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ed, by the presence of a military force, and by persevering in the coercive measures already begun. When Dr. Franklin sent over these letters, he stated to Mr. Cushing his motives for doing it, and his opinion of their objects and tendency.
"On this occasion," he says, "I think it fit to acquaint you, that there has lately fallen into my hands part of a correspondence, that I have reason to believe laid the foundation of most, if not all, our present grievances. I am not at liberty to tell through what channel I received it; and I have engaged that it shall not be printed, nor copies taken of the whole, or any part of it; but I am allowed to let it be seen by some men of worth in the province, for their satisfaction only. In confidence of your preserving inviolably my engagement, I send you enclosed the original letters, to obviate every pretence of unfairness in copying, interpolation, or omission. The hands of the gentlemen will be well known. Possibly they may not like such an exposal of their conduct, however tenderly and privately it may be managed. But, if they are good men, or pretend to be such, and agree that all good men wish a good understanding and harmony to subsist between the colonies and their mother country, they ought the less to regret, that, at the small expense of their reputation for sincerity and public spirit among their compatriots, so desirable an event may in some degree be forwarded. For my own part, I cannot but acknowledge, that my resentment against this country, for its arbitrary measures in governing us, conducted by the late minister, has, since my conviction by these papers that those measures were projected, advised, and called for by men of character among ourselves, and whose advice must therefore be attended with all the weight that was proper to mislead,
and which could therefore scarce fail of misleading; my own resentment, I say, has by this means been exceedingly abated. I think they must have the same effect with you; but I am not, as I have said, at liberty to make the letters public. I can only allow them to be seen by yourself, by the other gentlemen of the Committee of Correspondence, by Messrs. Bowdoin and Pitts of the Council, and Drs. Chauncy, Cooper, and Winthrop, with a few such other gentlemen as you may think fit to show them to. After being some months in your possession, you are requested to return them to me.
"As to the writers, I can easily as well as charitably conceive it possible, that men educated in prepossessions of the unbounded authority of Parliament, &c. may think unjustifiable every opposition even to its unconstitutional exactions, and imagine it their duty to suppress, as much as in them lies, such opposition. But, when I find them bartering away the liberties of their native country for posts, and negotiating for salaries and pensions extorted from the people; and, conscious of the odium these might be attended with, calling for troops to protect and secure the enjoyment of them; when I see them exciting jealousies in the crown, and provoking it to work against so great a part of its most faithful subjects; creating enmities between the different countries of which the empire consists; occasioning a great expense to the old country for suppressing or preventing imaginary rebellions in the new, and to the new country for the payment of needless gratifications to useless officers and enemies; I cannot but doubt their sincerity even in the political principles they profess, and deem them mere time-servers, seeking their own private emolument, through any quantity of public mischief; betrayers of the interest, not of their
native country only, but of the government they pretend to serve, and of the whole English empire."
The manner in which the letters fell into his hands was never explained. In the account of the affair, which he wrote previously to his leaving England, but which was not published till many years after his death, he says, the first hint he had of their existence was from a gentleman of character and distinction, in conversation with whom he strongly condemned the sending of troops to Boston, as a measure fraught with mischief, and from which the worst consequences were to be apprehended. The gentleman assured him, "that not only the measure he particularly censured so warmly, but all the other grievances complained of, took their rise, not from the government, but were projected, proposed to administration, solicited, and obtained, by some of the most respectable among the Americans themselves, as necessary measures for the welfare of that country.' As he seemed incredulous, the gentleman said he could bring such testimony as would convince him; and a few days after he produced the letters in question. He was astonished, but could no longer doubt, because the handwriting, particularly of Hutchinson and Oliver, was recognised by him, and their signatures were affixed.
The name of the person, to whom they were addressed, was nowhere written upon them. It either had been erased, or perhaps the letters themselves were originally forwarded under envelopes, which had not been preserved. There is no evidence from which it can be inferred, that Dr. Franklin at that time knew the name of this person, or that he was ever informed of the manner in which the letters were obtained. If this secret was ever revealed to him, he does not appear to have disclosed it, and it is still a
mystery. Three individuals, besides himself, were acquainted with the circumstance of their being sent. One of these was Mr. John Temple; the names of the other two are not known. It has been said, that one of them was a member of Parliament.
Acting in this business from an imperative sense of duty, Dr. Franklin took no pains to screen himself from consequences. He mentioned the subject several times in his correspondence with Mr. Cushing and Dr. Cooper, but he did not in any instance intimate a wish, that his name as connected with it, or his agency, should be concealed. Mr. Cushing proceeded with caution, however, and informed two gentlemen only of the source from which the letters had come; and these gentlemen kept the secret till it was published by Dr. Franklin himself in London. Nor was it known, except to these individuals, by whom the letters were received in Boston. Mr. Cushing said, in writing to Dr. Franklin, “I desire, so far as I am concerned, my name may not be mentioned; for it may be a damage to me." This injunction was obeyed to the last.
Although the names of the persons chiefly concerned were thus kept out of sight, yet the letters themselves were seen by many persons; the instructions in this respect not confining them within narrow limits. Mr. John Adams carried them about with him on a judicial circuit. The rumor of their existence, and of the general character of their contents, soon got abroad; and, when the legislature met, the members became exceedingly inquisitive and solicitous concerning them. It was finally concluded to lay them before the Assembly, which usually sat with closed doors. They were read, but nothing could be done with them, while the prohibition against taking copies remained.
Soon after, copies were produced in the House, " said to have come from England by the last ships." The originals being already before the House, the accuracy of the copies could easily be proved. While they were under consideration, Dr. Cooper wrote a letter to Dr. Franklin, dated Boston, June 14th, 1773, from which the following is an extract.
"Many members scrupled to act upon these copies, while they were under such public engagements to the unknown proprietor of the originals. As the matter was now so public, and the restrictions could answer no good end, no view of the sender, but, on the contrary, might prevent in a great measure a proper use of the letters for the public benefit, and for weakening the influence and power of the writers and their friends, and disarming their revenge, it was judged most expedient, by the gentlemen to whom they were first shown, to allow the House such use of the originals, as they might think necessary to found their proceedings upon for the common safety. By whom and to whom they were sent is still a secret, known only to three persons here, and may still remain so, if you desire it.
"I forgot to mention, that, upon the first appearance of the letters in the House, they voted, by a majority of one hundred and one to five, that the design and tendency of them were to subvert the constitution, and introduce arbitrary power. Their committee upon this matter reported this day a number of resolutions, which are to be printed by to-morrow morning, and every member furnished with a copy, that they may compare them with the letters; and to-morrow at three o'clock in the afternoon is the time appointed to decide upon the report. The acceptance of it by a great majority is not doubted.