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as possible be repealed; and I thought it should not be expected of me to change my political opinions every time his Majesty thought fit to change his ministers. This was my language on the occasion; and I have lately heard, that, though I was thought much to blame, it being understood, that every man who holds an office should act with the ministry, whether agreeable or not to his own judgment, yet, in consideration of the goodness of my private character (as they were pleased to compliment me), the office was not to be taken from me. Possibly they may still change their minds, and remove me; but no apprehension of that sort will, I trust, make the least alteration in my political conduct. My rule, in which I have always found satisfaction, is, never to turn aside in public affairs through views of private interest; but to go straight forward in doing what appears to me right at the time, leaving the consequences with Providence."
The person most active on this occasion was Lord Hillsborough, who had taken umbrage at Dr. Franklin's conduct of late, finding him in the way of all his schemes for humbling the Americans and forcing upon them his official mandates. How far the other ministers participated in his feelings of hostility is uncertain, but Franklin was permitted for some time longer to retain his office.
For many years he had corresponded on political affairs with gentlemen in Massachusetts, who had been much influenced by his opinions and advice. Some of his best letters were written to the Reverend Dr. Samuel Cooper, a man of strong abilities, skilful with his pen, extremely well informed on all the public transactions of the time, and a zealous defender of the rights and privileges of the colonists. Dr. Franklin
confided in his discretion and good sense, and opened his mind to him freely, receiving in return accurate intelligence of what was doing in America, with sound and judicious observations on the state of the country, and the impressions produced on the minds of the people by the policy and acts of the British government. The correspondence was shown, from time to time, to the prominent men in Massachusetts, who thus became acquainted with Dr. Franklin's private sentiments, as well as with his labors in promoting the cause of his country, both of which met with their entire approbation. It was natural, therefore, that they should wish to secure his services for the province, and more especially as he was a native of Boston, and had always manifested a warm attachment to the place of his birth. He was accordingly chosen by the Assembly to be their agent, as expressed in the resolve, "to appear for the House at the court of Great Britain," and to sustain their interests, "before his Majesty in Council, or in either House of Parliament, or before any public board." The appointment was made on the 24th of October, 1770, and was to continue for one year; but it was annually renewed whilst he remained abroad.
Mr. Cushing, the Speaker of the Assembly, transmitted to him a certificate of his election, and other papers, setting forth in detail the grievances of which the people complained, and instructing the agent to use his best efforts to have them redressed.
The first step he took, after receiving these papers, was to wait on Lord Hillsborough, the American Secretary, both to announce his appointment officially, and to explain the purport of his instructions. The interview was a very singular one. Franklin had but just time to mention Massachusetts, and to add, that the
Assembly had chosen him to be their agent, when his Lordship hastily interrupted him by saying, "I must set you right there, Mr. Franklin; you are not agent." To which the latter replied, "I do not understand your Lordship. I have the appointment in my pocket." The minister still insisted, that it was a mistake; he had later advices, and Governor Hutchinson would not give his assent to the bill. "There was no bill, my Lord," said Franklin, "it was by a vote of the House." Whereupon his Lordship called his secretary, and asked for Governor Hutchinson's letter; but it turned out that the letter related wholly to another matter, and there was not a word in it about the agent. "I thought it could not well be," said Franklin, "as my letters are by the last ships, and they mention no such thing. Here is the authentic copy of the vote of the House appointing me, in which there is no mention of any act intended. Will your Lordship please to look at it?" But this his Lordship was not pleased to do. He took the paper with apparent unwillingness, and, without opening or paying the least regard to it, he declaimed in an angry tone against the practice of appointing agents by a vote of the Assemblies, and declared, that no agent should for the future be attended to, except such as had been appointed by a regular act of the Assembly, approved by the Governor.
Franklin expostulated with his Lordship on this head; he could not conceive that the consent of the Governor was necessary; the agent was to transact the business of the people, and not that of the Governor; the people had a right, by their representatives, to appoint and instruct such agents as they thought proper to manage their own affairs; they had always
done so, and the thing was as reasonable in itself as it had been common in practice.
The minister was not in a humor to be reasoned with. He would not even read the certificate of Dr.
Franklin's appointment, nor any of the papers, but handed them back unopened. Franklin had kept himself cool during the altercation, yet he could not brook this effrontery, especially as it was not more a breach of good manners, than an insult to the Assembly of Massachusetts; and he bluntly told his Lordship, that he believed it was of little consequence whether the appointment was acknowledged or not, for it was clear to his mind, that, as affairs were now administered, an agent could be of no use to any of the colonies.
The doctrine, here broached by Lord Hillsborough, was both novel and dangerous. If carried out, it would deprive the people of the only method, by which they could hold communication with the King, or any other branch of the government, except through the intervention of governors, who were often unfriendly to their interests, indeed, generally opposed to them, and might, by their negative, defeat any choice the Assemblies should make. It would, moreover, place them, in this respect, at the mercy of a minister, since he might easily instruct the governors not to approve the appointment of particular men, or men whose opinions were suspected of being too much tinctured with ideas favorable to the popular claims. And thus, in reality, the minister would nominate the agents, and such of them as were not subservient to his wishes would be sure to lose their places at the next election. Dr. Franklin declared, that he would not accept an agency under such an appointment, nor countenance in any way so arbitrary and mischievous a doctrine. Lord Hillsborough succeeded in procuring a
resolution of the Board of Trade not to allow an agent to appear before them, who had not been appointed according to his plan. It was never followed, however, by the Assemblies, and never could have been, without sacrificing one of their most valuable privileges. In the mean time, the business was prosecuted before the Board, whilst Lord Hillsborough continued at the head of it, though to a great disadvantage, by written applications and indirect influence with the members.
Having now in his charge the concerns of four colonies, Dr. Franklin's time was necessarily much occupied with them. Little being done by Parliament, however, relating to American affairs, in the year 1771, he had leisure for his annual excursions, which, from his confinement and close attention to business while in London, he found essential to his health. He made short journeys through different parts of England, stopping and passing some time at gentlemen's countryseats, to which he had been invited. He visited Dr. Priestley at Leeds, Dr. Percival at Manchester, and Dr. Darwin at Litchfield, and assisted them in performing some new philosophical experiments. With each of these gentlemen he corresponded for many years, chiefly on scientific subjects. Priestley's celebrated experiments on air, and discoveries in the economy of vegetation, were regularly communicated to him during their progress. When Dr. Priestley was in London, their intercourse was constant and intimate. They belonged to a club of "honest Whigs," as it was designated by Dr. Franklin, which held stated meetings, and of which Dr. Price and Dr. Kippis were also members.
After these little excursions, he made a tour through Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. He had never been in Ireland before. He was entertained, as he says,