and growing people, had not been sufsincere desire and design of amending what ficiently attended to. They complained, that you may show me to have been wrong in the tax was unnecessary, because their asmy conduct, and to thank you for the admo- semblies had ever bern ready to make volunnition.
tary grants to the crown in proportion to their “ In your writings I appear a bad man; but abilities, when duly required so to do; and if I am such, and you can thus help me to unjust, because they had no representative become in reality a good one, I shall esteem in the British parliament, but had parliaments it more than a sufficient reparation to, reve- of their own, wherein their consent was given, rend sir, your most obedient humble servant, as it ought to be, in grants of their own
“ B. FRANKLIN.” money. [Note by Dr. Franklin, on the rough draft of the fore- The parliament repealed the act as inexgoing letter.)
pedient, but in another asserted a right of Feb. 7, 1775. No answer has been receiv- taxing the colonies, and binding them in all ed to the above letter.
B. F. cases whatsoever!
In the following year
they laid duties on British manufactures exFrom the preceding correspondence, it is ported to America. On the repeal of the fully evident, that this reverend divine was stamp act, the Americans had returned to not willing to acknowledge, or even find that their wonted good humour and commerce he had substantially erred in regard to Dr. i with Great Britain; but this new act for layFranklin. His prejudices indeed, appear to ing duties renewed their uneasiness. These have been so deeply rooted, and his desire to and other grievances complained of by the do justice to one whom he had wronged, ap- colonies are succinctly enumerated in Dr. pears to have been so dormant, that he be- Franklin's paper abovementioned ; and the trays an evident disinclination to ascertain progressive history of the causes of the the truth, or allow it to approach him, in American discontents in general. opposition to these prejudices. With other The whole continent of America now bemore equitable dispositions, it would have gan to consider the Boston port bill, as strikbeen impossible for the dean to abstain so ing essentially at the liberty of all the colopertinaciously from giving any answer to Dr. nies; and these sentiments were strongly Franklin's last letter. The facts and ex- urged and propagated in the American newsplanations which it contained were so im- papers. portant, and they were stated with so much Even those colonies which depended most candour and civility, that the dean must have upon the mother country for the consumption felt it to be highly incumbent on him, either of their productions, entered into, associations to meet those facts by others equally conclu- with the others; and nothing was to be heard sive, or to acknowledge that he had wrong- of but resolutions for the encouragement of fully accused Dr. Franklin. The former he their own manufactures, the consumption of could not do, the latter he would not. The home products, the discouragement of foreign only expedient then remaining, was the un- articles, and the retrenchment of all superworthy and evasive one of giving no an- fluities. swer!
Virginia resolved not to raise any more But to return to cbjects of more public tobacco, unless the grievances of America interest. All the expectations that Dr. Frank- were redressed. Maryland followed that exlin had then entertained from the good cha- ample: Pennsylvania, and almost all the racter and disposition of the then minister, lord other colonies, entered into resolutions in the Dartmouth, in favour of America, began to same spirit, with a view to enforce a general wither: none of the measures of his prede- redress of grievances. cessor had even been attempted to be changed, During these disputes between the two but on the contrary new ones had been con- I countries, Dr. Franklin invented an emblematical design, intended to represent the such compulsory attempts, will contribute to supposed state of Great Britain and her colo unite and strengthen us; and, in the mean nies, should the former persist in her oppres time, all the world will allow that our prosive measures, restraining the latter's trade, ceeding has been honourable." and taxing their people by laws made by a Such heel been the advice of Dr. Franklin; legislature in which they were not represent- and, as he observes somewhere, “a good moed. It was engraved on a copper-plate, from tim never dies;" so this was eventually acted which the annexed is a fac simile. Dr. upon in all its bearings, and was the first step Franklin had many of them struck off on to the union of the colonies, and their final cards, on the back of which he occasionally emancipation from Great Britain. wrote his notes. It was also printed on a The first congress assembled at Philadelhalf sheet of paper, with the explanation and phia, September 17, 1774. Their first public moral which follow it. [See p. 104.] act was a declaratory resolution, expressive
These sentiments, applied to the picture of their disposition with respect to the colony which they are annexed to, were well calcu- of Massachusetts Bay, and immediately inlated to produce reflection; they form part of tended to confirm and encourage that people the same system of political ethics, with the in their opposition to the oppressive acts of the following fragment of a sentence, which Dr. British parliament. This, and other analogous Franklin inserted in a political publication of resolutions relative to Massachusetts, being one of his friends:—"The attempts to esta- passed, the congress wrote a letter to general blish arbitrary power over so great a part | Gage, governor and commander of the king's of the British empire, are to the imminent troops in that province, in which, after rehazard of our most valuable commerce, and peating the complaints formerly made by the of that national strength, security, and felicity, town of Boston, they declared the determined which depend on union and liberty;"—The resolution of the colonies to unite for the prepreservation of which, he used to say, “ had servation of their common rights, in opposition been the great object and labour of his life; to the late acts of parliament, under the exethe WHOLE being such a thing as the world cution of which the unhappy people of Massabefore never saw!"
chusetts were oppressed; that the colonies In June, 1774, a general congress of depu- had appointed them the guardians of their ties from all the colonies, began to be univer- rights and liberties, and that they felt the sally looked forward to. This had a year be- deepest concern, that whilst they were purfore been suggested by Dr. Franklin, in a suing every dutiful and peaceable measure to letter to Thomas Cushing, dated July 7, 1773, procure a cordial and effectual reconciliation in which he says, • But as the strength of between Great Britain and the colonies, his an empire depends, not only on the union of excellency should proceed in a manner that its parts, but on their readiness for united bore so hostile an appearance, and which even exertion of their common force; and as the the oppressive acts complained of did not wardiscussion of rights may seem unseasonable rant. They represented the tendency this
in the commencement of actual war, and the conduct must have to irritate, and force a peodelay it might occasion be prejudicial to the ple, however well disposed to peaceable ineacommon welfare; as, likewise, the refusal of sures, into hostilities, which might prevent one or a few colonies, would not be so much the endeavours of the congress to restore a regarded if the others granted liberally, which good understanding with the parent state, and perhaps by various artifices and motives they involve them in the horrors of a civil war. might be prevailed on to do; and as this want The congress also published a DECLARAof concert would defeat the expectation of TION OF RIGHTS, to which they asserted the general redress, that otherwise might be English colonies of North America were enjustly formed; perhaps it would be best and titled, by the immutable laws of nature, the fairest for the colonies, in a GENERAL CON- principles of the English constitution, and GRESS, now in peace to be assembled, (or by their several charters or compacts. means of the correspondence lately proposed,) They then proceeded to frame a petition to after a full and solemn assertion and declara- the king, a memorial to the people of Great tion of their rights, to engage firmly with Britain, an address to the colonies in general, each other, that they will never grant aids to and another to the inhabitants of the province the crown in any general war, till those rights of Quebec. are recognised by the king and both houses These several acts were drawn up with of parliament; communicating to the crown uncommon energy, address, and ability: they this their resolution. Such a step, I imagine, well deserve the attention of statesmen, and will bring the dispute to a crisis; and whether are to be found in the annals of American our demands are immediately complied with, history. or compulsory measures thought of to make The petition to his majesty contained an us rescind them, our ends will finally be ob- enumeration of the grievances of the colonies, tained; for even the odium accompanying | humbly praying redress. It was forwarded to V
Great Britain is supposed to have been placed upon the globe ; but the Colonies, (that is, her limbs,) being severed from her, she is seen lifting her eyes and mangled stumps to heaven: her shield, which she is unable to wield, lies useless by her side; her lance has pierced New England : the laurel branch has fallen from the hand of Pennsylvania : the English oak has lost its head, and stands a bare trunk, with a few withered branches ; briars and thorns are on the ground beneath it; the British ships have brooms at their topmast heads, denoting their being on sale ; and BRITANNia herself is seen sliding off the world, (no longer able to hold its balance,) her fragments overspread with the label, DATE OBOLUM BELLISARIO.
THE MORAL. History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favour of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy; it being a matter of no moment to the state, whether a subject grows rich and flourishing on the Thames or the Ohio, in Edinburgh or Dublin. These measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and animosities between the people favoured and the people oppressed: whence a total separation of affections, interests, political obligations, and all manner of connexions, necessarily ensue, by which the whole state is weakened, and perhaps ruined for ever!
England, by the secretary of congress, Charles with regard to the misunderstandings beThomson, under cover to Dr. Franklin. The tween Great Britain and America. proceedings thereon, as a document of great " During the recess of the last parliament, interest, will be inserted in another part of which had passed the severe acts against the this edition, and will be circumstantially no province of the Massachusetts Bay, the miticed in the progress of these memoirs. nority having been sensible of their weakness
Dr. Franklin, at this momentous period, was as an effect of their want of union among unceasing in his endeavours to induce the themselves, began to think seriously of a coBritish government to change its measures alition. For they saw in the violence of these with respect to the colonies. In private con- American measures, if persisted in, a hazard versations, in letters to persons connected of dismembering, weakening, and perhaps ruinwith government, and in writings in the pub- ing the British empire. This inclined some lic prints
, he continually expatiated upon the of them to propose such an union with each impolicy and injustice of its conduct towards other, as might be more respectable in the America; and stated, in the most energetic ensuing session, have inore weight in opposimanner, that notwithstanding the sincere at- tion, and be a body out of which a new ministachment of the colonists to the mother country might easily be formed, should the ill suctry, a continuance of ill treatment must ulti-cess of the late measures, and the firmness of mately alienate their affections. The minis- the colonies in resisting them, make a change ters listened not to his advice, and solemn appear necessary to the king. warnings; they blindly persevered in their “ I took some pains to promote this disposiown schemes, and left to the Americans no tion, in conversation with several of the prinalternative but opposition, or unconditional cipal among the minority of both houses, submission. The latter accorded not with whom I besought and conjured most earnestthe principles of freedom which they had been ly, not to suffer, by their little misunderstandtaught to revere; to the former they were ings, so glorious a fabric as the present British compelled, though reluctantly, to have re-empire to be demolished by these blunderers;
and for their encouragement assured them, as Dr. Franklin, thus finding all his efforts to far as my opinions could give any assurance, restore harmony between Great Britain and of the firmness and unanimity of America, her colonies ineffectual; and being looked the continuance of which was what they had upon by government with a jealous eye, who, frequent doubts of, and appeared extremely it was said, entertained some thoughts of ar- apprehensive and anxious concerning it. resting him, under the pretence of his having “ From the time of the affront given me at fomented a rebellion in the colonies, (of which the council board in January, 1774, I had he received private intimation,) determined never attended the levee of any minister. I on immediately returning to America, and to made no justification of myself from the this effect embarked from England in March, charges brought against me: I made no re1775.
turn of the injury by abusing my adversaries ; During the passage, he committed to paper but held a cool sullen silence, reserving mya statement of his efforts to effect a recon- self to some future opportunity; for which ciliation, and prevent a breach between conduct I had several reasons, not necessary Great Britain and her colonies. This was here to specify. Now and then I heard it a narration of the negotiations he had been said, that the reasonable part of the adminisconcerned in, to bring about so desirable an tration was ashamed of the treatment they object. Like the first part of these memoirs, had given me. I suspected, that some who it was addressed to his son, governor Frank- told me this, did it to draw from me my sentilin; and intended, no doubt, to be incorporated ments concerning it, and perhaps my purin them, had he lived to proceed so far in his poses; but I said little or nothing upon the history. It forms a complement to his politi- subject. In the mean time, their measures cal transactions while in England, justifies his with regard to New England failing of the character, and is a document of no mean in- success that had been confidently expected, terest in the annals of the American revo and finding themselves more and more enlution.
barrassed, they began (as it seems) to think of making use of me, if they could, to assist in
disengaging them. But it was too humiliat“ On board the Pennsylvania Packet
, Capt, directly, and therefore it was contrived to
ing to think of applying to me openly and Osborne, bound to Philadelphia, March obtain what they could of my sentiments 22, 1775.
through others. “ DEAR Son,--Having now a little leisure “ The accounts from America, during the for writing, I will endeavour, as I promised recess, all manifested, that the measures of you, to recollect what particulars I can of the administration had neither divided nor intiminegotiations I have lately been concerned in, dated the people there; that on the contrary
VOL. I. ...0)
they were more and more united and deter- / which he said he was pleased to hear from mined ; and that a non-importation agreement me, as he was sensible I must be well acwas likely to take place. The ministry thence quainted with them. I then took occasion to apprehending that this, by distressing the remark to him, that in former cases great trading and manufacturing towns, might in- empires had crumbled first at their extremifluence votes against the court in the elections ties, from this cause—that countries remote for a new parliament, (which were in course from the seat and eye of government, which to come on the succeeding year,) suddenly therefore could not well understand their afand unexpectedly dissolved the old one, and fairs, for want of full and true information, ordered the choice of a new one within the had never been well governed, but had been shortest time admitted by law, before the in- oppressed by bad governors, on presumption conveniencies of that agreement could begin that complaint was difficult to be made and to be felt, or produce any such effect. supported against them at such a distance :
“When I came to England in 1757, you may hence, such governors had been encouraged remember I made several attempts to be in to go on, till their oppressions became intolertroduced to lord Chatham, (at that time first able: but that this empire had happily found minister) on account of my Pennsylvania and long been in the practice of a method, business, but without success. He was then whereby every province was well governed, too great a man, or too much occupied in af- being trusted in a great measure with the fairs of greater moment. I was therefore government of itself, that hence had risen obliged to content myself with a kind of non- such satisfaction in the subjects, and such enapparent and unacknowledged communica- couragement to new settlements, that had it tion through Mr. Potter and Mr. Wood, his not been for the late wrong politics, (which secretaries, who seemed to cultivate an ac- would have parliament to be omnipotent, quaintance with me by their civilities, and though it ought not to be, unless it could at drew from me what information I could give the same time be omniscient,) we might have relative to the American war, with my senti- gone on extending our western empire, addments occasionally on measures that were ing province to province as far as the South proposed or advised by others, which gave Sea : that I lamented the ruin which seemed me the opportunity of recommending and en- impending over so fine a plan, so well adaptforcing the utility of conquering Canada. I ed to make all the subjects of the greatest afterwards considered Mr. Pitt as an inacces- empire happy; and I hoped, that if his lordsible ; I admired him at a distance, and made ship, with the other great and wise men of no more attempts for a nearer acquaintance. the British nation, would unite and exert I had only once or twice the satisfaction of themselves, it might yet be rescued out of hearing, through lord Shelburne, and I think the mangling hands of the present set of lord Stanhope, that he did me the honour of blundering ministers; and that the union and mentioning me sometimes as a person of re- harmony between Britain and her colonies, so spectable character.
necessary to the welfare of both, might be “ But towards the end of August last, return- restored.—He replied with great politeness, ing from Brighthelmstone, I called to visit that my idea of extending our empire in that my friend Mr. Sargent, at his seat, Halsted, manner was a sound one, worthy of a great, in Kent, agreeably to a former engagement. benevolent, and comprehensive mind: he wishHe let me know, that he had promised to ed with me for a good understanding among conduct me to lord Stanhope's at Chevening, the different parts of the opposition here, as a who expected I would call on him when I means of restoring the ancient harmony of came into that neighbourhood. We accord- the two countries, which he most earnestly ingly waited on lord Stanhope that evening, desired; but he spoke of the coalition of our who told me that lord Chatham desired to see domestic parties as attended with difficulty, me, and that Mr. Sargent's house, where I and rather to be desired than expected : he was to lodge, being in the way, he would call mentioned an opinion prevailing here, that for me there the next morning, and carry me America aimed at setting up for itself as an to Hayes. This was done accordingly. That independent state ; or, at least, to get rid of truly great man received me with abundance the navigation acts.—I assured him, that of civility, inquired particularly into the situa- having more than once travelled almost from tion of affairs in America, spoke feelingly of one end of the continent to the other, and the severity of the late laws against the kept a great variety of company, eating, drinkMassachusetts, gave me some account of his ing, and conversing with them freely, I never speech in opposing them, and expressed great had heard in any conversation from any perregard and esteem for the people of that coun- son, drunk or sober, the least expression of a try, who he hoped would continue firm and wish for a separation, or a hint that such a united in defending, by all peaceable and legal thing would be advantageous to America : means, their constitutional rights. I assured and as to the navigation act, the main mate him, that I made no doubt they would do so; | rial part of it, that of carrying on trade in