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legislature was not to be questioned by the King's subjects anywhere, and opposition was to be suppressed without reference to the cause or the consequences. Parliament might repeal its acts, when besought to do so by humble petitions; but it could never yield to a demand, or tolerate a refractory spirit.
This was the doctrine of the ruling party in Great Britain, and perhaps not a very extravagant one when viewed in the abstract. But unfortunately it was at variance with practice. The colonists had petitioned, till their patience was exhausted, without obtaining relief or even a hearing. When thus When thus neglected and trifled with, they thought it time to take care of themselves, not by resisting the laws, but by rendering these laws ineffectual in their application. They resolved to provide for their own wants by their industry and frugality, and such other means as Providence had blessed them with, and not to depend on a foreign people for supplying them at exorbitant prices, loaded with such additional burdens of taxation, as, in the plenitude of their power, they might choose to impose.
A committee of merchants in Philadelphia sent to Dr. Franklin a copy of their non-importation agreements, with a request that he would communicate them to the British merchants, who were concerned in the American trade. In his reply, dated July 9th, 1769, he commended their zeal, and remarked; "By persisting steadily in the measures you have so laudably entered into, I hope you will, if backed by the general honest resolution of the people to buy British goods of no others, but to manufacture for themselves, or use colony manufactures only, be the means, under God, of recovering and establishing the freedom of our country entire, and of handing it down
complete to posterity." This advice he often repeated; and, although he was too far distant to partake of the feeling kindled by sympathy throughout the colonies, yet his sentiments accorded perfectly with those of his countrymen.
A few days after writing the letter, quoted above, he went over to France, and passed several weeks at Paris. He has left no account of the journey, or of the business that called him abroad.
His son being governor of New Jersey, an opportunity had thus been afforded to Dr. Franklin for rendering occasional services to that colony; and, on the 8th of December, 1769, he was chosen, by a unanimous vote of the Assembly, to be the agent for transacting their affairs in England. A letter of instructions accompanied the notice of his appointment. He was requested to procure the royal signature to certain laws, which had been passed by the Assembly, and, among others, an act for emitting one hundred thousand pounds in bills of credit, to be lent at five per cent, but not a legal tender. There had been a controversy long pending between East and West Jersey respecting a boundary line, which it had now become more necessary than ever to have settled, and which was intrusted to his management.
Just before the meeting of Parliament, Mr. Strahan addressed to Dr. Franklin certain Queries, designed to draw out from him an opinion as to the effect, which a partial repeal of the revenue acts would have on the minds of the Americans; the repealing act being so framed as to preserve the dignity and supremacy of the British legislature. The queries were promptly and explicitly answered.
In regard to the supremacy of Parliament, so much talked of, Dr. Franklin said the best way of preserv
ing it was, to make a very sparing use of it, and never to use it at all to the prejudice of one part of the empire for the advantage of another part. By such a prudent course he imagined the supremacy might be established, but otherwise it would be disputed and lost. The colonies had submitted to it in regulations of commerce; but this was voluntary, as they were not bound to yield obedience to acts of Parliament by their original constitution. An assumed authority might safely be exercised when it aimed only to do good and render equal justice to all; but, if it erred in this respect, its dignity might be impaired, and the most likely method of restoring it would be to correct the error as soon as an opportunity offered. And thus the British legislature might easily keep its dignity from harm, in relation to the colonies, by repealing the revenue acts intended to operate against them.
To Mr. Strahan's inquiry, whether the Americans would be satisfied with a partial repeal, he replied in the negative. He said it was not the amount to be paid in duties that they complained of, but the duties themselves and the reasons assigned for laying them, namely, that the revenue might be appropriated for the support of government and the administration of justice in the colonies. This was encroaching upon their rights, and interfering with the power of their Assemblies. In fact, if this principle were allowed, it might be so extended as to reduce the Assemblies to a nullity, and thus subject the people to a servile dependence on the will and pleasure of Parliament, without having any voice in making the laws they were to obey. Till the principle itself should be abandoned, therefore, he was persuaded there would be no chance of a reconciliation.
Other questions were asked, which he answered in
the same spirit, giving it as his unqualified opinion, that the people would not be quieted by any thing short of a total repeal of all the acts for collecting a revenue from them without their consent. If this were done, and they were restored to the situation they were in before the Stamp Act, he believed their discontents would subside, that they would dissolve their agreements not to import goods, and that commerce, returning again into its old channels, would revive and flourish. He added, however, that he saw no prospect of any such salutary measures, either in the wisdom of ministers, or in the temper of the British legislature.
When Parliament assembled, the subject was brought forward; and in April, 1770, after an experiment of three years, the British ministry finding the Americans still obstinate in refusing to import goods, and trade declining, procured a repeal of the duties on all the commodities enumerated in the revenue act, except tea. This was done with a view to commercial policy, and not with any regard to the rights of the colonists, or the least pretence that it was meant to remove the cause of their complaints. On the contrary, the insignificant tea duty was retained for the express purpose of upholding the sovereignity of Parliament. The consequence was, that it rather increased than allayed the popular ferment in America; for it implied, that they estimated their grievances by the amount of money demanded of them, and not by the principle upon which this demand was made. They renewed their non-importation agreements with more zeal than ever.
The freedom with which Dr. Franklin wrote to his correspondents in America, and the sentiments he repeatedly uttered respecting the disputes between the
two countries, gave offence to the British government. Copies of some of his letters were clandestinely obtained and forwarded to the ministers. Intimations were thrown out, that he would be made to feel their resentment, by being removed from his place in the American postoffice. As he had never been charged with neglect in this station, but, on the contrary, by long and unwearied exertions, had raised the postoffice from a low condition to a state of prosperity and productiveness, a removal could only be intended as a punishment for his political conduct and opinions, or rather for his perseverance in defending what he believed to be the true interests and just claims of his country. He was determined, therefore, not to give up the office, till it should be taken from him, although he was plentifully abused in the newspapers to provoke him to a resignation. A retreat, under such circumstances, did not comport with his ideas either of self-respect or of consistency. Abuse from adversaries, the displeasure of ministers, and the loss of his office, were not to be coveted; but they could be borne, and they would never drive him to sacrifice his principles, or to desert a cause, which he had embraced from a conviction of its justice and a sense of duty.
"As to the letters complained of," said he, "it was true I did write them, and they were written in compliance with another duty, that to my country; a duty quite distinct from that of postmaster. My conduct in this respect was exactly similar to that I held on a similar occasion but a few years ago, when the then ministry were ready to hug me for the assistance I afforded them in repealing a former revenue act. My sentiments were still the same, that no such acts should be made here for America; or, if made, should as soon