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One of the objections against a change of government gave some uneasiness even to those, who were bent upon that measure. The rights and privileges of the people, which they most valued, were secured by the charters; and, it was said, if the government should devolve on the King, he might take away the charters, or impose such restraints as would essentially abridge, if not annihilate, the freedom they then enjoyed.
To this it could only be replied, that such a thing was in the highest degree improbable; that nothing more was asked of the King, than that he would, by fair purchase, obtain the jurisdiction of the province, thereby standing in the place of the Proprietaries; that William Penn had made some progress in negotiating such a sale to the crown before his death, and it could never have been his design to deprive the inhabitants of the charters, which had been granted to them in good faith, and which had afforded the chief inducement to the settlers for purchasing and cultivating the lands. As a proof, that this confidence in the royal honor and magnanimity was not misplaced, the example of other colonies was cited, where a similar change had been effected, without any injury to the charters or any abridgment of liberty.
These views were plausible, but they were not such as to remove all doubts, even from the majority in the Assembly; for, when they forwarded the petitions to Mr. Jackson, their agent in London, they enjoined him to proceed with the utmost caution, securing to the inhabitants all the privileges, civil and religious, which they had hitherto enjoyed by their charters and laws; and, in case he should apprehend any danger to these privileges, he was required to suspend further action, till he should receive additional directions from the Assembly.
At the next session, the most important business, which engaged the attention of the House, was the proposal of the British ministry to raise a revenue by stamp duties in the colonies. The Assembly of Pennsylvania, participating in the excitement, which this intelligence had caused throughout the country, sent instructions to their agent in England, remonstrating against any such scheme, as tending to "deprive the people of their most essential rights as British subjects." The signing of these instructions was the last act of Dr. Franklin as Speaker of the House.
The election in the autumn of this year, 1764, was sharply contested. It turned on the question of a change of government. The proprietary party, having much at stake, redoubled their efforts; and, in the city of Philadelphia and some of the counties, they were successful. Franklin, after having been chosen fourteen years successively, now lost his election, there being against him a majority of about twentyfive votes in four thousand. But, after all, it was an empty triumph. When the members convened, there were two to one in favor of the measures of the last Assembly, and they resolved to carry these measures into effect. Being determined to pursue their object with all the force they could bring to bear upon it, they appointed Dr. Franklin as a special agent to proceed to the court of Great Britain, and there to take charge of the petition for a change of government, and to manage the general affairs of the province.
This appointment was a surprise upon the proprietary party. They had imagined, that, by defeating his election, they had rid themselves of an active and troublesome opponent in the Assembly, and weakened his influence abroad. When it was proposed, therefore, to raise him to a situation, in which he could
more effectually than ever serve the same cause, the agitation in the House, and the clamor out of doors, were extreme.
His adversaries testified their chagrin by the means they used to prevent his appointment. Even John Dickinson, while he could not refrain from eulogizing him as a man, inveighed strenuously against his political principles and conduct; at the same time exhibiting symptoms of alarm, that would seem almost ludicrous, if it were not known what power there is in the spirit of party to distort truth and pervert the judgment. "The gentleman proposed," he says, in a speech to the House, "has been called here to-day 'a great luminary of the learned world.' Far be it from me to detract from the merit I admire. Let him still shine, but without wrapping his country in flames. Let him, from a private station, from a smaller sphere, diffuse, as I think he may, a beneficial light; but let him not be made to move and blaze like a comet to terrify and distress." Not satisfied with lavishing abuse upon him in debate, his enemies procured a remonstrance to be drawn up and signed by many of their adherents in the city, which was presented to the Assembly. Such an attempt to prejudice the representatives, or bias their proceedings, was not likely to have any other effect on his friends, than to excite their indignation, and unite them more firmly in his favor.
The remonstrants, failing in the Assembly, published their objections in the form of a Protest. As it was now too late to change what had been done, no practical end could be answered by this publication. Hence it may be ascribed to other motives, than solicitude for the public welfare. It was objected, that Dr. Franklin had been the chief author of
the late measures for a change of government. Allowing this to be true, it was so far from being an objection in the opinion of his friends, that it afforded one of the best reasons for intrusting to him the prosecution of those measures. It was further objected, that he was not in favor with the ministers, that he stood on ill terms with the Proprietaries, and that he was extremely disagreeable to a large number of the inhabitants of the province; all of which, as declared by the protesters, disqualified him for the agency he was about to undertake.
He wrote remarks on these charges, just before his departure for England, examining them in detail, replying to each, and saying at the conclusion; "I am now to take leave, perhaps a last leave, of the country I love, and in which I have spent the greatest part of my life. Esto perpetua, I wish every kind of prosperity to my friends; and I forgive my enemies." This forgiveness he could the more easily bestow, since his enemies, with all their industrious efforts to defame and injure him as a public man, had never insinuated a suspicion unfavorable to his private reputation or his character as a citizen.
There being no money in the treasury, that could be immediately appropriated to defray the agent's expenses, the Assembly voted, that these expenses should be provided for in the next bill that should be passed for raising money. Upon the strength of this pledge, the merchants, in two hours, subscribed eleven hundred pounds as a loan to the public for this object. On the 7th of November, only twelve days after his appointment, Franklin left Philadelphia, accompanied by a cavalcade of three hundred citizens, who attended him to Chester, where he was to go on board the vessel. "The affectionate leave taken of me by so
many dear friends at Chester," said he, "was very endearing; God bless them and all Pennsylvania." He sailed the next day, but the vessel was detained over night at Reedy Island in the Delaware. At that place he wrote a letter to his daughter, from which the following is an extract.
"My dear child, the natural prudence and goodness of heart God has blessed you with, make it less necessary for me to be particular in giving you advice. I shall therefore only say, that the more attentively dutiful and tender you are towards your good mamma, the more you will recommend yourself to me. But why should I mention me, when you have so much higher a promise in the commandments, that such conduct will recommend you to the favor of God. You know I have many enemies, all indeed on the public account, (for I cannot recollect, that I have in a private capacity given just cause of offence to any one whatever,) yet they are enemies, and very bitter ones; and you must expect their enmity will extend in some degree to you, so that your slightest indiscretions will be magnified into crimes, in order the more sensibly to wound and afflict me. It is, therefore, the more necessary for you to be extremely circumspect in all your behaviour, that no advantage may be given to their malevolence.
"Go constantly to church, whoever preaches. The act of devotion in the Common Prayer Book is your principal business there, and, if properly attended to, will do more towards amending the heart than sermons generally can do. For they were composed by men of much greater piety and wisdom, than our common composers of sermons can pretend to be; and therefore I wish you would never miss the prayer days; yet I do not mean you should despise sermons,