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confidence in the result; but he was questioned in the presence of a full House by various individuals of both parties, including the late ministers; and his answers were given without premeditation, and without knowing beforehand the nature or form of the question that was to be put. The dignity of his bearing, his self-possession, the promptness and propriety with which he replied to each interrogatory, the profound knowledge he displayed upon every topic presented to him, his perfect acquaintance with the political condition and internal affairs of his country, the fearlessness with which he defended the late doings of his countrymen, and censured the measures of Parliament, his pointed expressions and characteristic manner; all these combined to rivet the attention, and excite the astonishment, of his audience. And, indeed, there is no event in this great man's life, more creditable to his talents and character, or more honorable to his fame, than this examination before the British Parliament. It is an enduring monument of his wisdom, firmness, sagacity, and patriotism.
When he was asked, whether the Americans would pay the stamp duty if it were moderated, he answered; "No, never, unless compelled by force of arms." Again, when it was inquired how the Americans would receive another tax, imposed upon the same principles, he said, "Just as they do this; they will never pay it." And again, he was asked whether the Americans would rescind their resolutions, if the Stamp Act were repealed. To this he replied; "No, never; they will never do it unless compelled by force of arms." He was also questioned, as to the non-importation agreements, and asked whether the Americans would not soon become tired of them, and fall back to purchasing British manufactures as before.
He said he did not believe they would; that he knew his countrymen; that they had materials, and industry to work them up; that they could make their own clothes, and would make them; that they loved liberty, and would maintain their rights. The examination was closed with the two following questions and answers. "What used to be the pride of the Americans?" He answered; "To indulge in the fashions and manufactures of Great Britain." "What is now their pride?" Answer; "To wear their old clothes over again till they can make new ones."
After much stormy debate in Parliament, the Stamp Act was repealed; but, as if unwilling to do their work thoroughly, or fearing that they should concede too much, they accompanied the repeal with a declaration, which never ceased to rankle in the hearts of the colonists. They passed what was called a Declaratory Act, in which it was affirmed, that "Parliament had a right to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever." It was said at the time, that the partisans of the ministers were driven to this act by the indiscreet warmth of Mr. Pitt, who openly denied the right of Parliament to tax the colonies in any manner, and said, in the course of his speech, "I am glad America has resisted." Such a doctrine as this, from so high a source, was not to be tolerated; and, to make amends for its having been uttered in Parliament, the members opposed to him hit upon the device of declaring solemnly, that they had a right, not only to tax, but to do what else they pleased. Lord Mansfield, who was against the repeal of the Stamp Act, said in the House of Lords, that this declaration amounted to nothing, and that it was a poor contrivance to save the dignity of Parliament.
But, whatever may have been the origin or design
of the Declaratory Act, it was looked upon as a sober reality and with great concern by the colonists. If Parliament could declare, it was natural to suppose, that, when occasion offered, they would act accordingly; and taxing was one of the least evils they might inflict, if they chose to exercise their assumed sovereign power. What should prevent them from putting an end to the very existence of the colonial governments, and annihilating every right they possessed? According to this doctrine, not only the property, but the liberty, and even the life, of every American were held at the will of Parliament; a body always agitated by party strifes, moving at the beck of a minister, and irresponsible to any power for the tyranny it might exercise over distant colonists, who had no representatives in Parliament to defend their cause or vindicate their rights.
It is no wonder, that such a doctrine, maintained with great unanimity by the British lawgivers, should excite the astonishment and indignation of the Americans. The result proved, that their fears were not groundless; for they were soon taught to understand and to feel, that the Declaratory Act was meant to be more than a form of words, or a mere expression of opinion.
The joy diffused by the repeal of the Stamp Act, however, quieted for a time all uneasiness. No one, who reads Dr. Franklin's Examination, as it was afterwards published, can doubt, that he performed a very important and effective part in promoting this measure. The facts he communicated, drawn from his long experience and knowledge of American affairs, and the sentiments he expressed concerning the designs and character of his countrymen, were many of them new to his hearers, and were conveyed in
language so clear and forcible, as to make a deep impression. Moreover, his personal endeavours with men in power and men of influence, wherever he met them, were unremitted. His services were well known and properly valued in London, by those who sought to bring about the repeal. Letters were written to his friends by gentlemen acquainted with the particulars, acknowledging and applauding these services; and when the repeal of the Stamp Act was celebrated by a public festivity at Philadelphia, his name was honored with unusual expressions of respect and gratitude.
Another subject engaged much of his attention for some time after his arrival in England. The late war had occasioned derangement in the American paper currency, and the British merchants had raised a clamor against it, which was sustained by a Report of the Board of Trade, written by Lord Hillsborough, recommending that any further emission of paper bills of credit in the colonies, as a legal tender, should be prohibited. Franklin answered this Report by a series of cogent arguments, interspersed with illustrative facts and remarks respecting the American paper money, and its effects on the trade and internal prosperity of the country. He had written a tract on this subject when he was twenty-three years old, in which he advanced some of the doctrines in political economy, that were afterwards more fully unfolded by Adam Smith, as essential elements of his theory.
The history of the colonial paper currency is curious and interesting. Before the Revolution there were no banks in the country, resembling the institutions since known by that name. Bills of credit, issued from time to time by the Assemblies, constituted the only paper medium in use for circulation. The gold
and silver coin found its way to England, as a remittance for British manufactures, and its place was supplied by these bills, which were sometimes necessary and always convenient. Indeed, when an emergency came, such as a French or an Indian war, there was no other way of raising large sums of money than by emissions of paper.
Various methods were adopted by the different colonies, but the one practised in Pennsylvania was considered the best. A certain amount of paper was emitted for a given time, say ten years, at the expiration of which it was all to be redeemed. paper was put into circulation in the form of loans to individuals, secured by mortgages on land. One tenth of each loan was to be paid back annually by the borrower, with the interest at five per cent. Thus, at the end of the ten years, the whole had been returned to the loan offices and redeemed; the government having gained the interest during that time, and the community having received the benefit of the circulation. The paper was made a legal tender for the payment of debts, and it generally maintained its original value, with slight fluctuations caused by the rise of gold and silver, when a larger quantity of these metals than usual was wanted for exportation.
In some of the other colonies the paper was emitted merely on the credit of the government, certain taxes being pledged for redeeming it within a limited time. This security was not sufficient to gain the public confidence, although supported by the legal tender, and the bills fell in value. The evil was increased by forced emissions beyond the quantity required as a circulating medium, and also by the remissness of the Assemblies in collecting the taxes, or by their appropriating these taxes to other objects. In Virginia,