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Dr. Franklin meditates a Return to America.
Singular Conduct of Lord Hillsborough. Walpole's Grant. - Hillsborough's Report against it. Franklin's Answer.- Reasons for settling a New Colony West of the Alleganies. - Interview with Lord Hillsborough at Oxford. Franklin draws up the Report of a Committee appointed to examine the Powder Magazines at Purfleet. Performs New Electrical Experiments. Controversy about Pointed and Blunt Conductors.Lord Dartmouth succeeds Lord Hillsborough. His Character. Franklin's Interview with him.-Petitions from the Assembly of Massachusetts. - Franklin writes a Preface to the London Edition of the Boston Resolutions; also "Rules for reducing a Great Empire to a Small One," and "An Edict of the King of Prussia." — Abridges the Book of Common Prayer. Experiments to show the Effect of Oil in smoothing Waves. - Dubourg's Translation of his Writings.
AT this time he again meditated a return to Pennsylvania. Impatient of the delays attending all kinds of American business, disgusted at the manner in which the American department was administered, and weary of fruitless solicitations, he was inclined to retire from a service, which seemed to promise as little benefit to his country as satisfaction to himself. Writing to his son in January, 1772, he said; "I have of late great debates with myself whether or not I shall continue here any longer. I grow homesick, and, being now in my sixty-seventh year, I begin to apprehend some infirmity of age may attack me, and make my return impracticable. I have, also, some important affairs to settle before my death, a period I ought now to think cannot be far distant. I see here no disposition in Parliament to meddle further in colony affairs for the present, either to lay more duties or to repeal any; and I think, though I were to return again, I may be absent from here a year without any prejudice to the business I am engaged in, though it is not probable,
that, being once at home, I should ever again see England. I have, indeed, so many good, kind friends here, that I could spend the remainder of my life among them with great pleasure, if it were not for my American connexions, and the indelible affection I retain for that dear country, from which I have so long been in a state of exile." Circumstances induced him, as on a former occasion, to suspend the execution of this design. His friends urged him to wait the result of the session of Parliament, letters and papers came from the American Assemblies requiring his attention, and at length, by the resignation of Lord Hillsborough, the agents were restored to the footing on which they had formerly stood.
The conduct of this minister was as inexplicable in some things, as it was arrogant and absurd in others. "When I had been a little while returned to London," says Dr. Franklin, "I waited on him to thank him for his civilities in Ireland, and to discourse with him on a Georgia affair. The porter told me he was not at home. I left my card, went another time, and received the same answer, though I knew he was at home, a friend of mine being with him. After intermissions of a week each, I made two more visits, and received the same answer. The last time was on a levee day, when a number of carriages were at his door. My coachman driving up, alighted, and was opening the coach door, when the porter, seeing me, came out, and surlily chid the coachman for opening the door before he had inquired whether my Lord was at home; and then, turning to me, said, 'My Lord is not at home.' I have never since been nigh him, and we have only abused one another at a distance." This caprice was the more extraordinary, as they had not met, nor had any kind of intercourse passed between them, since his Lordship's caresses in Ireland.
There was an incident, however, connected with a public transaction, which may perhaps afford some explanation of the minister's conduct in this instance. Several years before, Sir William Johnson, and others in America, had projected a plan for settling a new colony west of the Allegany Mountains. A company was formed, consisting of individuals, some of whom resided in America and others in England, and an application was made to the crown for a grant of land. Gentlemen of rank and distinction were among the associates. Mr. Thomas Walpole, a wealthy banker of London, was at the head of the Company, and from this circumstance the territory in question was usually called Walpole's Grant. The Company's agents for obtaining the grant, and making the requisite arrangements with the government, were Thomas Walpole, Dr. Franklin, John Sargent, and Samuel Wharton. They presented a petition, which lay for a long time before the Board of Trade, without attracting much favor. It was said to interfere with the Ohio Company's lands, and with other grants made by the Governor of Virginia. Lord Hillsborough presided at the Board of Trade, and was secretly opposed to it, although he contrived to lead Mr. Walpole and his associates into the belief, that he was not unfriendly to their objects. At last it was necessary for the Board to give an opinion, and he then wrote an elaborate Report against the petition, which Report was approved by the Board and sent up to the King's Council.
In the mean time Dr. Franklin answered this Report in a very able paper, taking up and confuting each of his Lordship's objections, and advancing many arguments to prove the great advantages that would flow, both to the colonies and to the British nation, by extending the settlements westward. This answer
was likewise presented to the Council. It produced the desired effect. Notwithstanding the opposition of the Board of Trade, the petition was approved.
Lord Hillsborough had set his heart upon defeating the measure; for he had a scheme of his own in regard to the western boundary of the colonies, by which emigrations were not to extend beyond the head waters of the streams running eastward into the Atlantic. He thought it necessary thus to restrict the limits of the colonies, that they might be within reach of the trade and commerce of Great Britain, and be kept under a due subjection to the mother country. He was, therefore, disappointed and offended at the course taken by the Council; and the more so, proof that his influence was on the wane. his opinions and judgment were treated with less respect than he was entitled to, as a member of the cabinet and the head of the Board of Trade. The issue of this affair, chiefly brought about by Dr. Franklin's answer to his Report, was the immediate cause of his resignation.
as it was a
The answer was drawn up with great skill, containing a clear and methodical statement of historical facts, and weighty reasons for extending the western settlements. It was impossible to prevent the population, tempted by new and fertile lands, from spreading in that direction. Already many thousands had crossed the mountains and seated themselves on these lands, and others were daily following them. Was it good policy, or fair treatment to this portion of his Majesty's subjects, to leave them without a regular government, under which they might have the benefit of laws and a proper administration of justice? A colony, thus established, would, moreover, be a barrier against the incursions of the Indians into the popu
lous districts along the Atlantic, which had hitherto been a constant source of bloody wars and vast expense to the inhabitants. It would afford additional facilities for promoting the Indian trade. So far from being out of the reach of British commerce, as Lord Hillsborough imagined, it would, in fact, enlarge that commerce by increasing the consumption of British manufactures, and filling the markets with new products of industry, derived from a soil now lying waste, but which, from its variety and richness, with an uncommon benignity of climate, would yield ample returns to the labor of the cultivator, and in such commodities as would meet a ready demand in all the principal marts with which the trade of Great Britain was connected. There would also be an easy communication with the seacoast by the navigable rivers, and by roads, which the settlers would soon find the means of constructing.
Dr. Franklin's exact knowledge of the internal state of America enabled him to amplify these topics, and illustrate them with statistical and geographical details, in such a manner as to overthrow all his opponent's objections, and the arguments upon which they were founded. The Revolution came on before the plan was executed, and, by depriving the King of his authority over the lands, defeated the completion of the grant. The experience of a few years, however, proved the accuracy and wisdom of Dr. Franklin's views on the subject, by the unparalleled rapidity with which the western territory was settled.*
Lord Hillsborough seemed resolved to let it be known, that his temper was not implacable, if it was capricious. More than a year after his resignation, he met Dr. Franklin at Oxford. Calling at his room, his first salutation was, "Dr. Franklin, I did not know till this minute that you were here, and I am come to make you my bow. I am glad